Tag Archives: wolf
This is a continuation of last week’s Short Story “Go.”
Old man Evans knew, Dale was sure of it. Evans knew that Dale was hiding something, and every chance he got, Evans scrutinized Dale behind those bushy, white eyebrows. It probably hadn’t helped that Dale said good-bye rather than good night to the head of the kitchen staff once Dale’s shift had been over. Dale had just been lucky that he escaped before Evans could call him out on his words.
Dale walked slowly through the estate toward the servants’ quarters, his eyes taking in the comfortable surroundings that he would be abandoning in favor of the wilderness. He nodded to and greeted other staff members that were working, just starting or finishing their own shifts, and Dale was acutely aware that he would never see them again. Quite a few of the other servants Dale would call friends, and his steps were heavy with the thought that this would be the last time he would see their faces.
He made it to his bunk and glanced at the clock. In a few hours, he would be meeting Mauve outside of the mansion walls, and Dale wasn’t sure if he had the hope to escape without being seen. The punishment for abandonment wasn’t something to look forward to, but Dale didn’t want to leave in the first place.
He settled into his blankets and faced the windows, staying still to pretend to be asleep to avoid the other servants, and he briefly wondered if Mauve would leave without him if he actually did sleep through their meeting time. He needn’t have worried about that, for his anxiety kept him wide awake until he heard the grandfather clock in the hall chime the hour he needed to leave.
Dale moved slowly, used to moving about quietly and efficiently from being assigned as a server multiple times whenever Master Jefferson had company. It was fine to be seen, but never heard, and even better if he could imitate a ghost whenever possible. In and out without a sound. He almost wished he was clumsier when he grabbed his knapsack from beneath his bunk and tiptoed out of the bedroom.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d actually show,” was the whispered greeting he had gotten from Mauve when the pair met at the back of the kitchen. Dale shrugged, taking in the light armor she wore, the small packs around her waist, and the little quiver of arrows and bow strapped to her back. Her spear was in hand, and Dale felt inadequately packed with his knapsack full of blankets and snacks.
“Here.” Mauve handed him his skinning knife that he had dropped the day before in the meadow. “I found it earlier today. You’ll probably need it.”
Dale murmured a thank you and took one last glance around the kitchen before following Mauve out of the mansion.
The grounds were eerily dark, and Dale almost bumped into Mauve more than once while trying to keep up with her. She skulked around the grounds, avoiding the guards with an ease that distinctly made Dale uncomfortable, and if they weren’t leaving Master Jefferson forever, then he would have definitely reported the poor routines the guards had in place. He was snapped out of his thoughts by Mauve taking his hand and leading him into a run across the garden.
“We’re almost there,” she whispered, and the pair reached the stone wall that encompassed the grounds. With practiced hands, Mauve tied a rope to the end of her spear and hurled the weapon over the wall. She tugged on the rope to be sure it was taut and began to climb the wall. Up and over, she disappeared and Dale figured that it was his turn.
He could turn back right now. Take off at a run, find a guard, and keep Mauve from making the biggest mistake of her life.
Dale glanced behind him, seeing the light of the guards’ torches begin to come back around, and he grabbed the rope. With a slip here and a near-fall there, Dale eventually scrambled over the top of the wall and landed back on the ground on his rear. Mauve pulled the rope over to their side as Dale dusted himself off, and she led him away from the only home he had known in his life.
He hoped this would all be worth it.
The pair made it to the meadow, the scattering of stars and the half moon up in the sky as their only light. Dale shivered and contemplated taking out one of the blankets he had packed, but Mauve was fidgeting and glancing around the area.
“Sage?” Her voice was an exaggerated whisper. “Where are you–?”
Dale yelped, prompting Mauve to whirl around and ready her spear, when he felt cold steel settle on the back of his neck.
“Griffin!” Mauve’s grip on her weapon faltered. “What are you doing here?”
“Following you.” Griffin shoved Dale ahead of him, and Dale stumbled until he was standing next to Mauve. Griffin stared at the pair of them, his gaze somehow more frightening than Sage’s had been the day before. “What do you two think you’re doing?”
