Catra had just opened her own restaurant, after 7 years of working as a chef at a shitty steakhouse with a shitty staff and shitty management making not enough money. But she saved, and waited, until finally she had her chance. She found a location and set to work decorating it stylishly and hiring staff that were actually competent at their jobs. Point is, she worked hard for this place and she wasn't gonna let some stuck-up Bright Moon critic shit all over her efforts. She would have to make the meal of her damn life to get a positive review from most Bright Moon critics, and she couldn't count on getting one of the few actually nice critics Bright Moon spat out. Catra never relied on luck.
Unlocking the door, she walked into her quaint restaurant before anyone else that day. They wouldn't be open for another four hours, but there was always preparation to do in the kitchen. Even Scorpia, her sous-chef, wouldn't be here for another hour and a half, but today had to be perfect. Catra set to work preparing fresh ingredients and arranging the kitchen correctly, because she was always angry by the end of the night and ended up throwing things wherever was convenient instead of putting them back where they belonged. By the time Scorpia came in, she was just about ready to start interacting with people.
"Hey boss! anything interesting happening today?" Scorpia greeted happily as she walked into the kitchen.
"Some snooty Bright Moon critic is supposed to come at 7 tonight. I have to get this right, Scorpia. If this goes wrong, the whole place could go down" Catra replied.
"Oh hey, they're not all bad. I heard about this one new critic they have that's super nice! She lets chefs choose what to serve her and everything. Only critic I've ever heard of that does that. I think her name's Adora. Perfuma is friends with her and the two pastry chefs she met in school."
Catra stilled at the mention of her childhood best friend. It had been a while since Catra forgave her for leaving, and understood why she would, but getting reminded of is still hurt a little bit.
"Oh I know Adora. we were roommates in college for almost three years" Catra said with a sad smile. Scorpia didn't have to know that they grew up together, or that they dated for most of those two and a hlaf years, or that they broke up in a huge fight that pushed Adora out of her life altogether.
"Oh that's fantastic! Let's hope she's the one reviewing your food then!"
"Yeah. Let's hope."
Adora sighed as she rode in the car on her way to the next restaurant. It's not like she hates her job, she loves it! Eating is like, her favorite thing to do, and having a job that is literally looking for the best food to eat is essentially a dream come true. The last place she reviewed was to, put it mildly, not great. That was the one part she didn't like about her job: writing bad reviews. But this new place looked promising. It had just opened a couple months ago, and was supposedly operated by a young chef who graduated from Horde School for Culinary Arts, which, despite all the bad things about the place Adora knew firsthand, turned out good chefs.
She pulled up to the small restaurant, The Cat’s Cradle , ten minutes before her reservation. She didn’t try to be early, she just was most of the time. The outside looked nice, she could tell the decor was meant to be understated but it had a decent street presence, enough to get a few walk-ins for lunch, or if the restaurant wasn’t full with reservations. As she entered the building a few minutes before seven, she immediately saw a face she recognized.
“Lonnie!” Adora exclaimed, approaching the waitress stand.
“Adora? You’re the critic the chef’s been stressing over all day? I thought critics had to be mean!” Lonnie jokes.
“Oh please. I can be mean when I want to. Plus, we haven’t seen each other for like, seven years. What if I’m an asshole now?” Adora bantered back.
Lonnie leveled her with a flat look and said, “Oh please. If anything, Bright Moon would have softened you up even more. Anyway, let’s get you seated.”
“Sounds great. Lead the way.” Adora said with a smile.
Adora was quickly seated and given a menu. When a waiter came by to take her order, she told them to let the chef make whatever they want. No other critic did this, but she felt the best test of a chef was to let them pick whatever dish they think would be best. It would test their selection skills as well as their cooking skills. Now all she had to wait, and then have some hopefully fantastic food. Adora loved her job.
When DT popped their head in the kitchen to deliver the order, Catra nearly started laughing. She knew exactly what to do. Scorpia looked over at her with a smile and a thumbs up, and began making her way across the kitchen.
“Well, wildcat? What are you gonna make? A steak, maybe some duck? This is a real opportunity to flex your skills!”
“Don’t worry, Scorpia. If everything goes correctly, we won’t have a review published at all.” Catra replied.
