"Last stop Dalton Street," The bus driver echoed, as my leg sunk into the soft snow, a surge of shivers shot through my whole body. Running in the freezing cold, on a Saturday no less wasn't my ideal way of spending my weekend. Yet, here I was making my way to work in basically a snowstorm. You would think, that after two years of this routine that it would be easier but it still wasn't.
Normally on a Saturday, girls my age would be out with their boyfriends or better yet sleeping in. But not me, it seems the only way to spend a perfectly good day is at the restaurant, no thanks to my no good slave driv-boss. Sometimes I think he finds pleasure in seeing others work to death. That said, all through the hellish experiences of high school. The one thing that kept me sane was the work at the restaurant.
My town may have been once considered a small community to some people once but now it's basically a small metropolis to many, with the restaurant I work at one of the main attraction. To me, it was still the same old small town full of tight-knitted, meddlesome people. As I approached the restaurant, I saw someone switching the sign, opening the restaurant for business. I knew I was late because I was supposed to be the one to do that. I stepped in minutes later and the door made its usual high pitched chime as it opened.
"Ah there's my lovely Anna, Mon Chou, always on time," said Andre, the blonde owner of this restaurant. Standing by the counter flashing his favourite sarcastic smile at me, seeing as I am thirty minutes late.
"Andre... you know I don't like you calling me that?" I said in a stern tone. That nickname found its way into our relationship one day and since then has been a thorn in my side. I mean who calls someone my cabbage?!
"'y but I like it," he said giving me that fake pouty face of his, knowing fully well I won't be able to argue. I scoffed my shoulders in defeat. There was no point in starting something you can't win. Sometimes it makes me wonder who the older one is.
" 'ow wuz your day?" he asked. His French accent always came out whenever he got excited and even after two years of working here it's still a little hard not to laugh when it slips. I unconsciously gave a nudge of the shoulder as a reply. " 'u came here running in the cold again didn't 'u?" he said, with a quick change in tone.
"Er... yeah," I said as I pretended to be engrossed in unpacking my bag.
"How many times have I said that a chef must look his best at any point in time, especially when he is on his home ground, look at you, you look half frozen," he began. Andre always seemed like a different person anytime when he scolds, his accent completely disappears. The change in his tone and the chilling stare he gives you tells you everything.
"But I'm an apprentice..." I argued,
"Same thing, you have a car right? Use it," He scolded. I may have had a car once upon a time but that tale did not live very long. Not that he knows that.
"What do you want me to say, Andre, I'm sorry," I said, unapologetic.
"Put 'za chairs down and open 'za curtains and make sure 'u wash your face and warm up before customers come," he began as he walked to his office. "Alright?" finally with one glance at me with a smirk.
As soon as I was done getting the restaurant ready it didn't take long before the customers started to fill the seats in the place. We were so shorthanded that I had to take orders and serve them as well. Thankfully Andre had prepared some of the food on the menu beforehand. I was the only one in the restaurant with Andre nowhere to be found, I almost couldn't see how I could survive another minute. It wasn't until Astrid arrived that I saw hope again but that was almost twenty minutes after opening.
"Nice of you to join us, Astrid," I couldn't stop the tone of sarcasm in my voice from growling at her for almost making me faint so early in my shift.
"No need for the sarcasm, besides I told you I was going out with my boyfriend didn't I?" I could hear a slight giggle in her voice as she walked past me because we both knew that was an obvious lie.
"By the way, your sarcasm is so cute," she added with a loud chuckle.
"Ha ha funny," I snarled. Though it always looked like we fight a lot and never get along; she's the only one I can call a true friend amongst the people I know. We've known each other for years I can even call her a sister to me.
The two newbies Emily and Neil showed up about five minutes after. I had to give them a piece of my mind of course, how dare they newbies come late. Donna and Hunter, another bestie, showed up just as the rush hour started and the real work began and with still no Andre I was left to man the kitchen by myself with Emily and Astrid assisting.
"Why are they all so many today?" grumbled Emily, wiping the sweat off her face. The swarm of customers were making her break her daily sweat limit today.
"Today's valentine's day, maybe that's why," replied Donna, sarcastically.
"Is that's why they're swarming in here like flies. Don't they have lives?" Emily countered in a rather loud voice in the midst of our whispers. Astrid had to nudge her quiet before she drew any attention to herself.
"Anna, two new orders; one basil alfredo pasta and one grilled pepper chicken with mashed potatoes," Neil says, posting two more orders right next to the two I had already got going on. This was the second time someone had done that in the past ten minutes. It had just been about thirty minutes since I started in the kitchen and it was already hell.