Dale glanced at Mauve, not trusting his own voice. She kept quiet as well, apparently not sure what to say to the guard either. Griffin stood up to his full, bulky height, his sword glinting in the moonlight. The guard took a deep breath, exhaling with a deep sigh.
“If you come back with me now,” Griffin said, “Master Jefferson doesn’t need to know about you two attempting abandonment.”
“No.” Mauve stepped backwards. “Griffin, go back to the manor. You never saw us leave.”
“I did see you,” Griffin said, “and I will inform the master if you do not come back willingly. Mauve, I need to do my job.”
“Please,” Mauve pleaded, “we need to go.”
“Go where?” Griffin asked. “There is nowhere else for you besides the master’s manor. Mauve… You can’t be serious. And with a kitchen aid?”
His sword pointed to Dale with that exasperated question, and Dale wasn’t sure if he should feel insulted or not.
“I’m not going back to the manor,” Mauve said, her voice strong. “Dale has agreed to come with me.” Her spear mimicked the position of the guard’s sword. “I will fight you if you do not let us leave.”
Griffin swung his sword and placed it in a sparring position. “So be it,” he said, and lunged.
Dale leaped back as Mauve jumped forward to meet Griffin’s blade, the steel clashing down on the spear’s handle. The strong wood of the spear was steadfast against the steel, and Mauve shoved back, dislodging the sword before swinging her spear in a wide arc. Griffin twisted away, but the spear’s head nicked his arm guard with a crack. He ignored it and dove back at Mauve a thrust. Dale’s hand went to his skinning knife, his sensible inner voice telling him he was mad for even considering going to Mauve’s aid when it was clear that she needed none, but someone else joined the fight before Dale could even move.
Sage had appeared from nowhere, charging at Griffin from the side with a mighty roar. The guard scrambled away, falling over his own feet in an attempt to get away from the beast, and Sage took the opportunity to clamp down on Griffin’s leg. The guard cried out in pain and swung his sword, cutting the tip of Sage’s ear, and Sage lifted Griffin from the ground by the ankle.
“No!” Mauve stopped Sage from throwing Griffin like a child’s doll across the meadow. “Let him go!”
Sage stared at Mauve, heedless of Griffin’s whimpering, but did as she said. I warn you against this… He has seen too much…
“He’s had enough,” Mauve said, glancing at the guard crumpled on the ground. “Let’s just put some distance between us and him.”
Very well, Lady Mauve. Sage nodded to her and to Dale. Let us take our leave.
The beast loped toward the other end of the meadow, and Dale stole one last glance at the crying guard before following Sage and Mauve.
“Go!” She shoved him when he didn’t move immediately. His feet caught up with his brain as he turned to run, her last word echoing in his mind.
Dale burst out of the meadow, wishing he hadn’t followed Mauve when he caught her sneaking out. It couldn’t be helped now, he supposed. All he could do was put as much distance between himself and whatever thing Mauve had found.
Dale skidded to a stop and turned around, grumbling under his breath about what a jerk he was for leaving Mauve behind. He should go and rescue her. He owed it to her. If he hadn’t been skulking around behind her, that creature wouldn’t have spotted her. For all he knew, she could be ripped to shreds by now, but he needed to go and take the chance that he could still help.
He moved back toward the meadow, his sensible inner voice asking what he expected to be able to do. Mauve was an experienced hunter, one who was proficient with both a bow and a spear. She was capable at handling herself, much more capable than Dale was. All he could do was help out in the kitchens by mopping the floors, taking out the trash, and occasionally skinning a carcass.
Dale took out his small, skinning knife, fully prepared to stupidly ignore that sensible inner voice. He’ll probably be dead for doing so, but at least none of the other kitchen aids would be able to call him a coward any longer.
Stupid, yes, but not a coward.
