Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Chocolat characters are the property of their original owners.
In her small shop located along the main (and only) street of the tranquil French village called Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, Vianne Rocher stood behind the counter and stared with honest bewilderment at the closed front door of this woman’s business. She’d been doing that for the last minute or so, ever since the door had shut behind her latest customers. Eventually, Vianne’s bemused gaze shifted from the entrance to what she had grandly named La Chocolaterie Maya
at its opening several weeks ago. Slowly looking around, the alluring Frenchwoman eyed the now-empty shelves lining the store walls which had just this morning been completely filled with mouth-watering treasures of the chocolatier’s art. Finally, a pensive Vianne glanced down at the top of the shop counter, where a most substantial pile of francs lying there risked overflowing onto the scrupulously-clean floor.
Beginning to neatly stack the money representing a full month’s profit, Vianne couldn’t help but remark aloud to the otherwise deserted shop: “That was…strange.”
It’d all begun a few hours before, when Vianne had been in the same spot by the counter. Trying to take her mind off her worries about the recent lack of business, the shopkeeper had been doing inventory. Scratching notes on a piece of scrap paper, this candymaker specializing in chocolate was intent on the ingredients she’d hopefully need in the future, until she was interrupted in this. The tiny bell dangling on a string attached to the inner doorknob of the front entrance tinkled, announcing the arrival of her first customers for the day. Looking up with a smile of greeting, Vianne’s face quickly altered into astonishment at seeing the quite extraordinary pair of young women there a few steps inside her shop.
Standing side by side with the door closed behind them, the jeune femme on the left was surely in her mid-twenties, blond and small, with there being no doubt whatsoever of her being anything but an Américaine. At present, this person was behaving very properly in a temple of chocolate by remaining motionless in her fashionable shoes while she breathed in deeply of the enchanting aromas permeating the store. Vianne felt a moment’s pleased pride over the rapturous smile on that other woman’s pretty face as she sensibly kept her eyes tightly shut to avoid being distracted by anything lesser seeking the notice of her senses.
However, the main focus of the businesswoman’s attention was firmly upon the second jeune femme, who was giving her unaware companion a very amused look. Vianne’s surprise at seeing a genuine Chinoise here in such an out-of-the-way spot as her newest home was strong enough to make her impolitely gape at this black-tressed Asian the same age as the blonde. A moment later, the Frenchwoman blinked and felt a faint blush rising in her cheeks, when the blonde opened her eyes and joined the other femme in simultaneously staring at the proprietor behind the counter.
Rallying, Vianne carefully said, “Bonjour, may I help you?” She hoped her English was correct; she hadn’t used it since Anouk was born, and that was years ago. If her newest visitors didn’t speak any Français, the only thing to do would be to bring Armande her landlady over and see what--
In not only fluent French but with an actual Parisien accent, the blonde happily burbled, “Good morning to you, too! Are you Mademoiselle Rocher?”
Pausing at seeing the dumbfounded expression blossoming onto an older woman’s face, the jaune-cheveux caller had a trace of worry creep into her voice when she hastily added, “Or, is that Madame Rocher? I wasn’t sure--”
“Ah, either will do,” weakly interrupted Vianne, whose whirling thoughts weren’t helped at all by this addresser then impolitely elbowing the other young woman at her side.
Without budging a centimeter at this rude nudge, the Chinoise bestowed a vastly sardonic glance at her companion, despite this shorter femme triumphantly hissing, “Hah, I told you I could find this place right away! Considering how many times I’ve seen it, we didn’t need Wils’ directions--” Unexpectedly breaking off in her odd boast, the blonde shot a wary look at Vianne gawking at them both.
Sighing in exasperation, the taller and darker-coiffured female now announced to the baffled shopkeeper (whose mystification only increased at hearing this Asian speak in an absolutely identical accent as the other visitor, as if they’d had the same language teacher), “Forgive us, Mlle. Rocher. I’m Chao-Ahn Wu and this is Buffy Summers. We’re here to buy some chocolate.”
Perking up a bit at the first understandable thing she’d heard in the last few moments, Vianne agreeably stated, “Certainement. What would you like?”
Covetously looking around at the shop interior filled with scrumptious confections, the femme named Buffy started digging into the pockets of her leather jacket, while uttering in a gleeful tone, “Everything.”
” blurted a seriously taken-aback Vianne, who then watched her newest customers advance together and stop at the other side of the counter.
Buffy enthusiastically nodded, “Bien sûr,” all while slapping down on the counter a thick, banded sheaf of francs. Pulling out another stack of money from her left pocket, this joined the first, and a rhythm soon developed of one after the other. The blonde woman soon casually commented after the dozenth bundle of bills was placed on the growing pile of cash, “Just say ‘when’ if you think it’s enough.”
A stupefied proprietor hearing this finally gathered her scattered wits to utter a hasty, “Arrêt! That’s too much!”
Smiling faintly, Chao-Ahn said, “Oh, we can afford this. Besides, based on what I’ve learned from Buffy, your chocolates are well worth it, even if I can’t have any.”
“Eh?” frowned Vianne at the wry face the Oriental woman was pulling. Swiftly thinking of a possible reason for such a peculiar assertion, the chocolatier asked, “Are you a diabetic?”
Now it was Chao-Ahn’s turn to be startled. Shooting a surprised look at Buffy who had her own eyebrows raised in concern, this Chinoise hesitantly answered, “Something like that. I can’t drink or eat anything having cow’s milk in it, or I get sick, and since that’s in chocolate--”
The shop resounded to its owner’s loud, relieved laughter, leaving both of the confused customers staring at a beautiful woman eventually chuckling at them, “Filles, that
won’t be a problem! Come, come, join me in the kitchen, and I’ll show you!”
