BHM Served (eventual BHM, civilian turned feeder, slow burn, economic satire)

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stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Summary: A young man trying to straighten out his life starts work in a restaurant and gets way more than he bargained for in the form of a bizarre awakening involving fantasies of being fattened up by his beautiful, curvaceous coworker.

A/n: This is going to be a slow burn. I mean very slow. I don't have a solo stuffing scene until chapter 6, that's how slow. But, if you're willing to stick it out, I promise I'll make it worth the wait!


Served
by stevita



PROLOGUE

Two years in Kegans State Jail wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Damian, but it was no walk in the park either. He knew how lucky he should feel that he hadn’t caught another charge in there and had time added to his sentence, or worse, gotten moved to federal.

Like the guy he’d mouthed off at a few months into his sentence, who’d declared in retaliation, to the surrounding crowd of inmates, “Hey, I got five soups for whoever beats the shit outta this guy!” Or the guy who’d delivered the beating in exchange for five soups.

Damian had metal plates in his skull thanks to that incident, but at least he was free.

He’d been on the outside for a couple of days now, squatting in a house that was under construction, but looked like it was going to be mighty fine and fancy when it was done. He didn’t know where else to go. Damned if he was going to call his sister. Before his arrest, he’d been with a girl named Christyn, but he didn’t have her number committed to memory.

It was late, and he was standing at the self-checkout of a 24-hour grocery store, paying for a single pack of ramen noodles with small change he’d found on the sidewalk and roadway throughout the day. It made him think of that beat down for those five soups, and of something someone had once said to him: If you look for pennies all day, you’ll find ramen. Who had said that? He racked his brain...nothing.

Just as his receipt printed and he prepared to go back to the half-finished house and eat his noodles dry, a beep from the next checkstand drew his attention. He wouldn’t have looked twice, but the woman standing there looked just like Christyn…

No. It was her. Her hair was dyed a darker shade of blonde than he remembered, but other than that, she looked almost the same. Red lipstick, dark eyeliner, black button down on black slacks. She must have just gotten off work. She was a little thinner, and he didn’t like it. He knew her well enough to know it was a sign that she was under a tremendous amount of stress. He’d gotten thinner, too, without her to take care of him, not to mention other inmates taking his food in the lockup (although he never dared say a thing about it, or they’d take his ass, too.) Her eyes were downcast and she was listening to music in her earbuds.

He approached her cautiously from the side. He hoped maybe that in seeing him, she’d take pity on him and buy him a soda. He hoped he hadn’t run out of chances with her, after everything that had happened between them over the last few years. He hoped, at the least, that she would look at him. He just wanted to look in her eyes again.

She didn’t startle as he touched her lightly on the arm. For a second, he expected to find he’d made a mistake--either he had the wrong woman, or he was wishfully hallucinating. But it was her, alright. She turned her head, only her head, appraised him up and down, blinked slowly, and took out one earbud. In the relative silence of the supermarket, he could hear the old 80’s song she was listening to. “Well I’ll be fucked,” she muttered. Then, more audibly, “It’s been a hot minute, Damian. And boy, do you look terrible.”

He winced. “You look beautiful. But you’d look terrible, too, if you were homeless.”

She glanced away for a second. Paused to pay for her single purchase: a 24-pack of dish soap--and hoisted it over her left shoulder like a dinner tray. Looked back at him, deliberated for a long moment, and said, “You’re out early.”

“I have a few tricks up my sleeve, thanks to you. You don’t sound happy.”

“Of course I’m happy! I just...well, the house is a mess. I would have done something about it if I knew you’d be out. That is, if you even want to come back and stay with me?”

“You don’t have to--”

“I do, though,” she said. “I know when you lied to the cops, you were trying to have my back. Be fucked up if I didn’t get yours.”

He walked a couple paces behind her until they were out the automatic door; then, she wedged a black linen restaurant napkin out of her back pocket and said, “Put this over your eyes.”

“What--?”

“I’m involved in something now, something bigger than you or me, and, well, I don’t want to take too many risks. So you don’t get to see which car is mine.”

“I still remember your car, Chris.”

“You mean the one you crashed? I bought a new one.”

His cheeks flushed hot. “It was that bad?”

“Just put it on.”

The question burned in his mind like a hot knife: what had she gotten herself into? But he didn’t ask, just went along in compliance. He’d done her so dirty, and he wanted to win her trust back. He couldn’t fit the makeshift “blindfold” all the way around his head, so he held it in place with his hands until she set down her box of soaps and came up behind him with something else, probably another restaurant napkin, tied it to the ends and secured it in the back. “Jesus Christ, Christyn.”

One of her hands closed around his wrist and she led him in the dark across the parking lot. He heard a car door open, and she pushed him gently into the seat. He felt a significant weight settle into his lap which he guessed was the box of soaps, and then the door closed. “Don’t drop that, now.”

“Look at that, she still got jokes.”

She let herself into the driver’s seat, yanked his seat belt across him, and keyed the ignition. It wasn’t comfortable, but there were worse things she could have done.

The radio was tuned to the rock mix station she used to play in her old car. The first bump they hit jarred him. Either she’d become a more reckless driver, or--as he suspected was the case--this new car had almost no suspension. “Are you still at the mansion in Richmond?” he asked her after a while.

“Yes.” Just one word, so succinct. The Christyn he remembered liked to talk a lot, but he supposed things had changed.

“Is Alex still there?”

“Yes.”

“And Auralee?”

“Yes.”

They drove for a while in silence, before Christyn said, “Hey, look, Auralee is on the radio!” Indeed, he recognized their friend’s voice as she belted out a song which, if he had to take a guess, was titled, Love Will Mess You Up. “The original lyric goes, ‘my love will F you up,’ but I guess they had to edit it for the radio. She and Alex are actually touring now.”

“You been lonely at the house?”

“Nah, it’s never quiet at the Server House.”

“The what?”

A guitar solo on the radio reverberated through the car. They hit another bump, then another. Then, the road was flat for a while. Damian began to relax. Blindfolded head laid back against the headrest of the seat, he asked, “What’s the Server House?”

She didn’t answer.

After a while, he said, “I never stopped loving you.”

She took two sharp turns in a row. “I figured; nothing says ‘I love you’ like a charge of obstruction of justice.”

He gasped. “They charged you? You didn’t have to do any hard time, did you?”

“Nah. Zeke got me off. And without you, if you hadn’t said what you said, I’d have been charged with a lot worse.”

“That’s right, Zeke’s a whole lawyer now, isn’t he?”

She didn’t answer, just drove for a while. “I’ve always loved you,” she finally said. Her words melted him inside, gave him an aching satisfaction, like sitting down to a warm meal after being starved, but he heard a ‘but’ in her tone of voice.

“You want to know why I’ve never said it back? Because I was always holding my breath, waiting for the next disaster to strike. I guess I was scared to bear my heart, in case we got ripped apart again, and get left in a vulnerable position. We always seemed to be two of those good people that terrible things happened to. But I’ve solved that problem now. I realized that in order to make it in the world, I had to become one of the terrible things.”
 
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stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
“What do you mean?”

She didn’t answer. “You know, if you want some real food, one of my roommates made chicken sandwiches and macaroni salad for lunch today, and there was a ton of leftovers when I left for work. There’s probably still some in the fridge.”

“So, you want to pick up where we left off, then?” he said. Then, “Exactly how many roommates you got, now?”

The car abruptly stopped. Damian felt the door open, felt the soap box lifted off his legs, felt Christyn take him around the arm and lead him out of the car, down this way, down that way, then straight down a path. “Hey, it’s me,” she said.

“I know--”

“Shh, I’m on the phone,” she hissed, and he bit his tongue. “Yeah, I’m back. I have company, but he’s a friend, there’s no reason to be alarmed. Tell everybody, hold your fire.”

“Hold your...what?” Damian murmured.

Christyn ripped off the blindfold then, and Damian’s jaw dropped. Before him was the mansion Christyn had inherited from her uncle, except it was a lot different than he remembered it. Where there once stood a towering beacon of affluence in an otherwise empty field undisturbed by neighbors for miles in every direction, there now was a noisy, lit up behemoth of activity and sound and chaos. The once pristine white brick facade was vandalized, the grass was unkempt, and the lawn was strewn with all manner of cups, bottles, and evidence of depravity. From a couple windows, he could make out fires burning. In the not-so-distant distance, he thought he heard the dull thud of a human-sized weight hitting the ground. The outlines of people came and went, to and from the house, to the yard, to beyond--to the mailboxes, maybe? To the dumpsters? He couldn’t say for certain how many went in and how many went out. “Welcome to the Server House,” said Christyn.

“Are those...all servers?”

“A few cooks, a few bussers and barbacks, but mostly front of house staff.”

“How many people are there?”

“Ninety, including me. Ninety-one, now, if you want a cot and a roof.”

From somewhere nearby, a scream reached his ears.

The front door opened, and though he was apprehensive, he squared his shoulders, not wanting to give away his fear. “You said you got chicken sandwiches?
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
1. The Bond

ONE

The day Damian first met Christyn Brandywine had been one of the worst days of his recent life.

The sun wasn’t even up yet when he was fired from his night job as a security guard at a gated apartment community. He’d come to work a little high and committed a split-second error at the guardhouse control panel which, had it been committed a hair earlier, would have been harmless, but as things were, had resulted in him dropping a wrought-iron gate on the hood of some lady’s very expensive Audi. Although the old lady had decided not to press charges, Damian was promptly terminated.

He still had his day job seating tables at a restaurant, but as he made his was across town for that, he must have been swerving, because he was pulled over two blocks away from the restaurant, and in his strung-out state, he didn’t think twice about snapping at the police officer, “What the fuck is your problem, man?”

And maybe if he’d just been a little more polite, the officer wouldn’t have noticed the handgun that had slipped out from underneath his passenger’s seat, or would have at least forgotten to ask for the license and registration for the firearm that Damian couldn’t provide.

But, as things stood, he was walking into the Capital Cafe late, with a shiny new ticket and a court summons to add to the pile back at home--he already had a whole manila folder full of tickets and warrants stacked thicker than his middle finger. Hell, he would’ve taken the ticket in stride if the officer hadn’t, as a final devastating blow to his manhood, confiscated his gun.

At least the manager wasn’t standing upfront when Damian came in. Probably in the office. So he had a good three minutes before he was written up for tardiness--not even a month into this job and he already knew the drill, he’d been late enough times. Maybe he had five minutes if he was lucky. And hey, it looked like there was some new eye candy in the joint.

The new girl was blonde, pretty, and damn, had a nice, robust set of curves, at least as far as he could tell under her stiff server button-down and slacks. She was older than he was, and despite it being her first day on the job, she was already meticulously cleaning tables in her section with a sense of purpose and a sort of elegance to her, like she’d done this before at some other restaurant, or a few other restaurants, until she’d mastered the art.

It was her lips that really drew him in. They were plump and pouty and painted this deep burgundy red that made him stare, and despite the complete and total bullshittery of his morning so far, he couldn’t help but think about those lips closing warm and wet around his--

“MENDEZ! MY OFFICE! NOW!”

Shit. When the general manager reduced him to a last name only, he knew he was in trouble.

Unable to feel his feet, he shuffled his way into the office in the back of the small restaurant.

Chance was a little dude. Skinny, slouchy, baggy shirt, big glasses. But fuck, could he yell.

“Do you know how many days you’ve been late this week? Don’t answer that for me. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.”

Damian trembled in his spot, standing in the one floor tile his feet took up when he held them as close as they would go. “I’m sorry…”

“WHAT WAS IT THIS TIME?”

“I...I got pulled over.”

“Same excuse, different day. Speeding again?”

“...I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Don’t you? Because the next time this happens, you’ll be out on your ass unless you can give me a very good reason not to fire you.”

Damian swallowed. He knew what being let go would mean for him; he had already lost one job that day and without this one, he would definitely be evicted from the apartment he could barely afford as it was. If he couldn’t convince anybody to take him in, he’d have to move in with his sister on the north side of Houston, and he’d rather be shot point-blank between the eyes than go back to living with her, especially after the way he’d left things off with her, vowing in front of a whole courtroom that he’d never see her again...

But the one thing he wanted even less right now was to beg the man in front of him for anything, even his livelihood. So he forced his expression into a stone mask and said, “If it happens again, I won’t bother showing up.”

“You’d better not,” said Chance. He was smirking, seeming satisfied that he had gotten his point across...loser. He probably got off on bossing his employees around because he was too pathetic to just get laid.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
With Chance’s latest lecture over, Damian stood and made to take his place at the host desk up front, only, when he opened the door, he almost hit the new girl right in the face with it. “Sorry!” he said, but she didn’t seem upset.

