On the tiny island of Minoa, there lived two respected families: the House of Ilios and the House of Daed. Though they were not of the kind to fight over their differences, they existed on different planes. The Ilios family served the people through hard work and volunteering in order to humble themselves. The Daed family, on the other hand, served the people through business ventures and taxation. To the denizens of Minoa, it was clear which family served the community best. Without the assistance and compassion of the Ilios family, the people would go unheard and unrecognized. Under the watchful eye of the Daed family, the people were frightened and cautious. The island couldn’t suffer the reign of Daed without the support of Ilios.
For years it continued in this way: the Ilios family raised the people up while the Daed family pushed them back down. Though the Ilios family tried their best, they were never fully able to overcome the Daed family’s influence on the Minoan people. Instead, they gave back to the community in little ways. They continued volunteering and doing odd jobs around town, eventually procuring enough money to buy the long-abandoned building in the heart of Minoa. They had grand plans for a place that would serve the people by providing warmth, food, and community to anyone who was in need.
It was around this time when Sunday Ilios, the lone child of Mel and Jasper Ilios, was born. The sun shone brightest that day; the warmth practically enlivened the people to join in the construction of the new community building. Day in and day out, the Minoans chopped, hammered, and grouted away at the mess that was the old town winery. Baby Sunday squealed in the background and enchanted the townspeople with her sunny disposition. The child never cried, even when the Daed family came to reclaim the building.
It was also around this time when Russ Daed, the lone child of Mika and Ali Daed, was born. Russ was to be the heir to the Daed fortune, but the world had other ideas. The child grew up in a world of tension and disappointment. The day the Ilios family bought the old winery was the day Russ’s world truly turned black. His father left him at the house in the arms of his nanny, weeping at the absence of parental presence. Meanwhile, Ali Daed rushed down to the building himself and saw to it that the construction was halted. He couldn’t have the street rats giving the Minoans hope. How dare they believe in such a childish feeling. He began shouting and throwing anything he could find. Some undercover Daed supporters began joining in the fight and, soon, the place was a massacre. Mel took Sunday back to the house, but there were no safe places in the era of Daed.
The fight died down after much persuasion at the hands of Mel and Jasper, but Ali made sure his message was clear.
“Mark my words. Whenever you find success in any small amount, I’ll be there. I’ll be watching. I’ll make sure your kind are never given more than what they deserve,” hissed Ali. His hands were bloody with the memory of the battle. He scanned the frightened mob of denizens, each face etched in fear and uncertainty. His eyes at last fell on Mel and Jasper, standing tall and holding Sunday close. “And you. Sunday Ilios. May your days be ravaged with the memory of today. The righteous will always fall.” He wandered up to the unfocused child and marked her forehead with a bloody finger. Mel slapped his arm away and sent him back to his mansion on the hill where little Russ waited.
As Ali wandered back up the hill, little Sunday Ilios let loose a wail that ran a chill through Minoa. The era of Daed had begun, and no one was safe. Not even young Russ Daed who lay, weeping in silence, waiting for the return of his father. While the town mourned the day their delicate harmony crumbled under the weight of solemn victory, the Ilios and Daed heirs entered a new world where they were connected in a way they would never quite understand.
In the days that followed the fight, Mel, Jasper, and the Minoans built up the winery into a rugged yet organically beautiful soup kitchen. Mel and Jasper served the community from behind a shiny countertop with cheerful Sunday kicking away in her highchair. As the years continued, Sunday grew up in the soup kitchen, her days filled with cleaning dishes, taking orders, cooking meals, and eventually taking over the joint. When Sunday was old enough, her parents left the soup kitchen in her hands as an act of trust.
“You’re so strong,” Jasper whispered to a humbled Sunday. “We have complete trust that you can bring this kitchen to greatness. Own it with pride, Sunny. And respect it as if it were living.” Her father kissed her forehead and draped her favorite apron over her chest. Turning her around, he tied the strings and placed a gray beret atop her head. “To Sunday!”