“Ooh, ominous! You’re not gonna, like, poison the critic are you? I feel like I need to make sure you aren’t planning to kill her.”
“No Scorp, that won’t be necessary. I need stuff for chicken parmesan.”
“Chicken parmesan? That isn’t on our menu though…”
“Just get the stuff, Scorp. I’ll take it from here.”
Catra thought back to when her and Adora would share dinners in their tiny dorm in college. Adora’s favorite thing Catra made was always her chicken parmesan, even after they learned how to make much more complicated and nuanced dishes. Whenever Adora was sick, or sad, or particularly sentimental, Catra would make her chicken parmesan. Catra knew Adora would remember, and she would be able to distinguish her chicken parm from any other she’s tasted.
It didn’t take long, only about thirty-five minutes to get it perfect, and she sent it out, with a very confused Scorpia looking on.
When Adora received her food, she was confused. Chicken parm wasn’t what she usually got. She would usually get the most complicated or difficult dish the chef knew how to make. Chicken parm was neither complicated nor difficult. Hell, Catra perfected her recipe when she was fifteen and used the same one all the way until Adora left. That thought sent a pang through Adora’s chest, the memories she and Catra had from the first twenty-two years of their lives flashing through her mind like a slideshow. Adora shook that feeling off. She had a job to do.
She noticed Lonnie watching her as she was about to take her first bite, but she ignored it. Sometimes staff watched to see what reaction critics had to the food. As soon as she put the fork in her mouth, though, she knew why. She remembered this flavor like she had it yesterday, even though the last time she had it was roughly eight years ago. It was kind of surprising how fast she recognized it, even though it was her favorite food for just about ten years. Adora immediately made eye contact with Lonnie and gestured her over.
“What do you need, miss?” Lonnie said with a smirk.
“Can you take me to the kitchen please?” Adora replied quickly.
“Hmm, I don’t know, our chef isn’t much of a people person…”
“Shut up Lonnie. Let me see Catra.”
“If you insist, Adora”
The kitchen door swung open, and Adora took in the room. She saw Rogelio by the left wall, bent over some plates adding finishing touches. She saw a tall, buff woman standing near a large table of the room, chopping some vegetables. And right in the center, as if she was waiting for her, stood Catra. She looked different, sure, but Adora would never forget those eyes. Blue and yellow, with a small smile to accompany them, looked straight at her.
“Hey, Adora.” Catra rasped, obviously overcome by emotion herself.
“Catra” Adora breathed, tears springing to her eyes at the sight of her after so long.
“You gonna come over here and hug me, or just pretend like you didn’t miss me?”
Adora practically ran to the other side of the room and tackled Catra in a hug, whispering ‘I’m sorry’ into her shoulder, while Catra returned the hug and stayed silent. When they finally separated, Adora looked at Catra, relieved.
“I thought you hated me,” she said through tears.
“I did, for a while. But I’m a different person now. I’ve changed, for the better, I hope. I shouldn’t have said those things when we had our fight. I’m sorry.” Catra replied, choked up herself.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was leaving. You could have gone with me. We could have been together this whole time!”
“Listen, I really want us to reconnect and catch up, but I have a restaurant to run. I’ll give you my number, text me and we’ll figure out a time, okay?”
Adora just nodded, tears flowing freely from her cheeks. She dug in her coat pocket for her phone, and gave it to Catra, who made herself a contact.
“I can’t believe I didn’t figure out you were the chef here before. Lonnie and Rogelio work here, it’s called The Cat’s Cradle, for god’s sake!” Adora exclaimed.
“You're such an idiot, Adora.” Catra said softly, a look of fondness on her face.
“I know,” Adora replied, matching the expression.
With that, Adora turned around and walked out of the kitchen, stopping at her table to grab her things, and passing a still smirking Lonnie on the way out.
After Adora left, Catra stared at where she was for a second before wiping tears from her eyes and turning to Scorpia.
“Y’know boss, I think you might’ve understated your connection with Adora a little bit.” Scorpia said nervously.
“Yeah, I think I did,” Catra said, already counting down the minutes until the restaurant closed and she could talk to Adora again.