“No worries, that was completely on me! I should have knocked,” she said. Then, “You must be the AM host. Damian, right?”

He blinked. “How’d you know?”

“It’s on the schedule,” she said, holding up a copy of the schedule between two fingers for him to see.

Oh. Duh. If he hadn’t thought of that, it was because he had a lot on his mind, and it didn’t help that she was even hotter up close. The top of her head only came up to about his chin, and the height difference gave him a perfect view right down her shirt…

“Anyway, I didn’t know how long you’d be in there, so I took the liberty of wiping down and organizing your menus, calling to confirm all the resos, and I went ‘head and hit the front door with some Windex...I think all that’s left for you is to restock the candy bowl.”

He could feel his face turn red. “You didn’t have to do all that.” She probably thought he was completely incompetent.

If she did, though, she made no show of it. “No worries!” she said again. “Do you think I could get in there for a minute though? I need to talk to Chance. Chance! Hey, can I talk to you a minute about my schedule?”

With that, she disappeared into the office and let the door close behind her before Damian could even catch her name.

There were two servers on for the lunch shift, but no bartender, not on a Monday morning. Dave’s section was ready to be sat, as usual. Scott, on the other hand, had walked in even later than Damian had, and his booths were a mess, but Chance was somehow completely silent on that matter.

Oh, and here came Scott walking up to the host stand now. His hair was rumpled, a bit of a sauce stain crusted on his shirt from some previous shift, and he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. Guess he had fun. He glanced both ways before placing a crisp five dollar bill onto the stack of menus. “Hey man, I know I’m late,” he said, “but do you think you could do me a favor and make me first in the rotation?”

Now, Damian had accepted bribes from the servers before, but he knew he was in no position to break the rules after that stern talking-to he’d just received. But he didn’t want to lose face in front of his coworker by admitting he was actually scared of the boss. So he squared his shoulders, picked up the five and tossed it flippantly back at the waiter. “The fuck am I supposed to do with this, man? Five bucks? I piss that money. Raise the price and maybe we’ll talk.”

“Loser.” Scott took back his money and huffed past the host stand.

Damian thought that would be the end of it. But then, behind him, he heard the unmistakable smack of flesh connecting on flesh, and he turned around startled to see the new girl, her hand full of Scott’s fist just inches away from Damian’s head. “Dude, calm down,” she said, “we’ve got guests driving up.”

At last, Scott gave up and stalked off to his section. Damian couldn’t meet the new girl’s eyes. His own burned hot as he stared in shame at the ground between his feet. That was twice in one morning now that she’d stuck out her neck for him, and he had nothing to offer her in return. He didn’t even know her name. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know why you’re being so nice to me, but you don’t have to. I can take care of myself.”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t,” she replied. “But as far as I’m concerned, the number one rule of this industry is, I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine. Too many people forget that. But what about you, what do you say?”

She reached out a hand and after a second, he took it. Her handshake was surprisingly strong for a girl. “I won’t forget,” he promised. “Hey, what’s your name?”

“It’s on the schedule, dear,” she said with a little laugh. She had a thick Southern accent, thicker than he’d ever heard in the city, except when a word had an O in it; then it sounded like there were two O’s, weird and maybe New York-y. Her shoes, while clean, were beat-up with wear. He turned around and glanced at the papers on his host stand--there, on the schedule, after Scott and Dave’s names, was hers: Brandywine, Christyn, with a little circled T next to it for ‘training'.

When he turned around again, she was gone.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
It was a slow day at the Capital. After sitting his first table, a family of four who seemed to think it was squarely his fault that the restaurant was out of crayons, Damian waited over an hour until the next guests came in, this young couple who laughed too much and wasted five whole minutes debating whether they wanted a booth or a window table. After that, there wasn’t too much action.

He found little things to do to pass the time. He made a few phone calls in the back. When Chance wasn’t looking, he stole a pre-portioned bag of raw brussels sprouts out of the walk-in and stashed them in the drawer of the host-stand for easy snacking. He stared at the new girl’s ass for a couple minutes at a time, until at one point he lost track of her, only to jump at the sound of her voice as she came up right behind him.

“Man, today sucks, huh?”

After shaking off the initial unease of feeling sneaked up upon, he shrugged and replied, “It’s a chill day, I guess.”

“Yeah. Chill. If you don’t work for tips.”

“Yeah, I guess 7.25 ain’t great…”

“Try 2.13.”

He winced. “Is that even legal?”

“Welcome to Texas.”

“I was born here.”

“Yeah, well, welcome to the service industry, smartass.”

“Damn, well, I guess I caught a lucky break, then,” said Damian. “I actually applied here as a server first, but before I was even out of training, they, uh...promoted me to hosting.”

That last bit was a lie; he’d actually been demoted to hosting after the chef got mad at him for ringing in too many modifiers on his tickets. He’d only been trying to give the customers exactly what they wanted. But the gorgeous new girl didn’t need to know all that.

Just then, her eyes widened. “Wait...so if you started as a server, then you know the table numbers? You know where everything is in the POS?”

“I guess,” he shrugged, wondering where she was going with this.

“Great, then you can show me! Dave’s not teaching me Jack shit.”

He figured, after she had extended the olive branch this morning, it was the least he could do.

Christyn was quick on the uptake once Damian gave her the tour through the POS. She’d come in already armed with the knowledge of every ingredient in every menu item; she must have studied before she started. All he had to do was teach her how to ring everything up, and suddenly, she was running circles around Dave.

In her downtime, she stood with him at the host stand and helped him wipe down menus. Just to pass the time, he asked her questions, just little smalltalky questions, and she obliged.
Her last job had been another table waiting gig, but she’d been let go about a month ago. Between then and now, she’d been on holiday with a friend in Galveston. She stayed on the west side, between the Galleria and the beltway. Although she had a distinctly Eastern look to her, (Damian would have guessed Russian or maybe Asian), when he asked her where she was from, she said Beaumont, about two hours away. She didn’t know her parents well; her dad had died when she was young, and for some reason, which she glossed over and he forgot to press for details about, she was raised by his sister, her aunt.

And yes, she had a boyfriend.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
TWO

Dave left well before shift change to go to his other job at an Italian restaurant down by the Galleria. Scott was on a double at the Capital, and wanted to leave for his lunch break, Damian cut out at his scheduled out-time, and the PM hostess, Lucinda, was running late, so for a while, it was just Christyn and the manager left on the floor.

With no one manning the door, she decided to play hostess for the time being, and took a stack of napkins and silverware with her to the host stand to roll for good measure. Her stack of silver was almost fifteen high when Chance came and approached her.

“No one’s here. You can take a break, you know. Get something to eat, on us.”

“Thank you, but I’d rather work. I’ve been on vacation for far too long.”

“Well, I guess I can’t force you to sit down, but everyone needs to eat. At least let me buy you an appetizer.”

“Thanks, but I’m too nervous to eat.”

“Nervous? About what?”

She shrugged. “First day jitters, I guess,” she said, but she was lying.

She’d overheard Chance giving Damian an ultimatum in his office that morning, and as nice as Chance was treating her now, she couldn’t help but wonder how much (or how little) it would take to get fired from this place, or at least demoted like Damian. Then again, maybe a demotion would be a blessing in disguise for her. Truth be told, she’d been nervous since the moment she looked at her training schedule: right off the bat, Chance had her training on the floor every morning this week...and behind the bar at night. She’d been waiting at his office door to ask him if there’d been some mistake; she had specifically applied for a server position and there hadn’t been any discussion of bartending when he interviewed her, but he’d assured her that there was no mistake, he’d spoken to one of her previous employers on the phone who had sung praises of her speed in the service well and aptitude for mixology, and he was sure she would do the establishment proud. She’d only been a barback once before, in her eight-year run in foodservice, so she knew exactly which former workplace had sung her those praises, and she wished they hadn’t.

***

The bar manager’s name was Javier Winrock. He pulled up in front of the restaurant in a stoplight-red Charger with a vanity plate, decked out in a sleek vest and skinny black tie even though the Capital dress code called for neither--Christyn would know; she’d read over the employee handbook five times. He had his hair parted on the side, slick with gel, and he kept on his very expensive looking sunglasses even as he walked indoors. “So you must be the new blood,” he said with a smirk, approaching Christyn where she stood at the host stand. He towered at least a foot over her, and his intimidating, broad-shouldered stature did nothing to calm her nerves.

But despite first impressions, he turned out to be quite a better trainer than Dave, who had left Christyn in the dust in the interest of making his own quick buck. Javier, on the other hand, walked her through every bar seat, every regular’s preferences, and every cocktail recipe--although as the night wore on, it became apparent that she already knew them all.

She watched his expression shift from cool to incredulous as she put together perfect margaritas for the oncoming dinner rush; blue hooters, white russians, kamikaze shots, lemon drop martinis with perfectly sugared rims, seabreezes, birthday cake shots, and one whiskey sour made the classic way with an egg white. Everything she set out was perfectly, almost obsessively mixed, even without a jigger. “Damn,” he said a few minutes before close, “Julian told me you were spirited, but he never told me you were this good.”

Her heart jumped into her throat. “You know Julian Castro?”

Julian Castro being the bar manager from her previous job at Old Town BBQ. Christyn hadn’t included that job on her resume, and with good reason.

“He’s alright, as a person,” said Javier, “but as a bartender…”

“His drinks are too sweet, too weak, have too many ingredients, and are downright irreplicable!” Christyn finished for him. She gasped at her own audacity--within the course of one shift, Javier had made her feel comfortable, but once she’d blurted it out, she worried she had gotten too comfortable.

Until Javier went on, “Oh, abso-fucking-lutely.”

She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Still, you can’t go saying that stuff out loud, not when you work there. Is that how you got fired for insubordination?”

And just like that, she was on edge again.

“It’s alright, you can tell me. I’m the cool manager.”

Well, shit. She knew everyone in this industry liked to talk, but she thought it was going to take a little longer for tales of her notoriety to hit her brand new workplace. She laughed nervously. “Actually, it was the GM I blew up on one day.”

There’d been some money missing from her check; from some of the busboys’ checks, too, and in front of a whole dining room of guests, she’d said to his face that he was either having his books cooked, or just plain going senile. Then she’d thrown a 40-pound dinner tray right to the floor, and she hadn’t been aiming for his foot, but that’s where it landed. She was banned from the building now, and it was a miracle they hadn’t pressed charges.

Javier blinked. “Well, damn, girl.”

“In my defense,” she said, “I was spiraling with the delirium tremens.”

She watched Javier’s face change as it all started to make sense to him, how she knew every drink recipe because she spent entirely too many hours out of each day thinking about alcohol, the reason why she hadn’t applied to work behind the bar.

Out on the floor, it was easier to forget about temptation, even with a cocktail on her tray, but behind the counter, she literally had to work with the enemy at her back, and it was a constant reminder of how easy it would be to slip. She wouldn’t dare take shots behind the bar, not with the cameras on her, but she could always ring up a shot as if it was for a customer, take it into the walk-in, down it there, and pay for it in cash.

But ‘could' didn’t mean ‘ought to;’ she was learning that.

Still, all that liquor was so close, and knowing it was within reach made her breath catch and her insides cramp and turn. Her hands shook worse and worse with each new bar ticket she pulled off the printer, and she wasn’t sure if it was a physical symptom of ongoing withdrawals or a product of anxiety.

“So are you, like, going to AA?” asked Javier after a while.

“God, no,” said Christyn as she put the lid on a shaker for table 23’s third lemon drop martini. “If I tried to quit cold turkey, it would probably kill me. But I’m down to four or five shots a night from probably twenty all day.”

He started laughing. Why was he laughing?

“Only twenty?”

Oh.

“Well, we’re about to have last call. You want a shot to take the edge off before sidework, little alkie?”

In that moment, she felt like she could have bitten her own tongue off.

“That’s alright. I kind of made this rule for myself, that anymore, I can’t drink until I get off of work. I’ll...I’ll settle for a smoke break, though, if I’m allowed.

“Suit yourself,” he said, poured himself a shot of house rum, and downed it. “You know where the back door is, right?”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Home was a derelict little apartment on Westheimer at the end of a three-cigarette drive from the restaurant, wedged between a convenience store and a 24-hour supermarket. It was small, and it was a mess. Dishes undone, laundry everywhere, lights flickering like it was a horror movie. The whole place smelled of cigarettes, but she smoked so much she barely noticed how it had long since seeped into the walls and carpet. The power went out frequently, the hot water even more frequently, and the landlord never did a thing about it. Christyn figured, if he wasn’t going to put any effort into the place, then neither should she.

The one improvement she had made over the past few weeks was disposing of the piles and piles of empty vodka handles she used to allow to gather up on the floor for months at a time. That was another rule she’d put in place for herself in her ongoing effort to clean up her act. The presence of the bottles made her constant drinking feel normalized, so they had to go.

