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Bon Appetit

Posted on Thu Jul 13th, 2023 @ 12:26 by Sarah Bright & Valjean Beaumont
Edited on on Thu Jul 13th, 2023 @ 18:00

Chapter: All Hallow's Eve
Location: Kitchen, Avalon Institute
Timeline: Tuesday Night, September 29th, 1992 (shortly after 'Like Clockwork')
2677 words - 5.4 OF Standard Post Measure

Finding the cafeteria had proved to be no easy feat, and Sarah had long since instructed her stomach to stop reminding her that it was time to eat. It wasn't her fault that she had very poor spatial awareness. It, like reading, had been one of her many challenges stemming from childhood dyslexia, but unlike reading, it had never really improved after the advent or her strange powers. Even the simple act of standing in front of the library, looking at her map of the school, and trying to turn it to face her direction so that she could mentally mark a 'you are here' position made her mind swirl with anxiety, vertigo and dread. It had taken several minutes just to get her bearings and determine that she only needed to take two rights, followed by one left.

Two rights later, Sarah saw a pair of girls chatting in the hallway, and made the tragic mistake of discarding her faith in her own direction finding in favor of asking them for directions. They'd told her she'd been heading in the wrong direction, and that the cafeteria was way at the other end of the school. If she'd only looked at the sign behind them saying 'cafeteria' instead of paying more attention to what they were saying she would've known they were lying to her face. And as for their laughter as she walked away? Well, they'd been laughing when she approached them, so Sarah assumed they were still amused by some really funny joke.

Ten minutes after that, Sarah had found not the cafeteria, but the gymnasium, where her two little friends were playing Horse with a basketball.

"Those girls are mean. Don't ever listen to anything they say." Julia had said, sounding sympathetic.

"They're called the sirens, and they're not even allowed to be together without supervision. You should tell Miss Cavendish." Benjamin had said after. They told her that Anja had the ability to make almost anything she said sound believable, unless there was evidence to the contrary in the immediate surroundings. She could make someone believe that the sky was green and the sun was blue, so long as they were inside. But unfortunately, her best friend Sasha had the ability to tune a person's senses onto one specific thing, to the exclusion of everything else. She loved chaos, and enjoyed a front row seat of it whenever she used her powers to focus someone's attention onto Anja's voice.

So, Sarah was guided back the way she came by a pair of thirteen year olds. The Sirens had still been standing there, as if daring anyone to tell them they couldn't be there together, but strangely they scurried like vermin at first sight of Sarah's escorts. Only then did Sarah fully register the cafeteria sign that she had to have been staring right at while talking to the girls earlier.

"Thank you both, I'll see you tomorrow." Sarah said, as they walked off, and felt very grateful that so far she'd met just as many helpful students as unhelpful ones. For a moment she thought that finally, her day might end on a good note. But then she opened the cafeteria doors, and saw tall the lights turned off.

Dinner was no longer being served.

With some satisfaction Valjean returned the last pot back into its proper place and the other four versions of him gave a bit of a sarcastic applause before moving closer together and merging back into one. The weariness of using his powers as well as the physical labour they had performed immediately weighed down upon him, but all in all he was still quite satisfied with how the meal was received and how smoothly he'd been able to manage the kitchen during the peak hours of operation.

The institute's chef opened the doors to the dining area and saw a bit of light coming in through the open doors leading into the large hall, a diminutive figure stood casting a long shadow over the empty chairs and tables. "Bonsoir madmoiselle." He called to her attention, wondering what she was doing there so long after dinnertime had concluded.

Sarah couldn't help but wince a little. This was going to be awkward. She didn't immediately know what to say, but she did know how to say it. After hearing the chef greet her in French, there was momentary silence as Sarah's mind made the switch. Though not fluid enough to serve as a translator, Sarah was effectively fluent in French. "My apologies, Chef, for coming so late. I was hoping that there might still be some leftovers out..." Sarah fully expected to be told to come back in the morning, or raid the fridge the teachers lounge. After all, she might not be too agreeable if a student came up to her wanting to check out some books the moment she'd closed up and locked the library doors. But one thing she'd learned in life, was that in many instances, it couldn't hurt to ask. She was kind of hoping that this wasn't one of the instances where asking did.

