Chocolate Cream Pie
“You’re going to be in charge of zone three tonight, Clair. Did you hear me?” said Mark irritated because Clair was obviously in a daze looking at the rush of customers flooding into the restaurant. Within an hour of opening for dinner, every table was full and the wait was almost an hour long.
“I heard you Mark, zone three. I’m sorry I just feel a little nervous about tonight, I’m still getting the hang of this,” exclaimed Clair nervous and sorry for not paying attention. She forced her eyes to meet Mark’s and smiled half heartedly; pushing some loose strands of soft brown hair behind her ear. She knew she had to focus her mind on the guest and service.
“It’s going to be ok, just ask for help if you need it,” replied Mark. His words were difficult to hear from all the noise but his message was clear enough through the reassuring look in his eyes. The restaurant was growing louder with clanking of plates and chatter of the guest and waiters throughout the dining room.
“Ok, that makes me feel better. Thanks, Mark,” said Clair determined to win back Mark’s trust for the night. He smiled and nodded as he patted Clair’s shoulder and walked away to take care of the seating issue he spotted at table nine across the room. This job was given to Clair as a favor for many long nights of babysitting for her neighbor, Mark’s children, and he was willing to repay her with a job at his restaurant. Coming home for college was not easy, especially since Clair had not spoken to her best friend Anna in a year. Not since she was hit on by Anna’s boyfriend, Jason, and Clair could not find a way to tell her. She just stopped answering Anna’s calls and found excuses not to come home from college.
The aromas of the firewood grill in the kitchen burning carried its smoky scent throughout the restaurant and the candlelight luminescence made it a popular place for dates in the small town of Golden. Carmela’s was a small family owned restaurant that offered only the best Italian food in town.
But all Clair could think about as she lit the cinnamon scented red candles on the table was Jason’s breath on her of vodka that summer night. Her hands trembled and her heart felt heavy. Sweat began to beat down her brow and nausea made her lose a little balance. She did not want to remember how his hand slipped up her thigh and his other hand gripping on her neck as he whispered in her ear one night at a graduation party. He offered her an opportunity to sleep with him, told her in fact that he desired her deeply and Anna never had to know. Clair closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, it was over and her past was behind her. She did not have to be afraid any more of being powerless and how she lost a dear friend.
“Hey Clair, your guest are seated and waiting for you at table twelve. Are you alright?” asked Mark as he put his hand on Clair’s firm shoulder and smiled reassuringly. It eased her trembling and the warmth of human contact with someone familiar made her feel safer.
“Yes I’m fine thank you. I just wanted to relight this candle, it went out after our last guest,” said Clair.
She smiled and more reassured now that she can focus on her work, she went off to table twelve to take care of her guest. Clair walked steadily with her menus in hand and order pad at the ready. As she weaved between chairs and watched out for flying trays carried high above the waiter’s heads, she locked in her vision on table twelve and froze in her step. Her heart pounded against her ribcage like a mallet on a base drum and her neck and face grew hotter all in an instant. Jason and Anna were her guest at table twelve. What could she do; she thought? There was no chance of her trading with another waiter; it would not be a possibility on a busy night like tonight. Her only option was to step up and face her friend. Having no other way out, Clair tightened her grip on her menus and list of wines and moved her heavy resisting legs to table nine. Not prepared with what to say to Anna, she advanced none the less.
“Good evening and welcome to Carmela’s” said Clair, fumbling through her apron for her pen in attempt to avoid the inevitable.
“Clair! Oh my gosh I can’t believe it! You work here? I had no idea, I tried to call you all this time and you don’t return my calls,” says Anna desperately. She stands up from her chair and puts her arms around Clair’s neck. Her flowing black dress sways with her happiness and her signature Channel perfume consume Clair’s nostrils for that instant.
“Hi, Anna. I’m sorry, I’ve been so busy but it’s nice to see you,” said Clair. She embraces her long lost friend for just a moment and let’s go. Clair wanted to hug her longer and cry from all the anger and hurt she experienced. She wanted to bury her face in her friends welcoming shoulder and let out all of the hurt and anger inside. But she could not. The guilt of not telling her friend the truth about her unfaithful boyfriend had been a heavy price to pay, but not as heavy as the price would be for telling her.
“It’s nice to see you for once Clair. It’s been a while,” says Jason. His eyes gazed and piecing at Clair made her knees buckle.
“Yes it’s been a while,” said Clair. She glanced at Jason for just a moment and returned her attention to Anna.
“Were here celebrating our five year anniversary but it’s so nice to see you. Let’s see each other now that you’re in town,” said Anna with her hands folded and eyes pleading for a yes. In person, Clair could never turn down Anna’s request.
“Sure, that sounds nice. But first I want to take down your drink order. What will it be tonight?” asked Clair.
