She rolled out of bed, yawning hugely. It was still fairly early, but she had to get up earlier than most to have everything ready for the coming day. She got into her clothes and smoothed out her short, dark hair. She quietly headed out of the castle and took a shortcut to reach her destination. The tables and chairs were abandoned and the smell of food did not greet her nostrils; she would soon fix that problem. She rolled up her sleeves, eager to get started. She walked in behind the booth where she kept all her cooking supplies. She placed the chef's hat on her head.
Her customers would want hot rolls for breakfast. She gathered up the dough and kneaded it in her hands. Her cooking skills weren't exactly up to Black Dragon caliber, but very few of her customers had ever eaten a meal cooked by someone from the Black Dragon Group, so it didn't really matter. She rolled the dough into balls and placed them on a cooking sheet, sliding them in the oven. She grunted impatiently when she noticed that Rhett and Wilder hadn't shown up yet. They had been willing enough to help her out in cleaning the tables and serving food; what were those two ducks doing?
"Mm, that smells good!" She beamed at her first customer that morning. Barts smiled in return, and walked over to her booth. He carried a sack she knew to be full of vegetables and fruits he grew. "I'll trade you these for some of your rolls," he offered hopefully.
"Of course, Barts! Just wait until they're finished baking!" He laughed and handed over the sack. She put it aside and donned oven mitts to protect her hands as she checked on the rolls. "Here we are! Rolls, hot off the oven!" She slid the tray over the counter.
"Thanks, Mamie. I always enjoy your cooking." Barts took one of the rolls and popped it in his mouth. The chef blushed at the compliment and busied herself with washing the vegetables Barts delivered. "Thanks for breakfast. I'll be seeing you around."
"Okay!" He had left some of the rolls on the tray. She smiled, knowing he did that so she could have something to eat. She chewed on the rolls and waited for Rhett and Wilder to show up. She finished with the rolls and still the two ducks hadn't arrived. Lazy, she thought irritably. Her next customer would be arriving soon, so she had to get more rolls ready. Just then, two ducks bumbled onto the scene.
"We're here! We're here!" squawked Wilder, flapping his wings anxiously.
"We slept in, honest!" added Rhett. Mamie couldn't stay angry at the duo for long, and chuckled at their antics.
"That's okay, guys. Just get the tables cleaned, okay?"
"Sure!" they chirped in unison, and hurried to do her bidding. Mamie heard the clanking of metal, and knew her next customers would be arriving shortly. She had the fruit ready, and the rolls had just finished baking. Fred Maximillian came running in first; lagging behind were Rico, all of the Zexen Knights, Cecile, and Hugo.
"Good morning, Mamie!" hailed Fred cheerfully. Behind him, Hugo and Rico had collapsed from lack of oxygen. "I would like to purchase breakfast, please. Rico!" The poor girl groaned and wearily got to her feet, handing him a bag full of potch. Mamie tried desperately not to laugh as she sorted out the meals.
"I see that the Zexen Knights joined you today."
"Yes! Lady Chris felt that they had been neglecting their training. Hugo and Cecile are doing quite well, I must say. I am impressed with their progress!" Chris and the other Zexen Knights took their meals, paid, and slumped over to the nearest table. Fred got his meals and headed for another table. "Come, Rico, Hugo, Cecile! Breakfast!" The three youngsters joined him at the table and eagerly dove into their breakfast.
"How is your Flame Champion training, Hugo?" asked Mamie politely, busying with more breakfast preparations.
"Tough," admitted the young Karayan. "When I'm not training with Fred, I'm listening to Caesar and Apple go on about strategies. I wish someone else could've been chosen..."
"I think you're doing a great job!" grinned Cecile.
"I agree," added Mamie. "We all support you, Hugo. Don't forget that." He smiled and thanked her. Fred leapt to his feet, knocking over his chair in the process.
"The break is over! Training continues!" Hugo and Rico groaned, but didn't object. They and Cecile got up and followed the overeager knight; the Zexen Knights were still eating, and Mamie noticed that they had purposefully taken their time with the meal.
"Let's get out of here before he notices we're gone," hissed Percival. The others agreed, and they took the rest of their meal inside the castle. Mamie couldn't help herself: she burst out laughing.
Every day since she joined the army, Mamie happily made three meals for anyone that wanted it. She knew everyone enjoyed her cooking, but she liked to think that her personality made them come back every day. Some people just came by to talk with her; that made her feel appreciated on a deeper level than a "thank you" would. There was only one person she served that always had a serious expression on his face: Edge. No matter how brightly she smiled, no matter how good her cooking was, she never saw that guy's lips so much as twitch in a hint of a smile. This bothered her, but she thought it would be rude to just walk up and ask him about it.