He retraced his steps, finding simple clues as to where he crashed through the small woods that were a prequel to the meadow, and was soon sneaking around the edge of the meadow once more. There was Mauve, facing down the monster. It was as large as a bear with a wolf’s snarl and a dark lion’s mane framing its head. Dale had never seen anything like it, and if Mauve had, she didn’t show it. She was standing tall and proud, her spear in her left hand, staring squarely into the monster’s eyes. The pair was at a standstill, and Dale gripped the handle of his knife tight enough to turn his knuckles white.
Three… Two… One…!
With what he hoped was a fierce battle cry, Dale exploded from the woods and ran toward the monster with his knife poised to plunge into the beast’s head. He may have even been able to do it, too, if Mauve hadn’t stuck out her spear handle and tripped him. With a graceless flop, Dale face-planted into the tall grass, sliding to a stop right by the beast’s paws.
“I told ya to go.” Mauve’s growl sounded scarier than whatever sounds Dale could imagine the monster making as the hunter grabbed Dale by the shoulder to haul him to his feet. Mauve was right in his face, her eyes narrowed into a glare so dangerous that Dale was surprised she hadn’t impaled him with her spear already. “What did you come back for?”
“I, uh…” Dale realized that he had dropped his skinning knife somewhere when he tumbled. “I couldn’t leave you by yourself. I wanted to help! I wanted—Why are we still alive?” He glanced over at the monster, which was waiting patiently for Mauve to stop scolding Dale.
Mauve rolled her eyes and gestured to the beast. “This is Sage.”
“It has a name?”
“He has a name,” Mauve corrected. Dale turned to fully look at the beast, and Sage bowed his head in a greeting to the kitchen aid.
“You named him?” Dale asked, his voice cracking in a disbelieving squawk. “The master is not going to allow you to keep a pet, Mauve–”
I am no pet.
Dale jumped at the deep tone that had shoved the sensible voice out of his head. His eyes would fall out of his skull if he could widen them any further. “Did… Did you just–?”
Sage nodded. Yes. You human minds are quite simple to penetrate.
“Can you not do that?” Dale asked.
Sage’s lips curled back in a terrifying smile. I would not be able to communicate with you otherwise.
“Sage got separated from his tribe during that last storm we had,” Mauve said. “The rain caused the landslides around the mountain, cutting off the regular passes.”
Dale glanced back and forth between Mauve and Sage. “Okay… And…?”
“And I volunteered to help Sage find a way through,” Mauve said.
“Really?” Dale blinked then smiled. “That’s great, Mauve. I’m glad that the master is letting you do that–”
“The master knows nothing of this,” Mauve said, her voice as sharp as her gaze. “He will know nothing of this. Understood?”
Dale shook his head. “No, not understood at all! How are you going to help this beast—Uh, I mean, Sage with something like this without the master giving his permission?”
“I don’t mean to come back, Dale.” Her voice was resigned, almost apologetic.
“You don’t know what’s out there,” Dale argued, gesturing in the vague directions of the mountains. “How are you going to survive?”
“I’m going to take my chances,” Mauve said. “I’m a hunter. I can take care of myself, Dale. Whatever I don’t know about the wilderness, I will learn. I don’t want to be stuck behind a master’s walls anymore.”
Worry not for your friend, Sage said, capturing Dale’s attention. My tribe is honorable. We will aid Lady Mauve as thanks for her helping me to return home.
“Splendid,” Dale deadpanned. He rubbed the back of his head. “Mauve, I don’t like this plan…”
“If you had actually listened to me like you were supposed to,” Mauve said, “you wouldn’t have found out about it.”
“So you were just going to up and leave without saying good-bye?” he asked. She clamped her mouth shut and cast her gaze downward. “That’s what I thought.”
“I would have left a note or something–”
“I would have gone after you,” Dale said. “I know I’m annoying to you, like the brother you never wanted, but you’re my best friend in this place.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re not that annoying,” she said. “Unlike me, you actually have a chance to get a better life here. A kitchen aid today, the head of the kitchen staff tomorrow. I’ve heard our superiors talk about you, Dale. You’re obedient, you keep your head down, and you’re organized and friendly enough so the other aids don’t have a problem listening to you.”