So far, she had three rules: no more empty bottles in the house, no drinking until after work, and no watching the clock waiting for work to be over. So far, she was doing good, but she had only been back at work for a day. She knew better than to count her chickens.

When she got up the stairs and stuck her key in the lock, she found the door already unlocked. Her whole body tensed and she threw open the door, threw on the light, unsure of what to expect…

“Good evening, kitten.”

A sigh of relief pushed its way up her throat. Thank God it was only Jesse.

He was standing against the wall a few feet out from under the living room recess light, and the sight of him there sent a warm shiver down her spine. He was easily the most strikingly attractive man she’d ever met, despite the little matter of their age difference. Forty-one to her twenty-four, he was clocking in at maybe 280, with a kind face, but this intelligent gaze in his sky blue eyes that could be downright compelling when he looked at her in a certain way. He wore a smartly trimmed beard and rimless rectangular spectacles and his brown hair was receding a little, but other than that he looked great for his age. When she first saw him, he reminded her a lot of her first love (who’d been 36, then, to her 16).

And she’d told Damian at the restaurant that she had a boyfriend, but Jesse’s preferred title was “Master.”

How they’d met was this: Jesse had come in during the pre-breakdown lull while Christyn was waitressing at Common Table, a small but busy bistro and wine bar in Midtown about a year ago. It was raining and his car battery was stalled. He asked her for a jump and she was instantly taken with him, so she offered to buy him a meal while they waited out the rain. He stayed for dinner, but, being a man of considerable means as the head of A/V for PR at a successful oil company, paid in full and gave her a sizeable tip. All through dinner, they charmed each other with coy little compliments and cheesy puns shot back and forth. Once the rain had stopped, she gave him that jump, and convinced him to follow her home. The rest of the night was a blur, she’d probably gotten drunk at some point, but that wasn’t the last she would see of him, and in a few months’ time he confessed that he wanted her for his submissive.

Reflexively, she reached into her purse, pulled out her collar, and fastened it around her neck. It was a pretty little thing, a black leather band with baby blue lace trim, the same blue as her worn kitchen towels and his icy sharp eyes, and a dangling silver bell in the middle. He said when he picked it out for her that it suited her. She had to agree. “Good evening, Master,” she said, letting the door fall shut behind her. She took off her server apron but not her shoes; after years of neglecting the apartment, she didn’t trust the carpet. “I didn’t know I’d be seeing you tonight. I look like a mess, it was a long day at work--”

All he had to do was raise a finger to silence her. “I don’t care how you look, kitten. I couldn’t wait to see you. I almost drove up to the restaurant, but then I thought, wouldn’t it be so much nicer if we were alone? And then I remembered you had left me a key to your apartment.”

“Well, it’s certainly a wonderful surprise to see you, Master,” she said, beaming. “How was your day?”

“Nevermind that. I want to hear about your day.”

Quick to take a command, Christyn started telling him all about her first day at work, while he walked around behind her and started working the knots out of her shoulders. It felt amazing, and she didn’t even notice at first that he had started to lead her, in little steps, into the bedroom, but once she realized where they were, excitement started to build up in her core.

“...And they had me training behind the bar tonight, and the bar manager even tried to get me to drink on the clock with him, but I resisted, Master. I’m not that person anymore.”

“I’d expect nothing less from my good girl,” he said.

And in that moment, she connected the dots.

They’d had this conversation a long time ago where he’d asked her if he could use hypnosis and subtle brainwashing techniques on her to make her into his perfect fantasy slave girl. She must have said yes, because months later, she was happier than she’d ever been. (Truth be told, she didn’t remember the end of that conversation; she must have been drinking that day. She used to be such a disgusting drunk…)

Right after she’d lost her job at Old Town, she remembered sitting in her car in the parking lot crying, knowing if she’d just had a couple of shots between shifts, she would have been mellow enough to avoid that whole fiasco in the dining room, wondering why she’d chosen that month to cut back on liquor, why she’d chosen to torture herself, why she was so adamant not to go back to her old ways when the new ways meant that her hands were shaking all the time and the first sign of conflict made her want to punch a wall and vomit…

She knew why now.

“Master,” she probed tentatively, “may your adoring slave girl ask you a question?”

“Speak, my pet.”

“Have you brainwashed me to curb my drinking?”

He chuckled. Let her shoulders go and walked around to face her again. God, he had the most charming smirk, with those deceptively boyish round cheeks and eyes full of mischief. “Of course I did, my pet. You have quite the reckless streak--that’s what brought you to me in the first place. But I can’t allow you to be too reckless, especially with your own health. After all, you’re no good to me dead of liver failure.”

She had one more question for him: How? But before she could ask once more for permission to speak, he leaned in and whispered in her ear, “Such a smart little slave deserves a reward,” and her body tensed with anticipation. “Now, slave girl, I’m going to strike you in the face, harder than you’ve probably ever been struck. It will hurt well into tomorrow--possibly well into next week--and I intend to leave a mark. And the moment the blow lands, you will come, harder than you ever have before. Do. You. Understand. Me?”

“Yes, Master.” She didn’t bother to brace herself. This was established between them; hurting her brought him pleasure, so it brought her pleasure, and she knew he would never do anything truly bad to her.

He stepped back, drew back, and backhanded her with full force. The impact turned her around 180 degrees and she fell forward, catching herself against the mattress. The blow hurt enough to put tears in her eyes and she could feel the sting where his class ring slit her left cheek open. It wasn’t the hardest she’d ever been hit, though, and although she did become achingly wet, she did not orgasm on the spot. Nevertheless, she responded automatically, “Thank you, Master, may I have another?”

“Oh no, slave. Your Master has something much better in store for his good girl tonight,” he said, and nudged her legs apart with one steel-toe-booted foot.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
THREE

On Christyn’s second day at the Capital, Damian was early, for once.

He wasn’t in the mood to deal with another one of Chance’s tongue-lashings. Also, he was eager to see Christyn again. Yeah, she had a boyfriend, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t look forward to seeing her. She was fun to look at. Also, he was full of boundless energy, completely wired after taking a few tabs his neighbor had sold him at the low, low rate of two for a dollar, which probably meant they were cut with all kinds of God-knows-what, but shit, man, two for a dollar! That was practically free!

He was happily buzzing around the dining room, adjusting settings on tables, wiping down chair legs, when she pulled up out front in her little green two-door 2007 Fiat. She walked in with her eyes downcast, staring at her keys in her hands and muttering, “That’s weird...that’s so weird…”

He grabbed the door so it wouldn’t fall on her and asked, “What’s weird?”

“I still have both my house keys…” she said, then shook her head as if she was snapping out of a trance and finally looked up at him. “I mean, it’s nothing. How are you?” He tried to answer her question, but he was too distracted by the fresh-looking cut on her face. As if reading his mind, she thumbed the scratch and explained, “I have cats.”

“You need to get them hoes trained.”

“They’re cats.”

Just then, Chance came out of the office. “Christyn, good, you’re early! I wanted to let you know that Javier said you’d done a fantastic job behind the bar last night. So good, in fact, that we’ve talked it over and decided you’re ready to exit training. Now, we’ve been running without an A.M. bartender; servers have been fixing their own drinks, but for the sake of streamlining, I’d like you to jump back there starting today. You’ll have the bar-top plus tables 1 thru 6. Sound good?”

“You got it, Captain,” said Christyn, nodding up and down quickly. Damian thought he heard her voice shake a little, but he might have been imagining it--he was so fucked up, he could practically hear colors right now.

And he could hardly control his mouth. “Hey Boss,” he blurted once Chance had finished, “I was early, too! What do I get?”

“Not fired...this time,” said Chance, deadpan.

Later on, once Christyn had finished setting up the bar, she approached Chance and said, “Don’t you think you’re a little hard on Damian?”

Chance just rolled his eyes. “If anything, I’m too soft on him. Come on, you know as well as I do that he came into work today tweaking,” he said, as if Damian wasn’t standing at the host desk five feet away and well within earshot.

“But he’s here, isn’t he? We open in five, and I don’t see either of those servers anywhere. We don’t know what goes on in that little dude’s life, but if you ask me, I think he’s trying his best.”

That really made Damian feel better, until Chance had to go burst his bubble, and he didn’t imagine what he said sat well with Christyn, either: “Well, maybe once you get a promotion to management, someone will ask you. For now, why don’t you put those drink-making skills to good use and fix me a cappuccino?”

Damian would have decked him for that. He wished he’d been quick enough to do it, but he was in too much shock. Up until that point, he’d only seen Chance act civil to Christyn, treat her like a new favorite, really. But he’d turned on her fast the moment she decided to speak her mind.

Somehow Christyn remained cool and collected, just said, “Yes, Boss,” and scuttled off.

With two minutes until open, Scott and Sophie pulled up in the same car, came in through the front door, and clocked in one after the other, catching no flack from Chance. “So that’s the new girl?” said Sophie, and Damian resolved to keep an eye on Christyn if she tried anything.

Sophie was a pretty girl, another curvaceous female with dark eyes and pouty lips, which Damian loved, but her personality was straight-up garbage. The first day he met her, he’d tried to ask her out on a date, to which she’d replied in front of his seated guests that he was probably too broke. He’d tried to remind her that they worked at the same fucking job, but that didn’t change her mind, and Chance wrote him up that day for swearing in front of customers.

Soon the patrons started rolling in. Damian sat the first group at table 5, and then a rush of 1- and 2-tops came in who all wanted bar seats. It became clear quite soon that not everybody was happy about Christyn’s recent promotion.

And just like for everything else in this restaurant, Damian was the first one to catch the blame.

Sophie picked up a stack of menus from the end of the bar, stormed up to the host stand, and threw them at Damian--he caught one, but fumbled for the others while she yelled, “You can’t just sit everyone in the bar! Do you know what a rotation is? Or are you just that stupid?”

“I didn’t put them there, and don’t yell at me! It’s open seating at the bar, I can’t control what people do!”

Behind her, Christyn stepped out from behind the bar and came to his rescue once more. “Hey, you don’t need to throw those at him, I was gonna give ‘em back!” As she was helping him collect the menus, Chance came to the front to investigate the commotion.

“Is there a problem, guys?”

“I don’t know, you tell me,” snapped Sophie, “since when on a Tuesday morning does one server get the bar all to herself? Oh, I’m sorry, A.M. bartender.”

“Sophie, you can barely pour a vodka soda,” said Chance. “Service will run quicker if we have someone behind the bar who knows what she’s doing.”

Just as a party of eight walked in, Sophie said, “I heard it from Javier that the only reason she knows her way around the bar is she’s an alcoholic,” and for the second time that day, Christyn let someone get away with saying something that Damian would have hit them for.

She just smiled at the big group and said, “Hi, welcome to the Capital Cafe. Right this way and we’ll put some tables together for you, and your server Sophie will be right with you.”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Christyn was calm, on the surface, but only because she’d worked in restaurants for long enough to be used to how they worked. It was sad how predictable of Javier it was to praise her to her face and then gossip about her behind her back.

When the lunch rush ended, Christyn set about looking for sidework to do and was polishing a rack of glasses when Damian approached the bar. “Are you okay?” he asked. She just nodded. “Why didn’t you say anything to Sophie?”

“Because it’s true.” He stared at her in shock. “I told Javier last night in confidence.”

“Confidence?”

“It means I didn’t think he’d spread it around.”

“Need me to beat his ass for you?”

“No,” she said, “I don’t want to be the cause of drama. I like this job. Well...I like the A.M. host. He’s a nice dude. Definitely my favorite coworker so far. I wouldn’t want either of us to get in trouble.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back. He had such a kind smile, with big, brown eyes that held an innocence you only saw in young folks who hadn’t worked in the industry long. She didn’t make a habit of looking at other men, seeing as she had one, but he was a cute little guy, if she thought about it, with a round, cherubic face despite an otherwise thin frame and thick, dark hair that curled at the ends in a mostly uniform fashion, except for an especially stubborn cowlick right in the back that he obviously tried very hard to tame with gel, to no avail. His skin was a creamy medium brown that brought out the bluer undertones in the tasteful blue-gray button-down he’d decided to wear.

She polished three more glasses in silence. Then, he said, “I can’t believe you’re an alcoholic. You don’t look like one.”

“Look again.” She put down the glass she was polishing and held her hand out in front of him so he could see it shake. Last night after Jesse left, she’d downed four shots before going to bed, but that had been hours and hours ago, and the withdrawals were starting to take hold once more.

That’s when he took the rag from her and started polishing glasses. “Here, that looks like it’s hurting your hand. I’ll do the rest of the cups for you, and maybe you can wipe the menus for me?”

