(Sunday 26th, April)
"Thank you!" Milo's crying voice said through the phone and Brooke smiled. "Thank you for handing it in!" He sobbed.
"Not a problem and I'm sorry it took so long." She said
"All is forgiven. I'm just glad you handed it in!" He continued to sob, and Brooke heard him grab a tissue and blow into it before using a new one to wipe his eyes.
"Yeah, well I feel awful about making you wait, and I'll try and be more punctual next time," Brooke said, winking at Haya who simply tilted her head, not understanding. Milo continued to sob his thanks into the phone until Brooke eventually just hang up on the guy. It's the only way to break him out of his crying fits anyway. She put her phone away and reached forward, giving Haya a stoke. The kitten purred into it. "What should I do today, Haya?" She asked. The kitten simply continued to purr before one of her toys on the ground caught her eye, and she was off the bed in a flash, attacking the toy mouse with all her might.
Brooke rolled her eyes but got up off the bed and made her way over to her calendar. She'd handed in her manuscript and wouldn't get it back until at least Wednesday, and she wasn't required to go LPH until she got her manuscript back. Tessa was currently home-locked, Nyla was on call and Aria was busy as always meaning she couldn't call any of them. Brooke sighed. She needed to find a way to kill the few hours before her training session. Brooke glanced at the clock. 11am. She then looked out the window and saw the buildings of Loveland, standing tall and proud like always. Then it hit her.
She could continue to explore the city, get a better sense of its layout than she already had. It would surely make any midnight roof strolls easier. Brooke quickly set up Haya's lunch and made sure the kitten had been given a lot of affection before bidding her goodbye. Once she was outside her apartment building, she took out her phone and pulled up the GPS. She knew where all the main roads lead but still needed to familiarise herself with the back streets and allies that were scatted throughout the city. With her path set, Brooke put away her phone and began her stroll throughout the city.
She passed all kinds of different shops and restaurants, taking in their exteriors and interiors if the windows were clear. She was a far way away from her apartment when she decided to take a break and grab some lunch. Looking at all the shops around her, Brooke eventually decided on some cheap takeaway and started making her way towards the stand when someone crashed into her. The force sent her tumbling back, and towards the ground, however, she recovered from the impact quickly and put her hands on the ground, doing a graceful back walkover and landing on her feet. Brooke immediately focused her attention on the person who had bumped into her.
It was an aging man with styled ash brown hair and glasses that had strings hanging from the lenses. He looked startled, sitting on the ground, the paper brown bag he'd been carrying, and it's contents laid out around him. He didn't look like any kind of threat at all. Brooke relaxed her posture and darted over to the man. "Are you okay?" She asked, bending down next to him. The man shook his head and smiled at her.
"Yes. I'm sorry. It would appear I wasn't watching where I was going." Brooke held out her hand and helped the man stand up. "Thank you, and I'm sorry for bumping into you." Brooke shook her head and bent back down, gathering his groceries.
"Don't be. Accidents happen after all." She said, standing back up and handing the man his groceries when she'd collected them all.
"You didn't need to do that." Brooke smiled and shook her head.
"I wanted to." The man smiled at her when a thoughtful look came over his face, and he adjusted his glasses.
"Maybe..." He muttered, and Brooke blinked at the man, confused. He smiled at her. "Allow me to repay you for your kindness." Brooke shook her head and waved her hands.
"Oh, that's not necessary. I was simply doing what I felt was right. I don't need to be rewarded for it." The man didn't back down, though.
"Surely, there must be something I can do." He looked around. "How about I treat you to lunch? You must be hungry." Brooke wanted to huff. He didn't sound like he was going to let her go any time soon so she may as well indulge the guy.
"...Alright but I'm not letting you pay for it." The man smiled, ignoring her statement, most likely just happy he got her to agree.
"Wonderful. If you will, please follow me." He said, continuing in the path he was initially going. "I'm Mills by the way." He said, turning to her.
"I'm Brooke." She said, smiling at him. The man nodded, and he led her to an expensive-looking restaurant with a sign reading 'Souvenir' hanging from it. Brooke stopped at the stairs leading up to the doorway. "This place looks expensive, I'm not sure I can afford it." She could actually afford it, but she wasn't the biggest fan of fine-dining and generally avoided it if she could. Mr Mills simply smiled at her.
