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

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stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
493
Location
Texas
"Seems like it should be a duty for his prized possession," said Christyn.

Estrella didn't respond to her. But over time, she continued to plant small seeds of doubt in Estrella's mind whenever she came to check up on her, little kernels of thought that would hopefully sprout into suspicions that Jesse didn't value her as much as he claimed. She was exceedingly kind to her, too, thanking her profusely for every little morsel of food and sip of water and minute of company. She addressed her with authority. Sometimes she spoke to her in Spanish. Estrella always seemed to regain some of her lucidity when she did.

And then the time came when she was forced to relieve herself in a bucket.

Jesse brought it in, Estrella standing at his side with a wet cloth. Christyn was too doped up to feel humiliated, but when she was finished and Jesse ordered Estrella to clean her up, she managed to pull herself enough together to form words.

"Oh, Master, don't make her do that."

Then, astonishingly, Estrella came around to Christyn's suggestion: "Master, perhaps Christyn should be able to attend to herself."

Huh.

Christyn thought that would take longer.

"If we untie only one of her hands, then surely--"

She never got to finish her sentence, as Jesse backhanded her hard enough to turn her around and make her fall on hands and knees.

"Slave," he said through clenched teeth, "you should be thankful for the opportunity to handle your Master's prized possession. Now, get up. Wipe out Christyn's ass like a good little pet. And then thank your Master, and get back on your knees, and lick his boots."

"I...I thought I was supposed to be your prized possession." Estrella's words were soft, but there was an anger in them coming from deep within her throat. She staggered to her feet. There was a metallic swish as Christyn realized she had drawn the knife she'd taken off of her, which she must have been concealing on her person. She made a lunge for Jesse, but he snatched the knife out of her hand with ease and with one swift motion, slashed her throat. She collapsed, and Jesse tutted disdainfully.

"Women."

***

Christyn was very docile after that. If Jesse could dispatch Estrella so impassively, she knew he would have no problem doing the same to her.

Her subdued silence was working in her favor. Jesse seemed to think that her inevitable loss of self was sooner coming than it was. She still had her wits secretly about her, but he had let his guard down, barely speaking to her, sparing her the domineering rants, for the most part.

As he was replacing her IV bag one morning, evening, whatever, he asked her, "What are you thinking, kitten?"

She was thinking it would be in her best interest to feign helplessness.

"Master...must submit to Master," she made herself drawl. "Want to submit to Master. Need to submit to Master. Feels...good."

"That's it, kitten. Now you're starting to get it." He ruffled her hair and smacked the back of her head with an open palm. "Any last requests before this pretty brain of yours turns to goo?"

Yes!

"Master would do that...for me?"

She had to play it up. Make him believe he had all the power. Get him drunk on it so he wouldn't see through to her intentions.

"Of course, kitten. I'm not a monster."

"Then can your gracious slave girl call Auralee and let her know I won't be home in time for supper? Can't be rude to an old friend."

"Certainly, kitten. In fact, if she's still at the same number, I still have her saved in my phone."
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
493
Location
Texas
THIRTY-SIX

Damian and Auralee booked a room at the Hotel Flamenco so they could wait for Christyn to call back without dealing with the noise in the Server House. They were still debating letting the other occupants know what had happened. On the one hand, maybe they should mobilize the troops. Whoever was holding Christyn hostage would likely be outnumbered by ninety servers. On the other hand, they had no information. They didn't know what her captor wanted with her. The whole house could hardly pull off a sneak attack at once, and whoever this mystery bad guy was, it was possible that if he felt threatened, he'd kill her.

"Besides, they'd probably just start freaking out and make it harder for us to figure out what's going on," said Damian. He was sitting at the desk in the hotel room in front of Auralee's computer, watching the screen and her phone for activity while she paced and took shots. Earlier that day, she had walked up the street to the liquor store for provisions no fewer than four times. The only reason she hadn't made a fifth trip was the store closed at 9 PM. That Auralee was as irresponsible as ever when put under pressure, but at least she had stopped on her way back to pick him up a snack three out of four times.

"What did she say to you?" he asked, reaching into the box of donuts she'd bought him earlier, only to find it empty. Probably for the best. Between the donuts, the bucket of fried chicken from before that, and the tamales from even earlier, he was painfully stuffed and queasy almost to the point of being feverish. For once, getting off on the sight of him, short of breath and filled to capacity, seemed the furthest thing from her mind. There was nothing kinky about it for him either; it's just that he was as incorrigible a stress eater as ever.

"Just that she was in a locked room and she didn't know how she got there. We don't know if this is the cops, or a business owner we've ticked off, or--"

"Auralee!" Damian exclaimed as her phone lit up with an incoming call. He checked the caller ID. He had been hoping to see Christyn's name, but no such luck. "Oh...nevermind. Who is 'conniving shithead'? Do you needa take this?"

Auralee stopped in her tracks. What little color her face had drained. "It's Jesse."

Damian made a grab for the phone. "Speaker," said Auralee. It was a wonder he managed to obey her command; he had one thing on his mind and that was telling Jesse off. He should have known that scumbag had something to do with all of this.

"Listen here, you sick fuck!" he snapped.

At the same time, Christyn's voice came through over the line. "Aura, darling, I need to tell you something. Oh...Damian?"

Her voice was breathy, hollowed, disembodied, and yet, she sounded so relieved to hear from him.

"Chrissy! Where are you? Me and Auralee finna trace your call--"

"Please don't," said Christyn. "I'm...I'm with Master. He knows what's good for me. I'm happy. I'm safe. Please leave me alone."

For a moment, he felt a disgust rise up in him. What had Jesse done to her? But something about her tone gave her away. There had been a complete devotion in her voice whenever she spoke of Jesse back when she was brainwashed. It wasn't there now. Her words shook. He could feel her desperation. She was of sound mind and was begging for help.

But she couldn't outright say it because Jesse was in the room with her.

Auralee reached over him and started typing commands into her software. Damian knew he had to keep Christyn on the line as long as it took. "Chrissy...how can you say that? After all we've been through?"

"Look at us, Damian. All we do is enable each other. We're slowly killing each other. I can't go on like this. I need Master to make my decisions for me."

"So you're just going to throw away everything we had?"

Christyn let out a shuddering exhale. "Don't look for me."

Auralee flashed a thumbs-up to signal she had a lock on Christyn's location.

"Fine. I guess this is goodbye, then…"

The line went dead.

Auralee snatched her phone and fiddled with the GPS before leading the way outside to her car. "What are you doing?" asked Damian as she tossed her empty vodka bottle into the parking lot and slid into the driver's seat.

"What's it look like?"

"You can't drive! You've been drinking a fuckton of vodka all day!"