She wiped the menus, then she washed the windows, then she sat down at the bar with a stack of linen napkins and a bunch of silverware and started rolling them up for settings. Damian didn’t say anything to her, but he didn’t have to. Just having him close by was a comfort while she went through New Girl Hell at this restaurant.

And hey, she thought, at least she wouldn’t be the new girl forever. Eventually, the others would leave her alone. Maybe once the next new waiter got hired on and became the latest threat to everybody else’s hours and section.

“Hey! New girl!” Sophie walked up and threw more silverware into Christyn’s pile. “Why don’t you roll my share, too? That way you can get some practice in.”

As she walked away, Christyn just kept rolling and started to laugh. Damian stared at her in disbelief. “Why are you laughing? I would have cut that bitch’s tires already if I was you!”

She didn’t say anything. The next time Sophie came around, the restaurant was empty except for staff and Christyn had a stack of rolls 35 high. “Not bad, for your first week, New Girl,” said Sophie sardonically.

“Yeah, I guess I’m alright at the silverware thing,” said Christyn, and she picked up one of her roll-ups and chucked it as hard as she could against the opposite wall. It bounced off right between two booth benches and landed on the table, a little loosened up but otherwise intact. “But then again, this ain’t my first rodeo…”

***

Thursday nights were always date night; Jesse was very adamant about that. If Christyn ended up scheduled to work that night, she had a standing order to invent some emergency and get out of her shift. Luckily, Chance honored her request to have Thursdays off, so things didn’t have to come to that.

Jesse picked an all-day breakfast diner equidistant from their jobs, and Christyn arrived early, waiting dutifully for him outside. When he arrived, she immediately started gushing about her first week at her new job. All the way to the table, she rattled on about how all the customers loved her drinks, how somebody had said in the middle of the rush to her that her boss needed to hire more people like her, and how she made the tightest silverware rolls in the whole workplace. She told him about the problems she was having with a couple of her coworkers, too: about Tuesday’s spats with Sophie, and how on Wednesday, Dave had happened upon her POS when she forgot to log out and sabotaged a whole table’s order, trying to pin the mistake on her. But Damian had caught him in the act and demanded that the manager look over the camera footage--she didn’t know what she’d do without that guy. He was always right behind her, like a protective brother or a loyal little dog, and so far, that’s what she loved most about the Capital.

She paused briefly to apologize for her rambling on and on, and to order for the both of them--Jesse didn’t like talking to “the help” when he was out. He didn’t hold the service industry in very high regard, and often told Christyn that she was too good to be waiting tables. He intended to eventually convince her to quit working altogether, but she wasn’t ready to succumb to that particular request, so he held off on that little bit of her in-progress brainwashing for now, for which she was grateful. She’d been working to support herself ever since she got kicked out of her aunt’s house eight years ago, and she didn’t know what she’d do with herself if she didn’t have a job to clock into. (Well, probably clean Jesse’s big fancy house in Spring all day, fix him dinner before he got home, flounce around in French maid costumes for his viewing pleasure--you know, submissive things. She knew eventually he would get her to agree to it, just like he’d gotten into her head about the alcohol thing, but right now she couldn’t imagine a life without waiting tables.)

“There’s no need to apologize, kitten,” he said. “I’m just glad to hear you’ve made a friend at work.”

The waiter dropped off his chicken and waffles and her veggie omelet, and she waited for him to leave before looking up at Jesse. “May I begin eating, Master?”

“Yes, kitten.”

She reached for the fork, but he plucked it out of her grasp with a smirk. “Now, now. Utensils are for people, not pets.”

Her face flushed. “Yes, Master,” she muttered, and began to pick at her omelet with her perfectly manicured, shaky little DT hands. The last time she’d eaten an omelet it had been with her hands, too, out of a bus tub at one of her old jobs.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
On Friday morning, Damian came to work on drugs again, and after the bar rush died, he once again helped Christyn polish the glassware, only this time, he burst into periodic, unpredictable bouts of laughter. After this happened a few times, she asked, “What’s up?”

“Hey Christyn? Do you--?” He succumbed once again to uncontrollable laughter and was like that for a good three minutes before he finally calmed down. “Do you--? No, I can’t say it.”

“Well, now you have to say it, or else I’ll bug you for the rest of your life about what’s so funny.”

He had one last giggle fit before he was finally able to blurt out, “Do you like fat guys?”

She blinked and cocked her head. “What a strange question. I don’t dislike them. In fact, seeing as I wait tables, I’m rather grateful to them, as they tend to make the biggest contributions to my light bill. Why do you ask?”

“No! I meant, do you want to fuck fat guys?”

The back bar was lined with a mirror up to the ceiling behind the glass shelves, but she didn’t have to turn around and look in it to know her face was turning beet red. “I have a boyfriend, Damian, I don’t want to have sex with any guys other than him.”

“Okay, okay! Let me rephrase the question. If you were single, is being fat a thing that would attract you to different males?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I never really thought about it.” Sure, Jesse was a big guy, but it’s not like she kept a list in a drawer at home somewhere of criteria her potential partners had to meet. “Where is this coming from? Are you okay? What did you take?”

Ignoring her last question, he said, “I just noticed you’re always extra special nice to big fat guys at the bar. Like that guy that sat alone at table 2 this morning.”

Christyn rolled her eyes. “That was my uncle! He raised me from when I was a little girl, and he likes to come to whatever job I’m at and give me a big tip. When I was sixteen he bought me that car.”

“...Oh.” He coughed a little to clear his throat. He looked almost disappointed. “But I been watching you work, you’re always really nice to the fat guys.”

“The hell you been watching me work for?” she snapped. “Don’t you have your own job to do? Why do you want me to have a fat fetish all of the sudden?”

Just then, Jesse walked into the restaurant. Christyn felt her heart race; she hadn’t been expecting him. He usually texted her ahead of time when he was planning to visit her at work…

Her phone. She’d left it charging at an outlet on the back bar, and she hadn’t checked it in a hot minute, she’d been so occupied talking to Damian.

He helped himself to a seat at the bar. She automatically poured him a cola, light on the ice the way she knew he liked it, and asked, “Can I get you a menu, Sir?”

It was Sir when she was at work, because that was a normal thing for a server to call somebody she was waiting on and it wouldn’t invite any questions about the whole BDSM thing from nosy coworkers.

“I actually took a peek at it online before I came. I’d like a double bacon bourbon burger, no side and no chipotle ranch, if you would?”

“Right away, Sir.”

His lunch was short-lived. Anymore, when he came into her workplace, she was not to speak until he spoke to her after the initial greeting she was obligated to give him by the standard steps of service, and he didn’t have anything to say to her today. She guessed it was one of his subtle tactics to get her to give up serving; if he made it an uncomfortable experience for her, she was bound to throw in the towel at some point, right?

She was beginning to understand how the game worked between them. He was smart. But she wasn’t ready to go yet.

Today was different from his usual visits. Once his starter came, instead of just eating it in stiff silence and only offering a stern look or a displeased gesture when she failed to anticipate a need of his (more cola, extra napkins, etc), he took a particular interest in watching Damian as he polished glasses and straightened little random things up behind the bar. After a while, he said, “Come here, son, what’s your name?”

“Me?”

“Who else?”

“Damian.”

“Is that so?” He pulled a crisp 20 dollar bill out of his wallet and handed it to him across the bar counter. “Christyn has told me a lot about you. This is for looking out for her.”

“I...thanks. Are you her dad or something?”

Christyn giggled. “Damian, I thought I told you, my father is no longer with us. This is my boyfriend, Jesse Markham.”

Suddenly, Damian smiled as big as a party clown. “That is awesome! It’s so nice to meet you! Christyn’s the best, yeah, we’ve got each other’s back. Right, Christyn?”

She wasn’t sure exactly what had just transpired. Maybe Damian was having a second wind on whatever drugs he’d been taking. She listened in as the two men talked, but nothing that was said between them gave anything away. Mostly they just chatted about cars and women. Damian complimented Jesse’s sleek black Benz and pointed out his own gold BMW, which he’d gotten back when he worked a job that paid much better. He said Jesse was lucky to have a pretty girl like Christyn who was also a really nice person (Christyn blushed at that), and confessed that he’d had eyes on the other waitress who was working this morning, but she’d snubbed him in a rather cruel fashion, and Jesse looked at Sophie and conceded that she was quite good looking, but so was a monarch butterfly, and those were poisonous. All the while, that same dopey grin stayed plastered on Damian’s face, and she couldn’t figure out why. Jesse gave him twenty bucks. That was nice of him, but nothing to be so piss-your-pants happy about.

Then, after Jesse left, she saw Scott and Damian exchange words at the host stand, and Scott pull a stack of bills out of his wallet and hand it over. At first, she assumed it was a drug deal; the restaurant industry ran rampant with substance abuse, so she went back to doing her sidework. But she could feel Scott staring right at her, so she went up there to investigate.

“Where’s my tipout, huh?” she asked Scott. He just kept staring at her for a long time, until finally, he asked,

“Wait a minute. Were you in on this?”

“This being what, exactly?”

“...You didn’t tell him to bet me two hundred dollars that you have a fat fetish, knowing I was gonna think he was full of bullshit? Was that dude even your boyfriend, or is he getting a cut?”

A wave of anxiety washed over her. She felt like the part of her brain that housed everything she knew so far about Damian had come disembodied from the rest of her. “I’ve been here a week,” she murmured, “and you guys have already turned my sex life into a betting sport?”

The look on her face wiped the shit-eating grin right off of Damian’s. “Chris, I’m sorry...I didn’t know you’d be mad…”

“You’re my only friend here. I thought you had my back.”

“I do! Scott’s the one who’s been telling everyone you’re lying about having a boyfriend and you’re probably a lonely, antisocial cat lady!”

“Both of you, just leave me alone.” She turned on her heel and disappeared into the ladies’ restroom.

To her surprise, it was Sophie who came to her rescue, if it could be called that. She let herself in with a brusque step and said, “You’d better not be crying in here, New Girl.” She must have heard everything, the restaurant was pretty small.

“I’m not.” Christyn wasn’t, but her eyes were burning.

“But you were about to,” said Sophie. “Why are you letting them get to you? They’re just a couple stupid guys. They want to fuck everything they see, and when you won’t give it to them, they invent things that are wrong with you so it doesn’t have to be their fault.”

“Why are you talking to me?” asked Christyn. “I thought you didn’t like me.”

“I don’t not like you, I hardly even know you! It’s just…” Sophie sighed. “Money’s been tight lately, and in the three years I’ve worked here, this is our slowest season yet. I really wanted to get trained on the bar to make a couple extra bucks, and when they put you back there...well, I lashed out. And I’m sorry. You’re actually a pretty good bartender. Not like those two idiots. Scott gets so many guest complaints, and as for Damian...I don’t even know what’s wrong with him, he’s just so fucking dumb. When he first started here, I told him one of our sidework duties was to rotate the air in the walk-in cooler, and he actually did it! With a big plastic trash bag! He still does it every Thursday before close, because that’s when it’s ‘his turn.’”

That gave Christyn a diabolical idea.

Outside, Damian knocked on the door. “Christyn, please talk to me. I’ll split the money with you if you want. I’ll do anything!”

Anything, huh?

Oh, he was going to regret that offer.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
On Saturday, she was scheduled to work behind the bar for lunch and on the floor for dinner. Damian was a double, too, having picked up for Lucinda, so Christyn would have all day to exact her vendetta.

She waited until 9:00, when Chance dismissed the host and cut the floor down to the closer. Just as Damian was starting on wiping the menus, Christyn spilled a whole carafe of iced tea on the floor. Some of it got behind the bar, and a bit of it flowed underneath the double doors and into the kitchen. Christyn apologized profusely to Javier and the cooks, blaming it on her ‘shaky withdrawal hands,’ and, just as she had planned him to, Damian came over with a squeegee from the mop closet and set to work helping her. “Here, I got it. You’re not still mad at me, are you? Please don’t still be mad at me…”

“What, about the bet? I’m over it,” she said. She took the squeegee out of his hands. “Give me that, though, you’ll never get it clean like that. This needs a quick sharpen, I think Chance said last month we lent the squeegee sharpener to O’Brien’s Pub up the street. I’m just gonna go down there real quick. Can you finish my last table for me? My code for the POS is 2002.”

Now, Damian had been doing an atrocious job of cleaning the floor, but that had everything to do with the fact that he somehow didn’t seem to know he was supposed to push the liquid down into the drain behind the bar, and nothing to do with the supposed ‘dullness' of the squeegee, but she had introduced the concept of a ‘squeegee sharpener’ with such a straight face that he ate it right up.

Eager to get back into her good graces, he said, “You stay here, I’ll get it. You said you need a squeegee sharpener, right?”