“To Sunday!” The town roared back.
In the days after the fight, Russ was forced to believe that the townspeople had risen against Ali in an act of violence. He cried for days fearing for his father’s safety; he truly believed the Minoans were dangerous people. While these foul thoughts filled his mind, the people outside celebrated a new dawn with the opening of the soup kitchen. When Russ was old enough, and after much persuasion, Ali allowed Russ to leave the house with at least two bodyguards in an act of frustration. Russ was determined to experience Minoa for himself instead of blindly believing his father’s grandiose stories.
Russ took careful steps at first, but once he understood that no one was walking the streets he began prancing like a wild pony. The bodyguards initially acted amused, but they quickly became hostile at the sight of the gathering outside the soup kitchen. They were just about to spring into action when Russ raised his hand.
“Leave them be,” commanded Russ. He had plenty of practice using his patented Daed demand voice that the guards froze in their steps.
Russ peeked around the side of a nearby building and watched Sunday be crowned with her beret and apron. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, dusted with flour and spices from the kitchen. In a word, Russ was smitten.
“To Sunday!” Her father crowed.
“To Sunday!” Russ was surprised to find himself cheering along with the Minoans, his smile widening as Sunday beamed with her head to the sky and tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Mom, do you have my apron? I can’t seem to find it…” Sunday rummaged through her meager belongings with such force that clothes were flying in every which direction. Mumbling to herself, she clawed at a few sweatshirts on the ground. “I know I left it here somewhere…”
“Heads up, Sunny.” The apron landed on Sunday’s head, splaying over her hair, still wet from the shower. “You washed it last night, silly.”
“Oh, right. Thanks, mom.” She threw the garment over her overalls and yellow “Minoa Minnows” shirt from summer camp years ago. After slipping on a pair of sneakers, she slipped an elastic around her wet hair, tossed on her beret, and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Gotta go, mom, love you bunches.”
Sunday blew into the kitchen and kissed her father’s cheek, slipping a pancake from his plate as she did so. “Thanks for the breakfast, dad! See you later, okay?” She took a bite of the steaming pancake and closed the door behind her.
Within minutes she was on her way to the Minoan soup kitchen. It had only been a few years since her parents passed the business on to her, but she was still just as in love with it as she was the first day. She had come to call the cramped area her second home, complete with a second family that she found in her regulars. Although most soup kitchens were meant exclusively for the needy, the Minoan soup kitchen served any and all who chose to enter the premises. Even if that meant Ali Daed, the self-proclaimed enemy of the establishment, anyone was worthy of service.
Sunday couldn’t help but smile as she saw the brick-walled kitchen appear on the horizon. The early morning sun was still cresting the hills of Minoa, and yet the kitchen’s patrons waited eagerly outside for the doors to open.
“Good morning, Leslie! Kett, you’re looking well,” Sunday greeted her two favorite regulars. They were always first in line for opening and warmed up to Sunday since she began managing the kitchen.
“Mornin’, Sunday! Beautiful day for some fish, hm?” Leslie suggested, elbowing Sunday’s ribs as she tried to open the doors.
“Just because you fish all day does not mean I want to cook fish all day, Les. You know this.” Sunday laughed, finally succeeding in opening the doors. She and the patient patrons flooded in and turned on the lights, the sound of pleasant conversation rising to a healthy din.
“Leslie, if you eat so much fish you’re going to become one yourself,” Kett chided gently. She ran a hand through Leslie’s sea salt-encrusted gray mop. “You’re also a fright. Let’s get you cleaned up!” Kett, Leslie’s patient wife, took Leslie’s hand and brought him over to the sink behind the counter.
As the two chattered over the cleanliness of Leslie’s appearance, Sunday took it upon herself to start lunch. Today’s special was tomato soup, as it was every Wednesday, and it was a town favorite. If she didn’t start early, Leslie wouldn’t leave enough for the rest of the town.