One day business was fairly slow when Edge came strolling in. He made a beeline to one of the tables and plopped down, propping his feet up on one of the empty chairs. The Star Dragon Sword was at his side as usual, and he didn't seem to notice that Mamie was even there. She watched him for a while. Sighing, she wiped off her hands and walked over to him. He glanced up and watched her approach with his dark eyes.
"I was wondering if you ever came out of there," he said.
"Your cafe. I've never seen you leave it before."
"Oh." She blinked in surprise. "Well, I came out to talk to you."
"Why?" he asked.
"It's just... I noticed that you never really smile. You're always so serious."
"I guess that's just how I am," he shrugged. "I didn't know it would bother anybody."
"Utterly rude, and oblivious to other people. How I managed to be stuck with two blockheads is beyond me," sighed the Star Dragon Sword. Edge scowled at his weapon; Mamie chuckled into her hand.
"Shut up, you," ordered Edge. "Sorry about that," he added, addressing Mamie. "He's always butting in on my conversations."
"Oh, that's quite all right. Mel and Branky do this sort of thing all the time."
"Are you going to sit down?" he asked suddenly.
"I... guess so," she said, taken aback. She sank down into an empty chair. "Why are you always serious, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Why do you never take a break?" he countered.
"Oh, well, I... hey, I asked first!" There was a glimmer in his eyes, and his lips moved as if wanting to smile yet not knowing exactly how to do it.
"I was forced to grow up faster than most. That makes it harder for me to find things to smile about." He paused a moment to let that sink in. "Now you answer my question."
"I never take a break because I can't! I have to feed a whole army!"
"And you do that by yourself?"
"No; I've got Rhett and Wilder to help me." She nodded to the two ducks, who were busy arguing with each other by the lake.
"You should take a day off," suggested Edge. "Let someone else cook for once."
"Someone... else?" The concept was foreign to her.
"If anyone deserves a break, it's you." The cute cook stared at him, utterly bewildered that he would say something like that. "You work too hard," he added, as if that settled the matter. Mamie didn't exactly know what to say. She fumbled in her mind for words, but none seemed to fit.
"Thank you," she managed at last. "No one's ever really cared that much about me before."
"Yeah, well... You're the first person that's ever cared enough to talk to me, so I guess we're even." Mamie smiled; there was more to Edge than she initially thought. To the casual observer, he was a solemn young man that was a bit on the anti-social side. Only when someone reached out to him did he show his true nature. I'm like that too, she realized. All my customers don't really know me that well. They only see me as a cheerful cook, and nothing else.
"Are you hungry?" she asked him.
"Not really," he grunted.
"Then what are you doing here?" He said nothing for a long time.
"I like it here," he said at last, his cheeks flushing ever so slightly. Mamie's smile grew wider.
"Do you want me to make you something?"
"No, thank you. You should take a break."
"I want to, though! I love to cook!" She hopped to her feet. "I'm making you something!" she decided, and went into her cafe to start. Edge stood up as well.
"I don't want anything, honestly."
"I insist!" she sang. "Now sit down and let me cook for you!"
"Mamie, you really don't have to."
"I know I don't have to, but I want to!" she replied cheerfully. Edge sighed in defeat and sank back down in his chair. He watched her work, her face scrunched in concentration. Watching her made him happy and his solemn expression softened. He had wanted to talk to her for a long time but there was never a moment when she wasn't busy cooking. Everyone else in the castle just saw her as the cook, but there was much more to her than a chef's hat and apron. He couldn't understand how they could all watch her cook and serve them three meals a day without understanding just how great a person she was.
"Here!" He was jerked out of his thoughts by Mamie placing a bowl in front of him. There was some kind of strange yellow glop in the bowl, and she had stuck a spoon in the glop. He glanced up at her, waiting for her to explain what it was. She just beamed back at him. "Well?" she demanded. "Are you going to eat it?" Edge picked up the spoon and inserted it in his mouth. It tasted creamy and sweet, and had the distinct taste of banana.
"Very good," he complimented. "What's it called?" Mamie swelled up her small chest and announced the name as if it were something wonderful:
"Banana pudding!" Edge spooned more of the dessert, but paused as a thought struck him.
"Do you want some?"
"No, it's for you!"
"I want to share." He slid the bowl over to her. Mamie stared at him hopelessly. "I insist you join me." Her mouth flicked into a smile. She whipped out a spoon from her apron and sat down next to him, immediately popping some of the dessert in her mouth. Edge stared at her for a while. There was a smudge of flour on one of her cheeks, a fleck of banana pudding was on the tip of her nose, and her chef's hat was tipped awkwardly on her head. Mamie stopped eating and stared back at him. Her mouth fell open in shock.
Edge was smiling.