Never deny what you want most in life
Few individuals would pick work over love and life itself, but he did. It was a decision he regretted daily, but the opportunity for atonement had long since passed. His career was his life, and as much as it pained him to admit it, the sacrifice, the fame, the privileges weren’t worth the absence of his true love.
There were two things in life he wanted. To marry her, and own a restaurant. He had been working part time as a food critic for the Subetan Times, and playing second fiddle chef in a middle class, going-nowhere restaurant. The combined paychecks made his living comfortable, and allowed him to tuck away money for the engagement ring. He was approaching his goal amount, when an opportunity landed in his mailbox.
It came in a plain white envelope one sunny afternoon. The letter was simple, and straightforward: Travel to Shadowglen, and accept an internship at Heads-a-Rolling, one of the premiere sushi shops in all of Subeta. A once in a lifetime opportunity. This was his chance to learn from masters within the industry, and lay the foundations he’d need to run his own place. His life would be set after the ten year instruction, and he’d be able to provide for her. Their lives would be perfect.
Except she didn’t want to leave Riverside. Her job, her friends, her ill mother were all there. She couldn’t abandon her, even for him. He tried begging. He tried pleading with her. He tried bribing her with the engagement ring he’d work so hard to save for. None of it worked. She couldn’t bring herself to sacrifice so many important aspects of her life for him.
He wasn’t worth it.
With a heavy heart he departed from Riverside, and traveled across the globe to Shadowglen. He began his ten year apprenticeship two weeks after she said no. At first, he took each day step by step in a numbed haze. He abstained from contacting her, but it pained him to not hear her sweet greetings or honest laugh. As time passed, so did the depression, and longing for what he couldn’t have. Yet he still missed her with his empty heart, a part of him would never heal completely. His life was bland, flat, and without purpose.
Fifteen years later, he had achieved one of his goals in life, and it brought him no peace. He had named the restaurant after her. The interior was done in her favorite colours: crimson, burgundy, maroon, chocolate. Tables and chairs were dressed in black cloth and dark varnish. The menu had various house specials that were an ode to her. If he could not have her in his life, he would create a place that was an eternal shrine to her essence. It was a hollow vessel that did not return his affections, but it was enough to provide him a slim slice of happiness.
Five years later, his restaurant had become one of the most talked about places to dine. He made headlines in the culinary industry. Entire magazine features and newspaper columns were dedicated to complimenting his dishes, his staff, and him. During interviews he was always asked where the name came from, but he would fib. Something about his great grandmother’s best friend’s heroic deeds. They were lies. No one needed to know the truth, that he named his life’s goal after her. The one who had said no some twenty years ago.
He wasn’t worth it still rattled around in his head.
Except...he really was.
It was the tail end of autumn, a slight chill on the air, and heaps of leaves littered the parking lot of the restaurant. He always arrived early; preparation was key to an efficient business. As he was heading towards the back door he heard his name called out from behind him. The voice sounded vaguely like her, but he squashed the sudden flicker of hope that bloomed in his chest as he turned to the caller. And stopped. A strong wind blew across the lot, scattering leaves and lifting her hair to stream across her shoulders. Time had aged her, just as it had aged him, but there she was, in the flesh before him.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
Those three simple words brought a flood of memories, and emotions crashing through his heart. He had kept everything tightly held and contained. Tears welled in his eyes, and with slow careful steps, he moved towards her. He touched her hair with trembling fingertips. He touched her face, caressing along her cheek. His thumb wiped away the tears she shed. He leaned his head in slowly, letting his lips tentatively touch hers.
And with that single kiss, all the wrongs in both their lives were righted.
Profile & Story: Buttercream
Artwork: Plipkat &