5. 把巧克力漿倒進模具裡；6. 將烤箱預熱至180度；
Afternoon at 3, sunlight seeped in from the terrace and made Natsu’s few lines of gray hair glow and glitter. Hatuta once determined that he would be the one picking her gray hair. Back then, Natsu had only one strand of gray hair near her forehead, and he was only in high school.
Hatuta still remembered how this strand of grayness stood out boldly among her shiny dark hair, as if a foreign seed that was randomly blown onto a field, has started to grow in a mismatched surrounding. To his surprise, the seed has then taken over the field and become efflorescence; in ten years time, her hair has turned mostly gray.
Only when Hatuta got back to his home’s door did he realize he had forgotten the keys. He called his sister for help despite strong reluctance. That was only his first time to visit Natsu’s cafe. The pure white facade of the wooden building was blindingly bright. As the door was pushed open, the wind chime on the door made some clinking sound, which seemed to be in harmony with the piano notes from the record player. On one side of the cafe was a window wall that faced an undomesticated garden with grass and wildflowers swinging in the wind. Natsu was standing behind the counter holding a kettle with a long spout. Seeing Hatuta in his high school uniform entering brought to her face a big smile, which made Hatuta a little shaky. He got the keys from his sister but did not expect she would call him a fool.
“Hatuta, here is your coffee. I did not fill the cup as you always put so much milk.” Natsu smiled as she put a big mug of black coffee in front of Yukiko. “This is for your girlfriend. And these treats are on me.” She laid on the table two thin slices of chocolate terrine and returned to the counter to prepare coffee for other customers.
Hatuta was observing Natsu who appeared to be happy with being busy. He used to sit at the far end of the long desk and peeked at her focussing on the coffee beans. He would bury his head in the book whenever she looked up. The tiny bite of chocolate terrine melted instantly on his tongue and diffused a gentle fragrance of rum in his mouth. No matter how sweet the chocolate was, it could never be comparable to Natsu.
The eccentric garden overgrown with weed, the piano music, the random books and magazines on the shelf, the rich chocolate terrine, and Natsu… all these never changed through all the years. The only thing that changed was Hatuta who no longer wore his uniform, and had Yukiko sitting with him.
“The shop owner is so beautiful,” Yukiko told Hatuta while watching Natsu who was standing far away.
“Yes. Don’t you think so?”
“Not bad. Perhaps she is not my type.”
A week passed. Hatuta visited Natsu’s cafe again. He sat at the far end of the long table and put down his backpack. The other end of the table sat two women in their middle-age years, drinking coffee and reading.
Hatuta could sense Natsu coming to him from the counter while he lowered his head to read the menu. Sunlight shined through the glass of water she placed on the table and reflected on the table some wave-like shadow. Hatuta pointed at the menu and said, “I will have this.”
“Which flavor do you prefer? The Brazilian beans are more bitter, while the Colombian beans are on the sour side.” Natsu asked.
“Brazilian,” Hatuta said.
Hatuta hesitated for a second…
“No. I want black coffee.” He finally looked away from the menu and shyly turned to Natsu’s face.
Natsu still brought a small glass of milk along with the coffee, alongside was also a thin slice of chocolate cake. “This is a piece of homemade chocolate terrine on the house.” The name of the cake was totally new to him, the chocolate powder casually sprinkled on the plate looked like some exotic yet warm sunshine. Natsu returned to the counter. Hatuta had a sip of the coffee realizing it was really bitter. Seeing Natsu had turned away, he quickly pour the whole glass of milk into his coffee.
Yukiko finished the chocolate terrine without any effort. She walked to the shelf and flipped through the art books and magazines. In one of the magazines, there was a huge coffee stain.
Hatuta told Natsu that he wanted to be a gardener when he graduated. He did not like the gardens that had too much ornament, as only the natural and rowdy garden could exhibit the enormous power of nature. He then mentioned about how he was recently inspired by Italo Calvino’s book The Baron in the Trees, that trees had the power to reveal the most earnest face of human. Natsu always smiled as she listened to Hatuta. Little did Hatuta know he could actually talk so much.
Hatuta spent his time in the cafe around the time before evening, when the shop was not busy; enjoying his milk coffee and the rich chocolate terrine were the most serene moments during his high school life. His routine continued until one day, a little girl in the age of five or six walked into the cafe. She came to Natsu and called her “mama”. Her presence made Hatuta spill his coffee.
Yukiko brought two books back to where they sat. She passed the photobook of Shōji Ueda to Hatuta and said, “you like his work.” She then started reading a dessert recipe book, trying to find the recipe for the chocolate terrine.
“Oh, do you like milk coffee?” Yukiko glanced at the empty milk glass.
“Yes, but now I prefer black coffee.” Hatuta whispered to Yukiko and finished the last bite of chocolate terrine.
200g dark chocolate, 160g butter, 30ml rum, 70ml milk, 140g sugar, 4 eggs, a pinch of salt, some chocolate powder.
- Place a bowl in simmering water, place the chocolate and butter in the bowl until just melted.
- Pour in milk, rum, sugar, and salt, stir until fully melted.
- Place the eggs in a separate bowl to whisk.
- Take the molten chocolate off the heat, slowly pour in the whisked milk and stir.
- Pour the molten chocolate into the terrine tin.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Splash some water on the baking tray when the oven is heated up. Bring in the tin with molten chocolate and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.
- Put the terrine into the fridge after cooling down.
- Cut the terrine into thin slices and sprinkle chocolate powder. Ready to serve.