Table For Two Chapter 210
As Joann stepped through the door, she could have sworn she had passed through a time machine. Everything was as she remembered, the tables and chairs, the counter with the cashier machine, the hand-written menus that hung on the walls. It was as if nothing had changed... except the fact that everything was older and more worn.
Joann supposed that was to be expected since she too wasn't the bright-eyed young girl who once passed through the door every day to come to work anymore.
The memories from the years gone by swamped Joann and she couldn't help but sigh. It was a release of breath that was laden with emotions, nostalgia, and regret. It captured the large spectrum of emotions that words simply couldn't.
Joann walked towards the table that was nearest to the exit, pulled out the chair and sat down. No one came to serve her, in fact Joann couldn't see any waiter or waitress. 'Perhaps they're at the back, dealing with inventory,' Joann thought.
She didn't mind the slow service, if anything, she was glad to be given the freedom to look around the store. She realized the menu hadn't changed after so many years and she could not help but wonder the taste had remained the same.
Joann felt embarrassed because she spotted a poster of herself from her very first movie pasted behind the counter. She looked so young and shy back then. Auntie Xiao had asked for it when Joann caught her big break. She signed the poster and Auntie Xiao accepted it with joyful tears. Thinking back, Joann swore the woman was crying on her behalf.
In many ways, Auntie Xiao was the one who gave Joann her first chance in life. If she was turned away when she asked Auntie Xiao for the part-time job, she probably wouldn't have made friend with the kind lady and she wouldn't have continued on the path of being a star. This was because Auntie Xiao was instrumental to her career, especially at the beginning where Joann was just starting out.
Being a new actor meant appearing at many events with little and sometimes no pay since the main purpose then was to earn popularity and find one's footing and not money. This might have worked for those from a wealthy background but things were harsh on Joann. She often had to skip her shift at Auntie Xiao's but the kind lady never once berated her. In fact, she still paid Joann her salary in full even though she was not present for perhaps half of them.
Although Joann needed those money to survive, she was too ashamed to take advantage of Auntie Xiao. She tried to return the money to the lady but Auntie Xiao insisted on paying her. Joann still remembered the excuse Auntie Xiao used at the time, 'Of course, I need to pay you accordingly. What if the labor committee come charge me with unpaid labor?! Are you trying to get me into trouble, Joann?' Then Auntie Xiao shoved the money into Joann's hands.
That was not all Auntie Xiao did for Joann. The lady would cook extra portion for her family and took an extra set for Joann. She would give it to Joann when she came to work. Auntie Xiao explained it by saying, those were leftovers and she would throw them away if Joann didn't take it.
Joann smiled thinking back to the kindness Auntie Xiao had showered on her. It wouldn't be out of line to say that if there was no Auntie Xiao, there wouldn't be the celebrity Joann Fong. Joann owed many things to the kind lady who owned the dessert store.
Joann looked at the signed poster of herself and she wondered if she should get Auntie Xiao an updated version.
Following that vein of thought, Joann wondered whether it was still Auntie Xiao who manned the store or she had passed the torch to the next generation. Joann was leaning towards the latter because Auntie Xiao was already quite senior when Joann left the store for greener pasture. She would be in her old age by now.
Looking around the store, Joann couldn't help but lament what they had done to Auntie Xiao's legacy. She felt sorry for Auntie Xiao because she was the only customer around. Granted it was raining, but it shouldn't have been so deserted.
School just ended and when Joann still worked at Auntie Xiao's, she would be bustling in and out of the counter, serving the customers and dealing with the payment. Raining or not, the place would be filled with customers who came to sample Auntie Xiao's delicacies. Joann felt like the new proprietor had let Auntie Xiao down.
Cutting through her thoughts was the sound of footsteps coming from the back kitchen. Joann's face turned involuntarily into a surprised smile when she saw that familiar face. The same surprised smile was reflected on Auntie Xiao's face.
All through the years, Auntie Xiao had not changed. There were more lines and wrinkles on her face but other than that, the woman had remained unchanged, it was as if she was frozen in time. Auntie Xiao was wearing a hairnet and an apron, signs that she was probably cooking.
"Joann, I have not seen you for so long already. This is such a surprise." Auntie Xiao greeted Joann with a wide smile as she walked over to pull her former employee into a tight hug. Joann reciprocated in kind. She was more than glad to see Auntie Xiao, even more so when she saw Auntie Xiao was as healthy and as spirited as before. She was very thankful for that.
The two women pulled back from the hug and it was Joann who began with, "Auntie Xiao, how have you been? It's been so long already. You still look as pretty as I remember."
Auntie Xiao laughed. "You and your sweet little mouth. We both know you're the real pretty one."