He started to take out his car keys, and she added, “They don’t have parking there, so you’re going to have to walk. It’s only about five minutes up the road in the direction of the beltway. Again, it’s called O’Brien’s Pub.” She wrote that down for him on a scrap of receipt paper and sent him on his way.

She had just finished mopping up the floor herself when the phone rang up at the host stand. The caller ID said O’Brien’s, so she had an inkling of what this was about when she picked it up. “Thank you for calling the Capital Cafe, this is Christyn speaking, how may I help you?”

The bartender on the other end of the line was laughing. “Yeah, the guy you sent into my bar looking for a ‘squeegee sharpener,’ do you need him back anytime soon or can I have a little fun with him?”

“No, he’s cut. And he's been a bad boy. Fuck with him all you want.”

“Alright, great, I’m sending him to the Sapphire Lounge.”

This happened a couple more times. Christyn finished out her table and completed her sidework along with Damian’s, occasionally pausing to answer the phone and talk to a bartender who wanted to know what was the worst they were allowed to do to the guy. Soon Sophie, Scott, and Javier gathered around the host stand to listen in on what she was doing, and Christyn started putting each call on speaker so they could all laugh at her prank unfolding. At about half past nine, it began to rain, hard.

Five minutes before close, Damian came back, shivering and miserable and smelling like wet hair gel, with his clothes soaked to his skin. “Nobody had it,” he said, defeated. “What kind of neighborhood is this, with all these bars and only one squeegee sharpener that everybody borrows and then lends out to the next guy and no one gives back? And why are we all watching the phone?”

At that point, Christyn decided she might as well come clean, since it didn’t look like it was going to click: “There’s no such thing as a squeegee sharpener.”

His mouth formed a little o of shock. “You tricked me?”

“You’re not mad, are you? After all, we’re even now.”

On Sunday, Damian didn’t show up for work. By Monday, he was still missing. Chance filled in at the host stand for lunch. “Did Damian quit because of me?” she asked before opening. She had cooled down since the day she learned about the bet and she suddenly felt terrible. She’d only meant to mildly embarrass him, the way he’d done to her. She hoped she hadn’t seriously hurt his pride…

“What, because you ran him all over town looking for something that doesn’t exist? Nah, but dick move, though, and I don’t even like the guy. I wasn’t going to say anything, but apparently nobody else has any discretion around here, so I might as well tell you, if it’ll assuage your guilty conscience: he called the store yesterday morning to tell me he’s in jail.”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
FOUR

What happened, according to Chance, was this: on Saturday night, the HPD received an anonymous tip about a reckless, possibly intoxicated driver in a car matching Damian’s car’s description a few blocks away from the restaurant. He was pulled over, and when the apprehending officer ran his ID, it came back with open warrants and a missed court date.

“It was only a matter of time,” Chance remarked, and if Christyn was bitter about his continued contempt for Damian even at his lowest of lows, she held her tongue. She had work to do.

The shifts at the Capital were hit or miss, mostly miss. Occasionally, they would be swamped, but more often than not, they were so slow Christyn could practically hear crickets. However, the events of the next few days soon made her grateful for the slow days.

First, Javier no-call no-showed one night, necessitating Christyn to stay for the double when she was supposed to have gotten off. That night, the restaurant got packed--too packed, in fact, for them to keep Christyn in the bar and Sophie on the floor. For a while, they were both all over the place, but Sophie struggled to try and help Christyn make drinks, until Christyn figured out that if she let Sophie greet all the tables and ring up orders, and came in behind to run food and bust out drinks on the well, service would run much more smoothly and efficiently. At the end of the night, they split all the tips down the middle and each walked with a respectable $300 and change, but boy, were they exhausted.

The next morning, Javier showed up to explain himself, only to find that Damian’s insistence on Chance checking the camera footage in defense of Christyn’s competence had come back to haunt the restaurant: while Dave had gotten off with a warning, Chance had become much more diligent in monitoring the behavior of his employees.

The argument in the office was so loud that Christyn could hear it from the host stand, where she started each day now by doing Damian’s sidework in his absence.

“...Trusted you, I vouched for you, and here you are drinking the whole damn inventory under my nose while the owners come after my blood about why so much liquor is missing from sales!”

“Fuck you, man! I’m the reason this trash restaurant even has what business it has! People come to see me!”

“Well then, they can go see your drunk ass somewhere else, because you’re no longer welcome in my building! And you have the nerve to spread rumors about Christyn, well, I tell you what, at least she’s trying her best!”

After Javier was dismissed, Chance didn’t speak to anyone for hours, holed up in the office on his computer. Christyn wondered if now would be a good time to suggest having Sophie finally trained for the bar, but Sophie never showed up for work. As it would turn out, Chance saw her on camera shorting the register the night Christyn worked the line and the well, and when he texted her to confront her about it, she disappeared off the face of the planet.

The next morning, Chance pulled Christyn into his office. “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he began, “and given your personal battles with alcoholism right now, I completely understand if you don’t want to take me up on this offer. But I need a bar manager, and after what’s transpired with half my staff, I can’t trust anyone right now, and rather than bring in somebody I don’t know, I’d much rather give the position to the one remaining employee I have who hasn’t done any delinquent shit on tape. So, what do you say?”

“I’ll do it,” said Christyn at once, “on one condition.”

“I can’t fire Dave.”

“I wasn’t going to ask you to.” Sure, he had spent every shift Christyn was forced to work with him sharking her tables, gossiping to his regulars that she was ‘slow' and ‘sloppy' and ‘didn't know how to serve,’ and generally fucking with her money. But every time, she was just too exhausted to do anything about it, and besides, with the restaurant running with such a lean staff, she knew she’d get plenty of hours without him and she wasn’t worried about her pocketbook. She had some money tucked away in savings, too.

No, there was something else she wanted from Chance, and she knew she had leverage enough to get it right now. He couldn’t afford to lose her.

“When Damian gets out of jail,” she said, “I want you to give him his job back.”

Chance stared at her, deadpan. “Why do you like him so much?”

“Why do you not?”

Chance sighed. Stood. Began to pace his office wall to wall. “Tell you the truth, when I was his age, I was a lot like him. Directionless and reckless, and probably by volume more drugs than plasma. When I was nineteen, a case worker told me if I kept on down that path, I wouldn't see twenty. Now, I managed to snap out of it. I’m twenty-three now, and this guy? He’s not even trying.”

“Say that again,” said Christyn, “and watch me walk out that front door.”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
“And then I threatened to quit, and the look on his face, that’s when I knew I had him in the bag.”

“Look at you, being assertive!”

It was Christyn, Auralee, and Carolaine cruising down Bellaire Blvd en route to the nearest Comerica Bank branch, Auralee being Christyn’s friend and former manager from the only previous workplace at which she’d worked behind a bar, Carolaine being the name Christyn had given to her two-door Fiat. “Now, if you could only assert yourself like that on the road. Seriously, Chrissy, you drive like my dead grandma.”

“Hey, one of us has to be the cautious driver, and it sure as hell ain’t your post-op ass.”

Auralee needed a ride to the bank because her personal valet had the day off and she needed to withdraw $3000 cash to buy a secondhand car from her neighbor after wrecking her Oldsmobile. See, a while back, her family had pressured her into bariatric surgery. Anymore, she was about a third of her original size, but she still drank like she was a three-hundred-and-someodd pound girl with a fully intact digestive tract, which rendered her drunk-drunk and made her liable to do stupid things, like leave bars in her own car and crash head-on into brick walls.

Auralee couldn’t go to a dealership because her license was suspended.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sit there on your moralistic high horse, but I’m gonna be pissed at you when the bank is closed by the time we get there.”

Christyn took a cigarette out and lit up at a stoplight; Auralee bummed one without asking and said, “Anyway, sounds like you’re really smitten with this Damian guy. Good for you, I hope he gets out of the lockup soon. I never liked Jesse for you.”

Christyn choked on her smoke. “Excuse me! Jesse and I are very much in love! Damian is just a friend from work.”

“For whom you’ve just stuck out your neck.”

“Over a table waiting gig. There are a million restaurants in the city that’d be lucky to have me.”

“Look, all I’m saying is, if you and Jesse are so in love, how come you left him alone and let me drag you to Galveston for a month?”

On their way into Galveston, Auralee had been drifting all over the freeway, making the whole car rattle as she rode the tires against the reflectors built into the road, eyes on her phone screen as she changed playlists and checked her social media. On their way out, she’d run straight through a red light, gotten mortally offended when someone almost T-boned her from the right, smacked the horn at full force, and shouted, “Stupid hoe!” And then, “Man, I wish I had a gun!” Trapped in the passenger’s seat, Christyn wondered that day if she was about to see her father again.

After she lost her job at the BBQ, it had been Auralee who suggested they get out of town for a while, and Christyn went along because she knew every moment she stuck around at home jobless was another moment Jesse could use to get into her head and convince her to leave the industry. That whole trip, she’d lurked on job search websites on her phone.

“I went because you’re my best friend and I have trouble saying no to you.”

“Then listen to me now, and break up with your boyfriend.”

“Why do you have it out for him so bad?”

“All I’m saying is, that whole month, you never even seemed like you missed him. Not like you miss your coworker.”

“Jesse was never in jail! He was a text away and I knew he’d be there when I got back.”

The light changed, and Christyn took a slow turn into the bank parking lot. “Finally,” said Auralee. “Thought we weren’t gonna make it.”

“Hey, you’d be careful with your car too if you’d once been forced to live in it.”

Auralee blinked. “When did you ever live in your car?”

“When we first met? Don’t you remember?”

Christyn had been barbacking for Auralee for a few weeks when Auralee found out she was homeless, and it had turned into a whole big thing. She had begged Christyn to stay with her at her lavish penthouse suite, but Christyn refused, insisting that she couldn’t impose. Then she’d written Christyn a check for 15 grand, but Christyn refused to cash it. In the end, she wrote a letter to a potential landlord stating that as Christyn’s manager, she could certify that her income would be sufficient to cover the rent, and signed as her guarantor as well, since that was the only form of help Christyn would accept.

And now, years after the fact, she had absolutely no memory of those days.

Well, she did drink...a lot.

And maybe that’s why Christyn was still with Jesse. Why she let him make her call him Master and hit her in the face. Why she let him mold her into a person who liked these things. Once upon a time, that face thing had been a hard limit for her, but he had a way of getting under her defenses, and she was glad he had, in the end, for all the good he’d done her.

How they met was this: she’d run into him at the Renaissance Faire after her friends all abandoned her drunk ass to get lost on the grounds. He mercifully took her in, even took her back to his place to take care of her. He’d been dressed as a knight, which was fitting. She didn’t remember what she’d come as.

She didn’t know how much of her life she’d lost to being in a drunken stupor.

But thank God for Jesse to drop into her life and decide that what was left of her was worth preserving, because in the end, no matter how much money she had in the bank, her mind was all she had.

And maybe Christyn chose that moment, in that parking lot, to come clean to Auralee about the brainwashing, so that her oldest friend would finally understand and hopefully cut Jesse a little slack. Maybe hearing Christyn explain it would inspire Auralee to clean her own life up.

Or maybe they just wouldn’t talk at all on the car ride back to Auralee’s.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
As it turned out, Christyn had a real aptitude for this bar manager thing.

Her first day in management, she took it upon herself to dust down the neglected liquor shelves and rearrange all the bottles in a way that made some form of coherent sense. Javier had to have known his bar was a mess--bottles shoved any old place with no regard to category or quality, vodkas next to liqueurs next to cognacs next to cream-based mixers that really should have been in the fridge, all on top of sticky juice and booze stains that must have been months old. She had only worked with Javier for a few shifts, but from what she could discern, he was a smart guy and a good bartender--he had credentials from bartending school, which she did not, and it was even boasted on the Capital’s website that he was a sommelier. She guessed he was just too lazy, checked-out, or drunk to ever tidy up his work area. To an extent, she found that relatable: her own apartment was a mess. But she’d clean it up in a jiffy if she was paid to maintain it.

After giving the bar a deep-clean, she went exploring and found a treasure trove of unused glassware in the back, along with a small cooler with a window in front that would fit perfectly on the back-bar area beside the cappuccino machine. After hauling the cooler out of storage and getting it up and running, she made a run to the store next door for some supplies and came back to make a batch of Jello shots to fill it up.

(Damian used to ask her every time why she always walked to the store when she had a perfectly running car; she used to find it irritating to have to explain to him again and again that it was faster to just walk across the street, but now, she missed his dumb questions, along with all his other little quirks she used to find annoying, or strange, like how he took his sweet tea with two creamers and drank enough of the stuff to make Christyn have to boil more simple syrup in the middle of a rush, and the smell of the product in his hair that probably cost more than everything she put on her whole face put together.)

