This is the tale of Cason Banks, a young pastry chef from Surrey England who moves to London to start his career and follow in the successful footprints the Banks family are determined to keep on printing. Though Cason is relatively wealthy, moderately handsome and determined to create a life for himself, he is also shy, and adamant love is for a certain breed of urbanites. Part 2 – On his first day as Christiansen’s apprentice, Cason finds himself friends with a successful gallery owner.
Hi! My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger currently living in the leafy suburbs of Surrey England. The Chocolate Prince will be an ongoing serial depicting the exciting life of Cason Banks as he navigates the new world of London on his search for success and love. Feel free to comment below on where you’d like to see the story go next!
Part 2 -My Meeting with Dominique Dubois
‘You need to find sex, Darling.’ Said Dominique (Dubois), over what was, believe it or not, my first ever espresso martini. ‘This is London, darling. I’ll have you bedded by nine. With another person, that is, not by yourself.’
I smiled insincerely and took another sip of what I would later regard as my new tipple. ‘I think I should wait first,’ I said, my fingers up and down the glass stem. ‘London is still very new to me.’ Though this small suburban attitude had sparked a scoff from the cosmopolitan ebony mannequin before me, his drink an old-fashioned, it’s brown sugary colour a compliment to him.
My disposition had taken a turn for the worst on my first day of being Christiansen’s apprentice. I had arrived at the Christiansen Chocolaterie in Knightsbridge, only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment and I was ready for whatever Mr Christiansen had prepared for me. Though embarrassed as I am to admit it, a wash of disappointment slapped me in the face once I realised I wasn’t alone. Anthony Christiansen had in fact offered the opportunity to two other chefs. Should I have been disappointed by this news? Do you think I was ungrateful? The truth is I was utterly peeved.
Ignorantly I Conjured a far too specific scenario for my experience, going as far to imagine a sort of Patrick Swayze moment between us where he’d assist me in the tabling method of chocolate tempering. This was not meant to be, however. In fact Mr Christiansen had not arrived that morning, leaving only a note of apology and instructions with his boutique manager, the three of us, his apprentices that is, left to take stock of the ingredient levels.
Frustrated at having exacerbated my expectations I had taken it upon myself to frequent the nearest coffee house during my lunch. Only in Knightsbridge will your satisfaction for French pastry be satisfied, and not before long I had set myself in the corner of the café with an Americano and an almond croissant, which to my already ill-tempered attitude and desperate taste buds was not to my liking, lacking the refinement of a lightness and taste I was used to making myself. Perhaps the coffee was too strong, but then again, I suppose my leaving of the croissant was a blessing is disguise, for out the window a fine figure with a Burberry trench coat passed by and waved at me with an air of disbelief.
At first I thought this person was being terribly polite, until they entered the cafe, tapped the floor over to me, snatched up my remaining pastry remnants and a took a bite from it.
‘Daniel darling, I didn’t know you were back from Scotland. What a day!’
How could I have put this. This poor yet beautiful person had me confused with another, but before I could voice this mistake they had already settled themselves in the seat opposite me, hailing the barista for an espresso and delving into his handbag for a copy of Aesthetica magazine.
‘Oh, hello,’ I said, unsure how to delicately place how this person had unwillingly joined my table.
‘Oh bugger,’ he said, though here I was assuming he was a he, since Dominique, as I would later learn was his name, was indeed the most androgynous person I had ever had the pleasure of sharing a coffee with. ‘Oh I’ve done it again,’ Dominique continued. ‘I’m so sorry, I thought you were someone else.’
A genuine smile found my face. ‘It’s no matter, please,’ and I gestured for him to finish the pastry I had abandoned. ‘I was finished with it.’
‘Nonsense, I’ll get you another,’ said Dominique, already on his feet, and before I could protest I found another bloody bland croissant in front of me, though he successfully identified my coffee choice and had generously ordered me another.
‘Would you like to join me?’ I said, hoping I didn’t come across as desperate for company. I suppose as grown up as I had wanted to feel like, the world of London still presented itself as a playground I had yet to qualify for, and the wild idea of seeing Dominique as a sign was too tempting for me to ignore, considering also the impossibility he’d find another seat during the lunch rush.
We exchanged pleasantries, and after a minute or so Dominique and I had firmly settled on the possibility of a chance friendship, my fascination with his allur and his fascination with my openness, enough for us to grow comfortable in each other’s presence. ‘Cason?’ he said, his voice pitch enough to once again have me question the gender spectrum on which he sat. ‘That’s an interesting name.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I get that a lot.’ He gave me his name also, and before long I had unearthed his history, my discoveries being that he was half French half Egyptian, having grown up in London and having studied art history at Regent’s University, only to now have his own independent gallery in Soho. How terribly apt.
It wasn’t before long I was meeting him once more for evening drinks in The Milk and Honey, a local cocktail bar Dominique had an established membership with. “Yes, darling,” he said, “I will find you sex before midnight.”