Sunday unpackaged the ingredients and smiled as Kett quietly took up a knife and began slicing tomatoes. Leslie, though less precise than Kett, began chopping basil with a large machete-like knife. Kett made a joke about the knife being sharper than Leslie and the three of them laughed so hard they naturally salted the ingredients with their tears. At some point in the morning Sunday began to realize just how lucky she was to have this family, to have this kitchen, to have this life. What more could she possibly want?
“Pops, do you have my satchel? I seem to have misplaced it…” Russ paged through his expansive closet like a well-worn book, piece by piece moving left to right in a steady rhythm. No matter how long he stared, he couldn’t find the satchel.
“I swear, if you ask me where that piece of trash is one more time, I’ll burn it.”
“That’s saying we find it first,” Russ retorted, finding a different bag in the back of his closet. He puffed it out and dusted off the top with a smile. “Never mind; this’ll do.”
He began packing the bag with his “Day Out” essentials: water, pencil, and his trusty notebook. Russ never heard a response from his father about the bag; it was probably better that way. When Ali Daed was in one of his moods, the household was essentially a prison.
That’s why Russ wanted to get outside. He wanted to escape the mood swings and possibly, if he were lucky, get a good story to write for the Minoa Chronicle. The thing Russ liked most about the town’s newspaper is that the management didn’t care that he, Russ Daed, was the son of the richest man in town. That being said, he was finding it difficult to break the barrier and enter the journalism world.
“Write a story, plain and simple,” the editor had said. “Once you give us a story and it doesn’t sound half bad, we’ll consider your application.”
That sounded simple enough, but finding a worthwhile story in Minoa when the same hundreds of people lived there each year wasn’t easy. Plus, most businesses in town were not willing to hire the snotty rich kid from up the hill; after all, he had all the money. What did he need with more?
For Russ, though, it wasn’t about the money at all. It was about the search for truth, justice, and the occasional act of vengeance. Being raised in a house of lies was enough fuel for the journalistic fire that burned within Russ’s mind. His first step towards being his own human was getting this job.
Russ was out the door before Ali could ask where he was going. The walk from his house to Central Minoa was a bit long, but there was no way he would get a good story if he didn’t walk. So thus the journey began.
By the time Russ reached Central Minoa, his legs were throbbing with the strain from the exercise. At that moment, he would kill for a water; he had already gulped down the bottle he brought on the way down his own hill. He figured there would be plenty of cafes that sold beverages in Central Minoa, but Russ couldn’t see any. There was also no way he would survive walking even a block in any direction, his legs were so sore.
He plopped on a bench and massaged his ankles. While he did so, the sounds of chattering Minoans got louder and louder. Was it a mob? Another confrontation? It had been years since the last one, so that would be interesting…
Russ stood up begrudgingly to see what the ruckus was about. He hobbled over to the wide street and noticed the crowd of people waiting to get into a brick building. As he walked past the long line of people, he could pick up certain dialogue.
“Have you heard what soup it is today?”
“Tomato basil, my favorite!”
“Do you think Sunday’s cooking today?”
“Of course, don’t you smell the spices?”
Russ forgot about all pain. All he could think was: Soup. Sunday. Spices. This is the soup kitchen line. It was surreal to see so many people waiting for some tomato soup. It was even more surreal that Sunday was just beyond the crowded doors still holding up the business. Perhaps it was most surreal that Sunday had no idea who Russ was and yet Russ practically worshipped the ground Sunday walked on.
Eager to fix that minor detail in their relationship (or lack thereof), Russ hopped into the soup line and began mingling with the Minoans. Some recognized him as a relative of Ali’s, the two didn’t look alike save for the same black hair and copper skin, but no one held it against him. In this neck of Minoa, everyone was accepting and simply eager to enjoy some of Sunday Ilios’s tomato soup. Within his waiting period, he learned that this year was Sunday’s fifth year of management, hence the long line and popular soup.