Normally this is where Valjean would put his foot down but there was something about this woman that pulled him the other way, and it had nothing to do with the near flawless French she spoke. "You are new here, non?" He asked opening the door to the kitchen a bit more to allow her to follow him inside. "I was just finished cleaning up but you look like you haven't eaten all day. This is not acceptable."

Sarah fumbled a bit when the chef switched to English, only throwing in a word in French here and there. Was her French that bad? But she'd been speaking it since she was six! Maybe he just preferred staying in the habit of English. It did take Sarah a moment to make the mental switch. Though very studied on several languages, none of them had come easily for her.

"Yes, I'm new... and no, it's not." Sarah said sheepishly as she followed the chef inside, tousling her hair a bit as she scratched at her scalp... a nervous tic she sometimes displayed. Did she really look that famished? Her stomach was no longer growling, that much was certain. In a way she felt like she was a kid again, about to be scolded for some impropriety or another. But then again, maybe the feeling was just a culmination of the multiple incidences of mistaken identity that she'd endured all day... and probably would until she finally changed out of the outfit pairing that, at a glance, made her look so much like one of the students.

"I suppose I should then make you something." Valjean pulled one of the frying pans off the hook it hung from on the wall. "Croque Monsieur pour Madamme?" He was already on his way to get the necessary ingredients. "My apologies, I do not make my own bread, I have to make do with le pain de médiocrité anglaise." He turned to show her the offending thick slices of bread that he had cut from the loaf. It was too dry to serve tomorrow, but perfect for some late night croque monsieur.

"Oui, merci!" Sarah said, exclaiming softly. She liked croque monsieur, and it had been a few months since she'd had that type of ham and cheese sandwich. Her personal favorite lost bread recipe was pain perdu, or French Toast, so that's usually what she made when she had leftover bread. She nodded sympathetically when he mentioned not baking his own bread. Her parents and grandparents were both well-to-do and had hired cooks to come once or twice a week to help with meal prep. Her favorite thing was their fresh baked bread, and watching them she understood how time consuming it could be. Baking enough bread for all the students and faculty? It would be a massive undertaking. The school would need a separate night shift of cooking staff.

"Can I help?" Sarah asked, as a courtesy. She didn't really think the chef would invite her to help, but she was willing to push up her sleeves and get egg on her hands just in case.

Normally Valjean would avoid letting anyone 'help' in his kitchen. There was a reason he would rather work with three of himself and just get paid once than to hire additional help. "In the fridge, there is a bowl of grated cheese. Could you hand it to me, please?" He pointed at his back. "Also, the ham." In the meanwhile he reached underneath the counter to get a small saucepan and prepared to create a quick and easy bechamel.

Sarah moved over toward the refrigerator, careful to mind her footing, just in case the kitchen floor was wet. The librarian had previously worked in coffee shops as a barista during her high school and college years. She remembered cleaning the floors at the end of the night, once the customers had all left, and she learned quickly that the floors were not always as dry as they looked. Thankfully in this case the floors were indeed spotless and dry. Reaching the fridge, she opened it and for a moment was overwhelmed by the array of covered bowls and containers. Some were labeled, but most were not. And why would they be? The chef no doubt knew exactly where everything was. She had to take a few things out and set them aside to get to the bowls tucked away in back, but within thirty or so seconds she had everything the chef had asked for, and returned to join him at the counter. She did not remove the plastic wrap from the plate of ham and bowl of cheese, but instead moved to a nearby sink where she pushed up her sleeves and began washing her hands.

Looking over his shoulder Valjean could appreciate someone with good personal hygiene. One of the perks of just working with himself is that he always knew the last time he had washed his hands. With the bechamel ready he started to spread some butter on the slices of bread, with Dijon mustard to top the slice, offering the prepared slice in the direction of Sarah so she could put on the cheese and ham.

