Authors: K.L. Prince
All Rights Reserved
Hailee opens a letter that says ‘Bill Overdue’ in big bold red letters. She glances at the numbers and tosses it onto the desk with the rest of the pile of overdue bills. She glances over at the safe, which should be full of dollar bills, but sits nearly empty. She sighs and leans back in her chair. It’s hard to be optimistic when everything feels completely hopeless.
She can’t bear to spend another minute in the restaurant. She knows that she’s going down on a sinking ship, but it’s hard to accept. She just wants to go home and forget about the restaurant’s problems. She wants to lie in her fiancée’s arms and forget she even has a restaurant. She just wants to think about their upcoming wedding and the happy things in her life. She wants to look at Kyle from across a candlelit table and imagine all the happy times that are in store for them in the future. She just wants to feel free of the burden of the restaurant for a while.
She decides that she is not going to want - she is going to do. She grabs her purse and her coat. She’s leaving. She is going to go home, surprise Kyle, who is waiting for her at her apartment, and they are going to sit down and have a romantic evening together for a change. She is not going to worry about the restaurant or talk about the restaurant and its problems. She is going to enjoy the man that she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with. She is going to make up for all the time that she’s been spending working and not with him. It’s going to be just the two of them tonight. He is her top priority tonight.
“Mack, I’m going home,” she says as she walks by the kitchen.
“Alright. I can handle things around here,” he says, looking up from the onions he’s chopping.
“I know,” she says, smiling at him. Mack is her head chef. He is not only her head chef, but also one her dearest friends. He can handle the restaurant with his hands tied behind his back, so she’s not worried. She wouldn’t be leaving if she didn’t trust him completely to close the restaurant. She is glad that he is in her life, especially at moments like this, when she just needs to get away from the madness for a while.
“You got something planned for Kyle?” he asks, placing the cut onions in a hot frying pan on the stove.
“Nothing specific. I just want to spend some time with him. I’ve been spending so much time here that I’ve neglected him a bit.”
“Well, you go and put things right. Don’t even have a second thought about this place. I will lock up and see you tomorrow.”
“Thanks Mack. I really appreciate it.”
“What are friends for anyway? Go. Get out of here,” he says, motioning with his hands for her to leave.
She turns and leaves. She wants to get out of the restaurant before some disaster happens and she has to stay. She can’t wait to see Kyle, kiss his lips, and feel his hands touching her skin. She really has missed him so much. They’ve been together, but there has been a distance between them. Her plan is to close the gap and never let them separate again. She realizes what’s most important to her and it’s him. He is the number one thing in her life and she is going to show him that when she gets home.
* * * * *
“Marco, the line is down the street and starting to go around the block. We need a bigger space,” his headwaiter says to him, looking a little flustered.
“I know. I have the perfect place for the restaurant to move. I believe it will be available very soon. Just be patient.” he replies, patting his waiter on the back. He is fully aware of his current occupancy problem. His business his become so successful that every night has become like this. He simply doesn’t have enough tables to meet the customer demand. It’s something that needs to change and soon. Every time he has to turn a customer away, it’s money out of his pocket. There is nothing that he hates more than to watch money walk away and slip through his fingers. His father always told him when he was growing up to never leave money on the table and it’s something that he lives by to this day.
He’s been watching the restaurant across the street. He’s watched the lackluster attendance and the all the slow evenings. You’d have to be deaf, blind and dumb not to realize that the eatery is not turning a profit. The restaurant that sits parallel to his is on the slide downhill - it’s obvious. He’s more than sure that it will be closed in the next few months, and when it does shut its doors, he is going to swoop in and take over the space. It is perfect for his needs and it’s not too expensive. He’s already looked into it.
He feels bad for the owner. He’s eaten over there, just to see what his competition was offering, and the food was okay. He didn’t think that it was anything to write home about, but it was edible. The dishes were a little pricey, but nothing too outrageous. He’s not entirely sure why the restaurant isn’t doing better, but its poor performance is working for his benefit.
Now, it’s just a waiting game. Every day he wonders if today is the day when the owner finally shuts the doors for good, but to his surprise, it hasn’t happened yet. He wonders how the owner is staying afloat, but he knows the clock is ticking on the restaurant. It’s simply a matter of time. While the owner just prolongs a certain death, he will sit, cross his fingers, and patiently wait.
* * * * *
Hailee digs her keys out of her purse. Every step that she’s taken towards her apartment, the more her excitement has grown. The closer that she’s gotten, the more her need to be close with Kyle has increased. She can’t wait to see him, stroke his face, and look into his gorgeous hazel eyes. She can get lost in those eyes so easily and that is what she wants to do.
She fumbles with her keys because of her excitement. When she finally gets her key in the door, unlocks it, pushes it open and glides across the threshold of her apartment, she breathes in a sigh of relief. Home sweet home. Now, where is the man that she’s been longing to see?
