Another scribble that I hope you folks will enjoy. Critique is always appreciated!
“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hit over the head with a frying pan.”
Cosmo blinked as he heard Murphy’s words when the other young man entered the dining area with a tray full of chocolate cake pieces. “Goofing off again?” he asked.
“No, I was legitimately asking Lydia if she would go out with me,” Murphy said. “If it wasn’t for my awesome reflexes, I would have been decapitated. The forearm strength of our gorgeous cook is amazing!”
“She’s going to file for sexual harassment one day,” Cosmo said, glancing around his host’s podium to be sure no customers were within earshot.
“Nah, she loves the attention,” Murphy called out as he went to deliver the desserts to table ten. Cosmo shook his head and plastered on a fake smile as a young couple approached him to ask for a private booth. Being a slow Tuesday night, he was able to offer the pair a wide variety of seats and decided to place them in Zoe’s section; if they were put in Murphy’s section, Murphy most likely would not have been able to resist flirting harmlessly with the woman.
“Your waitress will be with you shortly,” Cosmo told the pair after they had been seated. As he left to return to his station, he added, “Enjoy your meals.”
Cosmo fidgeted by his podium and kept glancing at his watch. He still had a few more hours before closing time, and the restaurant was almost deserted. Cosmo wondered how much trouble he would get into if he faked a plumbing or electrical problem and closed the place early.
“Hey, boss.” Murphy reappeared, his shirt covered in what appeared to be wine. “The lady at table twelve isn’t too happy.”
Cosmo groaned. “What happened?”
“The wine wasn’t red enough.”
Murphy was looking down at his shirt. “I disagree with her,” he said conversationally. “My white shirt is definitely red now. Anyway, sorry, but she wants to see a manager to complain.” Murphy clapped Cosmo on the back as he passed by to go back into the kitchen. “Good luck!”
Cosmo took a deep breath before calling over Zoe to watch the front, and made his way to table twelve. There a solitary woman sat, a long cigarette clutched precariously between her fingers as she stared at a newspaper. Her dark red hair was pulled up in a tight bun with blue and green feathers poking out of it. Her lips were drenched in crimson lipstick, matching the dress that looked as if its’ seams were about to burst. Cosmo didn’t remember seating the woman, and guessed that the previous host of the day had given her the private booth. He wondered if she would be offended if he reached over to open a window to get rid of the hazy smoke circling her head.
“Hello, ma’am,” Cosmo said. “I am Cosmo, one of the managers for the night. How can I be of assistance?”
“Your wine,” she muttered, “is inadequate. I require something more…red. Like blood.”
Cosmo tried to school his expression into remaining neutral, despite the fact that his mind was racing with the possibility of this woman being utterly crazy. How close were the police to the restaurant? Was a lady wanting blood-red wine enough of a reason to call them?
“I apologize if you did not like the wine that was brought to you,” he said. “I will personally go into the kitchen and find our reddest wine for you.”
She chuckled. “See that you do.”
Cosmo couldn’t walk fast enough away from the woman, and nearly ran into the kitchen.
“Jesus, that lady is scary…!”
“Aw, Cosmo, that’s not very nice.” Murphy was still there and leaning against one of the counters. “Lydia’s not scary.”
“Not Lydia,” Cosmo snapped as he went to the wine rack. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Lydia shove Murphy away from her counter to start kneading dough for more bread. “I was talking about the woman at table twelve.”
“Ah, the Lady in Red,” Murphy said. He began to sing the Chris DeBurgh song, and even attempted to pull Lydia into a dance. Lydia threw some flour on his shirt to add to the wine as she ignored him and returned to her dough. “At least my shirt’s white again—”
“Lydia, is this our reddest wine?” Cosmo asked.
She glanced at him, clearly bemused, but looked at the title. “That’s it,” she said, and returned to her duties. Cosmo thanked her and left the kitchen, dragging Murphy with him to go clean up some empty tables while Murphy waited for the food for his occupied tables to be done. Cosmo ignored Murphy complaining about Cosmo interrupting his alone time with Lydia while making his way back to table twelve with the wine.
“Ma’am,” Cosmo said, and waited for her to look up from her newspaper. He held out the bottle for her inspection. “I’m afraid this wine is the reddest that we have. Will this do?”
She peered at it critically, looking at the bottle on all sides including the bottom. Her nose wrinkled, and Cosmo had a sudden fear that she would throw the bottle back at him, but she eventually shrugged and said, “I suppose. Pour me half a glass and leave the bottle here.”
Cosmo stole a glass from a nearby empty table and did as she said. “I hope you enjoy it.”
She just waved him away, her attention back on her newspaper. He glanced at the paper, curious as to what story she was so enthralled with, but soon hurried back to his station. Murphy was by the podium, apparently choosing to let Zoe return to her tables instead of cleaning like Cosmo said.
“Do you know what she’s reading?” Cosmo asked.
“I think she’s in the middle of one of those romance books,” Murphy said. “You know, the supernatural ones—”
Cosmo stared at Murphy, dumbfounded. “What?”
“Yeah, I saw the novel sticking out of Lydia’s bag—”
“Stop obsessing over the cook,” Cosmo said, lightly punching Murphy’s arm. Murphy rubbed the spot as Cosmo continued speaking. “That red lady’s newspaper is all in some sort of weird language with symbols instead of letters.”
