73 CH73: Meetup at Shays

    "I watch cooking change the cook,

    Just as it transforms the food.'"

    - Laura Esquivel


    It was Monday morning and Delilah was chatting with her colleagues, outside the office at the hallway. They were exchanging stories about their weekends, telling each other what they have been doing and whatnot. It was then one of her colleagues asked her whether she was planning to go travelling this year.

    Delilah tapped a finger against her chin as she looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. She remembered that she and her cousins had planned to go on a trip. It has been weeks since they last discussed it until it died down. She wasn't even sure whether they would go or not. Although she had already applied for leave, she wasn't sure when, though. She only booked her slots.

    In answer, she just shrugged and said that she wasn't sure and that she probably would need to ask her cousins.

    Her colleagues gasped in surprise when they heard her answer. They thought it was kind of a pity that she hadn't confirmed on her trip yet since the travel promotion has just ended.

    Delilah just shrugged and replied that it wasn't meant to be if she didn't get the chance to travel this year.

    They continued to talk among themselves for a couple of minutes before heading inside to their cubicles.

    During that time, the atmosphere around the office was a bit weird as the tone there was getting tense and awkward. It was probably because of what had happened at the other branch. There were rumours about one of the managers there was suspected of embezzlement and that they were conducting a thorough investigation on the employees there.

    Delilah actually knew about the rumours and the people who were involved but she had decided to keep mum, unless they needed her comments and opinions.

    Despite the tense and awkward atmosphere, it did not stop the employees in that office to continue working, as if nothing had happened. Even if the question of who was being investigated hung on the tip of their tongues, they knew better not to ask any questions in regards to that.

    The people in the HR department floor worked hard that morning, only the sounds of tapping of the keyboards could be heard throughout the room. No one was talking either, it was as if they were programmed to just work, work and work, without any talking or chatting.

    It was during lunchtime when Delilah managed to find some spare time to text her cousins in the group chat. She immediately opened the topic by asking whether they were still on for the trip or not.

    Shortly after, her mobile phone began to vibrate furiously with all the text messages coming in, reading, "What? Of course it's still on!"

    'So, when will we buy the tickets? Do you girls have any specific dates to go? It's better to buy now when the tickets are cheap!' Delilah recommended. Usually, when one wants to buy a plane ticket at a cheap price, it's either go to a travel fair where the promotion is soaring high or buy at an earlier date. Of course, it depends on whether the dates chosen were at the peak season and also depends on the country that you chose.

    They chatted with each other for a few minutes until Shay ended the conversation by suggesting to meet up at her home after work. The other two women agreed and quietly ended the conversation. After closing the chat window, Delilah continued to eat her lunch in peace.

    The afternoon passed by like the usual, with Delilah working diligently inside her cubicle. There wasn't much going on during the time she was working so it was a bit calming and quiet.

    When working hours finally ended, everyone on the floor quietly packed their belongings and headed straight to the exit. Though, for Delilah, instead of going straight home, she went straight to another route which led to Shay's house. Before she started to drive, she quickly sent a message to her family chat group, telling them, specifically to her father that she will be going to Shay's home after work.

    To get to Shay's home, she would need to travel for nearly an hour since it was far from the city centre. And to compare the distance, Shay's home was much closer to Delilah's brother, Bryson's home, compared to Delilah's home. In fact, Delilah had to drive past the residential area where her house was located to get to Shay's home.

    By the time Delilah finally arrived at Shay's home, the sun was about to set, blanketing the whole sky in deep orange hue. Shay still lived with her parents, who are Delilah's uncle and maternal aunt, together with her siblings. Shay was also the eldest child in the family with five years apart compared to her closest little sibling.

    Their house was a humble two-storey house with a porch in front and little greenery shrubs. There was a garage attached to the house, together with a path that leads to the front pathway. The front lawn was neatly trimmed, giving a clean and smooth green natured look to the picture. There were windows, in front of the house, with curtains on the side, giving a little glimpse of what's inside.

    Before Delilah parked, she could already see her other cousin's car parked outside. It seems like Farah had arrived. Once she had parked her car, she could hear the noise coming from inside the house after she got out of the car.

    Before she could press the button for the doorbell, the door was opened wide and Farah stood there at the doorway with a huge grin on her face. "Welcome to my humble abode!" she greeted loudly with her arms opened wide.

    Delilah rolled her eyes and just pushed her aside as she entered.

    Ignoring Farah's 'Woi woi', Delilah walked into the dining room where her uncle and aunt were. Apparently, she arrived just as they were about to have their dinner. She politely greeted her uncle and aunt. Her aunt then told her to wash up and take a seat to join them for dinner.

    Delilah nodded.

    Her other cousin, Shay's little sister, Ava, was also at the dining table, already sitting and waving hello at Delilah. Shay, surprisingly, wasn't around, hence why Delilah voiced out her curiosity.

    Farah had just walked in when Delilah asked the question and answered, "She's in the toilet. She said she will be down later."

    Delilah nodded as she took a seat near her aunt. She left a seat beside her empty for Shay. Farah sat across her with Ava next to her. Delilah's uncle sat on Ava's right.

    Knowing that Delilah and Farah were coming over for dinner, their aunt had cooked a storm that day. On the dining table, there was a huge bowl of rice, fried chickens, stir-fried 'kangkung' [1] and fish curry.

    Her aunt helped serve food to her husband while the others served themselves. As they were getting food for themselves, they fell into a comfortable conversation, laughing and telling each other their day.

    Shortly after, Shay came down and immediately joined them for dinner. And the conversation became more lively as they chatted.

    After they were done with their dinner, Shay invited her two cousins to her room to talk more, more specifically, talk about their planned trip.

