Orihime in Hiding Chapter 2
Here’s chapter 2 guys, all the credit to Renji’s Girll
(I know the story starts slow, but bear with it guys. It’s good I swear!)
Chapter 2- New in Town
Leah needlessly straightened the pastry boxes on the counter behind the display case. She was waiting for the last pick-up of the day and it wasn’t getting any easier waiting. The shop had been closed for an hour already. They always closed at four, and it was nearly five-thirty. She had another job to get to. Mrs. Simon wasn’t paying her well enough to be late. She hated staying over alone. Fridays brought out the weirdoes, even to a cake shop. Sometimes the early drunks shot past the bar two shops over and staggered in.
Good lord, don’t let me get robbed, she thought to herself for the fifth time. Or anything else.
She straightened her burgundy apron bib. Confectioner’s sugar was dusted on the front, as usual. She wiped at it, then brushed her dark hair back from her face, refusing to retie her ponytail.
The tinkle of the door’s bell made her look up, a smile automatically in place, hoping it was Mrs. Ridge to pick up her three dozen cupcakes. It was not.
“Hello,” she said, a little surprised by the man who approached the counter slowly, seeming to grow taller as he neared. She’d never seen such red hair on a man, or such a ponytail of it on man or woman. The black head rag he wore made her think of the type the baker wore when he was mixing dough in the back of the shop. She eased the sagging smile back onto her face. Beneath the counter was a baseball bat. Somewhere. “We’re actually closed.”
Renji frowned, but then quickly grinned at the girl behind the counter. Orihime’s age, or a little older, he guessed. “You said to pick up in thirty minutes.”
Leah tilted her head in confusion. “Mrs. Simon told me you’d be here over an hour ago.”
He looked around at the pastries and cakes in the glass counter between them. Assorted sizes of delicately decorated cakes and confections lined the shelves, iced with chocolate, white, pinks, and creams. The smells were wonderful. “You make all these?”
She smiled a little brighter, a warmth coming to her green eyes as she nodded. “The baker does; I just finish them. You know, frost, decorate, and stuff. But we make all our own icings, and most of our fillings,” she added.
He nodded, leaning over the glass, eyes going over the top shelf of the display case. “They’re all so perfect,” he said.
She beamed. “Those are chocolate with hazelnut-cocoa frosting,” she said, pointing at the brown cupcakes he was looking at. “Beside them, to your right, are the vanilla praline.”
“They’re all for sale?” He looked around. It didn’t smell much like pizza in there. Not at all. Maybe American pizza smelled different than it did in Japan.
“Yes. We’re closed, but I can still get you something.” She couldn’t place his accent, which wasn’t too pronounced, but still clearly evident. She studied him a little closer, uncertain of what bothered her besides the shocking red hair. The way the head rag fit struck her as odd. Maybe he’s scarred, she thought. Or balding. Why did guys always try to hide baldness? she wondered as he examined the contents of the case. Some guys looked better bald. Like that volleyball player on the Olympics team. She frowned as he hovered over the hazelnut cupcakes.
Couldn’t be bald, not with all that red hair sticking out of the back of the ponytail, she thought. Probably scarred.
“How much each?” he finally asked, finger jabbing the glass above the rich cupcakes.
“Seventy-five cents apiece,” she said, trying to determine his age. She couldn’t, but he was definitely fit. Not muscle-bound like some of those idiots on the football team at school, she thought. More college-age. Leaner, stronger. Probably quick, too.
He looked up, nodding. “I’ll take two.”
She halted her drifting thoughts, and followed to where his attention was on the tray in the case. “Hazelnut?”
“Yeah.” He looked around the other displays in the small shop as Leah slid open the case and brought out the tray.
“Oh, whichever.” He watched her select two cupcakes and put them in a white paper bag. “This isn’t the Pizza Bucket, is it?”
Her face broke into a big smile, laughing a bit, before stopping herself. She folded the top of the bag over twice and ran her fingers along the top to crease it sharply. “Oh, no. That’s two stores over.”
He sighed. “Figures.”
She handed him the bag.
