Published at 16th of December 2020 05:33:18 PM
As soon as he arrived in Los Angeles and unpacked his luggage, he visited Rose Island, above all . However, even before stopping at the parking lot in Rose Island, he had to regret his decision to visit the place .
“Oh my God! It’s completely burnt down . ”
He mumbled in a desolate voice, looking at the burnt Rose Island .
But Anderson next to him said in an angry voice, “I don’t know which guy set the fire on our restaurant, but if I found him, I’m going to have him pay for this . ”
Min-joon didn’t respond . Just looking at the ruins of the restaurant, he felt like he was choking . The black ash stuck to the pillars and white marble walls were painful to look at . He felt like the ashes were sticking to his lungs and esophagus as well, squeezing his pores .
He asked, looking back at Anderson, “Can I go in now?”
“I removed all the dangerous stuff . No worries . ”
Min-joon slowly stepped into it with a gloomy expression . Although much of the place was cleaned up, there are traces of ashes here and there, as well as the tiles that were burnt and broken .
“These were also burned down . ”
All the trees in the hall were also burned . The baby statue next to the fountain was relatively intact, but the upper part of its index finger was deeply cut as if it were a scar . Min-joon stood in front of the statue for a long time, not moving at all . A sense of loss broke his heart just like anybody whose house was burnt overnight .
Min-joon yelled, looking up at the sky . The windows on the dome were not seen as if they were all removed, so the sunlight shining through it was clearer and more beautiful than ever .
For the first time, Min-joon felt that beauty itself could be cruel to him .
The clear sky seemed to tell him nothing happened . Maybe it was comforting him . It might be advice for him that everything will eventually pass . But what he needed now was comfort, not advice . He needed someone who could cry together rather than someone who encouraged them to laugh .
Min-joon lowered his head . The sunlight shining down on his neck was hot . Anderson turned his back . He sat on the side of a waterless fountain and looked at the shadows drawn by the sun .
“At times like this, I feel like the world I live in is not a dream, but a reality . No matter how hard I build my dreams and make efforts, I can collapse at once if misfortunes hit me . ”
“You’re right . Damn it!”
Min-joon expressed sympathy in a low voice . Then he entered the kitchen . He noticed the melted stainless steel utensils and smoked dishes .
Anderson said with a sigh, “You took the Rose knife, Rachel’s gift, when you traveled to Korea . ”
“Yeah . Come to think of it, it’s good I took it . If I just had left it here, it might have been broken . How about you?”
“Fortunately, I have kept it at my house, so I had no problem . But other guys left their gifts in the kitchen…”
Min-joon sighed for a long time . Of course, Rachel might try to give her gift back to those who lost the Rose knife after pulling herself together, but any gift that one received for the first time was always meaningful .
“Rachel told us to gather together this evening . I think she’ll tell us what she would do in the future . ”
“You said you haven’t seen her since the fire accident, right?”
“I can’t send a text message to her or call her . I’m too sorry to visit her . Head chefs from other branches also came here and tried to meet her, but couldn’t . There were only a few people who could see her . ”
“As you know, she is so sensitive and tender . I guess she must have been shocked a lot . ”
Anderson did not refute what he said . Those who didn’t know her might say what’s the big deal about her delicate feelings, but at least Min-joon and Anderson didn’t think so . In their eyes, she was not as strong as she looked . She wasn’t a superman who could do anything without any worries .
Min-joon opened his mouth to say something, but just smiled feebly . It was a sad smile . Anderson did not ask him any further . He stood up . Not a single drop of water did not come out of the fountain .
“Shall we go?” Anderson said .
Instead of answering, however, Min-joon looked up at the ceiling again . He looked up at the glass ceiling, or above the dome with nothing on top of it . The blue sky without a single cloud was rather pale as if it was covered with dark clouds .
“Oh, nothing . Let’s get out of here . ”
Min-joon wished it would rain, but it didn’t, after all .
“Oh, nice to see you back!”
Min-joon and Anderson entered the parlor of Rachel’s house, the atmosphere wasn’t as gloomy as they thought . Of course, it wasn’t bright, either . They seemed to be just getting tired rather than sad, full of despair .
“I was really lonely because you were not here, Chef Min-joon,” said Maya .
“Why do you feel lonely since I’m not your girlfriend?”
“Man, do you think only Kaya feels lonely when you are not here? You are so mean,” replied Maya .
“Oh, I’m sorry . ”
Min-joon sat down with a bitter smile . With Maya sitting right next to him like a dog waving its tail, Min-joon looked around . Rachel was not seen . As if they wanted to meet Rachel, the hall manager of Rose Island Annie said in a calm voice, “If you’re here to see Chef Rachel, she is preparing something at the moment . ”
“Ah, Annie, it’s been a while . ”
“Yes, it’s been a long time . Did you enjoy your vacation?”
