“Enjoy Your Meal, Sir?” by Christine Sutton
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An unexpected diner in the restaurant where Laura works has her cooking up the perfect dish.
Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Enjoy Your Meal, Sir?” by Christine Sutton
As the rich, dark dome slid from the oven Laura sighed with relief. She’d followed the recipe exactly but until you saw the finished cake you could never be sure. And doing it for real, in an actual restaurant, felt very different from night school. Now it wasn’t just something to keep her amused when Barry was working late; it was her livelihood. She couldn’t wait to see his face when she showed him her first paycheck next month. He was going to be so proud. Leaving the cake to cool, she started on the filling.
“The Hunk is back,” announced Amy, breezing past with a tray of dirty plates.
“Who?” Laura asked absently, busy whipping cream for her Black Forest Gateau.
“The guy I told you about,” Amy said. “He comes in every Friday with a different girl. Tonight it’s a redhead, last week was a brunette. They’re always gorgeous but then so’s he. George Clooney meets Harrison Ford.” She heaved an ecstatic sigh.
“You shouldn’t even be looking at other men. You’re a married woman,” Laura said. “Newly married at that; what would Darren say?”
Amy gave a crow of laughter. “No harm looking, Laura, long as you don’t touch. Just as well, really, or Paulo would be in intensive care by now, the looks he gives you. Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed?” she scoffed, seeing Laura’s disbelief. “You should be flattered. I certainly wouldn’t kick him out of bed!”
“Amy!” Laura chided, laughing despite herself. As her friend disappeared back into the restaurant, Laura couldn’t resist a glance across the kitchen at the young Italian sous chef. There was no denying Paulo was extremely handsome but as for being interested in her…
As if aware of her scrutiny, Paulo glanced round. Her heart skipped; the look in his eyes was pure puppy dog devotion. Flustered, she turned away and tried to focus on the dish she’d started earlier, her chocolate mint mousse. Or Heaven on a Spoon, as Barry called it. She was energetically beating egg whites when Amy came barging back through the swing doors.
“You’ll never guess,” she squeaked. “He’s just asked me out! I was clearing away their starter when the girlfriend nips to the ladies. Next thing I know he’s showing me two tickets for Wicked and inviting me to see it with him next week. I won’t go, of course,” she added piously.
“I should think not,” Laura exclaimed hotly. “The girlfriend barely out of earshot and he’s coming on to you? The man’s an utter lowlife.”
Dropping the whisk, she grabbed Amy’s arm and marched her toward the swing door.
“Okay,” she said, easing it open, “I want to see this creep for myself. Where is he?”
“In the alcove, with the redhead,” Amy said, pointing to four discreetly screened bays on the far side of the room. “The one nearest the potted palm.”
Laura’s first thought was that she must be looking at the wrong alcove and that the man Amy was talking about would be sitting in the next one along – except that the next one was empty. Doing a smart about-turn, she marched back into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” Amy demanded, as Laura began whisking with all her might. “Do you know him or something?”
“You could say that,” Laura snarled. “He’s my fiancé.”
“Your fiancé?” Amy echoed.
“Yes, we were supposed to be doing the I take thee, till death us do, bit next year. Well, as far as Barry’s concerned, the death part might be coming a bit sooner than expected.”
“No, hang on,” Amy panicked, flapping a distracted hand, “p’raps I got it wrong and it’s just a business meeting. Business contacts are allowed to look like Nicole Kidman, aren’t they?”
Laura shook her head. “You’re not a business contact but it didn’t stop him coming on to you.” She stood a moment, thinking. “Have they ordered their main course yet?”
“Yes, Lobster Thermidor and Steak au Poivre, why?”
“Because when it comes to dessert I want you to recommend the mousse. Tell him it’s tonight’s special. Because believe me, it will be…”
From her vantage point behind the potted palm, Laura watched Barry spooning up the last of his fluffy chocolate mint mousse. She had to admit Amy was right. A month off his fortieth birthday he still retained the movie star looks and muscular physique that had attracted her three years ago. As he ran the spoon around the rim of the bowl, she made her move.
“Enjoy your meal, Sir?”
“Fabulous, thanks,” he said, the spoon halfway to his mouth. “My compliments to…” The words died on his lips as he saw who was speaking. “Laura! What are you doing here?”
His expression was so comical she almost laughed. “I work here, Barry,” she said coolly. “And you?”
He had the good grace to blush. “Oh, uh, we’re working too.”
She arched a cynical eyebrow. “Oh, I’m sure.”
“No, it’s, umm, not what you think,” he stammered. “Miss Messiter here, she’s…”
“I can see what she is,” Laura cut in crisply, ignoring his companion’s indignant protest. “Tell me, Barry, what did you think of the mousse? I made it especially for you.”
“The mousse?” he said, clearly relieved to be getting off so lightly. “It was, umm, delicious. Yes, had quite a bite.”
“I was worried about serving it, to be honest,” Laura went on. “I had a small accident, you see. Amy here was telling me about this cheating, low-life customer who’d asked her out right under his girlfriend’s nose and, well, something sort of snapped.”
She opened out the snowy white napkin she was holding to reveal the fragments of a broken wineglass. Slowly, Barry’s gaze shifted from the shards in her palm to the tiny sparkling slithers clinging to his spoon. His eyes widened.
“Oh, my God,” he croaked. “You didn’t, you couldn’t.”
Smiling sweetly she gathered up the folds of the napkin. “Bye, Barry dear. I don’t expect I’ll be seeing you again.”
Turning on her heel, Laura walked swiftly back to the kitchen.
“Are you mad?” Amy hissed, darting in after her, “powdered glass? You realize you’ll be sacked? He could even die.”
Laura looked baffled. “Who said anything about powdered glass? I just put a couple of ground-up clear mints in his dish. Of course,” she added with a wink, “worrying about it might give him a few sleepless nights. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Amy, there’s a certain sous chef I’d rather like to speak to.”
Christine Sutton lives in south-east England. Her first story, A Stranger Calls, was published in Woman’s Own magazine in 1993. Since then, her stories and articles have appeared in publications in the UK, America, Canada, S. Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
Tags: christine sutton, metro fiction, short stories