This chapter is a little on the sleazy side. Because Hank Goddard is in it and my image of him is a sleazy guy xD
When Bryony finally reached the town of Sunset Valley and purchased herself a plot of land, she wasn’t expecting housing and furniture to be so expensive! As it is, she only had money left to buy the most basic of necessities, but she didn’t mind. It was time for adventure! She could hardly wait; she was the first of hundreds of years of Cake Islanders to explore land out of its icing-covered shores, and she was sure to write down every little detail.
When she went to the park to try and meet some citizens of Sunset Valley, she came across an abandoned picnic basket and immediately pounced on the chance to try some Mainland food. It was greasy and very unlike sweet and spongy food she was used to. It was so exciting that she couldn’t stop smiling as she ate.
Next, she decided to go to the art gallery to see what art was like outside of Cake Island and was quite astonished at the strangeness of ‘modern’ art. Bryony much preferred the delicious-looking sculptures of macaroons and biscuits that were showcased on Cake Island, thank you very much.
While there, she met one of the townspeople, a fellow named Hank Goddard. Bryony kept quiet about her origins as a Cake Islander; she didn’t want to be thought as a strange person here too! The two exchanged greetings and Bryony only introduced herself as a newcomer to town, which seemed to greatly please Hank.
“Where did you come from?” Hank asked, and Bryony thought for a moment.
“Vancouver.” was eventually the answer she provided. There wasn’t much of an ulterior motive in naming Vancouver as her supposed home town; it was just the first city that she could remember from the World Almanac she had purchased to learn about the Mainland.
“Oh, Vancouver! Hey, I’ve heard of that place! It’s supposed to rain there all the time! Do Vancouverites all have those wonky hats with the umbrella on them?”
Perhaps Vancouver was not the smartest choice; Hank appeared much more excited than Bryony had expected him to be.
“Of course! Everyone has one; it’s required by law to have one of those hats with the umbrella on them!” Bryony lied.
Bryony had a great time talking with her new acquaintance; they chatted about what life at Sunset Valley was like, Hank told her about some of the more prominent citizens (such as the influential Alto family, the rich Landgraab family, and the loony Gus Hart), and the two of them spent any moment not chatting simply pulling faces at each other to incite a laugh.
All in all, it was an encounter that made Bryony’s confidence boost. If everyone was as positive and cheerful as Hank, then life on the Mainland wouldn’t be as difficult as the Cake Islanders thought after all!
Soon, it was time for Bryony to go home.
As per Cake Island tradition, she decided to present Hank with a bouquet of red roses to show her appreciation of the great outing and to celebrate their budding friendship. Little did Bryony know that giving red roses meant something completely different off the Island…
The taxi cab from the art gallery to her home was silent until Bryony noticed a giant sign taped on a nearby lamppost advertising new job openings at the local hospital. Bryony hurriedly asked the taxi driver to stop and handed him some money before rushing in.
Ever since she was a child, she had wanted to work in a profession that would help others on a daily basis. For example, a doctor or lawyer. It seemed like the timing was too perfect that the first day she arrived in Sunset Valley that she would see an advertisement for her dream job and she knew that this was a good omen.
Immediately, Bryony rushed into the hospital.
“I’m here for the job opening!” Bryony practically yelled as she raced over to the reception desk, ignoring the warnings of ‘don’t run in the hospital’ and ‘keep your voice down’ that some nearby nurses called her way.
“Please fill this form out, and we’ll call you if you get hired.” the receptionist replied without even looking up, handing Bryony a clipboard and pen. Bryony hurriedly scribbled down the information, thanked the receptionist, and left the hospital.
‘What a great day to end a wonderful day’ she thought to herself with a sigh of contentment.
The next morning, Bryony started feeling the pangs of hunger and wondered what to do. She hadn’t had the need to cook the day before due to the picnic basket she had scavenged and she had never felt the need to learn how to cook on Cake Island. But Bryony had seen her parents and roommates cook before and felt confident that she could do the same.
Pulling ingredients out from the fridge, she settled on making waffles.