Dale chuckled humorlessly. “Everything you do not want in a man.”
“Dale, I have nowhere else to go,” Mauve continued. “I came here to be trained as a hunter, and that’s it.”
“You chose that.”
“I thought it would give me more freedom in my life,” she said, “but I was wrong. I want to go out of the mansion grounds and to explore what else the world has to offer. Going with Sage gives me that chance, and I’ll be helpful to someone else than just as Master Jefferson’s spearhead.
“Please, Dale.” Mauve’s voice turned soft. “I need to live my own life. Please keep this to yourself and let me go.”
Dale took a deep breath and, ultimately, shook his head. “Mauve, listen,” he said. “If you leave, I can’t stay here, not with everything I know now. The master is going to look to me first after your disappearance is discovered, and I can’t lie. You know I can’t, I’m awful at it. Think of this, too. If I, a mere kitchen aid, was able to follow a brilliant hunter like yourself, who’s to say one of Master Jefferson’s guards can’t do the same? They could be hiding out in these woods right now.”
Some of the color drained from Mauve’s face, but Sage put his nose up in the air. I smell no one else besides us, if that is any comfort.
“Still,” Dale said, “it’s possible.” He looked to the hunter, seeing her bite her bottom lip and glancing off to the side, and Dale was satisfied that she was at least thinking about his words. “Mauve, I’m sorry, but you can’t leave.”
Why not accompany us? Sage said. Mauve looked up at the beast and Dale saw the excited sparkle in her eyes. Dale, on the other hand, suddenly felt cold.
“Dale, would you?” Mauve asked. “I know you could have a future here, but I wouldn’t want you to be in any danger because of me.”
“I, uh…” Dale took a step backwards. “It’s safe here–”
“And suffocating,” Mauve said. “There’s a whole world out there, Dale. Don’t you want to see it?”
“Not really,” Dale said. She sighed, and looked at Sage as if he could help.
Lady Mauve has promised to help me, the beast said, and I do not expect her to go back on her word. It would be simple for you to come with us. After all, mates should not be separated.
“What?” Mauve raised an eyebrow at Sage, and the beast looked at her with a similar expression.
Was that the incorrect term? Sage asked. With his worry for you, I had presumed—
“We’re not together like that,” Mauve said gently as Dale hoped the flush on his face would disappear soon from that blunder.
Nevertheless, the beast said, he obviously cares for you, and I doubt that he would give you away intentionally, Lady Mauve. Sage’s piercing gaze looked back at Dale, and the beast stood up to his full, imposing height. Is that not correct, Sir Dale?
Dale swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. “Yes, uh, no… I mean, that’s right, I won’t give Mauve away on purpose, but…” He coughed. “I know me. I can’t lie. I’m horrible at it, and the master knows that we’re friends, and he’d come to me first, I’m sure–”
It is settled, then. Sage sat back down. You will accompany us across the mountain range.
Dale found himself nodding. “Okay.”
On her first evening shift, Diana was greeted with a woman that had dark horns curving out of the top of her head and a thin tail that swished behind her like an aggravated cat.
“What’s wrong, newbie?” the woman asked when Diana stared at the horns a second too long. “Ever see a hybrid before?”
“Well, no,” Diana said. “Can’t say that I have.”
“You have now,” was the brisk reply. “Name’s Anita, the assistant manager of this joint. I’m from Dimension 33, a place where horns and tails aren’t the oddest things you’d see. Heard you’ve been doing well with the register and thought it high time that you start memorizing and making the drinks. You ready?”
“Good enough answer,” Anita said. “You should be more confident, though.” She motioned for Diana to follow, and the pair went behind the cash counter and toward the drink-making area. Diana waved to Ellie by the register, but didn’t stop to say hello. Anita’s swift steps ensured that Diana had no time to pause.
“You won’t be making too many drinks by yourself tonight, if at all,” Anita said. “We do have a guarantee that, if a customer does not like his or her drink, we’ll remake it for free. Don’t give the customers an opportunity to use that.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Diana nodded.