    Inside Shay's room, it wasn't quite big and was simple with cotton drapes over the windows, a single bed with light blue bedding. There was a small study table at the corner of the room with a small desk lamp. In front of the bed, there was a wardrobe and a laundry basket beside it. There wasn't an en-suite bathroom inside so Shay probably shared her bathroom with her sister, since the bathroom was outside the room.

    Farah and Delilah stood near the door as they watched Shay grab a small portable table and place it near her bed. She then sat down on the floor and beckoned at the two women to join her.

    The two women immediately sat down on both Shay's sides.

    Both Farah and Delilah were carrying their handbags and they swiftly took out their mobile phones and placed them on the table. Shay stood up and grabbed her laptop from her study table and brought over to the small table.

    Shay switched on her laptop and looked at her two cousins, clapping her hands together. "So, shall we start?" she asked.

    Delilah nodded as she took out her iPad that she had brought along as well. She swiped the screen on and went straight to the search engine.

    Farah pouted as she watched them. "I don't have any fancy things you two have," she complained.

    Delilah rolled her eyes. "Who told you to leave your laptop at home?" she shot back.

    Farah shrugged as she took out her notebook and pen from her handbag. "I guess I'll do the old-fashioned way," she replied.

    "You do that," Shay said.

    The three of them noisily got to work, most of the noise came from Farah, who kept complaining about her small screen in her phone and how she was getting tired from writing. Both Shay and Delilah just ignored her.

    Disregarding the mumbling woman in front of her, Delilah turned her head towards Shay and told her that she will be surveying the plane tickets. And suggested that they should buy the tickets within that week.

    Shay nodded, agreeing with Delilah. She then further suggested that there should be a limit of how much the plane tickets should cost. Delilah nodded too.

    "I'll go check any transportation things that we need when we arrive. I remember that we needed to purchase some tickets called JR tickets for our train. Then again, it depends on where we'll be going. Are we going to stay in Tokyo only or will we be going to other places?" Farah said as she scrolled on her mobile phone.

    Shay and Delilah looked at each other and then at Farah. "I was thinking of going down," Delilah said thoughtfully. "Like, probably Osaka and Kyoto."

    Shay nodded. "Yeah, I wanted that too."

    Farah absentmindedly nodded too. "Okay, okay," she mumbled softly. "Then, we probably need to purchase JR Passes for that. Although there's a cheaper way to get to those two places but... it might take longer, compared to taking the shinkansen [2]."

    "We're planning to go for 10 days, at most, right?" Shay asked, looking at Delilah.

    Delilah nodded. "But to be exact, it should be 8 days. The two days are like, when we arrived and returned back home. Basically the airport days," she said.

    "Also, I've got the tickets at its cheapest price. You two don't mind if the flight takes off early in the morning?" she continued to ask.

    Just before the two women could answer, there was a knock on the bedroom door. The three women fell silent and turned to look at the door. The door opened to reveal Shay's mother, carrying a tray. There were three plates with cakes and three steaming mugs. "Hey girls. I've brought some desserts for you three to try."

    Shay cocked an eyebrow. "Were you baking again this morning, mom?" she asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes at her mother.

    "Haha, yes, I did," her mother admitted. "I wanted to try making this," she continued, placing the tray on the small table.

    Both Delilah and her two cousins turned to look and saw there was inDEEd a slice of cake on each plate and three hot chocolates. "Wow, thank you, aunt!" exclaimed Delilah.

    "No problem. Don't stay up too late," her aunt advised. "Although I don't mind you two sleeping over but I'm sure you have work tomorrow."

    "Yes, we do."

    "Then, don't be too long or else it will be too dark," Shay's mother advised again before closing the door behind her as she walked out.

    "Yes, ma'am," they echoed out.

    "Okay, we continue later," Delilah declared once her aunt was out of earshot. "This looks good," she said as she picked up a spoon and cut a piece from the slice of cake.

    The cake is a Filipino delicacy dessert, made of meringue, buttercream and bits of cashew nuts. As she took a bite, a burst of sweetness exploded in her mouth. There were many kinds of sweetness that she could taste in that one bite; the rich creamy buttercream, the melt-in-your-mouth nutty meringue and also the sprinkled choppy and nutty cashew nuts. It wasn't dry at all, rather it has that smooth and velvety texture that makes one rather lick it, instead of biting into it. The vanilla taste from the cake was perfect. Even if it was sweet, it wasn't that sweet to the extent that she could die out of high sugar levels.

    The cake was so good that Delilah had licked it clean. She tried to sneak another bite from Shay, who took her plate away, further from her.

    Delilah sighed sadly as she grabbed her mobile phone. With her spoon still hanging in her mouth, she went to a video sharing website and searched for Sans Rival.

    Shay cocked an eyebrow and asked, "What are you doing?"

    "Nothing. If I can't eat anymore, I can just watch a video of how to make Sans Rival," Delilah replied sadly.

    Shay rolled her eyes at her dramatics. She then stood up and grabbed Delilah's arm. She then picked up her plate and dragged her out of the room and down to the kitchen where her mother was packing the leftover of the Sans Rival.

    Surprised at the sudden intrusion, Shay's mother looked up and asked what was wrong.

    Shay then said, "She wants more," pointing at Delilah.

    Shay's mother laughed and stopped packing. She then took a knife and cut another slice for Delilah. "Here you go!"

    "Yum, how did you make this, aunt?" Delilah asked as she sat down at the dining table and ate.

    "Next time, you should come over and we can bake it together," her aunt suggested.

    Delilah nodded excitedly. Watching how a few ingredients being transformed into a delicious delicacy was worth watching.


    [1] Water Spinach. Mentioned before in CH50: Healthy Eating

    [2] Bullet train in Japan
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