“So, she has a Japanese newspaper,” Murphy said with a shrug. “I thought we already established that she’s a bit eccentric.”
“The title has little pictures of wings and sparkles decorating the letters,” Cosmo said.
The waiter stared at him. “Okay, so… I have no idea what to say to that. I’m not sure why you care—”
“Make sure you take good care of table twelve,” Cosmo said with a sigh. “I want that lady out of here as soon as possible.”
Murphy raised an eyebrow. “She seems to like you,” he said, glancing behind the manager at the table’s direction. “In fact, she’s beckoning to you right now.”
Cosmo turned around and noticed that the woman was indeed motioning with her index finger for him to return to her. He gave her a polite smile, had a ten-second whispered argument with Murphy about who should go, lost the sequential rock-paper-scissors game, and made his way over to the table.
“Hello,” he said. “How may I help you this time?”
“What is the best area to see the full moon around here?” she asked.
He paused. “In all honesty, there are not too many places within the town’s limits,” Cosmo said. “Perhaps you could try Green Park? There are some sections of it around the pond that don’t have too many tall trees or buildings to block out the sky.”
“Where is that?”
Cosmo tried not to cough from the cigarette smoke she had exhaled toward him when she spoke. “It’s right after the town’s center,” he said. “You take a right after leaving our parking lot and you go down Main Street. Keep going straight until you see Woods Lane on your right. Go down that road, it’ll curve a bit as it goes around the pond, and you’ll eventually find the parking lot for Green Park. Walk along the park’s sidewalk until you find a spot you like to watch the moon.”
She hummed in thought, and then nodded. “When does this restaurant close?”
“It closes at 11 o’clock, ma’am,” Cosmo said, glad for an easy question.
“Are you here until then?” was her next inquiry.
“Yes I am, ma’am.”
“Very well.” She turned her attention back to her newspaper. “I shall wait until you get off to take me to this Green Park.”
Cosmo’s stomach dropped. “E-excuse me?”
“I do not know this area,” she said. She turned a page of the newspaper, her eyes not leaving it. “I will require you to take me to Green Park.”
“Ma’am, I will be needed here past 11 o’clock to supervise the clean up routine,” Cosmo said, grasping at imaginary excuses for this woman to leave him alone.
“There are benches outside for me to wait,” she said. “I have lived a long time and am a very patient woman.”
Cosmo glanced at her, figuring that she didn’t look any older than her forties. “Um, ma’am—”
“Hey, boss.” Murphy clapped Cosmo on the shoulder, and gave the woman a polite, “Excuse me,” before directing his attention back to Cosmo. “Sorry for interrupting, but I wanted to tell you before I forgot. Your mechanic called and said that your car wouldn’t be ready for a couple of days. It looks like you’re stuck with the town bus for a bit.”
Cosmo raised an eyebrow at Murphy, whom flashed a grin at the red lady and apologized once more at interrupting before making his way to the kitchen.
“You do not have your vehicle?” the woman asked.
“No, ma’am,” Cosmo lied, thinking of his little truck in the employees’ parking area. “I was just about to mention that. The tire blew out this morning on my way to the bank.”
“It will take a few days to fix a tire?”
Cosmo inwardly cursed his stupidity, but settled for a polite shrug. “I guess my mechanic found something else wrong with it, in which case I was lucky the tire blew at this time. Better to get it all fixed now, I suppose.”
She stared at him before looking back at her paper. “Very well, I will find this Green Park myself. Good luck with your vehicle.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” He waited for half a second to see if she was going to say anything else before speed-walking back to his podium. Murphy was there and grinned at him.
“So, can I take your car for the night to help with the story?” he asked.
Cosmo sighed and gave the waiter a crooked smile. “Fine, but don’t scratch it or dent it or eat food in it—”
“Alright, alright, I’ll take good care of your baby,” Murphy said.
“Thank you, though, honestly,” Cosmo said.
“No problem,” Murphy said. “That lady sounded so sketchy, asking you to take her to the park.”
“Tell me about it,” Cosmo muttered. “I’ll trade you my car keys for your bus fare, if you don’t mind…?”
“It sounds like a deal,” Murphy said. He went back into the kitchen, and Cosmo shook his head as he heard Murphy say to Lydia, “Hey, I got a car tonight! Now can we go out?”
The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, and Cosmo was thankful that the lady in red walked out of the restaurant around quarter to 10. She didn’t pay for her wine or rare steak, but Cosmo wasn’t too concerned with it. The woman was bizarre, and he hoped that she wouldn’t return to the restaurant ever again, or at least not when he was working. After they closed up the restaurant and cleaned up at the end of the night, Cosmo watched forlornly as Murphy took his car for the night (Cosmo had even asked to call the deal off, but Murphy mentioned the possibility of the scary lady watching from the bushes to be sure that Cosmo really did take the bus, and Cosmo didn’t really argue with his friend), and went to the bus stop for the town bus.
The bus ride took about twenty minutes to get to his stop, and it took Cosmo another ten to walk home. During that time, he tried to forget about the lady, instead focusing his thoughts on what he was going to do on his day off tomorrow without a car. He made it to his front door, inserted his key into the lock, and looked up at the sky as he turned his doorknob in time to see the full moon blow up.