"Oh, don't worry about that, dear." He said before making his way inside. Brooke quickly followed in after him.
"I told you that I'm paying for lunch." She said, watching as Mr Mills started making his way to the kitchen, "Wait? Do you work here?" She asked, and Mr Mills nodded his head.
"Yes and I must go quickly check with the boss to see if he'll let you dine here." He said before disappearing into the back. Brooke blinked. Let her dine here? Sounded like the restaurant owner had a bias against people. She would guess poor people judging by the simple yet elegant interior. Brooke took in the room and discovered there was no one actually dining in the place. It was completely empty. All the tables had the chair flipped upwards and only had a white sheet covering the surface. Brooke turned back to the kitchen entrance to see Mr Mills walking out, lacking groceries this time. "He says you can dine here."
"Listen, Mr Mills, this place is lovely, but I'm not entirely sure if I should..." She trailed off at Mr Mills confused look. "Well, it's like I said before. I just can't afford it." She ended up saying instead of 'This place creeps me out and your boss sounds like a dick'. Mr Mills smiled at her.
"Don't worry. He doesn't want you to pay in cash." Brooke blinked and watched as Mr Mills wandered over to a lovely looking table by the window. "Now, sit down and wait for lunch to be served." He said, taking down at a chair. Brooke blinked at him then shrugged. If having lunch in this place meant that the unnecessary debt Mr Mills felt will be paid then she'll have lunch here.
"So is there no menu?" Brooke asked, noticing the lack of a physical menu to look through. Mr Mills nodded.
"Yes. Lunch will be whatever the boss served." Brooke nodded.
"Well, as long as he doesn't serve pasta with cream and chicken, I think I'll be fine." She said, and Mr Mills smiled at her with amusement.
"Don't like it?" He asked, and Brooke nodded her head, suppressing her cringe as the familiar and horrible taste manifest itself on her taste bud from memory. "Well, I'll let him know. Don't want you leaving now do we?" He said before turning and making his way back to the kitchen. Brooke watched him disappear before turning and looking out the window she was sitting next too. It was a beautiful day, and she couldn't help but wonder what Haya was doing. She'll go home and check on the kitten once lunch was over.
Mr Mills came back out and gave her a set of cutlery and a few napkins. Brooke thanked him before turning back to look out the window. The tree across the street caught her eye, and she took out the pencil and paper she carried around with her and began drawing. It killed the time she had to wait until lunch was ready, and when Mr Mills came out with lunch, it was basically done. She moved the drawing aside and smiled at Mr Mills as he set the plate down in front of her. "As requested, it's not pasta, cream and chicken." Brooke laughed and took in the dish before her.
It was actually steak drizzled in some kind of special sauce with a salad on the side. It looked amazing and was probably the only fine-dining meal Brooke had ever received that made her mouth water. As was the routine before every meal, she closed her eyes and thank everyone in her life for getting her this far. She then opened her eyes and started eating. The explosion of flavour in her mouth when she took her first bite actually surprised her, and she moaned. Like actually moaned. A full-on pleasurable moan. She would have been embarrassed if there had been other people in the restaurant, but it was just her and Mr Mills, who laughed at her response.
"Like it?" Brooke chewed and nodded before swallowing.
"It's the best fine-dining meal I've ever had." She said, and Mr Mills smiled.
"The boss will be happy to hear that." Brooke smiled before turning back to her steak.
"Well, he shouldn't go writing home about it. Praise from me when it comes to food amounts to nothing." Brooke said, and Mr Mills blinked at her, slightly confused. She smiled at him. "I grew up on cheap food, and I guess you could say it destroyed my taste buds."
"Really?" Mr Mills asked, generally sounding surprised and Brooke nodded.
"Yep. Whether it be from a sketchy take-out store or a convenience store, I've had it all." She could see the look on Mr Mills face and quickly corrected his thought process. "It wasn't because of a lack of money, It was just easier to feed everyone 50 dollars worth of fish 'n' chips then several hundred dollars worth of fine dining." Brooke smiled down at her steak, memories of unwrapping the fish 'n' chips packages and sharing it among her adoptive sisters flooding her mind. Mr Mills smiled in understanding before leaving her to finish her lunch along. Brooke did, enjoying the fantastic taste of the steak. God should give the chef an award for being the most incredible cook on the planet.