By the time, Russ entered the soup kitchen, it was past noon and the place was just as busy, if not busier, than it was before he jumped in line. The inside of the soup kitchen was decorated with banners celebrating Sunday’s fifth year as well as confetti and streamers in varying shades of orange. The line dwindled down before him, but as he got closer he noticed Sunday struggling to get the soup out of the pot. He heard the scraping of metal on metal and saw a flash of panic across Sunday’s face.
At last it was Russ’s turn. He stepped up to the counter and caught Sunday’s eye, smiling. She was in the midst of requesting the next large pot from an older woman off to the side, but she still managed to crack a smile.
“Well, you’re a new face! Ever been here before and I just haven’t noticed?” Sunday asked, leaning on the counter while she waited for the soup. Her auburn hair was barely held in an elastic band under her beret; the locks fell around her face like a lion’s mane. Her shocking blue eyes met Russ’s, leaving him gaping instead of responding to her question.
“Uh… uh, no! No, unfortunately I’ve never been inside.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“That is to say, uh, that I was at your crowning.” Her eyebrow stayed raised. “When you were given the kitchen? I… I was there then.”
“Oh, okay! I don’t remember seeing your face, and I’m usually good with faces.” She laughed, a lilting sound that reminded Russ of wind chimes on a summer day. “Well are you here to eat then…?”
“Russ, the name is Russ,” he spattered.
Sunday nodded and took the large pot of tomato soup from the older woman next to her.
“Well, nice to meet you, Russ! I’m Sunday. Enjoy your soup!” She exclaimed, ladling the soup with such precision that she must have done it at least one hundred times today.
The fact that Russ was walking away from Sunday hit him as he sat down to eat his meal. He hadn’t even talked to her! He just spat out his name and took the soup without even saying thank you. What kind of person did she think he was after that? And it wasn’t like he could just run up to her and start apologizing for his awkward mannerisms; when your father never let you leave the house when you were younger, it was tough to acquire social skills. No, he needed a reason to speak with her again…
Russ looked around for Sunday, but of course she was behind the counter serving the rest of the Minoans. His eyes fell on the banners about Sunday’s fifth year… and click. An excuse to talk to her again. The news story he so desperately needed and, after a quick scan of the room, no other seedy journalists were lurking. It was his big break!
Russ stood up so forcefully that his chair toppled to the ground, the sound making everyone turn to stare. Even Sunday raised a hand and called out, “Y’all right, Russ?”
The sound of his name on her lips made him beam and wave in response. “Yep, all good here!”
Sunday smiled like she knew that wasn’t true. Laughing to herself, she continued ladling soup. She started spilling little amounts of tomato soup at first, just little dots of red sprinkling the countertop. But, by the time Russ appeared at her counter again, she had just finished spilling an entire ladle’s full over a poor woman’s hands.
“Oh, goodness! I’m so sorry, Mrs. Peters! Do you want another bowl?” Sunday gave one to her anyway and sighed heavily. What was wrong with her?
“Hey, do you have a moment to perhaps, uh, talk?” Russ asked, hanging off to the side of the counter to give people room.
“I’m a bit busy…,” responded Sunday. She was intent on watching every drop of soup enter each bowl, so looking at Russ was not an option, never mind speak to him.
“Well, it’s for the Minoan Chronicle… I wanted to do a story on you!” Russ blurted out.
“A story? On me?” Sunday responded, dropping the ladle into the pot with a splash. She wiped the soup off her cheek and covered the pot. “You’re not serious, are you?”
“Serious as I’ll ever be, I’m afraid!” Russ responded.
“Well, um, okay! Yeah, sure, okay,” Sunday tried to keep her smile small, but the thought of being in the town newspaper was a bit exciting. “Kett, could you take care of this? Thank you so much.” She beamed and tossed her apron over a chair behind the counter.
When she came out of the kitchen, Russ directed her back to his table where his soup sat uneaten. At the sight of the full bowl, Sunday’s heart sank.
“Uh, you’re not going to write a story about my cooking, are you? Seeing as… seeing as you didn’t like it.”
Russ looked down at his bowl and gasped so loudly the surrounding patrons looked up in alarm. “What? Oh my, no! I wanted to write a story on your experiences here after five years of management!” Russ laughed.