She is about to call out his name, when she hears giggling. She thinks that it’s just her imagination, but then she hears the sound of a woman giggle again. Curiosity draws her towards the sound. When she gets to the bedroom door, it’s slightly open and she can see inside. Kyle is in bed with another woman. She can see the back of a woman as she straddles her soon-to-be husband.
She stands at the door and watches her fiancée for a second. She’s stands very still, registering what she is seeing. They obviously didn’t hear her come in and why does the woman’s voice sound so familiar? Finally, she’s seen enough. She slams open the bedroom door and startles the two lovers.
“What the hell is this?” she yells at the top of her lungs. The voice that comes out of her doesn’t sound like hers. It’s a guttural yell. The yell of a woman scorned. “You have got to be kidding me,” she says when she sees who the other woman is. It’s a waitress that works at the restaurant named Stella. Stella was one of the first waitresses she hired after hearing her hard luck story about being homeless and just needing a chance. Where’s the loyalty?
“Honey, I can explain. What are you doing here?”
“I fuckin’ live here,” she says. “After everything that I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me! You sleep with her!” she says, wanting so much to attack Kyle, but restraining herself and trying to maintain some sense of dignity.
“Can we just talk about this?” Kyle says, putting his pants on.
“And you!” she says, pointing her finger at Stella. “How could you do this to me? I gave you a job, even when every fiber in my being told me that it wasn’t a good idea. I basically took you in, hired you, gave you a shot at a life off the streets and you do this! The both of you make me sick.”
Stella doesn’t answer. She avoids eye contact with Hailee. She just continues getting dressed and looking down at the floor. When she is finished getting dressed, she leaves without saying a word. Hailee spits on the ground behind her as she leaves.
“Sit down on the bed,” Kyle says, grabbing her arm. “Let’s talk about this.”
“Don’t touch me,” she says, ripping her away from his grip and sitting down on the bed. “You’re going to touch me with the same hands that you were just touching her? I can’t believe you, Kyle. In my house! You’re going to bring that tramp into my house and in my bed!”
“Haillee, I’m just going to be honest,” Kyle says, sitting down next to her. “I’ve been lonely. You’re always working and you don’t pay any attention to me. I just needed to feel wanted and Stella gave me what I needed.”
“So, you’re going to blame this on me? You have a lot of nerve, Kyle. This has nothing to do with me. This is all about you. You’re selfish.”
“Maybe so. I’m so sorry, Hailee.”
“You’re not sorry. Nice try, Kyle. You’re just sorry that you got caught. How long has this been going on between you and her?”
“A couple of months. It wasn’t something that I planned. It just kind of happened.”
“Oh, your clothes just happened to fall off and you just happened to fall into bed with her? Kyle, stop treating my like I’m stupid. I know exactly what’s going on here and you’re lame excuses are not going to cut it! I can’t listen to this right now.”
“So, I guess the wedding is off then?” Kyle asks, looking at her with puppy dog eyes.
“Are you being serious right now?” she says, turning to look at him with pure disgust written all over her face. “You honestly think that I would still want to marry you after I find you in bed with another woman?”
“I don’t know what I think.”
“I want you to get out.”
“Haillee, let’s talk….”
“Get out!” she screams at him.
He gathers his clothes and she walks behind him to the door. As far as she is concerned, he can take a long walk off a short plank. She never wants to see him again. He’s dead to her. To think she was rushing home so she could be with him because she missed him so much and he was in her bed with another woman. It’s the ultimate in humiliation. She can’t bear to look at his scummy face. She looks into the hazel eyes that she had been longing to get lost in just a short time ago and it makes her sick to her stomach. His presence makes her feel like she is going to vomit.
When he is at the door of her apartment with his things, she throws her engagement ring at him. She doesn’t want it anymore. It means nothing now. Their engagement was a complete farce. Their relationship was a farce. Kyle threw it away so easily. She wonders if she ever mattered to him at all. She wonders if he’s been cheating the throughout their whole relationship. She watches him pick the ring up.
“Haillee,” he says, trying one more time.
“Go and don’t come back,” she says, turning her back to him.
She listens as the door to her apartment closes and he’s gone. As she locks the door, a wave of grief washes over her. A huge part of her life just walked through the door and is gone forever. Everything she had been hoping and planning for her future had disappeared in an instant. She and Kyle were supposed to get married in two months. Now she is going to have to tell all their friends and their families that the wedding is off and that Kyle cheated on her. She has never felt so humiliated and so heartbroken in her entire life.
She sits down on the sofa in the living room. The emptiness of the apartment makes her feel very lonely. She glances at the hallway leading to her bedroom. She wonders if she will ever be able to sleep in her bed again. Kyle and Stella contaminated it. They’ve destroyed what used to be her sanctuary. It used to be the place where she could let go of all her worries and stress from the day. It was the place she went to relax and veg. Now, it’s as if the soft neutral colors on the walls have been marred by graffiti and the room has been ransacked and littered with garbage. They have desecrated her sanctuary.