When she was finished, Mr Mills came wandering out with a little bit of paper and a computer. "Your bill." He said, placing the paper on the table. Brooke gave it a once over and frowned. Respond to reviews online? She raised her eyebrow at Mr Mills. "The boss doesn't like it when people pay, so he has them do chores instead. Your job is to respond to reviews." He said, and she nodded. A little strange but okay. Mr Mills unlocked the laptop for her and opened up the review page before leaving her be. She quickly got to work.
Some of the reviews were general and unoriginal, but most of them were about how great the food was but how 'prissy' the boss was. She read story after story about how inhospitable the man had been, and Brooke couldn't help feeling sorry for the guy. After all, it was his job to cook the food, not kiss the customers asses. She didn't say that in her responses, of course. In fact, she responded to every review with kind and caring words, sucking up while also pointing out how silly they were being. By the time she'd gotten through them all, Brooke had managed to make several customers actually changed their rating and apologise. Brooke closed the laptop and glanced at the drawing next to her.
She didn't really feel like taking it with her, so she instead put it inside the laptop with a little thank you written on the bottom. She then got up, bid farewell to Mr Mills, promising to come back at some point, before leaving the restaurant. She stepped into the fresh air and stretched. Overall, that hadn't been a bad lunch. It was far better then the cheap lunch she was initially going to have. Brooke took in a deep breath and let it out, before turning on her heel and making her down the stairs and back to the apartment. Only, her journey back home was abruptly stopped when she tripped on the last step and fell into a firm and solid chest. The impact was hard, and she rested her hands against the chest to balance herself. Longs arms wrapped around her waist, steadying her and preventing her from falling. She opened her eyes and found herself staring into a pair of familiar violet-blue ones.
Victor was looking down at her, his frown softer then usual. He was dressed in a light blue polo shirt, his bare arms held onto her waist tight and he practically had her pushed up against his chest. Which was warm and solid under Brooke's fingers, which were sprawled across it. She flushed slightly under his gaze. "Victor." She muttered.
"Are you alright?" He asked, voice deep but slightly softer than usual, that hard edge she'd become accustomed to missing. She blinked then shook her head, breaking out of the trance she'd entered.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks." She said, and Victor nodded, realising his grip on her, allowing her to take a step back. It was then she'd realised he'd stopped time. Brooke opened up her hand and plucked a frozen leaf from the air, looking at it in her fingers. She felt Victor's eyes watched her movements, and she turned to look at him. They made eye-contact and she felt herself getting lost in his eyes. Suddenly, time resumed, and sound returned. The leaves continued to fall, but the one in Brooke's hand stayed where it was.
"What are you doing here?" Victor asked, and Brooke smiled at the man.
"I'd just had lunch at this place." She said and Victor glanced behind her. "The food is great."
"You should consider yourself lucky. This place is rarely open." He said, and Brooke frowned. Some of the reviews had been talking about that. "So where are you heading now?" He asked, and Brooke smiled at him again.
"My home. I've got an attention-starved kitten to go spoil." Victor nodded, putting his hands in his pocket.
"Then I'll walk you." He said, and Brooke blinked at him. He smirked at her. "Don't want you tripping down any more stairs." He said before he started walking. Brooke blinked then huffed, before running to catch up with him.
Victor watched Brooke walk, leaf still in hand as she talked about her upcoming art exhibition that would open in a few months. He found himself listening intently, taking down every important detail she mentioned like the date of opening night and how long it went on for. The conversation soon turned to something else, and Victor listened to her talk about that just as intently. Soon, his mind drifted back to lunch.
He hadn't expected Mr Mills to bring the woman into Souvenir for lunch and was even more surprised about why. Though, Brooke did seem like the kind of person to help someone who fell. He'd heard the conversations between the two and felt his curiosity towards the woman grow. She was an enigma to him. She was a joyful, kind and somewhat silly woman but talked as if pain was a fact of her life. And Victor, well, he was hooked...