Anita pointed to a booklet hanging on the wall over one of the sinks. “This is our recipe book. It’s all the basics. Obviously, the majority of customers customize their drinks, so learn where all the syrups and flavored shots are. Every ingredient has its own place in this area. Do not mix them up. Drinks can be made faster when you don’t have to second-guess where everything is.”
Diana nodded again, her gaze flitting over the tubes of caramel, hazelnut, and cinnamon, among others. A large tub with a pump was labeled espresso and was next to even bigger containers named coffee and decaf. There was a refrigerator under the main cabinet that, upon getting a sneak peek at from Anita, revealed canisters of whipped cream, jugs of milk, and packages of cream.
“I’ll handle the register tonight,” Anita said after the tour of the mixing area. “Ellie will make the drinks and you’ll shadow her.”
The majority of Diana’s shift was listening to Ellie ramble back and forth about the drinks she was making and about gossip regarding customers from earlier in her shift. Diana watched Ellie carefully, seeing how she moved and barely looked at the ingredients she used to make the drinks correctly. The shift was steady with customers, not too busy. In fact, Diana’s shift felt as if it was lasting much longer than the usual four hours.
“Not many people want caffeine at this time of night,” Ellie said. “You still got a few, of course, that hop in between the crossroads and their own dimension if it’s morning where they’re from.”
“I think it’s funny,” Diana said, “that, no matter what dimension one is from, the love of caffeine seems to be universal.”
Ellie laughed and glanced at the screen for the next order in the queue. “Why don’t you try making this one, Hon?”
Diana saw the order, a medium hazelnut coffee, cream, extra, extra, extra light, and three sugars. She blinked. “Why all the extras for light? Does the customer want the low-fat version?”
“If they wanted low-fat, they would have said so,” Ellie explained. “Well, most would, if they had any sense in their heads. When a customer wants it light, they generally mean the amount of milk or cream in the drink. I usually leave about half an inch per ‘extra’ that the customer orders.”
Diana got to work, getting the medium sized cup and placing it under the coffee tank. Using the few seconds it took the machine to fill the cup with a couple of inches to spare, Diana grabbed the hazelnut syrup and cream. She gave the syrup tube a quick squeeze, mimicking the way Ellie had been working throughout the shift, and dumped the sugar in the drink before adding the generous amount of cream. Under her coworker’s watchful eye, Diana put the special lid on the cup and put it in the blending machine for a couple of seconds before bringing it over to the counter.
“One medium hazelnut with cream, extra, extra, extra light, and three sugars,” Diana called out. A man with an elongated face and other features of a horse grabbed the drink with a quiet word of thanks and a wave to Anita.
“See ya later, Bill,” the manager said as he went out the door. Immediately, Anita turned her attention to the next customer in line and growled. “You are only welcomed here if you are planning on paying for an honest drink!”
Diana, startled at Anita’s aggressive tone, looked up at the customer and shrunk back when she recognized him. Luke was glowering at Anita.
“Nadine doesn’t work here anymore, and with good reason,” Anita interrupted. “She has no clout here. Frankly, she never really did. Either show me money when you order, or get out.”
“He’s back again?” Ellie whispered from behind Diana. “Hon, you may want to get back in case Anita needs my help getting rid of him.”
Diana obeyed, but asked, “What can you do to help?”
Ellie grinned. “Honey, my home dimension is good, ol’ 52, where we’re descendants and relatives of dragons. If Luke really starts pushing Anita, I’ll just show you what I inherited from my great-grandmother.”
Diana found herself wishing that Luke did something stupid enough to get Ellie angry. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on one’s opinions – Luke took the hint and backed off, being sure to slam the door on his way out.
“Aren’t there other places he can get coffee?” Diana asked when Ellie and she returned to the mixing area.