Sarah did her best to spread the grated cheese evenly onto the bread, without using too much. Usually she used deli-sliced cheese and meats for her sandwiches, which was easier but not as versatile. Initially she just sprinkled on enough to cover the bread, but decided to keep going, until she heard a quiet murmur from the chef. She figured that was her cue to stop. Again, the leftover cuts of ham were different from the deli cuts she was used to, but they looked so much tastier, and Sarah knew that due to the thicker hand-sliced cuts she wouldn't need to use as much. She sprinkled some more cheese on top of the ham, then handed it back to the chef, who had the other slice of bread. Though Sarah might not feel hunger the same way virtually all other people did, she did feel the anticipation of enjoying a meal. And she did still have taste buds. The librarian fought the very strong urge to snack on a small piece of ham while the sandwich was being made.

The sizzle of the pan was instant when the sandwich hit the heated butter. "It is a little taste of 'ome, non?" He wafted some of the smells that were starting to erupt in the direction of Sarah. "You will be filled until breakfast." He flipped the sandwich to grill both sides of it evenly. Once content with the crispyness of the slices her took it from the pad onto the waiting plate and spread a thin layer of bechamel on top as well, motioning for Sarah to sprinkle another layer of the cheese on top. He quickly lit the stove and set it to grill to finish off the comfort food.

"Mmmmhhmmm." Sarah let out a contented murmur as she took in the tasty aroma wafted her way. And to think she hadn't even taken a bite yet! Three days without a decent hot meal would do that to a person, whether they could ignore their stomach or not. She was so distracted by the smell that she didn't notice right away that it was her turn to sprinkle on more cheese. She saw the nearly-complete sandwich there right in front of her, wondering how long it had been waiting for her. Probably not long, as the chef would've surely reminded her... or perhaps finished the task himself. She quickly sprinkled on a bit more cheese to top it off.

With a bit of a flourish Valjean put the prepared sandwich into the grill and grabbed a plate in almost the same motion. "You better eat this in the hall, some of the students like to mess with your 'ead." He plucked utensils and a napkin to go with the plate and checked on the sandwich. "Almost perfect." With the sandwich already pre-baked in the skillet it was always important to keep a close eye on the bread once it entered the grill. Another half minute of oven staring and the chef pulled the croque monsieur from the oven, sliding it neatly onto the plate and giving a smile in direction of Sarah, clearly quite happy about what he produced.

Sarah had been biting her lip in anticipation, with a hint of worry. She suspected that the students the chef had warned were about were the same pair she'd already met... the ones lurking outside of the cafeteria earlier. Based on what Ben and Julia had told her about their powers, she could imagine them absconding with her meal with ease. Was that their thing? Conning other people out of their meals? Why? She considered making it a point to keep a close eye on them, but based on what she'd heard it seemed like some of the faculty were doing that already. But whatever her concerns were, she didn't dwell on them long. Not with a warm, gooey, delicious looking sandwich cooling before her very eyes.

Almost as soon as the sandwich was put in front of her, Sarah picked it up and took a small bite. Then quickly took another. She didn't even bother with getting a drink, or even with finding a place to sit. Yes, her achy feet were tired of standing in heels, but those aches paled in comparison before the sheer bliss of Valjean's croque monsieur. "Oh my god." She said breathlessly once she'd chewed and swallowed the first bite. There was a small amount of melted cheese dribbling down her chin, and she was poised to start licking some off her fingers before she realized that she hadn't thanked the chef, or even bothered to get out of his way before eating. "I'm sorry." She began, wiping her mouth with the provided napkin. "Thank you, this is really good!" It was actually far better than really good, but searching for a better compliment would've taken up far too much time and effort when all she really wanted to do was continue eating. Before she knew it she was taking another bite.

"Bon appetit." Valjean motioned for her to make her way to the dining hall so that he could get back to cleaning up the mess he had just made to account for what was clearly another late eater among the faculty. Why was it that Claire always seemed to appreciate people around her that messed with his breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule? It only took a moment for him to realise that Claire was one of the biggest offenders and it kind of made sense for her to find like minded people. That's what you get for letting a hippie run your school.


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