“I’m not sure yet. Could you order for us, Jason? I really have to go to the ladies room,” said Anna. She stood up and took her purse and darted through the dining room to the restrooms. Alone now with Jason, Clair felt an air of suspicion. She wondered what Jason was planning to say as she felt his grin grow wider.
“Well take a bottle of the house champagne with a special request,” said Jason.
“Ok Jason. What is the special request?” asked Clair. She was not looking at him as she continued to scribble on her notepad in order to avoid his beady black eyes.
“Can you slip Anna’s engagement ring in her glass for me? I’m proposing to her tonight and I want everything to go well. I mean everything,” said Jason menacingly. He slipped out a black jewelry box from his pocket and pried it open with his long pasty white fingers to show Clair. “You see Clair, Anna trusts me. She knows I’m faithful and would never do anything to hurt her. Much like you, right Clair?”
“Yeah, I can do that,” says Clair. She looked at Jason and before she could think, she snatched the jewelry box from Jason’s hand and slipped it in her apron. In escape she marched off to the wine cellar in the back of the kitchen. Clair felt the walls closing in all around her and her head spun as it became difficult to breathe.
Anna had to know the truth. Her boyfriend made a move on Clair, a violent and aggressive move. He could potentially hurt Anna and she had to know before it was too late. The tiny ring box in her apron weighed a ton all of a sudden and Clair knew she had to carry it all the way to the ladies room and find Ana before she went back to her table and Jason. Off Clair went straight to the bathroom, almost tripping over her feet that resisted any command of movement Clair demanded. She pushed through the heavy black bathroom door with the crooked Ladies sign hanging over head and spotted Anna bent over the counter and her eyes gazing at her own reflection in the mirror.
“Hey there,” said Anna in a mumbled tone as she applied lipstick to her full plump lips. “I can’t believe I got to see you but guess what? I think Jason is proposing tonight, he’s been planning this for us for weeks now and I’m highly suspicious that he has been up to something special.”
Guilt rode over Clair’s conscious and her body trembled as she thought about her friend and Jason promised to each other for life. Anna deserved better, she was always so kind and loving towards others. Clair took one deep sigh and looked into her best friend’s eyes, ready to speak about the last night she saw her friend one year ago.
“About Jason, I have something to tell you and you have to promise me that you will believe me,” said Clair with warms tears now streaming down her face as she looked at Anna.
“Yeah of course, Clair. I’ve known you practically all of my life. What’s the matter Clair?” asked Anna
“Well Anna, last summer at the Thompson brother’s graduation party, Jason made a move on me. When you and the others were downstairs at the basement and I went upstairs to get another bag of chips, Jason followed me. He said he wanted to help me even though I said I didn’t need him to. I was in the kitchen and going to the pantry when he pulled at my arm. Jason pushed me against the wall and his hands were all over me. He gripped my neck as I tried to resist and with his other hand he groped me. He said he wanted to sleep with me and that you didn’t have to know. I bit his hand when he slipped it up to touch my lips and ran out of the house. That’s why you haven’t seen me or heard from you all of this time,” said Clair. She did not feel relieved in telling her friend such a horrible story. She felt ashamed that she did not tell her before.
“That can’t be true Clair, how can you say that?” Jason would never hurt anyone,” said Anna with disgust reflected in her narrow gaze set on Clair.
“It is true Anna, you have to believe me. He is proposing tonight and I wanted you to know this before you commit to him for life,” said Clair now hanging her head low from the shame in having to deliver embarrassing news.
She reached down in her apron and pulled out the ring box. In her hand it felt heavy still and she placed it on the counter in front of Anna. Anna picked the little black box and put in her black beaded purse and walked out of the restroom without looking at Clair as if she were invisible. Clair felt a cold shudder as her friend left and thought that she had for sure made the biggest mistake of her life by unleashing the truth.
With nothing else holding her in the restroom, she walked out and returned back to work. Clair walked back into the cool wine cellar and picked up the bottle of champagne Jason requested with two glasses and a cork screw. With her hands full, she walked through the dining hall and towards table twelve. Clair could see Jason and Anna now both standing and looking at each other. They both paused and looked at Clair as she was now standing at their table with their champagne.
“Oh and Jason, you can take this with you too,” screamed Anna. She pulled out the small black box and put it on the table in front of Jason. He took it without looking up at Anna or Clair and walked out of the restaurant. Anna folded her arms and looked down at her shoes. “Well that scumbag won’t be coming around either one of us ever again.”
“You broke it off I’m guessing with Jason. I’m so sorry Anna but I love you too much to see you get hurt,” said Clair still holding the bottle and glasses.
“It’s ok; I knew you wouldn’t lie to me. He’s a creep anyways. So what do you have for dessert here that’s good and we can split?” asked Anna now smiling at Clair. She hugged Clair with her arms full still and sat back down at the table.
“We have a chocolate cream pie that I know you will love,” said Clair.“Good let’s share it,” laughed Anna. This was going to be a new beginning for both of them and it needed to be broken in with a dessert