“Oh!” Sunday laughed along with him, grateful for the relief. Experiences were better than talking about her cooking. “Well that’s fine, then!”
“Perfect!” Russ took the notebook out from his satchel and the pencil from behind his ear. “Sunday, have you ever been in the paper before?”
Sunday knit her brow and tried to think, but she couldn’t remember a time when her business with the soup kitchen was published in the Chronicle. The little pamphlets that were passed around town always had her face on them—she always assumed they were menus of the soups for the week, even though she never published the list officially—but otherwise her stories were untold to the richer society of Minoa.
“Well, no. I don’t believe I have. Not the Chronicle, anyway,” she responded.
“We’re going to change that,” Russ replied with a smile.
The two began talking, a situation that changed from awkward to familiar in a short amount of time. Anyone who looked over at them would notice the reddish tint to Sunday’s cheeks, the genuine smile on her lips, and the way she nervously played with her hair. Russ was a ball of sunshine, his cheeks straining from the laughs and smiles Sunday caused. A few times he put a hand on her shoulder during a particularly powerful laugh.
There was a point when Kett was about to ask Sunday to return to the kitchen, but she realized how happy she looked just enjoying the moment. Instead, Kett and Leslie served the Minoans until there was simply no soup left to provide. Luckily the Minoans had come back for seconds and thirds before they ran out of soup, so no one was left without food.
“What school did you go to again?” Russ asked, leaning back in his chair.
Sunday was perched on her chair with her knees up to her chin, but that didn’t stop her from chuckling.
“Minoa Middle, you know? The Minoan Minnows?” She pinched the shoulders of her shirt and pointed to the logo. “We’re the Minnows!” She made an obnoxious sound and dissolved into fits of laughter when she saw Russ’s concerned face.
“I always knew it! The Minoa Middle Schoolers were the worst! They were such hooligans; no wonder you went there!” Russ teased.
“Oh yeah? Well where did you go, Mister High and Mighty?”
“Minoa Prep, of course.”
“I always knew it! The Minoa Preps were the worst!” She mocked him, waving her hands in the air like she was telling a ghost story. “Only problem is, you don’t seem to be as big of a jerk as the rest of the Preppies.”
“Oh, and that’s a problem?” Russ asked, smirking.
“Well, when you put it that way… no. No, it’s actually a good thing.” Sunday examined her nails to avoid Russ’s gaze. The comfortable silence hung between them for a little longer than Sunday was used to, but it was nice.
Russ looked at Sunday, Sunday looked back. Russ smiled, Sunday smiled back. When Russ stood up and gathered his things, Sunday followed suit.
“I’m sorry to break this up, but I really need to get going and finish this story,” Russ apologized. “I had the best time today, though.”
“Me too.” Sunday smiled.
“Uh, I’ll let you know when the story’s out!”
“Yeah, yeah! Of course! Don’t be a stranger, Russ,” Sunday replied, reaching out to put Russ’s pencil in his hand. She closed his fingers over it and pat them before disappearing behind the counter once more.
When she entered the kitchen, Kett stared a hole into the back of her head. “What—”
“Kett! He’s still here…,” Sunday hissed, waving as Russ exited the building.
“Who was that?” Kett exclaimed, her voice reaching stratospheric pitches. Her hands clasped around the ladle she was cleaning, soap flying everywhere.
“Oh, just… Russ.” Sunday bit her lip to keep from beaming and turned to the dirty dishes.
“Sunday and Russ…” Kett murmured to herself as Leslie laughed.
“We gots ourselves a little sunrise at sunset,” Leslie boomed, smacking Sunday on the back with a smile.
Russ worked tirelessly to get the story finished before the morning Chronicle was delivered. He was eager for his story to be considered; the sooner it was published, the sooner he could return to Sunday with a fresh paper in his hands. Hands.