“You ever explore the Dimensional Crossroads?” Ellie asked in return, not even looking at the drink she was mixing. “There’s not too much here, Hon. With so many different creatures passing through, not many businesses survived. Too much cultural differences. We got a few places for basics, some apartments, and then the dimensional portal station.” She shrugged.
“I guess I’ll have to go and sight-see one of these days,” Diana said, handing the chocolate drizzle to Ellie.
“Only if you got some skills to protect yourself,” Ellie said. “Where are you from, anyway?”
“Dimension 21,” Diana said.
“Which one is that?” Ellie asked. “Is that the dimension where everyone is British?”
“Uh, no,” Diana said. “I don’t even have that accent.”
Ellie shrugged again. “Sorry, Hon, I’m not too up-to-date on the dimensions these days.”
“No worries,” Diana said. “Dimension 21 doesn’t seem to have anything special about it, actually. I can’t really think of anything that would make it stand out. Not like dragons or hybrids.”
“I’m sure there’s something fascinating about it,” Ellie said with a smile before going to call out the drink.
Diana hung back and shook her head to herself, disagreeing with Ellie’s words entirely. There was a reason why she wanted the job in the Dimensional Crossroads in the first place.
The next part of the Common Grounds Cafe. These things are fun to write! I hope you enjoy it!
The scent of cinnamon-sprinkled apples awakened Diana’s nose and made her feel almost at home again. She wore a lazy smile as she walked into the café, her shoes shuffling across the tiled floor in a soft hush, as she enjoyed the smells of flavored coffee.
“G’morning,” she said, and got a nod in response from Michael. As she put on her apron, Diana asked, “You always seem to open. Is that your normal shift?”
Diana blinked. Butterflies began to assault her stomach, a feeling that she hadn’t experienced in almost a week since her first few days at Common Grounds. Had she done something wrong, something that prevented Michael from talking to her?
“Michael’s a mute, Hon.” Ellie appeared from the back room, her arms balancing sleeves of plastic cups and covers to get ready for the morning rush. “You haven’t realized that yet, huh?”
“Oh.” Diana glanced over at the manager, who, upon hearing his name, had glanced up at the women and gave them a quirked smile before continuing to open the register for the day. Diana wasn’t one to discriminate, of course, but she was curious as to how Michael could effectively manage and deal with difficult customers if he could not speak to them.
“The higher-ups like having Michael on the morning shifts,” Ellie said, as if she could read Diana’s mind. With a snake’s grin, the woman added, “This is the time when most jackasses are out, but they can’t argue well with a guy who just shakes his head at them.”
Diana smiled in return, oddly eager to see a customer try to argue with Michael. She got her station ready and, in no time at all, Michael was unlocking the front doors.
When she had first joined and learned that she would primarily be working the register for the first couple of weeks, Diana had been skeptical at how quickly she would be able to learn how to operate the machine. Her bosses apparently knew how to train their new workers, considering that Diana almost knew the register’s options by heart. With the simpler orders, Diana barely needed to look at the screen anymore. Her fingers flew across the options, hitting the correct buttons by heart.
“Seven twenty-five, please. Would you like your receipt?” Diana smiled at the customers as she counted their money or swiped their credit cards, and kept the line moving along as she wished them a good day.
“Large half-sweet, non-fat caramel macchiato.” A tall, thin man with a dark goatee matching his narrow eyes made his way to Diana’s register. “And it’s free.”
“Okay, that’s five thirty-eight—Excuse me?” Diana paused.
The man rolled his eyes. “It’s free. Name’s Luke. Everyone here knows me.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Diana said. “I’m new, so—“
“Just let me go and check—“
“What, you don’t believe me?” Luke glowered, and the butterflies were attacking Diana’s stomach in full-force. “You calling me a liar?”
“Of course not, but—“
“Then get me my free drink.”
“You got no free drinks!” Ellie, probably curious as to why Diana wasn’t inputting any orders in the queue, bustled over to Diana’s side. “Everyone here knows you as a cheat, Luke, including this new gal once we’re through with you. Either pay up or get out.”
Luke’s permanent scowl intensified. “Manager. Now.”
