The phone call came when it was still dark, and after tersely confirming the time and place Lisa hung up quickly to go back to sleep. When the sun rose that day Lisa rose with it, returning the plants to the patio outside. She made herself coffee and hung her outfit in the bathroom to get the wrinkles out while she showered. When she’d met her mentor, the woman had worn a sundress and a hat with a wide white rim and a black ribbon around it. The image had stuck in her mind from that moment on. Magical Girl Firebrand Angela had always been more for aesthetics, but Lisa wanted to at least look presentable. Not that she intended to take an apprentice, she quietly reminded herself in the mirror, but just to be polite.
The meeting was at a local restaurant, one of her favorites. Mike was really trying to push this one because he was footing the bill too. She ate a light breakfast to leave room and got dressed, leaving her hair in a loose ponytail. Her focus was waiting on the counter and she tucked it away in the patchy bag she jokingly referred to as a purse. Her stipend was plenty to buy a real one, but she never liked to spend it on things for herself. Her mentor had been the same way, preferring to put away money in savings for a rainy day.
The meeting wasn’t until early afternoon, which left her with nothing to do until then. Lisa debated going for a jog but she was already dressed nicely and outside looked damp. She settled for watching a couple of movies instead and headed out an hour early to walk to the classiest restaurant left near the shore. The Blue Pearl was starting to show it’s age on the outside, with paint peeling off the shingles in large patches. Inside was a carefully maintained shining oasis of polished wood and brass.
Lisa’s father had brought her here for her birthday the year her powers had arrived. Her mother had been out of town for a conference and the two of them had taken a booth with a view of the waterfront. They’d stayed and watched boats for a couple hours, and she’d gotten the biggest dessert on the menu, legs swinging eagerly below the table as she struggled to eat a third of it. Her father had taken it home and the two of them ate it while watching movies the next night after the call that mom would be gone a few more days.
Angela had brought her there as well, after their first successful defense of the town. She’d been too exhausted to eat that night, and nodded off into her chowder before they finally got a container and took it home. A gleaming brass bell rang, low and just loud enough to make the man at the bar look up. He smiled at her and nodded towards the table by the window. She gave him a wave and sat down, opening up the menu to see what had changed. The menu varied with what the locals were catching, and she was happy to see the chowder was still on the menu. She’d heard the harvest wasn’t great right now, but apparently it was decent enough to avoid price hikes.
The waiter put a glass of water in front of her on a coaster, and placed the pitcher in the center of the water. She started to ask for something stronger, but changed her request to a few slices of lemon. First impressions were important after all. She took a sip of the icy water. That was one thing a person could count on in this town, the water was always worth drinking. The waiter returned with her lemon and she squeezed a wedge into her glass.
“I’m expecting company in a bit so I’ll wait to order.” She dismissed the waiter, who retreated from the mostly empty dining room to the kitchen. The lunch crowd had already been through and it was far too early for dinner. They would have the place to themselves for a few hours if need be. Mike was always thinking ahead like that. She hated to disappoint him, he tried so hard every time.
The girl and her father would be here soon. Hopefully she could convince them to eat and chat a bit first before turning her down. At least then it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. They would get a free nice meal and get to meet the magical girl one-on-one. She’d only briefly glanced at the file but the father was an on-call electrician at one of the office buildings downtown. The way things were going lately they probably only called him if something started smoking or the whole building went dark. Her building and city hall were the only ones not cutting corners on maintenance while waiting out the recession.
A cat strolled past the window and stopped to meow at her. She waved and it strolled away down towards the shore with a disdainful twitch of its tail. The bell by the door rang and she looked up at her guests. The father had a heavy looking long-coat on, and an old but clearly cared for brimmed hat. The girl was wearing a light red jacket. Her costume in the file had been red too, it was probably her favorite color. Lisa waved them over and stood up long enough for them to seat themselves, draping their coats on the chair backs.
“Have you eaten here before?” She asked as they glanced nervously at the unopened menus.
“Only on special occasions, it’s a bit out of our normal price range.” The father remarked off-hand.
“Well the city is footing the bill this time so go wild, I know I’m going to. I suppose we should do formal introductions though. Magical Girl Flowering Lisa at your service, of course.” She held her hand out and the man took it almost reverently. His hands were rough with years of working, but his grip was careful and almost delicate.
“I’m Jasper Crook and this is my daughter, Camden… um… I’m afraid I don’t really know how to do the whole ritual presentation thing.”
“Don’t worry about that just yet. We can deal with business after we eat. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.” She shook Camden’s hand, noting it was a bit more calloused than she’d expected from a little girl. Camden poured water for her father and herself and opened his menu for him before looking at her own. He peered down at the menu from the bottoms of his eyes, as if trying to look through glasses that were no longer there.
The waiter appeared from the kitchen again long enough to refresh their water before disappearing again to give them time to decide.
“The chowder is amazing here, I’m surprised they can afford to stock it right now though.” Lisa peered over her menu a bit at them. Camden looked to her father, who nodded a little.
“They’ve had a rough year with the harvest, but Shorebrook always finds a way.” He didn’t really look up from the menu as he spoke, and Camden looked away as soon as he was done.
“That’s true… See anything you’d like to try, Camden?” She tried addressing the girl directly.
“Well… last time I got spaghetti… but maybe this time I’ll get a grilled cheese and tomato soup.”
“That sounds good… what about dessert?” Lisa was glad the menu hid most of her face as the girl’s expression changed wildly.
“Dessert?” She looked bewildered at the idea.
“I’m going to get the double fudge brownie with ice cream. Do you like brownies?”
“I can have dessert?” She looked up at Jasper.
“If the city is paying… I suppose you can, yes.” He looked a little uncomfortable but Camden beamed at him and turned her attention to the dessert menu.
“Don’t feel bad, this only happens once in a blue moon so nobody will go bankrupt if you treat yourself.” Lisa smiled at the man, who finally remembered his hat and took it off, setting it on the chair back. He nodded a little and relaxed, scratching the balding spot on his head as he studied the menu again.