We found a nice spot not too far from our make-shift construction site. Just a random patch of grass that had been left untouched by city administration with a handful of trees planted, making this the ideal spot to cool off in the shadows. We weren’t the only ones around. Some distance from us were a couple, also picnicking, and a handful of teenagers lounging around and playing cards or something like that.
We had already sat down on the picnic blanket Jeanne had brought along, and put up the parasol as well.
Jeanne was just about to take out the food from her basket.
“Alright, before we start eating, I have one condition,” she announced.
“Oh boy, here we go again,” Zenia said, certainly already exasperated with what Jeanne was about to say.
I looked at my wife quizzically.
“Remember how she made me paint her food once? Bet she wants you to write about it,” she joked.
“None of this. You’re wrong. I was just going to say: Enjoy!” As she said that she pulled out a plate with some sort of meat dish from her basket. I wasn’t going to question how the food was in perfect shape after being carried around in the basket so long with other food and a parasol. Magic.
“Wow, how generous of you, to not expect something in return,” Zenia mocked her friend.
“Oh, I lied about that. I am kind of using you as taste testers.”
“Why, you fear the food has been poisoned?” I jabbed at her.
“That’s my line, as royalty,” Zenia interjected, nonetheless taking the plate from Jeanne’s hand.
“Very funny, you two,” the witch responded, as she reached for another plate with a completely different dish, handing it to me. “I always do some experimenting in the kitchen and every now and then something worthy of being put on the menu might pop up.” She explained.
“So, the food might actually be poisoned,” Zenia concluded.
“I don’t know, it might happen that a potion falls into the pot without me noticing,” Jeanne added.
The two women looked at each other, clearly trying not to let their smirk show on their faces.
“I’m just going to eat,” I said after watching them for a few seconds. I was hungry.
“Wait!” Jeanne exclaimed. “First, tell me how you like the arrangement.”
“I’m really hungry though ...”
Now Jeanne and I engaged in a staring duel.
After a few seconds I looked down on my dish.
“I mean ... it doesn’t look bad.” The plate consisted of a red slosh on one side and potato-like vegetables on the other. “It’s kind of basic. What is it?”
“So, you know, how sometimes you have mashed vegetables as a side dish together with meat?” Jeanne asked us. She gestured around a bit as if she had just made the discovery of the century.
“Sure?” I answered after side-glancing at Zenia a bit.
“I say, why not do it the other way around!”
“You mean ...?” I looked back at the red stuff on my plate.
“Exactly. This is meat puree!”
“You must have put some dedication into getting meat to have a consistency like that,” commented Zenia.
“This meat is beyond minced ...” I said, as I let the red mass wobble around on the plate for a bit. “Do you have a ... spoon? How are you meant to eat this ...” That last part I said to myself, rather than anyone in particular.
Jeanne handed me a spoon from the basket.
I stabbed the meat puree with the spoon.
“Wow, it has a very ... soft consistency. Almost fluid.”
I was really apprehensive at putting this stuff in my mouth. How was it going to taste? The color made it look uncooked. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t get salmonella afterwards. But boy did I need to eat something.
“Well, here goes nothing,” I said and put the spoon in my mouth.
I chewed, or at least tried to, and swallowed.
After that: silence.
Mostly driven by hunger I put another spoonful in my mouth.
“Was that I good sigh?” Zenia asked Jeanne hesitantly.
“What are you asking me?” she responded. “You’re married to him.”
Zenia looked back at me.
“It certainly tastes like meat.”
I gave my verdict.
“I don’t really know what more to say. The consistency is off-putting, for sure. But it could do well with those meat-freaks that claim they would drink meat if it were possible. Maybe rebrand it that way?” I suggested.
Jeanne sighed in response, but ultimately said: “That is feedback I can work with, I guess.”
“There you are!” A female voice from outside my field of view shouted.
We collectively turned towards its direction, which just so happened to be the same direction we came from earlier.
“Babi-chan!” Jeanne exclaimed at the sight of her girlfriend.
That nickname though ... It confused me a bit, because Babi- Babylonia seemed a bit too mature for a name like that.
Babylonia was followed by Crimson. Seeing them side by side like that, they seemed to be a good match for each other. At least visually. That red and pink hair. Those lascivious outfits. It made me reconsider this world I was brought to, just a bit.
Jeanne jumped up to greet her girlfriend, only to be ignored by her.
“Where’s the patient!?” she asked into the group.
Now that I thought about it, I could perfectly picture her in a nurse outfit. Maybe I should fly that idea by her if she decided to take on some work in the city.
“Hello, it’s me, I’m the patient,” I responded with a subtle wave.
“I brought the medicine!” Babylonia exclaimed, thrusting forward her hands in which she held two flasks with ocean-blue potions inside.
“Right, I completely forgot about that,” I admitted. “I kind of feel better now, actually.”
Disappointed, Babylonia let her hands sink.
“That doesn’t mean the symptoms won’t come back later,” Jeanne interjected, having snuck up behind Babylonia, a hand on her shoulder. “I bet if you get right back to work, you will probably spend the whole night throwing up. And you wouldn’t want to do that to my food, right?”
I wasn’t quite sure whether Jeanne was serious, but that made her all the more terrifying.
Unsure of what to do, I looked back at Babylonia. With a smile already on her face, she sank down on her knees to my level and opened one of the flasks.
“Actually, I don’t know how to use this,” she then admitted and looked at Jeanne for help.
“Don’t I have to drink it?” I asked.
“Nope, bad idea,” Jeanne responded. “It’s not exactly digestible. It’s more of a salve than anything else. Just put it on your forehead, temples, and your neck. You should experience a chilling sensation for a couple seconds, but then it’ll be awfully nice, and in, say, half an hour you should feel your head clear up.”
“Let me help you,” Babylonia offered, putting some of the potion on her palm and handing me the flask, before going around me and carefully applying the salve to my neck.
I put some on my forehead and temples as well. Jeanne’s description of its effects was spot-on. It felt as if all my blood were drained from my head, and I felt myself getting goosebumps all over. After a bit my face seemed to get really warm, but I guess that was just relative, because shortly after that I felt normal again.
I huffed loudly.
“That was something.”
“Do you feel any better?” Babylonia asked with concern.
“I don’t think it works that quickly.” I chuckled.
“You should rest a bit before going back to work. To see if the salve actually works,” said Jeanne. “Maybe then you’ll appreciate my cooking a bit more.”
“Oooh, you cooked?” Crimson asked.
He had watched that whole affair from the side. He had been unusually quiet this whole time...
“Yes, you want to try?” Jeanne was excited at the idea of having someone voluntarily want to try her cooking.
She took my plate, that I had set down beside me and handed it to Crimson.
“It’s meat, but I made it puree,” she explained, this time with far less fanfare than the last time. I guess she tried to sell me the food earlier, because I didn’t appear convinced at first, unlike him.
“Wow, drinkable meat? That’s a great idea!” Crimson responded.
Jeanne turned towards me with a smug, triumphant smile.
I simply waved my hand in defeat.