It hit her like a bolt of lightning on a sunny day, out of nowhere and with an intensity that seemed amplified by the clarity of the sky. All of a sudden, everything seemed to slow around her until nothing but the scent of fresh fruits and marinated olives remained; until the world had lost both, its innate sounds and the saturation with which it normally presented itself and Charlotte felt dizzy with sadness. Death had taken her father months ago, had forced her to stand next to his coffin on a late summer’s day that seemed too beautiful for the sombre occasion. Since then she had woken up to a house that felt emptier every day, to memories that could not be stopped from fading as time moved on. But here – on this foreign market so far away from home – Charlotte could feel an energy that reminded her of him. She could feel his warm smile when looking towards the vendors, who were selling their products with such contagious passion; could hear his voice in their excited chatter and puffery. And as the market painted this colourful picture of her father as he had been – alive and happy, his love for his work only rivalled by her and his husband – it had all gotten too much for Charlotte herself. The impressions and memories had rained down on her, drowning her in his own personal brand of familiarity and forcing her into an almost panic-ridden state as she stumbled through the narrow alleys. Charlotte hadn’t expected it to hurt as much as it did, hadn’t foreseen the sudden pang that had forced itself into her heart, rendering her unable to see or hear or even move from where she was standing. She hadn’t expected it at all, not anymore, not after all the time that had passed since she had last seen her father’s happy face alive. It was this realization – more than anything else – that kickstarts our story, for despite her pain, Charlotte’s resolve to immortalize her father’s memory still burned in her, slowly adding colour back to her surroundings until time itself started moving once more; until a pressure seemed to lift of her chest and she was able to breathe again.
Rendered unable to eat or sleep by sadness, Egg had used the first week after her father’s demise to plot an escape plan. She had known instantly that she would not be able to continue living her life as she had known it, for she herself was no longer the same person that she had been with her father around. She had needed to leave Paris behind, had crafted herself a journey through Europe, in order to retrace the footsteps her father had left on this planet and in order for her to honour his memory in all the ways she knew how to: by traveling, cooking and – most importantly – by living. It had taken her countless days and nights to come up with a route that included all the places she associated with her father, either because they had been there together or because he had once told her stories about them. And while she knew she would have to face his homeland of England at a certain point, both to visit the people and buildings that had seen him grow up as a boy and to fully close the circle in the land he was born in, she could not yet bring herself to go there. Instead, she had gone through his chest of memories and city guides, his photo albums and journals and had crafted a route with its first stop in the Austrian capital of Vienna. This was a city that had held large parts of her own childhood but had also been home to her father long before he had moved his family there when Egg was a little girl. She had never known about that, had only just discovered it in some of her father’s oldest journals and had instantly wanted to find out more about the time he had spent there. Her papa had not been of much assistance as she had asked him about the few pages she had found in the books, had only shaken his head sadly and left Charlotte’s room. Upon having lost his husband, Louis Eggleton had been reduced to a shell of his usual self and had buried himself in work, just as his daughter had dedicated all her free time to her self-imposed crusade.
Everything had went back to normal, almost as quickly as it had first caught her off-guard. Her heart had started to slow down, allowing her breath to come more regularly and her surroundings to sharpen into focus once again. And still she waited – one minute, two minutes – until she allowed herself to move from the place she had become routed to over these last couple of moments; from where people had started to sidestep her in order to continue their strolling and shopping. Finally, Charlotte felt well enough to continue on, to take in her surroundings for the first time since she had entered the market, which had immediately rendered her incapable of all her human abilities. Now, she could absorb the flavours and scents of different food products in the air, could clearly make out the chipping dark green paint on the classic wooden stalls that had once held more than an occasional game of hide and seek during her childhood days. Even back then the concept of rivalry between shop owners had been close to non-existent, as the fellow vendors had welcomed her father into their Naschmarkt family within days of his arrival and once his name had become well known on the market, like it had on so many other’s before it. Never had her father produced foodstuff himself, but he had made it his mission in life to offer the best products different countries around the world had to offer. He had done so in whatever country he had been living at that time, always finding a stall or booth in the city market to welcome the group of loyal customers that never took long to build around him. The Naschmarkt had been the first of her father’s workspaces that she was able to clearly remember though, as she had finally been old enough for him to bring along to some of his working days during their time in Vienna. Despite her young age, he had allowed her to stroll around the alleys her feet were tracing even now, wandering around his stall over and over again and never getting tired of the scent of fresh bread to the right and a booth filled with marinated olives and cheese to the left. In a way it was strange to be back there, having memories flood in from every side. And yet, somehow, after the initial pain had subsided, Egg felt as though a burden had lifted of her chest. Even as she was able to spot her father’s booth between the graffiti stained huts, she felt like in some ways she belonged right here, between the bread crumbs and the olives.