The Jello shots sold out within two shifts. Meanwhile, Christyn started working on a new signature cocktail list, and as guests watched her experiment on the well, they grew interested, and more often than not, offered to buy her experimental cocktails before she even decided on a final version. Chance had to confess himself impressed.

He really got to witness her perform under pressure when she was surprised in the mid-shift by a visit from a wine rep.

The rep was maybe in his fifties, tanned and big-toothed with a shock of bright blond hair that looked too yellow for his complexion, like maybe he’d dyed it that color to hide that it was going white. He had a briefcase full of papers and a messenger bag full of bottles and a vigorous handshake, almost too vigorous--as he reached across the bar and grab Christyn’s hand, introducing himself as Ralph Cunningham from Sundance Wine and Liquor Distribution, she felt almost lifted off the ground.

“You must be the new Somme whose name I’ve seen on the website! Christine, was it?”

Calm and collected on the outside, but with her stomach in knots, she feigned as best as she could, “Ah, yes! Yes, yes, yes. Give me one moment to speak to my manager.” She let herself into Chance’s office, closed the door, and said, “Did you go on the website, erase Javier’s name and then put mine on his old byline?” And, for good measure, “Then did you spell it wrong?”

She told him who had come calling, and his face went white. “No, no, no. The owner will not be happy about this...Christyn, just go out and talk to him, but under no circumstances are you to agree to buy anything.”

When she returned to the bar, it was with a hefty dollop of dread concealed underneath her smile. “What can I do you for, Mr. Cunningham?” she asked, but she already had an idea. If he was here to sell her something…

“I’d just like to sample you on a few of our wines for your consideration this upcoming fall, if that’s alright?”

Just the thought of alcohol entering her system loosened the knots she didn’t know she’d worked up in her shoulders and back. She’d been doing fine all day, but now, every nerve ending in her body was screaming, GIVE IT TO ME!

And, if she lost control today, it wasn’t just her own job that was on the line.

Suddenly, she had an idea. “What a lovely surprise! That sounds delightful,” she said, and produced two glasses from the rack under the bar. “But won’t you join me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m sure you already know your product well...but it never hurts to refresh the palate so you can better tell me about your wines. Besides, it’s miserable to drink alone.”

She thought if she insisted he sample with her, he might go easy on her. After all, he’d come in his own car, and probably had another meeting to drive to after this one.

She was wrong.

The first wine he had for her to try was a pink sparkling consisting of 80% prosecco and 20% pinot noir. He poured them each nearly a third of a glass. She looked into his case and saw that after this one, there were still five more wines to go.

Jesse was always good for talking her down from unexpected temptation...but he was a text message away, and her texting hand was occupied scribbling down tasting notes about wines she was under strict instructions not to order, and this rep was in her ear spouting sentences of absolutely ultraviolet prose about all the ways the wine was supposed to taste, and there was no time or room for her to call for an intervention, and the first sip tasted like lemon-lime soda because she’d just been drinking lemon-lime soda before Ralph from Sundance Wine and Liquor Whatever walked into the restaurant, but it still sent an electric buzz all the way up and down her skin. The second sip tasted more like a wine should taste, and the third sip, Lord have mercy, that was where it was at.

Ralph What's-His-Name had already finished his first pour and was opening bottle #2, and Christyn realized that if she was going to make it through this meeting, she couldn’t rely on anyone else for self-control. Thinking on her feet, she palmed the bottom half of a martini shaker off the back bar and poured what remained of her glass of bubbly inside.

This process went on for each of Mr. Wine Rep’s samples. Three tiny sips, and then she’d dump it in the dump cup. It was a battle, not picking up the whole damn cup of booze and draining it in one pull...but Damian was sitting in the county clink and depending on her.

At last, the meeting came to an end. “Well, I’ve had a wonderful time with you this afternoon, Mr. Cunningham,” said Christyn as she prepared to bid him adieu. “Unfortunately, I have a lot of back stock to sell through right now before I can get any new product onto my shelves, but I’d like to get in contact as soon as possible to talk about stocking some of these wines, especially the sparkling and that first cabernet. In fact, if you’d be so kind as to put your number in my phone, that way we’ll have a direct line to one another?”

As he left, Christyn could have sworn she saw him stumble and almost trip out the door, but who was she to judge? It was a struggle for her to dump the martini shaker full of a no-doubt disgusting mix of white-and-red-wine-with-probably-a-dash-of-her-own-saliva into the bar sink. “You handled that really well,” said Chance.

She shrugged, a modest smile tugging at her lips. “I’ve dranken a lot of wine in my day.” It was probably her second favorite type of alcohol, after vodka. “I know a good one. And his stuff was good, but not mind-blowing. And he wanted to wholesale us some of those bottles at $12 a pop! I can find better bottles at the grocery store for cheaper if I look hard enough. Also, he could have spared me the bullshit about ‘notes of pine and elderberry’ or whatever.”

Once, while she was working at Common Table, her GM had invited a wine rep to host a wine education seminar for the servers. Christyn had gotten in so much trouble that day after the rep asked her what fruit notes she could taste on one of the samples of pinot noir, and she decided to be a smartass and say, “grape.”

“When you taste a wine, all you’re tasting is the grape, the soil it was grown in, and the barrel it was aged in, if it was even aged in wood, quite a few whites are done in steel. But I guess some people will say anything to make a sale.”

“Javier probably would have gone over my head and ordered two crates of everything. I’m so glad we’ve got someone like you on board.” His smile faltered, and he went on, “That’s why I hate to have to tell you…”

“Is there something wrong?”

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to break the news all day. Your, uh…” He handed her an envelope. “Your paycheck...looked light to me. I called the owner to ask why you haven’t been given a real salary, and he said that officially speaking, I don’t have the power to promote, and that in his eyes, you’re not a ‘real manager,’ just another server with some extra responsibilities, and as such, he’s keeping you on 2.13 and tips.”

“Huh,” was all she said as she tucked the envelope into her apron pocket. She’d forgotten it was even payday.

“I’m sorry, Christyn. You deserve better.”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
When Christyn got home from work, Jesse swung by for a spot of coffee and some rough sex. Christyn didn’t own a coffee maker, but he said he liked the instant coffee she made on the stove, with sweetened condensed milk instead of creamer and a little bit of cinnamon and cloves.

Then, suddenly, she was back at work the next morning, and she wasn’t sure what happened after Jesse left.

It wasn’t that she had a gap in her memory of the previous night...quite the opposite, in fact. She remembered two different versions of the events, and she wasn’t sure which of her memories were accurate.

In the first version, she went to bed dry, and spent hours under the sheets quaking and sobbing with cold sweats and stomach cramps from alcohol cravings, on top of anxiety attacks about what Damian must be going through, until the pain and exhaustion of it all knocked her into a deep sleep.

In the second version, she cracked into the vodka stash, took shots until the room spun, and somehow managed to get herself cleaned up and clocked in on time despite having woken up in the closet covered in piss and vomit.

***

She was in the office one morning, finalizing her list of seasonal cocktail specials on the work computer, when Chance came in and said, “There’s someone at the host stand who says she’s ‘here to return the squeegee sharpener’? I assume that means you know her.”

Of course, Christyn hadn’t thought of that prank on her own. The old ‘squeegee sharpener’ was a timeless one among servers and bartenders, but she’d never forget where she’d first heard it from.

“Auralee!” She flew out of her chair and threw open the office door, and it was a good thing she was wearing non-slip shoes because the sprint she did to the host stand could have knocked her flat on her back with one misstep otherwise. Auralee was slouched over the host stand, wearing sunglasses and chewing gum. She smelled like expensive perfume and liquor. “Come to apologize for a week of radio silence, have we?”

Auralee’s voice was hoarse when she replied. “You know, I went home, and I played out this whole argument between us while I was in the shower…”

She imagined herself telling Christyn what a fucked-up thing it was to let a man control her mind itself, and Christyn replying with ‘some schtick’ about how it ‘wasn't her mind anymore, but Master’s property’ (Christyn had to stop her here and laugh, because that really did sound like her), and then she imagined Christyn asking if what she was doing in her relationship was any different than what any restaurant employee went through with her boss, and came to a stunning conclusion.

“I guess I’ve just been on Jesse’s case because I’m...jealous?” she confessed. “I miss the days when you were mine. My impressionable little barback…thinking about it, we probably all brainwash each other a little in the restaurant industry. Us managers being some of the worst culprits. Christyn? Christyn, talk to me...what’s that grin for?”

***

Damian returned on a Tuesday, at his usual scheduled time. Christyn had already been there since before Chance arrived to unlock the doors. Everything was already set up, so she was manning the host stand when he walked in. She practically knocked it over on her way to hug him.

He was a mess. His shirt was wrinkled, his eyes were bloodshot, and he smelled like someone had dumped a whole gallon of cheap detergent on him. He was painfully thin, and she almost cried feeling the ribs in his back through the fabric of his shirt.

She imagined she must be a mess, too; work had been Hell without him. It had only been two weeks, but it felt like a hundred million years. She never wanted to let go…

But then he choked out something that sounded like “Too tight” and “Can’t breathe,” and she finally stepped back.

Again, she almost broke down. When he looked down into her eyes, his own looked hollow, and she had to stare at the floor. Him and those death-camp cheekbones. The smile that looked forced for her benefit.

“Missed you too, Chrissy,” he said.

“You’re gonna be okay,” she promised him.

“How do you know?”

“You just have to trust me. Like I told you before, I got you.”
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
FIVE

She was wearing a red checkered shirt and khakis under one of those white chef aprons. “Did we have a uniform change?” asked Damian, once he had full control of his lungs back. Christyn had a strong grip.

“Actually, I, uh...I’m a manager now,” said Christyn.

“That’s amazing!”

It also explained a lot.

When he was released, he had a handful of texts waiting for him from Chance, telling him he was free to come back to work at his earliest convenience. He knew full well Chance didn’t want him around.

“You got me my job back, didn’t you?”

She grinned sheepishly. “I may have pulled some strings.”

“I guess I owe you one, then.” As frustrated as he could get with this job, it was going to be hard for him to find another one. They’d held him as long as they could in county, but he still had an upcoming court date and charges pending. “So, what do you want to make me do, Boss?”

“For now, just relax. Take a seat at table 4, if you want. We still have about 20 minutes ‘til open, and you’ve been through a rough ordeal.”

He sat, then stood up again and paced for a while before sitting back down. She joined him a few minutes later, taking the seat across from him and setting down a huge plate of scrambled eggs and tortillas. “This manager thing has its perks,” she said. “Free food, for one thing. Although, I’m pretty sure that cook plated me extra. I think he has a crush on me. You want some?”

He wasn’t going to take her up on the offer. She’d already done enough for him. But the smell wafted towards him, and after two weeks of eating nothing but watery grits that tasted exactly how he imagined liquid drywall must taste, he could no longer resist. He started making himself a taco, and Christyn reached across the table to nudge more eggs into his tortilla. “Don’t be shy, there’s no way I’m going to finish all this.”

He watched her hands. Her manicure looked fresh. It was pretty. She looked tired, but otherwise happy. “You’re not shaking anymore,” he noticed.

“Oh, the withdrawals come and go. I think it has a lot to do with anxiety. I was damn near in convulsions yesterday. I feel a lot better today.”

“What happened today?”

“I got my friend back.”

It was like a warm fist closed around his heart.

He demolished his scrambled egg taco in three bites; he knew the eggs were prepared in big batches without any seasoning, but after what he’d been through, Christyn’s little offering was as good as any meal in a 5-star steakhouse. And, with her sitting in the booth across from him, bringing him up to speed on everything he’d missed at the restaurant--the drama, the schedule changes, the firings--it was almost like being on a fancy brunch date. “Do you still have a boyfriend?” he asked. She just nodded.

“If I offer you another egg taco, are you going to spread conspiracy theories all over the restaurant that I’m trying to fatten you up?”

“Are you kidding me? I’m just happy to be off the damn Jail Diet.”

Actually, he meant to offer her a more thorough apology for the accusations he’d made about her sex life before his little mandatory vacation. See, while he was in jail, he’d read this old book called Crash. It was all about these people who got off on getting into car accidents, and while he was reading, something about the idea of doing something generally considered self-destructive (to put it mildly) and horrifying (to be blunt) had resonated with him. He’d also had a rather explicit dream about Christyn in there, and had to confront the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he hadn’t ever suspected her of being into some weird shit, so much as hoped she was, because he didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t really want to talk about it, but at the same time, the thought was there, banging in the back of his mind to be unpacked…

But before he could say anything, the restaurant opened and the first table arrived at the door to be sat and he lost his train of thought. After that, it was another slow morning, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what he’d been thinking about.