Sharing a bewildered look among themselves, Buffy and Chao-Ahn followed after Vianne imperiously guiding them to the back of the shop building. In a crowded but well-scrubbed kitchen filled with a massive iron stove, numerous bowls and food preparation utensils, and shelves reaching to the ceiling crammed with boxes, bags, and cans of ingredients, Vianne got to work. After checking with Chao-Ahn as to whether she was allergic to anything else and receiving a negative answer, the expert chocolatier started to skillfully mix several different recipes at the same time. All while lecturing to her seated audience at one of the kitchen tables.
“Votre attention, s'il vous plaît, mademoiselles. Now, what she spoke of,” (tilting her head into Chao-Ahn’s direction since her hands were busy, Vianne continued) “is something I’ve come across before, and the answer is simple. If chocolat au lait is unfortunately disagreeable to those who cannot tolerate it, then we provide them with equally delicious chocolat à croquer, or as you English call it, dark chocolate. Happily the latter can be created without any necessity of adding dairy milk. Even if they’re also called this, such other elements as soy or coconut milk are entirely different, and the chocolates made using these can be savored without any harm, I promise you.”
The fascinated pair of Slayers watched Vianne bustle with supreme confidence around her kitchen, pulling various items off the shelves and combining them in bowls and pans, to at last place these into several ovens and cauldrons with a distinct air of élan. Chao-Ahn and Buffy quickly realized they were witnessing a mistress of her craft performing a masterpiece, and they were more than glad to stay there and enjoy it all.
When the cooking was done and the finished chocolate was laid out atop a marble-lined table to cool, Vianne shooed the reluctant younger women out of her kitchen. They returned to the shop, which hadn’t had anyone else enter during the short culinary demonstration, and everyone got busy packaging the delectable contents of the shelves there. Though, when this was done, a worried Vianne eyed the results, about several suitcase loads of small paper boxes. Doubtfully beginning, “How are you going to take it all with you--?” she was quickly interrupted by Buffy.
“Oh, our car’s close by. I’ll take some there first, and Chao-Ahn can do the rest. Matching her actions with her words, Buffy picked up without any difficulty what looked to Vianne’s amazement a remarkably oversized pile. Stepping over to get the door for her companion, Chao-Ahn watched with some amusement Buffy gingerly edging through the doorway, until this Slayer managed to pass through without knocking loose any of her packages. Closing the door after, the Asian woman chatted with Vianne for a few moments about where this chocolatier had learned her skills, until an empty-handed Buffy was back soon.
Vianne merely lifted a quizzical eyebrow at seeing this blonde hand over without a word a small book to Chao-Ahn, who put it in her jacket pocket before leaving with the last of the packages. Starting her own conversation with Vianne, Buffy airily spun a story of them being a pair of recent college graduates from les Etats-Unis, taking a motor tour of France together, which ended up with them passing through the village and spotting her shop.
Just as quickly, Chao-Ahn returned, and also without her load of confections. The other women in the candy store ended their amiable chat, with Vianne smilingly stating to the Chinoise, “Your purchase is ready, I’m sure. Just stay there; I’ll fetch it.”
Striding again into the kitchen, this Frenchwoman came back right away as promised, carrying in one hand a small metal plate having several pieces of the newly-made chocolate placed upon this dish. Offering the plate to Chao-Ahn, Vianne observed with thorough satisfaction how the Oriental fille’s face glowed with pure pleasure after she eagerly ate those tasty dark treats mixed with an assortment of fruits and nuts.
Eyeing the plate still held by Vianne which now contained just a single lonely chocolate, Buffy put on the most innocent air she could manage and reached out to take for herself that sole survivor. Only to have her hand lightly but firmly slapped away with blinding speed by Chao-Ahn’s own hand, who snatched up the last candy and popped it into her mouth. Mumbling around the melting tidbit, the dark-haired woman still managed to deliver a rather menacing, “Mine!
Over Vianne’s gratified giggles, Buffy lifted both hands in mock surrender, wryly declaring, “Okay, okay! I should’ve known better, anyway. Look, we’ve got to go now. Mlle. Rocher, could you please wrap up Chao-Ahn’s stuff?”
“Oui,” good-humouredly nodded Vianne, making one final trip to the kitchen and returning with another set of filled packages. Presenting them to the eagerly waiting Chinoise, the chocolatier then warmly shook hands with Chao-Ahn juggling her prized chocolates in her arms to do this. Buffy was next, and after her own farewell gesture and a chorus of fervent goodbyes from the two younger women, they started to leave the shop.
A well-content Vianne herself walked back to behind the counter, turning around to gladly see off a couple of very appreciated customers while they opened the front door to leave. One odd quirk of acoustics the Frenchwoman had first noticed several days ago once more revealed itself. At that moment, she heard a quick, low-voiced exchange between the departing Américaines.
Though, being able to listen clearly despite standing all the way inside the shop didn’t necessary mean a suddenly mystified Vianne Rocher understood
any of it, or could even ask the jeune femmes walking out of sight through the front shop windows just what they’d been privately discussing together.
Chao-Ahn: “Do we need to do anything else?”
Buffy: “Nope. I’d still like to see in person Juliette Binoche meet Johnny Depp, but that’s not gonna happen until later on in the film, and we can’t wait. C’mon, let’s put your stuff in Wil’s book, and we’ll head on to the next challenge in the Great Scooby Scavenger Hunt.”