"Look, Damian. Because of who I am, I could speed down the freeway with expired plates, switch lanes without signaling, run two red lights, strike five pedestrians, blow 0.2, and I'd probably be let off with a warning. You, on the other hand...if you got pulled over for burning a stop sign, there's a chance you'd be shot for it."

He wanted to point out that he could just as easily be killed in a car crash if he let her drive drunk, but his stomach hurt too much for him to focus on sustaining an argument. He hadn't been in this much pain since he was shanked. Reluctantly, he got into the passenger's seat.

They hadn't even been on the road for five minutes before he had to roll down the window and throw up.

"Sorry," he muttered as he settled back into the seat, squirming and trying to get comfortable. "I'll pay to have that washed."

"Don't worry about it. I've gotten sick in my old car loads of times and it was a lot nicer than this one."

He rolled his eyes before letting them fall shut. "Just don't drink when you drive."

"Actually…"

She sighed deeply.

"Okay, I've probably thrown up drunk in here. But I had the sickest season of my life after they botched my first surgery," she explained. "Granted, I wasn't making it better. I was drinking when they told me not to and still eating the foods I was used to, even if I couldn't eat them in the same quantities. I guess I just hoped that if I resisted my body's new limits as much as I could, my life would stay normal. But yeah, the first few months after the operation were a bitch."

"Keep talking," he murmured, eyes still closed. Her voice was very soothing. He was glad she had become a famous singer. A talent like hers deserved to be shared with the world. "Your family sucks, by the way."

"My parents suck. My brothers were actually on my side," said Auralee. "Ashton told them again and again I didn't need the surgery. JD...well, he was overseas at the time I went under, but when he came back and found out what happened, he was pissed. Ranting and raving about how they mutilated me. He's the one who put my dad in that chair."

Damian vaguely recalled seeing Auralee's paraplegic father once or twice at the bowling alley, but for some reason he'd thought the man had some sort of degenerative nerve condition.

"Well at least you're okay now, right?"

Auralee floored the gas.

***

"Forty thousand dollars. No? What about fifty thousand?"

It was Auralee on the phone with the third private security company she'd called from behind the wheel.

"Well, what if I made it a hundred?" She was struggling to keep the frustration out of her voice, but it was a losing battle. "You're really telling me that you can't spare a team of five men at most, for three hours including drive time, for the daughter of Deputy Kingston?"

Defeated, she tossed her phone into the cup-holder. "I should have expected as much. We're in the middle of a workers' rights revolution. Business owners are scared. A lot of them are giving in to their employees' demands, but even more are protecting themselves from retaliation if they don't. There's a shortage of armed professionals right now. Looks like it's just gonna be you and me. Hm...we should've thought to bring guns."

"If Chrissy was here, she'd have thought of that. We'd all be armed right now," said Damian.

"If Chrissy was here, we wouldn't be crossing city lines to go rescue her, numbskull," said Auralee. "You want a soda? I could go for a soda."

She pulled into a gas station and of course, picked out a bottle of malt liquor. Damian helped himself to a strawberry soda on her dime. He happened to have his bottle opener on him, so he decided to save the cashier the trouble of lending him one. After he popped the top off, the cashier gave him a long, apathetic look and said, "That was a twist."
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
493
Location
Texas
"So can you like...say the word? Or is that off-limits since you had a white mom? I've always been confused about who can say it."

It was a long drive, and they were running out of conversation topics. Luckily, the GPS said they were only five minutes away from their destination.

"I don't know the rules, Auralee, I just try and not say it."

"Really? Not even with Zeke?"

"Zeke don't say it."

"What about with L'vonte? I know he says it."

"I don't talk to L'vonte much. I know he Chrissy's friend and all, but I'm his girl ex, it'd be weird."

"Well, what about when you're singing along to a rap song?"

"Bitch, I listen to country."

"I keep forgetting you're one of those guys who wants to buy a truck and fuck it. Ah well...I guess it's better than thinking you're classy for being able to read an analog watch."

"Those the ones with the hands?"

He could read one, but it always took him a while.

"Aight, my turn to ask the awkward questions. What's the craziest thing that's happened to you on tour?"

"Someone threw a whole bowl of quinoa at my head in Dallas once," said Auralee. "Alex beat the shit out of the guy and got arrested."

"Poor guy."

"It actually wasn't so bad. They were gentle with him. Of course, you know why. I bailed him out as soon as he was processed and bought his way out of legal trouble, but the tabloids refused to be bought. My turn again. If Chrissy doesn't make it--"

"I already don't like this question."

"Listen. If anything happens to her, the whole Server House is going to be looking to you for leadership. Can you do it?" She fixed him with a serious look.

"Aura, something finna happen to us if you don't keep your damn eyes on the road."

***

The house looked mostly normal, except for a total lack of neighbors and a menacing shortage of windows. Damian guessed it was Jesse's second house: this definitely wasn't the sprawling estate he'd shown up to fucked up out of his mind the day Christyn threw Stella that party and ended up dumping Jesse in front of everyone. Jesse's car was parked outside, and Damian's first impulse was to vandalize it...but Christyn needed him. He could always cut the tires later.

He approached the door and contemplated how best to force entry. There was no window near the knob and he didn't have a lock pick on him. He turned around to see if Auralee had any ideas, only to find her standing by the side of the car, looking queasy. "What is it?"

"I...I found Chrissy's pants."

Shit. Now Damian felt sick.

He walked over to the car as Auralee pulled Christyn's pants out through the open window and started folding them. (Jesse must not have been expecting company. What a dumbfuck.) He was much more interested in her bag, though. He snatched it, raked through it, and quickly found her gun.

After a quick check to confirm it had plenty of bullets, he returned to the door.

"Wait!" said Auralee. "You can't shoot out the lock. You'll probably do more damage to yourself than the mechanism."

"You calling me an amateur?" He shot out all three sets of hinges and kicked the door down.

***

"Kitten? Are you alright? I was worried you'd fallen over."

Jesse was barging into Christyn's place of holding moments after the cacophony. Of course he wouldn't know what he had just heard. Why would he recognize a sound he had only heard once, maybe twice in his sheltered life of working a desk job and living in a mansion?

Christyn, on the other hand…

From her years living in a shoebox apartment on the shady side of Westheimer to her new life in a revolutionary bunker, she was intimately--one could even say comfortably--familiar with the sound of gunfire.

Any minute now, a team of armed guards on Auralee's payroll would be breaking down the door to rescue her.

She knew she had to keep Jesse in one place so her rescuers could get the jump on him. For days now, she had been preparing for this moment, feigning helplessness and gauging Jesse's reaction. He thought her mind was close to gone and he had become overattentive, as if wanting to witness the exact instant when she was lost for good.

"Master is so good to me," she drawled, fighting a smirk. "Of course, kitten is okay, as long as her Master is here to take care of her."