“Michael’s right over there, sir,” Diana said, pointing over toward the tables that the manager was cleaning up.
“He’s no sir!” Ellie scoffed, and returned to the drink-mixing area for the next order.
Luke marched over to Michael, and Diana took a deep breath before taking care of the next customer. She tried to ignore the customer’s increased volume with his shouts, and she felt guilty for foisting Luke onto Michael. However, when she snuck a glance at the two men while in between orders, she was impressed at how stoic her manager seemed. Michael’s arms were crossed, a cleaning rag in one hand and a spray bottle of disinfectant in the other, as he stared down Luke. Every so often, Michael would shake his head once, much to Luke’s aggravation. Eventually, Luke said something about calling corporate and getting everyone fired before stomping out of the café. Michael simply turned back around and continued to clean tables.
When there was a lull in the café, Diana’s first question to Ellie was, “What was that Luke guy’s problem? Who was he?”
Ellie huffed. “He’s a jerk that comes in once in a while, either early morning or late at night, always demanding his drink be free ever since he used to date one of the previous managers here.”
“That’s… ridiculous,” Diana said.
“People are,” Ellie said. “Let me just tell you this, Hon. If any customer claims that they are entitled to a free drink, always check with a manager. Doesn’t matter if the customer keeps arguing with you. Lie and say you don’t have the ability to make the drink free in the register or something. Just get a manager.”
“Alright,” Diana said. “I probably would have done so, anyway.”
“You got a head on your shoulders.” Ellie nodded with approval. “The last kid that was here got fired since he was so gullible.”
Diana winced in sympathy. She glanced over at Michael, seeing him through the office’s open door in the back of the café at the main computer. “Michael doesn’t mind that we sent the difficult customer to him, does he?”
“That’s his job,” Ellie said, cleaning some of the utensils and instruments used to make the drinks. “Don’t worry about it. Luke isn’t the first jerk that Michael’s faced off, and Luke won’t be the last.” Diana nodded, but wasn’t too convinced. Apparently, her skepticism showed, for Ellie added, “You’re going to meet a lot of different kinds of characters here, Hon. Working retail is crap, but it’ll give you tough skin and appreciativeness for others.”
A bubble popped from behind her, making Diana jump. She sighed and gave Colin’s smirk a crooked smile in return.
“Unless you’re Colin,” Ellie said to end her speech.
“What,” Diana said, “Colin doesn’t appreciate others?”
“It’s not that,” Colin said, tossing his belongings in the back room and giving Michael a nod, which Diana began to understand as the universal greeting between guys. “I don’t have tough skin. I’m very sensitive, you know.”
“As sensitive as a rhino’s hide,” Ellie muttered, and Diana laughed. “Your shift is done, Hon. Clock out and go home.”
“Unless you want to do my shift too,” Colin said. “You know, get the extra practice and all.”
“I think I’m good,” Diana said, taking off her apron and hanging it up. “Besides, you need to work on getting tougher skin, right?”
His smirk grew. “Not sure. After all, girls like sensitive guys, right?”
Diana shook her head. “Not if they’re lazy! See you later, everyone.”
I’m more of a pantser when it comes to writing. I don’t do outlines much at all. Granted, I have a general idea as to where I want the novel to go, but I enjoy the ride when it comes to writing, liking the surprises that the plot, the setting, and the characters spring on me. For July’s Camp NaNo, though, I do have a tentative written outline for a novel.
Usually for NaNo, instead of starting a new novel like you’re “supposed to,” I just add my word count to whatever story I’m currently working on. This time, however, I’m going to try to “play by the rules” and write a new story at the beginning of camp. Due to this, I’m trying to get into the habit of writing every day, at least 500 words, on something, whether it be just a story idea or a new part to an existing novel sitting on my flash drive. Hence why there have been scribbles and prompts posted on here for the past couple of days.
Critique and comments are always appreciated on them! If anyone wants to share prompts, or use one of the prompts that I have used, let me know and comment with links to the stories that use the prompts. I’d love to see them!
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.