If he thought about it long enough, he could still feel her warmth on his hands. He had been so surprised by the gesture that he was sure to burst from happiness, but he had left before he could make a fool of himself. All these years, aspiring to be in Sunday’s social circle, and it only took an afternoon to fall. Sunday Ilios was his soulmate, he was sure of it.
The only thing he could do now was submit the story and wait. He ran down to the Chronicle at midnight, knowing they were working on the morning publication even this late. He burst through the door and held the draft in his hands.
“I have a story for you, boys!” Russ bellowed, passing the draft over to the editor.
It had been at least a week before Sunday saw Russ again. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit to waiting like an idiot by the door every morning, watching for his ink-black hair and bright smile. His hazel eyes were imprinted in her mind, the way they squinted when he laughed, which was often. The way he praised her work at the soup kitchen made her insides feel like her own pot of soup, all warm and churning.
On the morning of the seventh day, though, she only half expected him to show up. It wasn’t that she had given up hope, but the odds of him returning or even getting the story published were pretty slim. Sunday had thought about this a lot, but why would a rich people newspaper want a story about the child of a family who tried to take down the Daeds? Wasn’t that just asking for humiliation? Come to think about it, maybe it was for the best that the article not get published. Though, a part of her still wished Russ would come back, even if the story were rejected.
The evening of the seventh day came and almost went. Sunday was just locking up the kitchen when she heard hurried steps.
She turned around to see Russ running at a dangerous speed down the slanted road to the kitchen.
In his hands, he held what looked like a paper, flapping in the wind. She couldn’t believe it. Was her story really published?
Russ ran up to her and thrust the newspaper into her hands. Flipping through it, she found the story and began reading. Russ had said so many nice and wonderful things, and the story itself was written wonderfully, but how did the Chronicle decide to publish it?
“I still don’t understand… why would the Chronicle want a story about the Ilios family when the readership worships the Daeds?” She asked.
He flinched at the mention of his family name but tried not to show it. “They really wanted a breath of fresh air, Sunday. And you’re it!”
“I… I just can’t believe it.” She could feel tears, but she refused to cry.
“Well, believe it, Sunday! You’re a star now. The whole of Minoa is watching, so stay on your toes.” He winked and put out his hand for the paper. “I need to return it to the Chronicle so they can copy it for tomorrow’s release.”
Sunday gave the paper back reluctantly. She couldn’t wait to show her parents tomorrow, but they didn’t get the Chronicle in this part of town. “Hey, Russ?”
“Would you be able to get me a Chronicle tomorrow? We don’t really get that paper over here.”
“Oh, uh, sure!” Any excuse to see Sunday again was good enough for him. “Meet you here tomorrow?”
The two looked at each other, waiting for the other to either continue or end the conversation.
“Well…” They both started at the same time, laughing.
“Well… thanks, Sunday. You’re a star, now! No longer a minnow, but a large fish in little Minoa,” said Russ. He hugged Sunday, smiling when she returned the gesture. They stood that way for a few seconds, just relishing each other’s company.
When they finally broke apart, Sunday blushed and began backing up to go home. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Russ.”
“You got it, Sunday.”
“Oh, and Russ?”
He stopped in his tracks. “Yeah?”
He smiled and waved, tucking the paper into his satchel and strolling down the street with his hands in his pockets.
As Russ disappeared into the streets, Sunday ran up the stairs and into her house, her face flushed with excitement. She was going to be a star! All of those years at the soup kitchen really paid off. Plus, she made a new friend. It wasn’t Kett or Leslie, or even her parents, but a human her age. If that weren’t enough, she remembered that Russ was due at the soup kitchen tomorrow with her copy of the paper. She had even more reasons to be grateful.
As Sunday sat on her bed, she flung herself backwards and closed her eyes. In the morning she would see her name on the Chronicle. In the morning she would see her parents, Kett, and Leslie proud. In the morning she would see Russ. Pure, simple, rounded Russ.
In the morning, there would be a sunrise, possibly the best Sunday would ever see.
Featured image: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (~1558) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder via Wikimedia Commons