The world was swiftly proving itself to not be kind in the least.
Willow had secured a job in a hot pot shop in Little China. She cleaned the place for minimum wage, and they let her sleep in a bunk in the room above the shop for free. The owners were kind, but as broke as she was. And, hey, it was out of her mother's grasp. That woman wouldn't step ten feet down Willow's side of Kearny Street with a gun to her head.
This particular day, they needed her to go get more lamb from the meat market down the road. On her way back, she noticed a well dressed young man handing money to an infamous grifter outside of her shop.
"He's just going to buy a cheap bottle of baijiu with that, you know," she said as she sized him up.
His shoes looked like handmade genuine leather, jeans were vintage, button down shirt was pressed, and his tweed sport coat looked like it probably ran him $400 alone. The haircut, too. That was no barbershop haircut. He even smelled expensive.
"I know," he smiled at her with perfectly straight, white teeth. "But I gave him quite a lot, so I'm hoping he at least buys some food to go with it. Maybe a nice waterproof jacket for the evenings out in the fog. I'm Ben."
He reached his hand to shake hers, but she shrugged and held out her grocery bags.
"Do you need help with that?" He asked. "I was about to head inside."
"No, thank you," but he'd already taken the bags from her hands and pushed the door open.
"Ben!" Mr. Chan, who owned the shop with his wife came running to the front of the store to greet the young man. "What brings you to our little restaurant?"
"I came to see you, Uncle," he smiled and the two hugged.
Mr. Chan took the bags from Ben and gestured for Willow to follow him.
Willow was confused. She saw literally no family resemblance between Mr. Chan and this Ben character.
"Ben is a special guest," Mr. Chan said. "I used to work for his family when he was a child. Very sweet boy. Go make him some of the good tea and put the closed sign in the window."
"Closed?" she asked, dumbfounded.
"It's fine. We're going to have lunch together," he said. "We'll open back up for dinner."