"That's right, isn't it?" He closed the gap between them, ran a hand through her hair, and as he reached the ribbon loosely securing her ponytail, he made a fist in it and yanked her head back so she was forced to stare right into his too-blue eyes.

"That's what you like, isn't it, Master?" she said, as she'd rehearsed it a million times in her head. "Knowing that soon I'll be completely beholden to you. It's enough to make you forget about everything else, isn't it? The thought of me brainless, completely beholden to you, because you designed it that way." He should have been shocked by her 'sudden' bout of coherency, but she could tell by the glazed look of complacency his face took on that he was too into her words to think straight. The repetition was lulling him, too. He'd clearly made a mistake when he decided to take her on as a would-be slave. She was too smart for him. "Doesn't the notion of my future on my knees for you make you feel powerful, Master? Almost like a high. And as you feel higher and higher, everything else seems to go away. No thoughts. No worries. No cares. No concerns."

For minutes on end, she continued to ramble on, and his eyes never left hers. She kept her voice steady as she allured him with fantasies of what was to come. Her uselessness, her thoughtlessness, her dependency.

"No thoughts, no worries, no cares, no concerns. Your only occupation being looking after your perfect, brainless, zombie slave girl. And...in a way...that makes you beholden to me."

Her wrists were bound, but her fingers were free, and as the sound of footfalls approached from outside the room and she heard the door creak open, she snapped and pointed at the ground.

Jesse fell to his knees in front of her. She raised one leg and held him in place with a heel on his shoulder.

Damian stepped out of the shadows then, and shot him point-blank in the head.

The blast barely affected Christyn, who slumped limply in her seat, her foot landing between Jesse's shoulderblades as his body fell to the floor. "Stay with me, Chrissy. Stay with me," Damian pleaded, his voice trembling while he carefully worked the needle out of her arm. "What was he shooting you up with?"

"Clearly it was some sort of muscle relaxant." Auralee's, a voice, and then the click of her heels. "Wow...horrifying as this is, imagine if I could set up a rig like this and pump pure glucose into Alex through the vein...he'd be up in the early 5's before Christmas."

The swift flick of Damian's pocketknife. "Auralee, quit thinking about feedism for one second and help her! I know you know how to break these knots." He sawed through the ropes that bound her left arm to the chair while Auralee expertly undid the knots around her right.

Once she was untied, Auralee handed her her handbag...and her pants. It was a struggle to get them on, as even untied, she was barely able to rise out of her seat to get them over her ass, she was so drunk. But Damian helped her, and soon, thankful for the restoration of her dignity, she felt herself being scooped into his arms, bridal style. "I can try and walk," she said, but he had her securely.

He carried her outside and guided her into the backseat of Auralee's SUV, never leaving her side. Auralee took some time, probably to load the corpse into the trunk for 'recycling'. "She dry enough to drive?" asked Christyn.

"She ran out of alcohol a while ago. She should make it."

Finally, Auralee slid into the driver's seat and the car started moving. Christyn let her body curl into Damian's in the backseat, her face buried against his soft chest, and began to weep--quietly at first, but then, every ounce of terror she'd been fighting to keep dormant throughout her ordeal came flooding to the surface, and she found herself sobbing in earnest, until the front of his shirt was thoroughly soaked with her tears.

"It's gonna be okay," he told her, pulling her in closer. She clung to him tightly, still crying hard enough to shake her entire body, at least, for a while. Then, he wrapped his arms around her, stabilizing her, and she stopped hyperventilating. Her eyes were still a pair of leaky faucets, but the terror was subsiding.

She shifted to the side a bit to breathe in, but even the moonlight was too harsh, and she soon found herself seeking shelter in him once more, her forehead pressed to his shoulder as she struggled to control her breathing. His warmth, his softness, his scent...everything about him brought her comfort. Eventually, she settled comfortably in his arms, her eyes swollen, but her body relaxed. She was going to be okay.

She was going to be okay.

"I know, Damian," she managed weakly. "I know...I know…"

He held her even tighter then, and murmured the words she needed to hear: "You know I got you."
 
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stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
493
Location
Texas
THIRTY-SEVEN

Christyn was out cold for a solid three days, but after that, she made a fast recovery. Damian would have been happy to attend to her every need while she rested some more, but after being tied up for all that time, she was eager to walk around again, even if she was a little unsteady on her feet. She called her boss at the hotel and explained her absence by saying she'd been in an automobile accident. Damian stole her idea to excuse his own sudden leave from work, and luckily, they bought it.

She returned to work as soon as she could hold a cocktail shaker without dropping it. She texted Damian frequently, though, and appreciated his proximity when they were both home. When he stuck by her side, his fear for her still lingering, she pulled him closer.

Stella Alba's body had been recovered from a closet in the house in Spring. Jesse Markham was now wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the homicide investigation, and his abrupt disappearance seemed to point to his guilt.

Christyn kept her ordeal on the down-low, or at least she tried to, not wanting to shake the Server House's confidence in her, but naturally, everyone found out anyway. They were pissed that they hadn't been called upon to participate in the rescue, but everyone came around in time for the wedding.

They held the ceremony on the grounds of the house. They decked the backyard out with tables and chairs rented from the banquet service somebody worked for, hung string lights, and posted flowers everywhere they would fit. Of course, Christyn wore black, always the contrarian. Even after a kidnapping, she looked radiant, and Damian spent much of the first dance with her stumbling over his feet with how distracted he was by her beauty. (That, and he didn't know the steps. He had meant to learn, but he had been a little preoccupied lately.)

As the song came to an end, Christyn said, "So, you finally got to be the hero...what did you think, sweetness?"

He exhaled and shook his head. "I just hope something like that never happens again."

"And now," announced Carlos, the guy who'd volunteered to DJ, "it's time for the groom and his mother and the bride and her father to take the floor for the second dance!"

"Oh, fuck," Damian muttered.

"Guess we forgot to tell him our families are all either incarcerated, estranged, or deceased," said Christyn. Then, to Carlos, she shouted, "I'm actually gonna sit this one out!"

Damian was about to do the same, but then Auralee tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Let's dance, kid."

She took the lead, and he let her have it. She obviously knew what she was doing. "You're pretty good at waltzing," he said.

"This is a rumba. But thanks!" She smiled brightly. "I know all the basic ones. Waltz, rumba, samba, tango...I'm also versed in Japanese tea ceremony and fluent in Spanish, French, Gaelic, Mandarin, and Portuguese."

"Show off, why don't you."

"Oh! I have something of a wedding present for you and Chrissy. Really for the whole Server House." She giggled and spun him. He didn't mind it so much. But if she tried to dip him, he was out. "I liquidated several of my mother's properties in South America and acquired a few apartment buildings closer to home. There's one on Washington close to the Heights, one on Bellaire close to Chinatown, one in Memorial close to the bowling alley, and I'm looking at buildings in Kingwood and Katy. If y'all want them, of course. If not, I suppose I can just rent them out like regular apartments, but I figured, sleeping twelve to a room has been great for building solidarity, but these folks could really use more space, and it'll be better for a lot of their commutes."