As his shift drew to a close, she came up to the host stand on her break to help him with the little sidework he had--wiping down menus, cleaning the door, minutia. While she took the work right out of his hands, he took a minute to wander around the restaurant, if only to stretch his legs before the long car ride back to the far Southwest. The bar looked nicer, more organized. He wanted to ask Christyn about what all was in the bottles, but then it was his time, and Chance snapped at him to get off the clock.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Over the next few days, Damian found himself spending as much of his downtime as he could lingering behind the bar with Christyn, and not just because she hooked him up with free food, or helped him with his cleaning duties, or even because Chance tended to go easier on him when she was close by. Of course, none of that stuff discouraged him from hanging around, but the more time he spent with her, the more he found her presence not only comforting, but interesting.

She knew all the regulars by name, along with their drink orders, and while Damian attempted to commit them to memory so he could help her be prepared when they walked in the door, none of them really stuck for him. She knew all the common grocery store items that were particularly good sources of potassium or magnesium, which, she explained, got depleted from the body as a symptom of long-term alcohol abuse, and usually returned from her walk to the store on her midmorning break with a bag full of sports drinks, coconut water, and bananas. She knew a few remedies for withdrawals, too, notably chocolate and Valium, though she preferred to stick to chocolate because the last thing she needed was a Valium addiction on top of everything. She knew how to split checks in her head, how to pair wine with entrees, and how to mend a set of work slacks with a needle and thread when the hem fell out at the bottom. She claimed she knew how to make a bird explode in the parking lot outside by the dumpsters (just feed it some rice, their bodies can’t process it)--although he hadn’t gotten to see that demonstration. He’d dared her to do it in front of him after she shared that little factoid with him one day, and she’d almost gone through with it, but he stopped her at the last second. He didn’t care if she was telling the truth or not; he realized he didn’t want to be the one to make her harm a living thing.

More or less, she kept him in constant awe with her knowledge of everything related to food and alcohol. “How long have you been working in restaurants?” he asked her one afternoon after the surprisingly heavy rush from lunch had died.

“Not a restaurant exactly, but I started as a barback at a bowling alley when I was sixteen, so, eight years?” she replied. “I wasn’t even old enough to legally pour, but Auralee didn’t care.”

“Who?”

“The bar manager at the bowling alley. She’s still the bar manager over there, I just spoke to her the other day when she swung by.”

“What, are you guys best friends or something?”

“Pretty much.”

Why did that make him jealous?

He wanted to ask what a barback was, but about then was his scheduled out time, and he knew better than to milk the clock on Chance’s watch. Besides, he had a good bowl of green waiting for him in the car. Before he clocked out, he asked her, “Do you want to smoke some weed?” But she politely declined.

***

Hit or miss, hit or miss. That was the name of the game at the Capital. The 14 of April, it had rained, and lunch had been so dead that Damian and Christyn spent the whole time yakking at the front of the restaurant and eating candy out of the bowl on the host stand meant for the guests. (He learned that the cinnamon ones were her favorite and pretended not to like them so that she would feel free to take as many as she wanted off his hands.) On the 15th, the weather was beautiful, and it was Saturday, so the restaurant was running a special for brunch with unlimited refills on mimosas and sangria, whatever those were. Families came out in droves to the neighboring outdoor shopping center, and, not long afterward, the Capital Cafe.

By noon, every table was sat, and people were still lining up outside the door. Service was quickly turning into a disaster; with only Scott on the floor and Christyn behind the bar, it was impossible to get all of the orders taken fast enough, and still, more people were clamoring to be sat. Damian was overwhelmed; he didn’t know what to tell people and almost choked from anxiety in front of a party of four…

“Right behind, buddy.” Christyn’s soft voice was his only warning before she came out of nowhere and laid a pad and pen down on the table. “It’s going to be about a fifteen minute wait for a table for four,” she said brightly to the family. “Can I get a last name?”

She jotted down the last name while he stood aside, in awe of her confidence. “How do you know it’s fifteen minutes?”

“I have a four-top that just ordered dessert; it should land in a couple of minutes and then I’ll drop the check...fifteen minutes is more than enough time for them to clear off,” she said, but that must have been for the benefit of the people who were now on a fifteen-minute wait, because while she spoke, she wrote on the pad in front of him, I really don’t.

She returned to the bar, where he could see that she was slammed with work to do--’in the weeds,’ as they said in the industry. Between building drink orders for Scott’s tickets and juicing oranges for the ever-incoming Mimosa orders from the crowd, she was beginning to look a little out of breath. But still, she smiled, serving her customers with as much of a bounce in her step as she could muster. Fuck, she had such a pretty smile. He wished he could jump behind the bar and help her...but he knew nothing about making drinks.

So he did his best to keep service running through the rush. He watched the floor, took names and quoted wait times, trying to estimate for the next guest when a table would open up, but when he wasn’t sure, he tried to imitate Christyn’s level of self-assuredness as he made up a number. Then, at last, the rush broke, and he was about to go to the bar to check in with her, see if she needed anything, but she beat him to the punch, coming up behind him at the host stand to ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I’m actually good...what about you?”

“If you want to polish my glassware, it would save my life right now.”

Eager to be of service, he retrieved a rack of glasses from the dish pit and set to work. He was starting to get a little tired, so he popped half an Adderall he’d gotten from a neighbor and soon he had three racks of glasses dried and put away in impressive time. Feeling a burst of energy, he wiped down each table as guests began to pay their bills and leave, and for good measure, he swept behind the bar and gave a spot-sweep to the area underneath the tables, too. He left the silverware to Christyn, who did a better job of rolling it into napkins than he could hope to do himself. Broom in hand, he asked her, “What do you want me to do next?”

“You’ve already done all the work in the place, silly goose! Take a break. What do you want to eat?”

She rung him up a cheeseburger on her tab, but he wasn’t hungry enough to much more than pick at it, so he cut it in half and offered her the untouched part, but she said she didn’t eat meat anymore on account of some of the things she’d seen in the kitchen at the bowling alley, so he put the whole thing in a box. Then, she printed up a report of the day’s sales, crunched some numbers with a pad and pen, counted out eighteen dollars out of a pocket in her server book, and tucked it into the front pocket of his shirt. “What’s this for?” he asked.

“It’s standard in the industry to tip out the barback. I like to tip out 2% of sales, rather than a percentage of tips, that way you don’t lose out even if someone leaves me a shitty tip. Thanks for all your help this morning.” She smiled this glowing smile that made him wish he could stay frozen in that moment if only to get to look at her forever. Alternatively, he wished he could take her pants off and bend her over one of the barstools, but that was probably the Adderall talking. Control yourself, she has a boyfriend…

“Christyn, a word in my office?” Chance had come up behind Christyn, and he didn’t look happy.

Damian lingered by the office door to overhear the conversation between the two managers. “Christyn, I’m a little concerned. I called Dave in this morning, but he never showed up, and I was just on the phone with him and learned you called him off?”

“You’re the one who gave me a managerial position; do you want me to manage or not? We were handling it fine, Scott and me, and Damian was a great help.”

“About that...I saw you on the camera slipping him some money. I sure hope you’re not bribing him for preferential seating…”

“That was his tipout, I’ve decided to appoint him as my barback since he likes helping out on the floor so much.”

“Did I give you promotion power?”

“It’s not so much a promotion as a lateral move.”

They spoke some more in hushed tones; Damian couldn’t make out what they were saying, but he hoped Christyn wasn’t about to lose her job. If she did, he would surely be next.

When she exited the office, letting the door fall shut behind her while Chance called after her, “You’re an excellent bartender, Christyn. Just don’t let the power go to your head!” she looked irritated, but not distressed. It appeared she was safe, and by extension, so was Damian.

“I wasn’t spying on you guys--”

“Who said you were?” She smiled and gave him a long look that he wasn’t sure how to interpret.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
The next day, Damian came in ready to help Christyn with whatever she needed behind the bar in what downtime he could spend away from the host stand. He popped the rest of that Adderall and started the shift off strong. However, by the time the lunch rush was in full swing, he felt himself starting to crash, and it didn’t escape Christyn’s notice. She sat him down in a vacant back booth for a break and attended to him like one of her guests, bringing him a ginger ale from the bar cooler and periodically checking on him. Finally, when he was well enough to stand without a head rush, she put him back to work.

The following week went more smoothly. He didn’t pop anything on the clock and instead focused on using the energy he could muster up naturally to do what work could be done, and take a leaf out of Christyn’s book to not let the weeds visibly shake his composure. As she was letting him off shift the day before the new schedule was posted, she gave him another one of her long looks. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing, you look nice, is all.”

He felt his cheeks go hot.

“Are you saying that because I picked up a few pounds?” He couldn’t resist asking. He’d had to loose a belt notch earlier in the week; it couldn’t be avoided while coming off the Addy. It didn’t help either that Christyn kept hooking him up with free lunch. He was trying to be good and refrain from putting her on the spot, but it was hard to ignore the special attention she continued to pay all the larger men who came into the restaurant, occasionally among them that boyfriend of hers who must have been close to 300 pounds. On top of that, he had to contend with the erotic thrill he got whenever she brought him his meal along with some encouraging words in sweet tones: Eat up, dude, they have you on a double today and you’ll need your strength.

He kept thinking about the day when he came back to work and she almost hugged the life out of him. Her body was solid and compact at its core, with surprising strength for a female, but her arms were soft past the impressive biceps, and so was her stomach and her prominent chest. He could only imagine how squeezable her ass was, all round and juicy under her work pants, which fit appropriately down the leg but were tight where it mattered. A part of him fantasized about having her sit in his lap and spoon-feed him, over the course of several days until he was just as deliciously soft as she was, and that same part of him was compelled to tease her, since he couldn’t have her.

This time, she didn’t deny anything, just shrugged. “You needed it. It’s nice to see you making a recovery from county. And you’ve put on some muscle tone, too, probably from doing all my heavy lifting. You’re starting to develop a sick set of guns, dude!” She pinched his arm and he tensed up, wanting to try and flex for her, but the moment was over, and there she was, laughing. “Paloma’s noticed, too. She keeps poking her head out the kitchen to check you out.”

“Who’s Paloma?”

“The girl that makes the salad.”

To get his mind off of his bar manager, Damian decided to ask out the salad girl. She was a year older than him and didn’t speak much English, but she understood enough to agree to go to the movies with him. Once they arrived, though, he realized all he had to his name until payday was what his barback tipout from Christyn earlier that day, all of $15. (He still wasn’t entirely clear on what a ‘barback' actually was; every time he meant to ask her, it slipped his mind, but he figured it to be the title given to the bartender’s assistant.)

Tickets were $13 a pop, so the salad girl paid, and despite his insistence that he buy the popcorn, she bought that too out of pity. It was cold in the screening room, and he didn’t say anything, but she must have seen him shivering because she passed him his sweater across the armrest. That night, he went home alone and blew his tipout on a little bit of weed, and in the morning he awoke to find the salad girl had not texted him. The whole experience left him thoroughly emasculated, and of course, Christyn had to ask when he arrived at work, “How was your date?”

“Scott was the closing waiter last night? The bev station is a mess,” was all he said before he set about diligently cleaning.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Damian was shaping up into quite the star employee, Christyn thought to herself as she watched him detail the soda nozzles and scrub the iced tea drum. Good: that meant her plan was working, which was remarkable considering she didn’t have a clue what she was doing.

Jesse had never answered her question about the finer details of how he had accomplished her own brainwashing, so she’d had to put a little guesswork into her efforts with Damian. Thus far, she had been playing a game of imitation. Just as Jesse had given her a new role in life--that of his submissive--and used it to condition her away from her self-destructive habit of constant day drinking, she gave Damian a new job title in the hopes that she could use it to give him a purpose that would motivate him away from whatever patterns of illegal behavior that were getting him in trouble with the law. She looked after him while they were together, built a rapport with him, and made him care about her. Then, when he responded to her distress during the rush with a sense of personal urgency, she got him used to following her orders by making him feel like a hero whenever he did: it was always, Want to save my life right now? before she asked him to complete a task for her, and Thank you so much, you’re a life saver! once he’d done it. And, as Jesse had given Christyn a daily routine (insisting of a mantra she was to repeat upon waking, on the ground by the bed with her head to her knees, stating her devotion to Master, which she never did anymore just to save time, and what Jesse didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him), Damian had his own new routine of opening sidework to complete for her: check the beverage station, polish the glassware, drag the trash cans in from out back and fit them with bags, and write the daily drink specials on the blackboard in front of the restaurant. He was astoundingly good at that last one, with exceptional handwriting for a dude, and he often accompanied his transcriptions with drawings of the drinks in loving detail with the chalk.

