The Bellamy Continues!
“Don’t get used to this.”
The café was presided over by a hawk-faced woman with magenta hair coiled in a bun atop her head. Under her pristine white apron she was wearing a lime green and sunshine orange tartan vest. She was also wearing what was not a scowl but could in no way be considered a smile, and the wrinkles on her face seemed to suggest it was the expression she wore habitually.
“You only get food like this two times.” She held up a platter of delectable-smelling warm food. “Your first day and your last day. The rest of the time, you eat what everybody else eats.”
“What does… what does everybody else eat?” Veronika could only picture the buckets of kibble she’d seen in the holding area below the front desk, especially the one labelled humanoid.
“Food.” The woman rolled her eyes at Veronika. “Everyone else eats food. It’s just that on your first and last day, we make it a little special. It’s a perk of the Bellamy. The sort of thing we do to make our employees — no we don’t call them employees do we — to make our team members feel welcome.”
“It sounds,” Veronika offered carefully, “as if somebody read a book on morale building, and understood…” She hesitated over how to say this, but thought that it might possibly help her connection with the angry-looking woman. “… Understood the words.
“But not the concepts.” The woman nodded and held out the hand that wasn’t offering the platter. “I’m Sylvester.”
“Veronika. Pleased to meet you.”
She shook the hand and took the platter with both hands. “This looks delicious. Thank you very much.”
For the first time, she smiled. It looked like it might hurt her face a little, and it didn’t last very long.
“Welcome to the Bellamy.” She sounded as if she meant it. “If you get too much of people trying to perk up your morale and it gets you down, just go to the skeleton room. That’s what I do.”
Veronika considered her options and then asked “Only one? There’s only one skeleton room?”
“Ha.” The laugh had only a very little bit of humor to it, but Veronika figured that Sylvester had already worn out her daily ration of humor on the smile and didn’t hold it against the woman. “It’s a very large room. It needs to be. The littler ones – you know, things that are smaller than an elephant, really, those go into the side rooms around the edges. You know, I never asked if it’s by size or by type. Well, I’m not an archivist, I’m just a chef. What’s that TV show quote?
Strangely, Veronika actually guessed which one Sylvester meant. “Damnit, Jim,” she started, “or I guess in this case it would be damn it, Veronica, I’m a chef, not an archivist.”
She was rewarded by another short snort of a laugh from Sylvester, which seemed to indicate she’d said something vastly and hugely humorous as far as the woman was concerned. “I like you. I hope I’m not making you another meal like this for a very long time.”
Veronika smiled at her, her own actual full smile, which she was kind of afraid of might give the woman a seizure or something, but with that vest and that hair, she could probably handle a bright smile. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me so far today.”
And once again, Sylvester snorted. “I’ll pour you a good Riesling. You will not believe the things that people donate to the Bellamy.”
The meal was every bit as delicious as it looked. It was filling, warm, and, Veronika had a feeling, even healthy. Well, the chocolate mousse for dessert was probably not quite so healthy, but on the other hand, it was small and very rich, and not so much as to leave her feeling as if her skirt and vest wouldn’t fit anymore.
She had finished the wine, the mousse, and everything else on the plate, when Miss Haas appeared again.
“There you are!” She made it sound as if she was surprised to find Veronika in the cafe, which made no sense at all, but Veronika had almost already ceased to expect any sort of sense from the woman who changed her vest before answering the door. “Are you done with your lunch, then? Have you finished your hour?”
“Done.” Veronika gestured at her tray. “Sylvester always outdoes herself on the first and last days of someone’s employment.” Miss Haas sounded very proud of this fact at the same time as her one of her eyebrows was acting as if he was trying to twitch, to pass along some message, but Veronika couldn’t quite figure it out.
“Regardless,” she continued, when Veronika failed to figure out whatever failed to respond to whatever if was she was supposed to be answering. “Regardless, it is now time for you to learn about the trickiest part of any position here at the Bellamy. I do hope that you prove to be good at it. Uma has spoken very well of you, and if you can master finding, then she can have that vacation. I am sure she will be overjoyed.”
“I’m not sure the woman knows what joy is,” Veonika offered, perhaps a little more on the nose than she ought to have been – she blamed it on feeling a little punchy after talking to Sylvester. She cleared her throat. “That is, I hope that she does appreciate her vacation.”Want more?