"That's great, Auralee! Would the rent still be ten bucks?"

"Of course! They'll just be responsible for the utilities, and their own groceries."

"I'll talk to Chrissy, but I'm sure she'll say yes. We'll probably tell 'em in the morning."

The song finished, and Auralee returned to Alex, who was hanging out by the buffet. "Bout time," he said, clapping Damian on the back before wrapping a thick arm around Auralee's narrow waist. "After you two were gone for so long at the hotel, I was beginning to worry you weren't gonna give her back."

"Are you kidding? I was just hoping your ass didn't get too comfortable while you got your break," joked Damian, before leaving to find Christyn.

She was talking to a pair of middle-aged women in Spanish over flutes of champagne. "Damian, this is Rosa and Maria. They practically raised me while I was living at my aunt's house." Rosa shook his hand enthusiastically and said something to him in Spanish. Though his Spanish was improving, she spoke too rapidly for him to understand. "She says she knows you'll make me very happy," Christyn translated. Then Maria said something to Rosa and they both laughed. "She says," said Christyn again, "that with my aptitude in the kitchen, she always knew whatever man I married was destined to get fat."

Wow. Straight to the point. But their laughter sounded more endeared than malicious, and Damian decided he didn't mind the comment.

Soon it was time to cut the cake.

After carving them each a slice, she led him to a table in the back. They sat down in adjacent chairs and for a minute just gazed into each other's eyes. “God, you have no idea how long I’ve daydreamed about us here, just like this, feeding each other wedding cake,” she said, and forked off a bite from the plate she was holding to raise it up to his lips. He let her feed him half the slice--he was already contentedly full from the fabulous reception dinner, and he didn’t want to be too full to please her once they took off to the hotel. After the sex, though, he would be all too happy to beg her to stuff him stupid.

“My turn?” he asked, holding a forkful of cake in front of her face.

She opened her mouth...but he drew back at the last minute, laughing. “Gotcha!”

“Damian! Don’t be mean.”

“Okay, I got you this time, I promise.” He pushed the fork toward her...she eagerly awaited…

And he took the whole plate of cake and jammed it in her face.

“DAMIAN! YOU LITTLE SHIT!”

He took off running and she gave chase, but she didn’t make it far in her high heels and soon, she tripped on the train of her dress. He went back for her then, picking her up with one arm hooked behind her knees and the other supporting her back.

"Couldn't save it for the threshold, could you?"

“Are you okay?”

“Just a little tumble in the grass, it’s nothing.” She laughed and wound both arms behind his neck. The care with which she avoided his throat didn’t go unnoticed. He appreciated it, but he trusted her completely now. He would have been alright with her touching him anywhere. He knew his sweet girl would always take good care of him.

He brought her in and kissed her deeply, licking the icing off her lips as he pulled back.

It was going to be a sweet life.

***

Just a few months after the wedding, Christyn was offered a promotion to the position of field manager by ABC Hospitality. The job entailed checking in at events to which the agency was contracted, most of them in downtown Houston, and talking to clients to make sure everything was running smoothly, or intervening if they weren't. She accepted the offer on the condition that she be allowed to continue picking up bartending shifts. The bar was important to her. The way she put it to Damian, "If I'm in control of the bottles, they aren't in control of me."

Esteban was beside himself when she put in her two weeks at the hotel, wondering where on Earth he was supposed to find a bartender competent enough to replace her. Her response: "You know I appreciate everything you've done for me. But I wouldn't recommend my worst enemy to come work for Rob and Syl."

She and Damian moved into the new Server House on Washington. By that time, most of the others had already relocated. In fact, they were among the last to leave. Once the house in Richmond was vacated, they put it on the market, but they only managed to fetch 150 stacks for it. Apparently, previous owners from before their time had reported paranormal activity. They'd never noticed, but it would've been hard to notice with so many people in the house making noise all the time.
 
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stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
493
Location
Texas
They stayed on Washington for a couple years, but then Christyn got pregnant with their first child, and after talking it over, they decided it might not be their last. So they moved into a townhouse on the west side of town, outside the loop but before the beltway, with a couple of extra bedrooms just in case.

As Damian pulled up in the driveway one evening, he noticed Christyn's stupidly small whip already in the driveway. She must have left work early to relieve Auralee of babysitting duty. When he entered the house, she greeted him at the door with a kiss on the cheek. "How was your visit with Dr. Castillo?

The whole house smelled like banana bread. He was looking forward to breakfast these next few days.

"It was alright. We talked about the usual stuff."

Damian had started seeing Dr. Castillo a few years back. That was the year a new kitchen manager had started at the law firm. Everyone agreed Damian had deserved to be promoted instead, and the sentiment grew stronger in the kitchen with each passing shift. The new guy was a complete tyrant, denying cooks their breaks, micromanaging the line, and even going so far as having a salad prep prosecuted for theft for taking home some taco meat that was going to be thrown out anyway.

The new guy only lasted three months before the Server House got rid of him, but those three months had wreaked havoc on Damian. For one thing, his stress eating got out of control. Not that he minded when he hit 260--Christyn wasn't complaining either--but eating to bury his problems was never as pleasurable as eating simply because he enjoyed it.

But his anxiety got worse, too, as did his drinking, and one day when he was getting ready for work, dreading having to go in, he found himself hyperventilating with his hands braced against the bathroom counter. His heart beat too hard and too fast and his vision was swimming. Between shuddering breaths, he begged Christyn to call him an ambulance: he was sure he was having a heart attack.

The last thing he thought before the emergency response team showed up was, thank God little Carmyn was too young to understand what was happening.

Only, when he got to the emergency room, once he'd calmed down, his vitals all came back normal. The doctor said his BMI was 'concerning,' but there was nothing urgently wrong with him. The doctor also said his symptoms were consistent with a panic attack, and recommended he seek the help of a mental health professional.

It wasn't a bad idea. He knew Christyn was good at consoling him, but it wasn't fair to her to expect her to be his doctor on top of his wife and the mother of his child.

Auralee put him in touch with Dr. Castillo, a therapist friend of hers who was plus-size friendly and specialized in addiction counseling, but also had experience working with anxiety patients. At first, they talked about his health anxiety. He received an initial diagnosis of hypochondria and they worked their way through a cognitive behavioral therapy workbook written to address paranoia surrounding medical issues. Though the doctor never disparaged him about his weight, they did address his stress-eating. Damian had been the one to bring it up. He wanted to get to a point where his relationship with food was purely positive, and with the doctor's help, he found a renewed interest in art as a means of stress relief. Eventually, Damian opened up about his past, and what his sister had done to him. He'd cried during that visit, and felt thoroughly emasculated for doing so, but after he got it all out of his system, he felt better. The doctor told him family trauma really wasn't his specialty, but that he would like to continue working with him: with how long it had taken him to talk about Lily, it could be detrimental to his progress if he had to start over with a whole new therapist. They opened up the DSM together and Damian received a new diagnosis of complex PTSD. It was a bit of a shock, but they continued to work through it. He felt like he was getting better every day, just from having an outlet he didn't feel bad about venting to, since he was paying the guy.

"Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something," said Christyn, but just then, their three year old tottered enthusiastically into the living room.

"Daddy's home! Daddy's home!" Little Carmyn tripped and landed on her hands and knees, but Damian knew better than to make a fuss over her. At her young age, she already had such a personality. She would get terribly embarrassed and cry if he or Mom made a fuss over her. So, he let her stumble back to her feet, muttering, "Estoy bien, estoy bien," before running up to him and hugging him around the knees.

"Aww, that's my strong baby girl!" He beamed. "Can I pick you up?"

"Pick me up! Pick me up!"

He gathered her in his arms and kissed her chubby cheek. She was so perfect. She had thick straight hair even about the shade of her mother's natural brown and his own wide, curious brown eyes and dimpled smile.

"Talk over dinner?" said Christyn, using a side-hug as an excuse to give him a squeeze. He was back down to 240-ish now, just from not compulsively stress-bingeing on junk, and there were times when he genuinely missed his 260 days. But then Christyn would talk about how much softer he was than the last time he was at 240 and how much she adored him now...indeed, whenever his body changed, she decided the latest version was her favorite, and it made him feel so sweetly, unconditionally loved.

Damian nodded. "C'mon, baby girl, let's go wash our hands before dinner, okay?"

Dinner was fried shrimp, tails off for the baby, with pan fries and roasted broccoli, all of which Carmyn approved of enthusiastically. She had initially rejected greens when they first introduced her to them, but Christyn had remedied this by responding to her reluctance with, 'Hey kid, can I have your veggies?' every time she refused to try them, until she figured she must be missing something if her mother liked them so much and finally agreed to give them a chance. Ever since, she had been a fan of greens.

"So what's the big news?" asked Damian, pushing aside his second empty plate. Christyn had once again outdone herself on the stove.

"The agency has offered me a bartending gig."

"Great! You love those!"

She played with her fork awkwardly. "It's with the Rio Grande Steamboat Company. It would take me away all summer," she said. "Every year. I'm gonna say no, of course."

He didn't miss the wistful note in her voice.

"Why? It sounds like fun, and you love the water."

"I'd need my TWIC card, though."

"What's that gonna cost you, three hundred?"

"One twenty-five."

Sounded like she'd already done research. "Pocket change. And I bet you'd get loads of benefits, like discounts on food and drinks…"

"Oh, we can't drink on board. But we get three free shift meals a day from the main dining area, and once we leave state lines, we can gamble."

And Christyn was a prodigy at blackjack. If there was one thing she could count even better than calories, it was cards.

"Look, Chrissy, this is obviously your dream job."

"But what about our daughter?"

Over in the next seat, Carmyn was standing her last piece of broccoli upright on her plate with her fork. "Mommy, look, it's a baby tree."

"She'll have you the rest of the year. Besides, she has a huge extended family, between Zeke and Beans and Auntie Aura. And I know I'm not the sharpest knife in the box, but I won't, like, drown in the bathtub without you, if that's what you're worried about," said Damian. "If you won't do it for yourself, at least do it for the revolution." When she gave him a quizzical look, he sighed. Did he have to spell it out for her? And she was supposed to be the smart one. "There's only so much we can do if we're all in one city. But if you had a job where you could travel? Imagine it: Server Houses from here to Puerto Rico, or wherever."

A smile spread across her face. "Colorado. The cruises literally go up the river."

"Colorado, then. But it can only happen if you get out there and spread the good word."
 
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stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
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Messages
493
Location
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EPILOGUE

They made a yearly tradition of it, driving to the coast to pick Christyn up at the end of summer. Every year it seemed like a shorter trip. The coastline drew closer all the time, but it wasn't until last year, when Galveston went under water during hurricane season and didn't emerge, that Damian realized the gravity of the situation.

Christyn had always talked about the impending doom of climate change.

Carmyn was fourteen now, curvy and early-developed like her mother, but her siblings (Mercedes, 10, and Ventura, 6), were still small enough that they all fit comfortably into the backseat of the Fiat.

Was everyone back there really comfortable, though?

Periodically, Damian would hear Carmyn's triumphant declaration of, "Punch buggy, silver! No punchbacks!" followed by Ventura's gasp and subsequent whine.

"Carmyn, honey, you can't do that."

"Why not? I'll let him punch me if he sees it first."

"Yes, but you're older and quicker than he is and you can punch harder."

"Don't worry, Dad, I'll get her back next time. You ain't raise no bitch," said Ventura, and Damian sighed with the knowledge that he couldn't even reprimand his son: Ventura had heard the word from him, after all.

"Look, buddy, just don't say shit like that at school, okay?"

Despite his resolve, Ventura had nothing on his sister when it came to Punch Buggy.

It wasn't that Carmyn was mean-spirited; she just had a lot of energy and didn't know her own strength.

Well, okay. She had a bit of a malicious streak, but if she had truly meant to injure, Ventura would be taking a lot more damage. Back when she was in fifth grade, Mercedes in first, Mercedes had taken up her mother's preoccupation with the environment and started saving her used paper towels until she could find a recycling bin. The other kids branded her weird for it and bullied her, so Carmyn did what any older sister ought to and beat the stuffing out of them. That had been a fun parent-teacher conference.

What went on in the backseat was just lighthearted play to Carmyn, but nevertheless, Damian felt he had to intervene. The next time Damian heard, "Punch Buggy, green!" he pulled into the next gas station. "Who wants candy?"

He let the kids pick out whatever they wanted from the convenience store, and before they got back into the car, he said, "Alright, let's take a vote: who thinks Carmyn should ride shotgun for the rest of the trip?"

Everyone's hand shot up.

After a few more minutes on the road, Damian seized his opportunity: "Punch Buggy, yellow," he said, and of course, he didn't punch his daughter. More like lightly fist-bumped the side of her arm. But, having been shown up, she stopped playing the game. In fact, she was quite silent until they passed a familiar campaign sign by the side of the road reading, RE-ELECT DISTRICT ATTORNEY EZEKIEL THOMAS.

"Hey look, it's Uncle Zeke's sign!"

"They need to take that down. He already won," said Mercedes.

