“It’s just meatloaf,” he replies nonchalantly.
“You lie! A loaf of meat! Just meat!? That’s genius!”
“Ma’am, calm down.” Everyone looks at Afearia like she’s nuts.
Afearia immediately calms herself. “Ahem, sorry. May I have the meatloaf, please?”
“How many slices?”
“Huh? No, I want the loaf.”
The stares from the people return after hearing what she’s asking for. A man standing near Afearia leans toward her. “Aaa, that’s a lot of meat for a girl, don’t you think?”
Afearia gives him a disturbing glare. “Don’t come between me and my food. I like to eat. You got a problem with that?” The man nervously backs up. “Nothing to say? Good!” She turns back to the server with a smile. “Well, can I have that? I’ll pay whatever you want for that loaf of heaven.” She breathes deeply through her nose. “Even that aroma is beyond seductive.”
“Uh… okay,” the server says before taking her tray and putting the meatloaf plate on it. Afearia takes the tray and happily strolls to the register.
She notices some vegetables and hands the employee her tray. “Fill the edges of the dish with lots of broccoli.” The customers watch her like she’s unnatural. She pays for her food and immediately finds a table to sit at. Her eye remains fixated on the mountain of beef. Most of the customers, including the cooks and servers watch Afearia silently.
She takes a deep whiff, rips a chunk off with her fork, and takes her first bite. Afearia’s eye wells up as she raises her hand to her mouth. “Oh my. This is… the greatest food in the worlds! The meat is seasoned to perfection! And this tomato sauce neatly layered on top is genius. Pure genius!” She quickly begins taking bigger pieces into her mouth with the broccoli. “The meat overpowers all!” she says with her mouth full. “It’s flavor in a bombshell!”
Once she finishes her meal, Afearia leans back and exhales with a smile. Suddenly, a saucer is placed next to her plate. On the saucer is a slice of meatloaf with mozzarella cheese baked in the center.
She looks up to see the cook bow. “This is a token of appreciation from our chef,” he humbly says. Afearia leans her chair back to see a tall man standing by the kitchen as he gives her a light nod with a smile. “This is the second variation of his prized dish that he loves so much.”
She leans back down at the food with a wide eye. Her fork rips slowly into the meat before gently caressing her tongue in beef and cheese. Once again, her eye wells up. “This man is going to make me cry. Marvelous flavor.”
The cook stands straight. “He hoped you’d like it. The chef asked if you would be so kind as to talk with him once he’s off work.”
“I would be honored. When?”
“He’ll be finished with his shift in two hours.”
“I guess I’ll return then.” The cook walks away while Afearia finishes her complementary dish.
When the time arrived, Afearia returns to the café to meet with the chef. He notices her right away and politely stands as she approaches.
The man is over six feet tall with a dark brown complexion. He has a large, solid build, that’s easy to notice through his tight black shirt. His biceps are large and deeply sculpted like the rest of his arms. Even his hands are exceptionally large. The man has dark brown eyes and a smooth, wavy dark caesar. Under his red chef’s apron are snug-fit blue jeans. His neatly trimmed, short-haired beard connects to his short-length mustache and sideburns.
Afearia approaches the chef and shakes his hand while giving him an incredibly kind smile. “Hello, meatloaf chef.”
He laughs. “Please, call me Richard,” he says in a deep voice. “Have a seat with me for a bit.”
She sits and leans her head on her propped arm. Afearia has yet to stop smiling as she looks him up and down. “You’re quite handsome up close,” she says with innocent intent, but flirtatious poise. “And you have an outstanding body.” Richard makes a slightly uncomfortable face. “You must workout a lot.”
“I do what I can.”
“I never try to oversell myself.”
She chuckles. “It’s not a bad thing to admit positive features about yourself. For example, I happen to be very limber. You have strong hands that compliment those burly arms.” When he laughs, she smiles. “Now I can add a hearty laugh to that list.”
“Are you hitting on me?”
She quickly sits up straight. “Hitting on you!? I don’t hit humans. At least, I try not to.” She looks around the table. “Are you being hit somewhere?”
He chuckles. “Never mind. I was very happy that you enjoyed my meatloaf. I never had someone so pleased by that dish before. Are you a person who favors meat over other foods?”
“Favor? I love meat! If it wasn’t so bad for my body I would eat it all the time. I still can’t believe how good that was. I almost cried, which is weird,” she says with a giggle and a smile.
“Nothing like seeing someone so impressed by meatloaf. I have other dishes.”
“No, no,” waving her hand about. “I’m quite full. Besides, your food scares me. I feel like I would do anything for more.”
“That’s quite the compliment. What’s your name? I want to remember the person who was most impressed by my cooking.”
“I’m Afe—I-I’m Averil.”
“Okay, Averil. Pardon me for asking, but what’s the deal with the scarf? You have a beautiful blue eye. Why hide the other one?”
She smiles and brushes the bangs from her eye. “Thank you. But I have a nasty eye infection.”
“Oh? You should buy an eye patch.”
“An eye patch, huh? I’ll consider it. So, what’s the recipe for that fine meat of yours?” she asks while leaning at the edge of her seat.
“I’m sorry, that’s my secret.”
Afearia frowns. “That’s the last thing I wanted to hear from you. I guess I’ll make it a top priority to return to this village when my journey is over. Come to think of it, this town is far from so many other locations. When I came here I was afraid this place would be filled with Demis.”
“Why do you seem confused?”
“I figured you weren’t from this area.”
“What tipped you off?”
“Your remarkable love for food,” he jokes. “But your statement about Demis was all I needed.”
Richard notices something and points to the corner of his mouth while looking at Afearia. “Kiss?” she says with some excitement while mimicking his gesture.
“Uh, no. You have some of my sauce at the corner of your mouth.”
She quickly turns away to wipe her mouth. “Oh, my—how shameful of me.”
“Haha, that’s quite alright, Averil.” Richard hands Afearia a napkin from his apron. “Here.” She takes it and wipes the corner of her mouth. “Have you ever heard of Salavania?”