It didn’t take long before Bryony received a call from the hospital informing her that she was hired as a donor. Immediately, Bryony headed out to the park to practice her logic on the public chess set. She had heard that the medical career required great amounts of logic and she figured she should start working on developing that.
Bryony became so engrossed in practicing chess that when she looked up briefly to see why it was becoming harder and harder to see the chess board, she was surprised that it was nearing 8 o’clock at night! As she stood up to leave, she saw across the street a familiar shadow and hurried over to check who was standing in front of the bistro.
Surely enough, it was her new friend Hank Goddard.
Bryony gave him a light kiss on the lips; she meant it as a friendly greeting and so was rather surprised when she felt Hank’s arms encircle her waist.
“Am I wrong to think that you’re romantically interested in me?” Hank asked when they broke apart and Bryony sent him a questioning look. “I don’t know how it is in Vancouver, but in Sunset Valley, when someone gives someone else red roses and kiss them on the lips, it generally means you like that person. As in, like like.”
“Oh!” Bryony’s hand flew up to cover her mouth in shock. “Wow, I didn’t know that! In Cake Is-… Vancouver, we greet friends like this all the time!”
Hank’s face fell at the word ‘friend’ but he continued, “Now that you know though, are you still interested in, you know, giving me flowers or kissing me?”
Bryony thought about that for a second. She did like Hank a lot but were her feelings for him simple friendship, or something beyond that? It wasn’t something she learned in school or heard about from her friends.
“Give me a bit of time to think about that.” Bryony finally said and hurried home.
The next morning, Bryony sat at the kitchen table munching on waffles and prepared herself mentally. She had spent all night thinking about her answer to Hank and she was positive that what she came up with would please him. She spent the rest of the day simply lying about and enjoying the warm breeze. When she was sure that Hank was off work, she called him to invite him over.
“Hank, I’ve thought about what you said last night!” Bryony exclaimed as she hurried over to him the second he appeared, ignoring his surprised look as he surveyed her ‘house’. “I don’t have much experience with ‘love’ or ‘like like’ so I’m not sure if what I feel for you is more than friendship. But it’s true that kissing you is fun and I like to spend time with you! I think it would be pretty great if we started dating!”
“D-dating? As in, boyfriend and girlfriend? As in, committed to each other? I don’t know how to break it to you, Bry, but I’m not really the kind of guy who likes to settle down, if you catch my drift.”
“Oh.” Bryony’s face fell; she had thought it was such a good idea but she didn’t want to lose her close friend. “Then I guess we’re just friends then?”
“Well no.” Hank closed his eyes in thought. “What about this? You want to be stay friends but you also want to be something more. I also want to stay friends with you, but I don’t want anything more. Why don’t we be friends with benefits? That way, we’ll still be friends and it can almost be like we’re dating…but we’re not actually dating.”
Bryony thought about it; she had never heard of a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship but it did sound like something that would benefit the both of them. “Well, okay. So we’re friends who do boyfriend-girlfriend things, but we’re not boyfriend-girlfriend?”
“Pretty much.” Hank shrugged. “Oh, hey, Bry, let me teach you something that friends with benefits like to do.”
Hank leaned in for a kiss, which Bryony accepted happily. When they broke apart, Bryony asked, “But can’t normal friends do kissing too? I kissed you when we were just friends too, and I know that friendly kissing exists in Sunset Valley too.”
Hank merely laughed. “Well, there’s different kinds of kissing. I’ll teach you about the other kinds one day. But kissing is kind of like the appetizer to the main dish of friends with benefits. Do you have…well, it looks like you don’t have a double bed. But do you have a shower?”
When Bryony woke up the next morning, Hank had left, which wasn’t surprising considering there wasn’t anywhere to sleep since Bryony had been in the bed. Her cellphone alarm was beeping at her to tell her to go to work and Bryony hurriedly got dressed in her uniform.
She had only been in Sunset Valley a few days and she couldn’t believe how great and exciting life was getting compared to her peaceful but monotonous life back at Cake Island. In only the span of three or four days, she had gotten her dream job, and found herself a boyfriend.