Indeed, Zeke had soared up the ranks in politics in the last decade, while Damian had contented himself with having finally gotten his modest but coveted promotion to kitchen manager at Zeke's former firm. He was happy for Zeke, and not just because he could curry favor with him. During his last term, he had reopened Damian's father's case, and in light of testimony from new character witnesses, the judge ruled that he had been acting in self-defense and reduced his sentence to time served. One of the witnesses was Damian's maternal aunt Melody, who testified that she knew in her heart that Matilda had struck first and any man who was in a relationship with her had his life in danger. At the time of her sister's death, she was so spiteful towards Matilda for past grievances that she had wanted nothing to do with her or her family. But the years had softened her heart, and she now wished she had stepped forward to take Damian in. Damian had no regrets. If his aunt had adopted him, he might never have started working in a restaurant to make ends meet, and he might've never met the love of his life.

Auralee and Alex, too, had flourished, their band having attained worldwide fame. Their sound had shifted recently from grungy heavy metal to a more symphonic vibe, with Alex on electric violin. He said it was because Auralee's talent and vocal range deserved better than to be confined to angry screaming, but Damian had a hunch it had more to do with the fact that at as he approached the late 300s, it was getting harder for him to hold a guitar with his gut in the way. They were still waiting for Damian and Christyn's RSVP to their show when their tour landed in Houston in a month. Damian would have to check to see whether it was on a school night.

Soon, they arrived at the port, where Christyn was waiting with her bags on the ground at her side. Damian parked the car and emerged to help her with them, closely followed by their son.

"Mommy, mommy!" Ventura jumped with arms outstretched, begging to be picked up. He was the most attached to Christyn out of all their children, although Damian suspected he was seeking not only his mother's affection, but an escape from the reach of his sister's fists. Come the start of term, he was signing that girl up for the wrestling team.

Christyn picked Ventura up obligingly, balancing him on her hip, before moving in to press a kiss to Damian's lips. "Why am I even surprised to see you once again wasting away without me?"

Every year he lost a little weight in her absence, just from spending significantly less time in bed. It was never any more than ten pounds, and he didn't feel any different, but she swore he always lost weight in the face first and she could tell right away. "I guess that's what I get for being away so long. Ah well...I'll have that fixed in two weeks, watch me," she said with a smirk.

"Mommy," said Ventura, "why do you have to work so far for so long every year?"

"She's spreading propa--" Mercedes started, but Damian put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a look to silence her. Ventura was still too young to know about the revolution. They would tell him eventually, but for now, he and Christyn agreed that he should remain innocent.

Mercedes was probably too young to know, too, but she was the sharpest of the three and had a knack for knowing things she shouldn't. Damian would never forget the day when an eight-year-old Mercedes asked her mother over dinner, 'What does FFA stand for?'

'Future Farmers of America,' Christyn had answered without missing a beat.

'Okay...then what are taxes?' Mercedes had asked, and Christyn's face turned bright red knowing her middle child had used her computer and stumbled upon her porn folder.

"Because this gig on the steamboat is Mommy's job that makes the most money," Christyn explained to Ventura, "which we'll need if you or your sisters decide you want to go to college."

It was true; Christyn's work on the steamboat paid very well. She was tipped generously on top of an $18 hourly rate, though she made the majority of her money at the blackjack tables.

"What's college?" asked Ventura.

"It's extra school you can go to if you want."

"Eww, extra school?"

"It's not so bad. Well, Mommy and Daddy never went, so I guess we wouldn't know. But you get to pick your favorite thing, and that's all you have to learn about!"

"I really like whales!" said Ventura.

"Well then, you might like to study marine biology!"

At Ventura's insistence, Christyn sat next to him on the ride home, with Carmyn in the front once more.

***

They arrived home at two on the dot. The kids were at play for a couple hours, leaving Christyn and Damian plenty of time for a tumble in the sheets. After locking the door, she pushed him to his back on the bed and couldn't wait to strip his clothes off. Ah, yes--he could tell she'd missed him.

Their shower in the aftermath was not so much about getting clean as making out under the water, and he'd barely toweled off before she attacked him again, this time pulling him on top of her.

By the time she was finally satisfied, he was spent and fighting for breath. She lay pressed flush against him, tucked between his arm and his doughy side. The pregnancies had rounded out her figure by about twenty pounds total, but she still felt small and feminine against his larger, much softer frame. It was nice; it made him feel like a comfort to her. He could have stayed with her like that indefinitely, but about that time, his stomach growled and gave away his hunger. All he'd had on the road was a sweet tea and a bag of chips that he'd bought at a gas station. Granted, it was a share-size bag of chips, but it was no substitute for real food. "If I could live off your love alone, I would," he said.

"There'd be too much. You'd explode. It would be a horrible way to die," Christyn responded matter-of-factly.

Damian rolled his eyes but chuckled in spite of himself, combing a hand through her hair. "It's good to have you back, sick sense of humor and all."

He would have made dinner, but she insisted he let her do it. "You cook for a living, and besides, I want to make sure my skills are still up to scratch."

Once downstairs, she enlisted Carmyn's help in putting together a veritable feast of shrimp skewers, noodle stir-fry with various greens, and some sort of rich, hearty Vietnamese beef stew served with baguettes. (After all these years she still couldn't bring herself to touch any meat other than shellfish, and everything but the shrimp had to still be in its shell, but she saw no reason to deprive her family.) Damian knew from sneaking samples of everything while his wife and firstborn worked that she definitely had not lost her touch.
 
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stevita

like the pancake
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Messages
493
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As he set the table, Christyn turned to the two younger children, pulling from a shelf a special syrup she made by dissolving sour candies in water, and asked, "Y'all want shots, or you want it mixed?" It was a tradition she had invented when Carmyn and Mercedes were little girls so they would feel included when she and Damian were drinking. Carmyn was old enough now that they let her have a glass of wine with them--they figured if they gave it to her, it would discourage her from sneaking it.

"Mixed, please," said Mercedes, while Ventura exclaimed,

"SHOT!"

"Alright, kiddo, but you asked for it." Christyn filled a glass with ice and poured a five-count of the sour syrup into it for her middle child before topping it with lemon soda. Then, she filled a shot glass for her littlest. When Ventura downed his shot in one, his whole face puckered and he coughed, to Mercedes and Carmyn's hysterical laughter.

After dinner, Carmyn retreated to her room to gossip on the phone with her friends, while the younger two raced for the back door. "Hey, kids, remember to watch TV for thirty minutes to let dinner settle before you go outside," Christyn called after them. They groaned, but obliged.

As Damian stood up to help her with the dishes, he asked, "Do you really do that so they don't puke in the lawn, or are you tryna make them distrust the mainstream media? Cause they hate TV."

Christyn turned around and tossed the dish towel she was holding over her shoulder. "Who says I'm not just buying us extra time for another round in the sack?" She placed one hand on his waist and the other above his navel, where she playfully applied some pressure and looked into his eyes with the most devious grin on her face. "There's still some dessert left, and you, it appears, still have room."

