Shirley watched with a sort of childlike fascination as Lelouch spun the dough around until it formed a perfect circle. So absorbed was she that she didn’t even feel the heat of the kitchen. The only way she was aware of the lack of cool air was the slight dampness of his white dress shirt and the fringe of his hair sticking to the back of his neck, both of which mesmerized her more than disgusted her. It was often difficult to remember that her boss was subject to the same laws as she was; she had never seen him eat yet. As for drinking, he only took a sip of water every now and then, and even that was rare in spite of the heat and all of the work that he did. She as well as the others had tried to work the dough once upon his request, due to the lack of kitchen support. Only Kallen had been successful in holding the dough for as long as she was required, it was so heavy. Her boss may look weak with his stick-thin frame, but his appearance belied his strength. That enough was evident in the way that he held up and stretched dough for hours on end all the while directing her and her colleagues.
She tore her eyes away reluctantly to see who had something stuck in their throat. It was a customer she had never seen before which wouldn’t be so weird if it weren’t for the fact that the unknown customer was standing in the kitchen instead of out in the front. Shirley smiled nervously, unsettled by the woman’s piercing stare.
“Can I help you?”
“No, but he can.”
The waitress turned to see who she was speaking of. She felt her heart twist when her suspicions were confirmed but kept up her smile anyway. Just because some woman had come to find Lelouch, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were anything special to each other. Plenty of girls came and went to see Lelouch; that was where most of their business came from, and for those who had remained as customers and hadn’t tried to force a connection were the fortunate ones who were fed the lie of his friendliness and kept in the dark about his actual chilliness. That wasn’t to say that he was mean. He wasn’t at all; he took very good care of all of the employees who worked under him. He treated them with respect and understanding. Even to the rare idiot or two who threw fits were given their share, though it was a much more strained sort. As far as she knew, he had broken only once, and that had been when the customer had threatened one of the servers. Shirley hadn’t been here, but she had been told of the story of how Lelouch had silently gone to the back before stabbing a kitchen knife into the wood of the bar mere inches away from the patron’s hand. The slit was still there, a memento of a customer who was never seen again, and she’d sometimes trace the mark with her finger, wondering if he was one of those types who’d fight for the hand of a damsel who sparked his interested – as antiquated as it sounded.
“Do you mind waiting a little? He’s a little busy at the mome-”
She fell silent as the young woman pushed past her and neared the sole cook in the kitchen. Shirley bit her lip; as she had said before, Lelouch rarely ever lost his temper but bothering him during a lunch rush like the lady was now was an extremely efficient way to setting off a reaction like the one that the forgotten customer had incurred.
“Excuse me, but…”
The words died in her mouth as she watched Lelouch glance at the strange woman. She couldn’t really see either of their expressions clearly or really hear what they were saying to each other, but before she knew what was happening, the young woman was tying her hair up and slipping her jacket off to reveal a sheer blouse and bare, creamy shoulders and then washed her hands at the sink before picking up a mound of dough.
That was all she was able to see before she returned her attention to her tables, but quite frankly, it was more than enough. Milly had said something about Lelouch looking for a second cook, but she hadn’t thought he had been serious about it. He was too much of a perfectionist to stand for a second cook; it was difficult to believe that anyone could actually satisfy his impossible standards, so everyone – herself included – had assumed that he would look around for a bit, arrive at the same conclusion that everyone had, and resume his career as business owner/solitary chef.
Apparently, everyone had been wrong and was smugly informed so by the announcement made after the last of the tables had been wiped, the floor vacuumed, and the dishes washed.
“I’d like to introduce C.C.,” said her boss. Standing with his arms folded behind his back and a stiff expression on his face, he made a strange picture by standing besides the young woman who had her arms crossed with a smirk on her face. “The newest addition to our staff. She’ll be working here as a cook from here on out, and I’d like for all of you to help her settle into this restaurant and teach her how things work around here.”
Maybe she was just imagining it, but she thought she saw C.C.’s smile widen while Lelouch glared at her. But maybe she really had just imagined it because when she blinked, the moment was gone and he was back to his stone face while she was back to her closed lips.
“Hello. I’m looking forward to working with all of you. Please take good care of me; I’m in your hands.”
Everyone clapped as she straightened up from her bow with a smile. Because she was closest to the front, Shirley heard Lelouch mutter, “This isn’t Japan.”
C.C. smiled. “Old habits die hard.”
This time his scowl really was real. Irritation rippled across his face before he clapped his hands. “Alright, you can go home now. Thank you for your hard work. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Chairs scraping the stone floor and coats being shrugged on, everyone said goodbye’s to one another as they drifted towards the glass doors save for a man and woman. The pair remained behind in the dim restaurant, and Shirley couldn’t help but look back over her shoulder as she feigned attention to Rivalz’s chattering.
There was just something weird about C.C. She didn’t really know what it was yet, but something about her was making alarms go off in her head and her stomach twist nervously. Or maybe that was just the caprese salad she had had earlier at lunch? Maybe she hadn’t washed the basil properly or something. Well, whichever it was, she’d find out soon enough. C.C. would be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, stuck in the kitchen. Shirley may not exactly be as clever as Lelouch, but she’d eventually figure out what it was that was bothering her. That she knew and that was what she told herself as she unlocked her car to go home after a hard day’s work.