“A dollar fifty, right?”
She nodded. “Yeah, Pizza Bucket isn’t well-marked if you’re walking up on the place. They have no sign hanging over the sidewalk, and they always forget to turn on the Open sign in the daytime. It’s hard to see sometimes.” Even so, she thought, everyone in Brooklyn knew where the Pizza Bucket was. It was a small town, and Pizza Bucket was one of only two pizza places. He handed her a dollar and two quarters. “You new to town, or just passing through?”
“Oh, well, we’re thinking about staying a wile.” Dammit, Renji, he thought to himself; was that too much information? He looked her over better, returning the timid smile she now wore. Yeah, like Aizen would really send someone to interrogate a cake shop employee. If anything, Aizen would be looking into the middle schools. “Things are kind of up in the air.”
She nodded. “In that case, welcome.”
He left and Leah watched him from the counter through the window as he went to the pizza shop two stores over. She looked at the clock on the wall shaped like a big chocolate chip cookie, sighing.
Where was Mrs. Ridge?
Renji found the Pizza Bucket two doors down from the shop. He went inside and was immediately greeted by what he recognized as the aroma of pizza, which only made him all the hungrier, and had some pop tune coming over the speakers. It was empty except for a group of five at one booth against the wall. He didn’t look at them, but headed straight for the order counter at the back of the building.
“Get a load of this guy,” a twenty-something man said from the corner booth.
Renji looked there briefly as a couple of chuckles came from two of the three men. The two women with them were younger, and they averted their stares when Renji passed.
He ignored them as he went to the counter, the men’s comments lower now, the uneasy laughter followed by one of the women hissing ‘Shut up!’ to one of them. Orihime was at the house alone, and Renji didn’t want to leave her there for too long. He’d already been gone fifteen minutes.
He set the white paper bag from the cake shop on the counter. The guy behind it was high school age, a lax and dazed look on his pimply face. “I’m here to pick up a pizza.”
“Renji.” Shit, he thought; last name. “Abarai.”
The youth’s saggy jaw dropped as he pronounced the name slowly. “Aw-baw-ree?” He turned to the shelf behind him and looked through the white pizza boxes stacked there, then picked one out. “That’s 17.20.”
Renji handed him a twenty and took the box.
The youth punched in the amount on the register, pausing over the open drawer as he made change. He looked from the change amount due on the register to the money in the drawer, confusion evident on his face.
“Two-eighty,” Renji said impatiently.
“Yeah,” he said, shifting from foot to foot, still looking at the money. He finally made the correct change.
What an idiot, Renji thought as he took the change. He collected the box and bag and headed to the exit.
“Maybe it’s short for Reginald,” he heard a woman from the table say as he left.
He pushed through the door and turned onto the sidewalk. So far he was not impressed with the denizens of Brooklyn. Bunch of idiots.
Except for that one, he thought, pausing at the cake shop window as he reached it. Inside he could see the brunette girl at the counter, an open box of cupcakes on the display case between her and an older portly woman. The round woman nodded as she looked in the box. He saw the younger girl smile at the customer, then close the white box.
He looked up at the name of the shop. The Cake Cottage the pink and burgundy sign read in a fancy scrawl.
Inside the girl and customer were still chatting, and Renji continued on down the sidewalk. He glanced at the shops across the four lane street. A single screen movie theater, an antiques shop, a bar, a cafe, a pharmacy, and a barber shop.
He squinted at the sign on the cafe. Open at eleven, he thought it read. Breakfast was out of the question.
Since there was no car at his disposal yet, maybe he and Orihime could get breakfast at the Cake Cottage. He turned the corner on the sidewalk where the main two streets in Brooklyn intercepted and continued the four block walk home.
Home, he thought with a grunt.
Breakfast at the Cake Cottage. He smiled, making a little boy riding a tricycle on the walk ahead of him shy away, turning into an alley.
He’d seen some pretty tasty-looking sweets at the shop. And Orihime would be agreeable for pastries.
I’ll have the new chapter out soon, that’s when it starts picking up with some mystery… until then…