That was all it took for him to spring yet another erection. If he didn't know any better he'd think this woman had him under a spell.

***

After dark, the kids came back inside and got ready for bed. Christyn and Damian were still wrapped up in each other. They knew Ventura knew how to brush his teeth by now, so they figured they could let the kids go through their evening routines unsupervised. Only, after the sounds of water running from downstairs faded, a knock sounded at the door. Damian quickly slipped on a shirt and some sweatpants, while Christyn put on her bathrobe and answered the door.

There stood Mercedes and Ventura, their eyes wide and eager. "Mom, now that you're home, Ventura wants one of your scary stories."

Damian knew the thing Ventura missed most when his mom was away was her scary stories, but he suspected it was not only for his sake that Mercedes asked on his behalf. Physically, she was the most like Damian, with her darker complexion and thick black curls, though she was tall and skinny like her aunt Lily. She had Christyn's mind, though, her quick sharpness, and her ability to get what she wanted without directly asking for it. Ventura, on the other hand, had straight dark hair that stuck out in every direction and blue eyes like Christyn's late father. He had her pale skin and distinctly Asian facial structure, too, but he was a shit-talker and a thrill-seeker just like Damian. They'd already had to take him to the hospital twice for jumping off of high things and meeting an unfortunate consequence.

“You want to hear a scary story? Alright, I actually have a new one." Christyn picked him up and carried him to his room, where she sat him down on the bed. Sure enough, Mercedes followed at her heels, sitting down on the floor once they'd arrived at their destination. Damian, too, lingered in the doorway, wondering what Christyn had dreamed up on her latest work voyage. "This is one of your dad’s favorites, although I don’t think he’s heard it quite like I tell it. I've been working on the delivery all summer. It takes place in what we now know as Saxony. The year was 1316, when the Great Famine of Europe was in full swing. Torrential rains had stunted the growth of crops such that food had become scarce, and even back then, scarcity was the mother of opportunity for capitalists. The lords of the land saw their chance to profit off the high demand for an unprecedentedly small food supply, and jacked up prices accordingly. For example, within a year, the price of grain had inflated by 320%, meaning peasants could no longer afford bread. Many starved to death, and many more lost the battle to illness, as malnutrition weakened their immune systems. If you walked into the city streets, you’d find the air reeked of death."

This didn't sound like any story Damian had heard before, but he was hooked, even if it was dark. "Damn, girl, you right, this is scary."

“As I was saying...about a week’s journey on foot from any of these streets, there was a cottage in the woods, and in the cottage, there lived a poor woodcutter and his second wife, his first wife having passed away tragically, and his daughter of about ten, and son maybe four years her junior. Most modern retellings depict the children as a pair of blondes, but I don’t really like that; I think the archetype of the blond-haired, blue-eyed, ‘Master Race’ protagonist is largely a product of Nazi propaganda."

Around the word 'woodcutter' was where Damian started to recognize the story. He chuckled softly and shook his head.

“But back on topic, I’ve always pictured the children as a couple brunettes, just like you two. They were intelligent children, and resourceful, and they cared for each other more than anything else in the world, and their names, we have learned, were Hansel and Gretel.”

She wound a riveting tale, full of deception and intrigue and nitty-gritty details on common cooking techniques of the fourteenth century. By the time she reached 'happily ever after,' Ventura was dozing, but Mercedes was still quite alert. "But what happened to the German economy?" she asked.

"That's a story for another night, darling."

"I think Auntie Aura told us this story before," said Ventura between yawns, "but her version was a little different. She said the kids were both eighteen."

Once the kids were all asleep, Christyn got on the phone, pacing the kitchen as she hissed into the receiver, "Auralee, have you been telling my six-year-old pornographic bedtime stories?"

Damian poured her a big glass of wine. She took it out of his hand and drained it.

"What do you mean 'not too pornographic'?" she demanded, slamming the glass onto the island countertop. "Any amount of pornographic is too pornographic, Auralee, he's six!"

The argument went on for another few minutes before Christyn hung up. "Is it too much to ask that our children be allowed to remain innocent?"

"I mean, I agree, Aura was completely out of line," said Damian. "But we was never innocent, and we turned out okay."

After some contemplation, she said, "I guess you're right," hit the kitchen light, and followed him back to bed.

***

FIN

A/N: Thank you all for taking this journey with me! I hope I've given you a satisfying end, and thanks sincerely for all your comments and encouragement along the way!
 

Mel KM

Well-Known Member
Joined
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Messages
86
Location
Dallas, Tx
Damian wasn’t sure what was in the cheese sticks that made them so filling and heavy--or maybe it was just that each one was about as thick around as Auralee’s wrist, if not damn near. He barely managed to get through a quarter of one before he gave up. It sat like a rock at the pit of his stomach while his breathing took a labored pace. He knew it was crazy, but he would have sworn he could actually feel his arteries protesting.

“They’re a little decadent, I’ll admit,” said Auralee. Boy, what an understatement. He wondered if Auralee had simply been replacing most of her food intake with alcohol for so long that she had forgotten how food worked, how it was supposed to take into account well-coupled flavors and balance, instead of being a mess of as much grease and carbs as she could put together on one plate. In any case, Christyn had a good reason for banning Auralee from the kitchen at home. If Auralee were to do the cooking, they’d all be having heart attacks in a month. “I’ve had a few new hires actually get sick the first few times after eating here. You get used to it.” She had a bite of one cheese stick herself, and Zeke refused to even touch the stuff. “Anyway, be sure to get a good meal in tonight, and for breakfast tomorrow. Trust me, you’ll need it for stamina.”

“Today was easy enough,” said Damian.

“Tomorrow morning, though, I’ll be at my other job. It’ll just be you, another new guy, and Sabine.”

There was much less traffic on their way back home that night, and, without anyone to yell at on the road, Auralee turned up the radio. She had it tuned to the rock station, and as she drove, she began to sing along. Her voice was beautiful, strong and on-pitch, and much better than anything he was used to hearing.

“Holy shit, Auralee, you got some pipes!” he said. “You ever thought about being a singer?”

“Thanks, Damian! I...I have given it some thought...but I don’t play any instruments, so I don’t feel very musically talented.”

“You’re talented as fuck! You’re a natural!”

“You’re too sweet for your own good, kid.”

In the morning, Auralee dropped Damian off at the bowling alley and drove off to the downtown farmer’s market, where she sold pies as a side-hustle. A few minutes later, every car alarm in the parking lot went off, and then, Sabine Mathison walked in, placing a motorcycle helmet on the corner of the bar.