There were some aspects of the job he was having more trouble with than others. For example, she’d tried to train him to work the well, but he couldn’t seem to be able to wrap his mind or his hands around the use of a shaker and strainer. He kept trying to strain drinks with the strainer upside down, and making a mess on the back bar as a consequence. He also couldn’t tell a bourbon from a rye, or even a vodka from a gin, even though she could tell he was trying his best.

Cleaning, though, was something at which he developed an exceptional aptitude. From someone who’d fumbled with a squeegee when they first met, he surprised her nowadays with the spotless condition in which he left her bar every shift before asking her if he was dismissed. Unlike herself, he actually seemed to enjoy the acts of scrubbing and polishing things, and often she caught him chipping away at her dirty work with an easy grin on his face, as if shining glassware and dusting mirrors helped reduce his stress.

This morning, however, he appeared to be under a tremendous amount of stress, by the way he was taking it out on the insides of the iced tea drums.

Christyn walked into the kitchen and asserted her managerial authority to plate herself and her barback some breakfast: potatoes, scrambled eggs, a stack of rye toast, and some slices of avocado for them to split, and then, as an afterthought, some bacon on a separate plate, once she remembered that unlike herself, her assistant was not a vegetarian. While she was in there, she decided to strike a casual conversation in Spanish with Paloma and see what was up. Apparently, the movie had been alright. Damian hadn’t been able to pay for tickets, but Paloma didn’t hold that against him. She still found him quite attractive, but was doubtful about any future for them in account of he spoke no Spanish whatsoever.

“I am so sorry,” said Christyn as she brought out breakfast and beckoned Damian over to their usual table. “I would have never told you you date Paloma if I knew you weren’t bilingual.”

“You thought I was bilingual?”

“Your last name is Mendez…”

“I’m only a quarter Mexican and I don’t know that grandpa, give me a break!”

“I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous...but I totally was being presumptuous, and I’m sorry,” she said, shrinking back into the booth. While she picked at her breakfast, he made himself an impressive sandwich out of the spread and devoured it. She found herself grinning at his appetite. She liked to watch him appreciate his food--not in a sexual way, as he might insinuate had he been able to read her mind, but in a way more appropriate to a supervisor regarding her direct subordinate. It was good to see him regaining his health and strength in the weeks following his jail stint. As he put some weight back on, he performed on the clock with more energy, and she had confidence in him not to collapse under the intense workload on a long shift. He could still barely lift a keg of beer three inches onto a rolling cart when she was able to drag the keg all the way to the bar from the far-back walk-in cooler, but he’d get there.

“So, what are your other three quarters?” she asked, trying to make conversation.

“My grandma on my dad’s side is a Black lady, but I’ve never met her either. I think she lives in New York. My mom was white, she was actually a famous supermodel, but that was a long time ago. Maybe you’ve heard of her, Matilda Lam?”

Christyn’s eyes widened. Yes, she recognized the name. Her uncle Chester used to have old swimsuit catalogs featuring spreads of Matilda in protective bags on his bookshelf. According to him, they were worth a lot of money now. Her cousin Brock used to take the magazines and jack off to them when his parents weren’t home.

“Didn’t she get...you know…?”

“Killed, yeah,” said Damian. Christyn hadn't wanted to say it herself, but it had been all over the news when the former supermodel was strangled to death by her husband. “I was too young to remember, but the way my sister tells it, he was acting in self-defense. She says Mom had always been a rager, and one day she attacked him with a knife and the fight got so out of hand that the neighbors called the cops. By the time they got there, she’d been dead for a few minutes, and he tried to explain that it was an accident, he only meant to fight her off, but you know how the cops see it when it’s a dead white lady and an ethnic dude. That’s why I’ll disappear from the floor for a few minutes sometimes. Half the time when I say I’m taking a bathroom break, I’m actually taking a phone call from my dad in prison.”

“Damn...and I thought you just had a weak bladder.”

“Shut the fuck up,” said Damian, but she got a laugh out of him, which is what she had been going for. “Oh, I’m sorry--shut the fuck up, Boss.”

“I deserved that,” she said. “In all seriousness, though, I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“Like I said, I don’t remember. But I’m sure you know how it goes; you said your dad died. Did your mom also…?”

“No, she’s still with us. Just in an institution.”

“I see. That’s why you lived with your aunt?”

She nodded. Somehow it felt natural, opening up to Damian and vice versa. Still, a lump formed in her throat, like it always did when she talked about Mom. “After the cancer took my dad, she became really depressed. There were times when she wouldn’t speak or even leave her bed for days. Then one day, she got up and said we were going for a drive...I was a kid, I didn’t think anything weird was going on. I was just happy to be spending time with her. Only, she drove the car right into Taylor’s Bayou. The paramedic who resuscitated me said I was dead for at least three minutes.”

“Oh my God...I can’t believe you were dead.”

She shrugged. “You pretend you’re over it, until one day you really are.” As she looked into his eyes across the table, she sensed in him a thorough understanding of how she felt, and she was glad she’d decided to fight for his job. It was nice to have a friend around here.
 

stevita

like the pancake
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
225
Location
Texas
Not too long after Christyn and Damian had their chat about their crazy moms, Mother’s Day rolled around, and the restaurant was packed for brunch. Not even thirty minutes into the shift, Christyn pulled Damian from the host stand and pulled Chance from the office to take his place. “If he’s not going to talk to tables like a real manager, the least he can do is seat them while we do the hard part,” she muttered as she walked back behind the bar and started pulling oranges out of the cooler. “Juice these for me, won’t you, my darling? I’m already running low,” she said as she passed them to Damian over the counter. Her little slip brought a grin to his face, even though by now, he knew better than to get his hopes up. That was just how she talked to people in the restaurant ...unless she was mad at them, of course. More than once, he’d caught her calling the cooks and busboys mi Amor; he knew enough Spanish to know what that meant.

But there was no time to dwell on it, as there was work to be done. After he restocked Christyn’s orange juice, he had 24 tables’ worth of used glassware to collect and bring to her so she could wash it behind the bar, the floor kept turning, and right in the middle of the rush, a keg ran out while she was with a customer.

He rolled a fresh one out from the walk-in, and, as she was still busy, figured he’d change it himself. He’d never changed a keg before, but Christyn made it look simple enough...only, he couldn’t get the hose out of the empty keg no matter how hard he yanked on it. He even tried with both hands, but no luck. Eventually, Christyn noticed him struggling (or maybe one of her guests had pointed it out to her, he was getting some odd stares) and came to his rescue. “You have to turn it off and then twist. Here.” She placed her hand over his and guided him through the motions, pulling the handle of the tap hose into an erect position and then twisting counterclockwise.

He flushed red with embarrassment at needing help with something so simple, and hoped he could make up for it by putting in the new keg right, only she insisted, “I’ll take care of it.”

Scared she was losing faith in him, he asked, “Is there anything else you need from me?”

“Yeah, hands on the line to table 5.”

Fuck. He didn’t know what that meant. Usually, he had time to ask Christyn to clarify whenever she slipped into restaurant-ese, but this was the busiest shift he’d ever worked here, and right after replacing the keg, she’d become occupied doing at least three other things at once. So, determined not to screw up twice in a row, Damian went to the kitchen to see if he could figure out this ‘hands on the line’ thing, ‘on the fly,’ as they said in the industry.

There, on the line, was a ticket for table 5: two seats, one house salad, one tomato soup, the salad marked for the lady. Oh, she just needs me to drop her food off at her table, he realized. Why didn’t she just say that? He took the soup and the salad, but the soup must have been sitting under the heat lamp for a while because the bottom of the plate was really hot! He rushed to drop off the order as quickly as possible to get that damn soup out of his hands, and when he was at the table, he got a little flustered--halfway between saying, Be careful, it’s really hot, and, Here’s your soup, Sir, he somehow ended up blurting out, “It’s really soup.”

The forty-something man at the table sitting across from his elderly mother gave him a quizzical look and said, “I should certainly hope so!”

Once again mortified, he retreated into the kitchen and ran some more orders, just for an excuse to step off the dining room floor as frequently as possible, until Christyn crossed his path and pressed something into his hand--a cigarette and lighter. “You’re doing great, buddy. Go take a smoke break, but don’t be too long, because I’m about to need flutes again in a hot second.”

By the time the rush was winding down, Damian was exhausted and ready to collapse in a back booth for a breather, but then, one last table walked through the doors. It was an older woman, maybe in her fifties or sixties, with her two twenty-something sons. The boys were both tall, broad, and built, the older one resembling a former college linebacker while the younger one might actually be a current college linebacker. The woman had a stern look about her, in her gray skirted suit with her hair pulled into a tight, tight bun. Although she was older, thinner, blonder, and just a little shorter, she bore a striking resemblance to someone he knew…

Chance had abandoned the host stand as soon as the rush broke, so despite his fatigue, Damian met the family at the door. “Table for three?” he asked.

“What do you think?” one of the boys asked their mother, while completely ignoring Damian. “Should we just eat here? Everywhere else is booked solid.”

Then, the other one, the younger one, pointed across the floor and laughed. “Look at that! Christyn’s a waitress!”

“The cruel irony...I want to leave,” said the woman. Her voice had an airy, breathy quality to it. Neither she nor her sons had so much as acknowledged Damian yet. Behind the bar, he noticed Christyn had suddenly become incredibly interested in polishing the beer tap handles with a wet rag. How did these people know her?

“Sure,” said the older son, laying on the sarcasm, “let’s just leave, and eat at home, because we’re not going to find another open table. Come on, Mom, it’s just lunch.”

At last, the woman looked at Damian, but even then, she seemed to look past him. “Fine. Table for three.”

He sat them towards the front, a cautious distance from the bar, and while Scott was taking their drink order, snuck off to ask Christyn what was up. “Hey, who are those folks?”

“That’s my Aunt Millicent, and my cousins, Brock and Mike.” She was trying to sound calm, but she wasn’t doing a very good job.

“I thought your family lived in Beaumont,” said Damian.

“They do, but Mike goes to school at Rice, or maybe UH, I can’t remember.”

Damian wanted to press for more details. These were the people Christyn had grown up with, but there was no familiarity now. He was all too familiar with the feeling of going from family members to distant strangers--that had been him and his sister in spades. Maybe that was why he wanted to hear Christyn’s story. But she was unavailable for comment, as it suddenly became very urgent that she dust all the liquor bottles on the shelf one by one.

So, Damian fell back and did his job. Once the table’s appetizers were up, he ran them and refilled the table’s waters. A few minutes later, Scott took their entree orders, and when the bell dinged in the kitchen signaling that they were ready, Damian made haste to clear the app plates. He knew he technically didn’t have to do all this extra work outside of the bar area, but he couldn’t resist doing a little tableside espionage. “So, Christyn mentioned y’all are her family,” he began. “Where’s Uncle Chester today? He couldn’t make it out to celebrate the special day?”

Damian liked Uncle Chester. Despite being a little conceited (he had Ph.D inscribed on his credit card and insisted on being called Dr. Cardwell by the waitstaff), he was funny and he always left a good tip for Christyn, along with a couple bucks for Damian, even after he admitted Christyn tipped him out. Aunt Millicent, however, didn’t seem quite so fond of him.

At the mention of his name, her whole face screwed up and turned red. “The nerve,” she said, rising from her seat. Brock, or maybe it was Mike, tugged on her sleeve and tried to get her to sit back down, but it was no use. “Did Christyn ever tell you why I threw her out of the house?”

She hadn’t told him she was thrown out of the house at all, but that would explain why she’d spent the last eight years waiting tables when her family were these rich folks.

“I guess she would keep quiet about it. Or maybe she’s made me out to be the bad guy?” Her volume was steadily elevating, her breathing quickening, erratic, until it all culminated in one big snap. She grabbed him by the necktie and shook him, causing him to drop the plates he was holding to the ground where they shattered. “Did she tell you I caught her in bed with my husband?”

“Hey!”

Damian wasn’t sure how much of the conversation Christyn had overheard, but there she was, all breathing fire. “Get your fucking hands off the staff or I’ll involve the authorities!”

“What gives you the right? Little whore,” Aunt Millicent spat, but nevertheless, she let go of Damian’s tie, much to his relief. “I want to speak to a manager.”

“Well, what do you know, you’re in luck! That’s me.”

At that, Aunt Millicent turned even redder. Damian half-expected her to pull out a firearm...but all she said was, “We’ll take our mains to go and the check.”

The Cardwells waited by the door for their food while Damian stood frozen on the spot, stunned. Christyn bent down on her knees and scooped up the pieces of broken plates with a rag she had in her apron. As she worked, she glanced up at Damian for a moment, only a moment, but that glance broke his heart. She looked like a wounded animal.

After Scott picked up the check, he said, “I didn’t catch what you said to them, Miss Manager, but you just cost me a tip.” He took off his apron, threw it on the ground, and stormed out with a grand, “I quit!”
 
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