LeFou heard loud bangs and shouting as he approached the weathered grey door that barely kept the cold out of Gaston’s home. A busted handle to what LeFou could only assume was once attached to a pot or pan came hurling out of the kitchen window.
He hesitated for a moment before knocking on the door, “Uh…Gaston, are you okay in there? It’s LeFou. I brought the rosemary and thyme just like you asked for. Gaston, can I come in?”
A large stack of pots and pans plastered the floor inside causing the wooden porch LeFou stood on to shake. Gaston’s boots thumped as he approached the door. Each step jostled LeFou, causing a single bead of sweat to slowly travel down the side of his face. The door opened. LeFou flinched for a moment before turning towards a rotund belly and naval staring him in the face. Gaston’s shirt barely contained his bulging stomach.
“I brought the herbs you wanted for the frittata, Gaston. Rosemary and thyme from my garden…the very best in the village!” LeFou proudly placed the herbs on Gaston’s belly.
Gaston gazed down at the herbs resting on his neglected midsection before exclaiming, “Perfect! These herbs will make all the difference this year. My father will have to try my frittata this time. No more boring hard-boiled eggs!”
Gaston snatched the herbs off his belly and returned to the kitchen without even acknowledging LeFou. Gaston never recovered fully from his fight with the Beast and LeFou believed his dear old friend displayed early stages of dementia. Seeing Gaston in this state was difficult for LeFou.
“So, what’s the recipe look like this year, Gaston? It sure smells good in here, a bit messy…but the smell is amazing!” LeFou carefully moved a stack of dirty dishes from the only functioning stool in the kitchen.
Gaston started plucking the herbs at the counter. He still hadn’t acknowledged LeFou. His movements were sporadic and clumsy as he mumbled to himself. The once strapping, most eligible bachelor in the village had been reduced to a foul smelling, overweight recluse. LeFou knew Gaston would be making egg dishes this time of year. It was almost the exact time of year the great accident happened. LeFou visited Gaston at this time of year to hopefully bring some comfort to the troubled Gaston. He knew Gaston’s father demanded nothing but the best from his son. He treated Gaston like a young pit bull rather than a son.
“Would you like to know the winning recipe this year?” Gaston said, startling LeFou.
LeFou walked to the kitchen counter with the stool. He stood on the stool and watched as Gaston set a tray containing a variety of ingredients in front of him. Each ramekin on the tray was filled with beautifully and meticulously cut vegetables, cheeses, and meats. The array resembled a painter’s palette.
“I think a roasted butternut squash frittata with goat cheese and fresh herbs will do the trick. What do you think, LeFou? My father won’t be able to turn something that amazing down!” he said while patting the much smaller LeFou on the back. Gaston continued, “I just don’t know why my father won’t eat anything other than hard-boiled eggs. I was fed hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a boy. To this day my main source of energy comes from eggs. I’ve clearly elevated my egg cookery, but I don’t need to tell you that, my good friend, do I?” He awaited LeFou’s response while rubbing his gut and lifting one eyebrow.
LeFou nervously replied, “There’s no question you’ve improved your ability to cook eggs in new and wonderful ways. There might be an issue when you consume such a high protein diet while not really getting much sleep or exercise. I mean, haven’t you noticed the way your clothes are fitting? We’re not the young soldiers we once were. We can’t just rely on genetics and a youthful metabolism anymore. Diet and exercise, while leading a life of moderation is the key…at least that’s the formula I’ve followed.”
Gaston processed LeFou’s remarks while rinsing the herbs in a bowl of water. He patted the herbs dry before grabbing a giant cleaver from his knife block. LeFou bit his lip, uncertain how Gaston interpreted what he’d said.
Gaston rested the cleaver’s blade inches from LeFou’s face. He took a deep inhale before letting out a bellowing laugh. “That’s hilarious, LeFou! A life of moderation! My clothes are tight because I’m in a bulking phase. I have to add mass this time of year so I can sculpt my body into a chiseled piece of perfection this upcoming spring. You know that, LeFou.”
LeFou nodded to oblige Gaston, but deep down his heart was breaking. His best friend definitely suffered brain trauma during his exchange with the Beast those many years ago. LeFou only visited once a year, but each visit he noticed Gaston’s hygiene and weight slipping. Gaston proceeded to chop the herbs.
“My father was a real bastard you know,” Gaston said softly while prepping the rest of the ingredients for his frittata.
LeFou replied, “I remember you hated your theme song when villagers first started singing it.” He grabbed a broom and started sweeping the kitchen floor.
“When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs, every morning to help me get large.” Gaston sang the line from his theme song that troubled him the most. “Bullshit! That’s child abuse! What type of father would force his little boy to consume that many hard-boiled eggs every day? All I did was train for the war and eat hard-boiled eggs. What kind of childhood is that, LeFou? No wonder I picked on everyone…I was a product of a bully myself…my father.”
LeFou sensed the sadness in Gaston’s voice and said, “I know you had a hard upbringing, Gaston. Your father grew up in a different time. It’s not an excuse for the way he treated you; just know that I think you’ve done some good things with your life and I’m honored to call you a friend.”
Gaston turned to wipe away a tear that formed in the corner of his eye before saying, “Good old LeFou. You truly are my best friend. My father never taught me to read. He raised me to be a monster, but it was a monster that set me free. When the Beast bested me and I lay buried under the debris from the collapsed castle for days, I could only think of all the books I badgered Belle about. I recalled the many times I wanted so desperately to talk to her about a book we’d both read. We could’ve discussed far-away lands or true love. But…sadly that wasn’t the case. I could only tease her and flex my muscles in an attempt to warrant her attention.”
Gaston sulked at the thought of what could have been. LeFou leaned the broom against the kitchen table before consoling his friend.
“I only wish the villagers knew your story, Gaston. You were definitely ornery in your youth, but you’re still alive! I’m sure your father will love the frittata this year. He has to get over his infatuation with hard-boiled eggs eventually! Just keep cooking, old friend…it’s all any of us can do,” LeFou said reassuringly.
Gaston prepared to make his butternut squash frittata with goat cheese and fresh herbs from LeFou’s garden. He began mumbling to himself again. The moment was short-lived.
LeFou gave Gaston a hug and a light smack to the belly while saying, “Try to get outside, Gaston. You can’t consume so many eggs without exercise. I worry about your health. Thanks for the memories, old friend.”
Gaston nodded to show he acknowledged LeFou. His mind wasn’t the same since the accident, but his core memories still allowed him to realize LeFou was a friend.
LeFou took one final glance at his friend before leaving. He knew Gaston’s living situation wasn’t ideal. The people of the village had forgotten about Gaston and allowed him to live in peace just outside the town’s borders. LeFou knew there was nothing more he could do than visit once a year. Gaston’s father passed away many years ago. Gaston’s need to reinvent egg dishes was his mind’s way of dealing with the abuse he suffered as a boy. His never-ending quest to make the perfect egg dish was his way of seeking his father’s approval. This was a hard thing to witness and the main reason LeFou didn’t visit more.
LeFou locked the wooden gate surrounding Gaston’s cottage as he watched his friend move in and out of the kitchen window, “I’ll see you next year, pal. I hope you find the peace you’re looking for.”