But I had to decline. My idea of sleeping with a complete stranger was not on the itinerary just yet.
‘But you’re in London,’ said Dominique. ‘This is a right of passage…do you want another?’
‘No,’ I said thanking him also. ‘I’d better not, I have to work tomorrow, plus I should really get going, I still have to repaint my apartment.’ I indulged him for a moment about the plainness of my new flat in Kensington, going as far as to tell him how sparse the walls were before he suggested donating a piece from his gallery to hang on my wall.
‘You’re having a house warming, surely?’ He asked, his voice evidential at how much he wanted to pair me up during such an intimate occasion.
But in all honesty, my mission for myself was clear: move to London, learn from the master, acquire the know how and open your own chocolate shop. But I had so much to do. The flat was in all fairness an absolute mess, and I was, without having mentioned it to Dominique, just a little uncomfortable with my body. Perhaps it’s a gay thing, I don’t know, but the possibility of having a thirty six inch waist in the heart of London was not something I was terribly proud of, especially after witnessing the colourful shard of perfection that was Dominique, with his, what I would have imaged was a twenty five inch waist, legs that could slice through paper, a head that could enhance the speed of a convertible and a status anyone with ambition would easily envy.
‘It’s inevitable,’ said Dominique, a slight bounce in his crossed leg, his beige stiletto heel ever so close to grazing my knee. ‘You will be desired by someone before long. This is London, there is a very high chance of an encounter.’
I blushed and bade him goodbye, this time sincerely thanking him for making me feel so welcome, though still a little surprised someone of such exuberance and prestige would give a chocolatier apprentice the time of day. Perhaps this was his preferred long-winded way of apologising?
But no matter, this was essentially day one of what was to be my new life. I was healthy, ambitious to a degree, green in some eyes but fresh nonetheless. Success would follow as long as I stayed focussed. I arrived home. I took a cab this time since I was at least half an hour away from Harding Mews. I could have walked but my bearings were still a little off, considering also I had downed no less that three, rather strong, espresso martinis. I allowed myself a gratifying smile at the sound of my shoes against the cobbles of the mews. I knew I had this shit together. Look at me, I thought, this is the life everyone dreams of. I was going to make it big, I could taste it.
My phone beeped. Perhaps it was Dominique ensuring I had made it back safe. Interestingly I thought to myself – not at all at the time taking into consideration Dominique’s familiarity with the urban jungle I was now part of – that Dominique had to be especially careful in such an environment. He was successful, and had clearly put a lot of hard work and effort into his presence. It reminded me a little of a Schweppes advert I had once seen at the Weybridge train station a few years ago, depicting an elegant man standing with a glass of tonic water, the tag line next to him saying: “men have status, boys are busy updating theirs.” An instant classic. Give that advertising agent an award. That is how I saw Dominique.
But the message was not from him, It was from Anthony. Some may think it were a little unprofessional to have their new boss’s telephone number, especially Mr Christiansen’s. He was after all, let’s face it, a celebrity. You may not think of speciality chefs as celebrities, especially chocolatiers, and this added to my disposition and abused privilege of knowing someone with such credit.
‘Hey,’ said Christiansen’s text message, ‘I was thinking of you and how much I’d like to **** you silly.’
Quite honestly I couldn’t possibly tell you exactly what he said. It was so very shocking and thrilling, the idea of telling you the specifics might endanger the universal balance of secrecy. Let’s just say, it was both excitingly sexual and terribly and unprofessionally inappropriate.
It had to be sent by mistake. He was probably sending it to one of his girlfriends. No, he wasn’t married, and no, as far as I knew he wasn’t in any relationship, and even when we first met, the idea of any flirtation was purely based on my own perverted imagination. What had I done or could possibly do to inspire such a comment on his part? This was a man who, let’s face it, could have anything he wanted. He was handsome, tall, terribly well mannered and had a small, yet arguably successful business. What could I offer that he couldn’t get elsewhere. To be perfectly honest I wasn’t even sure he was gay.
I thought it wise to at least text him back. Inform him I was flattered though happy to forget about the entire thing for the sake of the apprenticeship. I would not under any circumstances allow such a thing to come between my opportunity. Thankfully I am able to compartmentalise such things.
My fingers got to work, composing an elegantly placed message to dilute the situation. But I was too late. Christiansen had – and I could only assume was out of desperation by his obvious spelling mistakes – said how utterly foolish it was of himself to send such a personal remark without first ensuring his message was directed to the correct recipient.
Poor man, I thought. There I was assuming that celebrities and those in the eye of us mere mortals are quite the opposite to ourselves, gods to put it accurately. But that’s the mistake we make, isn’t it. Those who walk among us are not gods, we are all mortal fools to some degree, including the great Anthony J. Christiansen.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed part 2 of Cason Banks’ story. This will be a weekly serial introducing new characters and exciting new adventures for Cason and his new friends as he navigates the difficult yet rewarding city of London. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, make sure to sign up to my monthly newsletter to be the first to know when the next part of The Chocolate Prince is up!