Well, technically they were ‘friends with benefits’ but the way Hank explained it made it sound like they were dating to Bryony, so that was how she referred to Hank in her head.
After a hectic day of bedpan-scrubbing and fetching coffee, Bryony was completely worn out after work and wanted nothing else than to sleep in her bed. Then, she saw a rather interesting looking fellow across the street and went over to chat with him.
“Hello! My name is Bryony Summers. I just recently moved into the town and I’m pleased to make your acquaintance!” Bryony smiled at him and extended her hand in greeting, which he took.
“Hi, my name is Cycl0n3 Sw0rd.” Bryony was surprised and confused at the man’s name. What kind of name is Cycl0n3 Sw0rd? But before she could ask, Cycl0n3 continued. “I’ve heard about you, Bryony. You’re dating Hank Goddard, right?”
“We’re actually ‘friends with benefits’.” corrected Bryony, using air quotes when she said the words ‘friends with benefits’.
Cycl0n3 frowned at Bryony’s words.
“It’s not really my place to say this, Bryony, but you shouldn’t date Hank. Or have that friends with benefits relationship with him either.”
Bryony frowned at this. Why would Cycl0n3 say something like that? He may have known Hank for longer than Bryony, but Bryony was confident that she knew Hank better than him.
Cycl0n3 must have seen the look on her face because he hurriedly explained. “You just moved here, right? Then you probably don’t know. Hank Goddard is what we call the Town Gigolo. He sleeps with tons of women for money. I’d be surprised if there was a chick in town that he HADN’T slept with.”
Bryony shook her head furiously. There was no way that Hank was like that! “No, Mr. Sw0rd, I think you’re mistaken. Hank says he likes me. He just doesn’t want to be dating me because he doesn’t like to be bound down to one person.”
Cycl0n3 shrugged. “Well, okay then, Bryony. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Just watch out for yourself, yeah? I don’t want you thinking that Sunset Valley’s full of jerks like Hank.”
“Thank you for the warning,” Bryony said in a bit of a cold tone. “But I believe in Hank.”
“Well, I work in journalism.” Cycl0n3 said seemingly out of nowhere. “This town isn’t that big and I’m pretty good at what I do. If I see Hank, you know, being Hank, I’ll tell you. I’m not trying to be mean to you or anything, Miss Summers, but I don’t like to see women getting hurt. Unfortunately, I’ve already seen plenty of girls with their hearts crushed by Hank Goddard.”
Bryony sighed lightly and thanked Cycl0n3 for his concern before returning home. Cycl0n3’s words did cause a flutter of discomfort to pass through her chest. Had Hank really just been playing her?
The next day after work, she went directly to Hank’s house to talk with him. Hank let her in without anything discomfort or worry on his face, which soothed Bryony’s concerns that Hank had another girl in the house.
“What’s the matter, babe?” Hank asked after they were inside. “It doesn’t seem like you to drop in out of the blue.”
“I met someone named Cycl0n3 Sw0rd yesterday…” Bryony started and she told Hank all about what Cycl0n3 had said about him. When she was done, Hank let out a laugh.
“Oh, Cycl0n3! He’s just jealous, that’s all, Bryony. He’s the Town Nerd, you see, and so no girls really want to talk to that guy. It’s the lack of confidence he has, I bet. Don’t believe everything he says. He’s just trying to make every other guy in town look bad so girls will flock to him instead.”
“Sure I’ve had a few exes and yes, I did sleep with them. But that’s all in the past! We’re here in the present, Bryony, and I only have my eyes on you now.”
“Really, Hank?” Bryony gasped, feeling happiness soar through her chest. She hadn’t known until now just how warm one could feel from such loving words and she was glad that Cycl0n3 had just been wrong about the whole thing. “Then can we be boyfriend-girlfriend? I really like you and it would make me feel much more secure about your feelings.”
Hank hesitated for a brief minute before enveloping Bryony in his arms. “Sure thing, Bry. It’s an honour to be your boyfriend.”
The only regret Bryony had that day was that she didn’t think to bring her camera with her when she left Cake Island. She wanted to take a picture of her happiness so she could remember it forever and ever.