He had seen her name on the schedule, listed today and a few other days as a bartender, and as a barback on weekend nights with Auralee bartending and managing. This must be the assistant lead Auralee had mentioned. Until she arrived, he didn’t know what to expect. He had never met another Sabine, and didn’t know until he saw her whether she’d be a guy or girl. The first thing Damian noticed about her was that she was short--very short. He understood now why there was a step built into the floor behind the bar; without it, this girl would barely be able to reach the beer taps. She had black hair that fought to escape the rubber band that secured her stubby ponytail, and wore thick-rimmed, rectangular glasses. She had narrow shoulders, shapely hips, and an hourglass waist, and wore a lot of black eyeliner, but no lipstick. She introduced herself with a curt handshake, and although she told him it was “a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” she did not smile.

“So you’re one of the new barbacks?”

“Yeah, I’m Damian, it’s nice to--”

“Auralee tells me you’re experienced. I certainly hope she’s right, because we have a full house of birthday and office parties booked today, and Zeke comes in whenever he wants to come in, so you might have to do my job and yours while I jump in the kitchen in his stead. Now, we’re a little early. I’m sure Auralee gave you the tour, but since we have time, let’s take a look around in case she missed anything.”

She led the way past the front kitchen and back into the prep kitchen. “Right here, where I’m standing,” she said, standing next to the dishwasher, “this here is a blind spot to the cameras. Here’s another one.” She moved to the back of the prep kitchen, right inside the back doorway. “And all down the hall to the beer cooler. Now, did Auralee show you how to get out of the walk in in case you get stuck?”

“Get stuck?” he repeated, horrified.

“The door handle is broken on the inside, so if you’re inside and someone closes the door, you’re locked in. That’s why we keep this little metal rod up there,” she explained, leading him inside and pointing to a pipe that ran above the door. “It’s right on top of the pipe. You take the rod and jam it in that hole in the door and then you’re sprung. But I guess if it’s me, I’m double fucked, because I can’t reach.”

She showed him a few more things, like the dry storage area behind the lanes where he might find extra Styrofoam cups and to-go boxes if they weren’t stocked in the bar, and how to operate the dishwasher, because apparently they didn’t have a guy for that, they all just took turns. “Now, the machine’s for glassware only. When we do use plates and silver, like for special reservations, we wash them by hand, but we almost always just use the paper boats and plastic forks. Got it?”

He nodded.

Handling opening wasn’t too hard. He was more or less familiar with how to ring things in on the computer, so as the first of the customers started to trickle in, he fell into a comfortable rhythm on the register while Sabine mixed drinks and made food. Business was steady, but not overwhelmingly busy.

At around noon, the other barback on the schedule came in.

His name was Will and he was a tall, skinny string-bean kind of guy, probably about Damian’s own age, with short dark hair and a meek handshake. They exchanged words briefly. He was new, too, it was his first day. He’d put on his application that he’d been a barback before, but he’d lied.

“Oh, it’s easy,” said Damian. “All you have to do is keep the bar stocked, change out the kegs when they get empty, and do whatever the bartender says she needs you to do, then clean up after the end of the shift. If you need me to, I can show you the ropes, but you’ll probably be fine.”

About that time, Zeke finally showed up, throwing his bag on the corner of the bar and clapping Damian on the back. “What’s up, my dude? Where Beans at?”

“What?”

“Sabine. She’s a girl that works here.”

Sabine emerged from the kitchen holding a spatula and shaking her head. “Look who decided to show up for work.”

“You’re alright, cooking ain’t that hard.” He took the spatula from her, clocked in and jumped on his station.

“Damian, go ahead and take a lunch break now, because this is about the slowest we’re gonna get all shift,” said Sabine, “but be back in 30 minutes because that’s when the biggest parties come in and I’m gonna need all hands on deck.”

Damian clocked out and went to the gas station across the street for a bag of chips, a pack of mini donuts, and his favorite mid-day treat of sweet tea with two creamers. He took his full 30 minutes outside by the pumps to enjoy the fresh air, guessing he wouldn’t have much downtime when he walked back into work.

He had no idea what would be in store for him when he returned.

The bowling alley was packed to the brim with people. There were now three servers on the floor, two on the lanes and one for the restaurant area, and they were all weeded. The expo window was full of fried appetizers losing heat by the second, and Sabine was screaming her lungs out at Will behind the bar.
“HOW THE FUCK AM I ALREADY OUT OF MARTINI GLASSES? You’re supposed to bring them back to the dish pit when they’re empty, not just let them sit on tables! I have food that needs expo and I already told you about the kegs five minutes ago!”

“Which kegs need to be changed? Just give me the numbers,” said Damian as he clocked back in.

“Oh, thank God you’re back. 3, 5, and 12.”

“On it. Hey Will, do you want to jump on either expo or glassware?”

Damian made his way to the back and changed the first two kegs in a personal record time. He hadn’t done this in a long while, but he still remembered how to turn off the hose, take it out, and put it into the new keg just the way Christyn had taught him. The kegs were heavy, but they were nothing he couldn’t handle, and he actually felt stronger than he had been back at the Capital. Maybe it had something to do with getting used to carrying an extra 40 pounds in body weight.

As he got started on the third keg, he realized that instead of jumping on the hot line, Will had followed him to the far back walk-in, where he was standing in the doorway looking like he had never seen a keg of beer before, let alone handled one. “Will you teach me how to do that?” he asked.

“Sure, here, just watch me.” He walked Will through the steps as he worked. “Got it?”

“I think so.”

“Okay, good. Now let’s go, Sabine needs hands on the line.”

“What does that mean?”

“She needs us to bring food out to the lanes.”

Damian took the lead, pleased to see that Sabine’s tickets had lane numbers on them, making it easy for him. He coached Will through the process of running food before Sabine yelled at no one in particular, “WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY MARTINI GLASSES?”
I think I might need the recipe for Auralee’s cheese sticks.
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Messages
493
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Texas
I think I might need the recipe for Auralee’s cheese sticks.
I honestly imagine she just has the fresh mozzarella sliced into 2×2×7 inch blocks, then flours/dips in a mix of egg and melted butter/rolls in bread crumbs 3 or 4 times, freezes over night, and then throws them in the deep fryer for about a minute at a time for a total of 3 minutes (with that much cheese in them you have to pull them up frequently to take care that they haven't exploded. I used to work Zeke's job.)

Anyway thanks so much for the read!
 

Mel KM

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Jun 19, 2020
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Dallas, Tx
O
I honestly imagine she just has the fresh mozzarella sliced into 2×2×7 inch blocks, then flours/dips in a mix of egg and melted butter/rolls in bread crumbs 3 or 4 times, freezes over night, and then throws them in the deep fryer for about a minute at a time for a total of 3 minutes (with that much cheese in them you have to pull them up frequently to take care that they haven't exploded. I used to work Zeke's job.)

Anyway thanks so much for the read!
oh wow thanks! They sound delicious 😋
 

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