Wow! I just cannot believe how many great reviews I've gotten. Initially, I was almost terrified to put anything up here. I've been writing for nearly ten years, but I've never built up the courage enough to post anything for people to actually read. Anyway, I can't thank you all enough for being so cool about everything.

Yes, I realize that the links on the last chapter were not working. I'm still learning this thingie, and I hope we'll be learning together. Both the links are in my profile to save from any more annoyances like that.

This chapter, I feel, is much less interesting than the previous chapter. I was actually paid to write this chapter. By that, I mean that I wrote it in little bits and pieces at work. So to make a long story short, I'm less pleased with this chapter than I ought to be.

Anyway, on with chapter two.

Chapter Two - Introducing Swudge

Sydney opened her mouth to correct him, but there was no word that she could think of that would make the situation seem less awkward.

"Yeah. Older," she said hesitantly, inwardly punching herself mercilessly.

Stupid girl. There goes your job, she thought amidst her psychological smack-down.

Where she had expected an annoyed frown from Mr. Wonka, she received a grin that was mostly genuine, but slightly forced. She hoped that wasn't a bad sign.

"D'ya think I ought to get a cane?" He quickly arranged himself into a pose, holding an imaginary cane.

"A candy cane," she said quietly, never intending for her hopeful future employer to hear.

"Boy, what a terrific idea!" His hand rose from the imaginary cane to tap the side of his nose, as if to seal the idea within his brain. "A candy cane...practical as well as a clever pun...it would only have been better if I had thought of it.." he muttered, trailing off.

The pair stood there, surrounded by brooms. It was still rather awkward.

"Well...um..." Sydney said quietly, trying to keep the conversation moving.

With her odd stammering, Wonka seemed to suddenly break from his train of thought. Deep violet eyes met light blues, and he spun on his heels and began to walk away.

"Come come, far too much to do with so few hours in the day to do it all," he called to her. His strides were long and quick, and short little Sydney found herself nearly jogging to keep up with the tall, long-legged boy. Where his movements were sure and deft, hers were graceless. She nearly tripped over assorted things on the floor a number of times.

"Ah, here we are," Wonka said with a pleased tone of voice. He came to a very sudden halt, and for the second time in one day, Sydney nearly plowed into the one leading. She peered around his shoulder, and found that they were in front of a very intricately carved door.

There was a jangling of keys, followed by a little shuffle and then a pair of soft clicks as the door was unlocked and opened in quick succession.

"Welcome to my office, Sydney Philips. Please have a seat anywhere," he instructed her, flipping on the light and making his way across the room.

The whole office was decorated in hues of red, purple, and brown. The wonderfully plush carpet was a deep crimson, and she found her steps giving more of a bounce as she walked on it. The ceiling was high, with a beautiful chandelier hanging precariously from a wire, its many hues reflecting the gently colored light around the room.

Sydney sat in a great big squishy plum-colored chair on one side of a lovely mahogany desk. On the desk were scattered papers and writing utensils, as well as a potted plant of some kind that resembled some of the greenest grass Sydney had ever seen. She glanced up and saw Wonka on the far side of the room, behind a matte finish dark brown bar. He was busily mixing something and humming.

"Aren't you a bit young to own a bar?" she asked, feeling rather presumptuous as she did.

"Don't worry, it's a chocolate bar!" he replied readily with a high giggle, as if he had been waiting for some time for her to ask.

I should have known, Sydney thought to herself.

"And please, have some swudge," Wonka offered, stepping from behind the bar with two cups. "It's so delightful, you must try some."

"Some what?" Sydney asked, thoroughly befuddled by the choice of words that had reached her ears.

"My lovely swudge. It's still in experimental stages, so if it turns your ears green and you speak Swahili for the next six weeks, I do apologize in advance," he explained nothing in particular, making his way towards the desk and having a seat in the chair behind the desk. He placed one of the cups in front of Sydney, then set one down in front of himself, then promptly plucked a blade of the grass and offered it to his guest.

"Swudge, my dear?"

Still very confused, she accepted it. Wonka seemed to be waiting for her to do something with it, but she was unsure. As if to demonstrate, he bit down on something invisible multiple times, his perfect white teeth clicking together quietly.

Hesitantly, she lifted the swudge to her mouth and set it on her tongue. Almost instantly, it melted away onto her tongue to a soft mintiness, much like a bit of cotton candy.

"It's wonderful," Sydney said, smiling. "But I'm wondering..is it a plant or is it candy?"

"It's a candy plant!" He answered readily again, beaming. "I haven't been able to get the kinks out...the darn thing won't produce seeds yet. So it isn't quite ready for cultivation."

"And I suppose the chandelier is made of sugar," Sydney said, half-jokingly, glancing momentarily up towards the extravagant chandelier dangling from the high ceiling. However, Wonka gave her a very strange look.

"You really think so? I don't think it would taste very good at all. Probably quite dusty." The young chocolatier lifted the cup from the desk to his lips and took a sip.

"Anyhoo, shall we begin the interview?" he asked in an unusually professional tone of voice, setting the cup down in front of him.

Sydney inhaled deeply as if mentally preparing herself. She was not that naive though - she was well aware that there was nothing that she could even possibly do to prepare herself for what awaited.

He grabbed one of the randomly scattered pens across his desk and did what he could to straighten out the papers just as randomly scattered.

"I expect this not to take too long..I am a very busy person after all," he said in that same conceited tone as before. Without pausing a moment, he drew a large tic-tac-toe board across one of the papers marked 'Extremely Important' and marked an X in the upper right hand corner.

"Your move," Wonka said, sliding the paper and pen across to the now quite confused Sydney.

"But I thought.."

"Poppycock. Nothing soothes the nerves like a good game of tic-tac-toe."

She hesitated a few moments before lifting the pen and marking an O in one of the boxes, then sliding the paper and pen back.

"Do you shower in the morning or the evening, Sydney Philips?" X.

"Evening, Mr. Wonka." O.

"Do you bite your nails?" X.

"I try not to." O.

"Orange juice or apple juice?" X.

"Orange. With the pulp." O.

"I win." His last X was placed in the lower right hand box, and, with a grand flourish, he drew a line through the three X's in a row.

"So you do," Sydney said, leaning back slightly in the chair.

"And you have a job, Miss Philips. And you didn't drink your chocolate. And I told you tic-tac-toe calmed the nerves."