"Neil, I told you to take two orders at a time, you know I'm the only one here right now!" I snap at him, I was already swamped with a number of orders I already had. I don't need anyone adding to it, especially not the new guy. It was going to be a busy evening and I didn't want to exhaust myself even before it even begins.
"Look, I just do what I'm told okay? I was told collect the orders and pass them to you, everyone was told that," He said looking mildly pissed. He always didn't appreciate when someone snapped at him.
"Who told you that shit?"
"Andre left a note..." He said and walked away almost immediately, fearing my reaction.
"Of course," Trust the only restaurant owner that would entrust the entire kitchen to his trainee during a peak hour. He didn't even say a word to me beforehand and just up and left the restaurant as soon as customers started flooding in. Saying the worst the Arnold Schwarzenegger impression I had ever heard.
It had been a year since I started learning under him as an official apprentice chef and he basically uses me for manual labour and goes to relax somewhere else half the time. While others were getting free time and partying I had to work here, hoping to get an edge when I do apply for culinary school. But now I'm faced with keeping the dignity of one of the most popular restaurants in the dry state area.
"We'll see who wins this round..." I wasn't about to let a sleaze ball like Andre ruin my favourite restaurant. I pushed myself to the limit taking as many orders as I could before Andre finally showed just when I was about to break down, regretfully saving me. I went back to serving tables for the rest of the evening.
It was a hell of a day but somehow the rest of the evening went by smoothly. Except for the one thing that happened during my shift that bothered me. There was this one guy that sat on the far the end of the restaurant, all he ordered was water and small fries and nothing else but he stayed till closing time. He didn't even touch his fries at all. I could feel his eyes watching me during my rounds and I remember looking over to his direction but I couldn't remember his face at all. All I remember was I was a faint shade of red on him. I don't know why, but I felt something familiar from him.
"I'll be heading out now, night guys," said Donna, as she walked out. She was always the one to close the place but tonight I volunteered and she was more than happy to give me the position which also meant I would be the last to leave. Astrid, Neil and Emily helped out for a while before I forced them to go home and then it was only me and Hunter left. We talked about many different things over chores, he made it look like he does this every day but I knew better and yet I wasn't bothered by it. He may be a motorcycle riding rich boy and the occasional spoiled brat but right now he was a cool guy.
"You can go now Hunter, I'm almost done here, thanks to you," it was barely an hour since Hunter and I were left and everything which would have normally taken much longer was all done.
"Nah I think I wanna stay, besides I can't leave you to go home all by yourself at this time of the night now can I?" I rolled my eyes at his futile attempt to flirt but still gave him an empathetic smile before I continued.
"Thanks a lot, Hunter, it's alright you can go," I said sincerely. I really didn't want to stay in same room with him longer this. He was a good guy and my best friend so I would like to avoid any close contact.
"You're welcome, Anna," he said finally admitting there was nothing he could say to change my mind and left but not before slipping a small box of chocolate into my pocket, "Happy valentine," he whispered.
I was about packing my stuff when I heard the door open. I turned to tell whoever it was we were closed but no one was there, I just thought it was just the wind so I waved it off. But a couple of minutes later I felt ominous eyes closing in on me and I felt this cold frightening feeling crawling up my spine to my shoulders. When I turned again I couldn't see anyone in or outside the restaurant, I thought my mind was just playing tricks on me. Cooped up in my thoughts, I didn't notice Andre calling my name until he tapped me from behind. I nearly jumped at his touch before I realized it was him.
"Didn't you hear me call you, 're you alright?" he asked shocked by my sudden jolt,
"Yeah, yeah I'm fine, why wouldn't I be," his eyes narrowed at my half-assed smile.
"'u sure you don't want me to take you home it's pretty late,"
"No thanks not after what you pulled tonight," I snorted.
"I was teaching you a lesson, a chef must know how to handle his restaurant and his kitchen effectively even in an emergency," He added.
"Yeah sure, of course, it was," It may have had other benefits but I knew the reason why he left was because I came late and he wanted to teach me a lesson. Andre sighed in acknowledgement and I told him goodnight.
"Be careful alright?" I was sure he was still worried, knowing him and all.
"What're you, my mother? I'll be fine," I said before I was too far to see him. Besides I had the pepper spray that mum gave me in my bag in case of anything and if he still doesn't go down with that I had a backup ready. I wasn’t taking judo lessons for nothing. On the way home I still had that same faint cold feeling but I chose to ignore it, there was no use stressing over something that wasn't there.
Once I got home mum gave me an earful for coming late as usual and, as usual, it passed very quickly and I went to my room. I spent several minutes just staring at the chocolate box deciding whether to eat it or not. Warped in a lavender and lime strap, it looked like a small music box. Eventually, I just kept it in the drawer, again, I would think about what to do with it another time.