“Well, I feel it’s hard to say that I’ve enjoyed my vacation, but it was a good vacation until I heard this news . ”
“Well, everyone must have felt the same way . ”
Annie shrugged . Min-joon leaned his back on the chair, looking a little tired . He said hi to Justin who was standing on one side .
“It’s been a while . Justin . Why are you standing over there?”
Justin didn’t answer . He looked blankly at his shoes as if he was lost in thought .
Min-joon tilted his head because he felt something strange . So, he stood up and turned to Justin . It wasn’t until he saw Min-joon’s shoes coming up right in front of his feet that Justin looked at him blankly .
“Ah, Chef… . ”
“What’s up . Why are you looking so blank?”
“Oh, I’ve got a lot on my mind . Sorry it’s hard to tell you about it . ”
Justin rolled his eyeballs as if thinking of this and that, but in the end, he replied briefly .
Min-joon leaned his back against the wall and put his hand on Justin’s shoulder .
“Don’t be so worried . I’m saying this not only for you, but also for Rachel . If we get gloomy, she will be more stressed out . So, don’t look so gloomy, will you?”
“Yeah, got it . ”
Justin smiled at him awkwardly . But it was hard for him anyway . Min-joon could not know what kind of anguish was hidden behind his smile . He was about to ask Justin what it was when Everyone sitting around the table was noisy . Min-joon turned his head . Rachel was stepping in .
‘Yeah, it’s been hard for her…’ Min-joon thought to himself .
Although she smiled, pretending to stay calm, her cheeks were leaner than usual .
She slowly opened her mouth .
“It’s been a while since we met . I’m sorry I couldn’t contact you for a few days . I won’t make an excuse . I was troubled a lot . ”
That was a perfect reason why she couldn’t contact them, nothing more or less . Min-joon was a little relieved because she seemed to overcome the difficult situation although it was so hard for her to put up with at first .
She continued in a confident voice, “But don’t worry about it anymore . The reason I appeared in front of you right now is because I am confident that I won’t whine about this . The reason I called you here is because I want to share my future plans with you . ”
Everyone pricked their ears at that . In particular, Annie and other servers were more attentive because they had to decide whether to find a new job or just wait indefinitely like this .
“People don’t know how to look at something else once they’re distracted by something . Maybe my head office was like that . It was the cage that kept me locked up . And now, folks, the cage was destroyed . ”
She looked at them silently . Then she rested her gaze on Min-joon for some time, then on others . No one stopped her and asked any question . Even they didn’t know whether they were suppressing their curiosity or they were overwhelmed by her gravitas .
“It will take at least three months to rebuild the Santa Monica branch of Venice . During that period all the kitchen staff will be staying with me . ”
“What are you planning to do?” Havier asked, as if he couldn’t hold back the urge to ask anymore .
She looked at him with a lukewarm smile .
“Level up . ”
After she made the announcement, Min-joon sat at the table with a blank expression .
In fact, he guessed she would try to comfort them, asking them not to be so surprised about the fire, but she brought up a topic that he had never expected .
‘Yeah, she is different…’
Was it because she even felt it was a waste of time to hesitate and agonize? She made the decision without any hesitation,and Min-joon did not hate her attitude like that . Rather, it was cool .
“Well, I’m not going to see you for some time,” Annie spoke to Min-joon who was lost in thought . He stopped agonizing and looked at her blankly, then hurriedly opened his mouth, startled by her question .
“Oh, I think so…”
“I hoped she would give me paid leave, but she introduced me to another restaurant . Gosh, she has such a wide network, but I feel a bit sad . ”
Annie smiled mischievously . Min-joon laughed bitterly . The kitchen staff were planning to be with Rachel . But the hall staff were not . Most of them were given vacation leave or assigned to other restaurants on a short term basis . Her decision seemed trivial, but it was really commendable because she made sure they continue to be employed in a difficult situation like this .
“Oh, come to think of it, there is another one who might feel more sad than me . Chef Kaya .
She is going to feel lonely because she can’t see you for some time,” Annie said .
“Well, I don’t know . My head is throbbing when I think about it . ”
Cho Min-joon sighed . Annie smiled and patted him on the shoulder .
“Cheer up,” she said .
Watching her walking away, he noticed Justin standing on one corner . Justin still looked dark .
Min-joon thought of leaving him alone, but he was a trainee . As a supervisor, he couldn’t ignore him because he himself went through the hard times as a trainee in the past . Min-joon knew better than anyone how precious it was for someone to encourage him when it was hard .
“Justin . ”
“Yeah . ”
“What the hell is going on? It seems that you look so weak and emaciated just because of the fire accident . Is it something I should not know?”