The restaurant was busy, as usual on a late Wednesday morning. I was short a dishwasher and my manager Aude was getting on my nerves. She was a great manager but I was too tired to deal with her annoying laugh. And she kept laughing. It wasn’t usually a big deal but I was tired as fuck from the night before. I didn’t drink a lot at Dawson’s, but it was enough to make waking up harder than normal. The worst part was I had to pick up Josie after work. I loved seeing my princess, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I was going to want to nap though.
I was at the stove putting together a crème brulee French toast plate when Aude came to the back, where she wasn’t allowed when we were open. The last thing I needed was for her to slip and fall or get burned.
“What can I do for you Aude?” I knew she wanted something. She had that look on her face.
“You have a visitor,” she told me. “Amelia is here.”
Which meant Sookie was probably with her… I didn’t need to think about that. Sookie wasn’t into me.
“Is she here to eat?” I asked.
“Looks like it. She’s looking at a menu and has two glasses of water in front of her, but she’s alone.”
“Okay. Did she tell you to tell me she’s here?” From what I’d been told Aude had a crush on me. I wasn’t so sure.
“I just thought I’d tell you. Is her meal going to be comped again?”
“Isn’t it always?” Amelia and Dawson didn’t come into the cafe often; it wasn’t a big deal to comp meals for my best friend and his wife. “Whose section is she in?”
“Arlene’s,” Aude answered. They would be in good hands with Arlene.
“Thanks, Aude,” I said, shooing her out of the kitchen. I finished plating the French toast before I got back to work on the next order. It took a few minutes… more like twenty before I was done. We had a new order up but I left it to Charles, telling him I’d be back in a few minutes.
By the time I walked out of the kitchen it looked like Sookie had shown up as well. The girls had coffee in front of them. Amelia looked concerned while Sookie looked like she was close to tears. Uh oh.
“Uh, am I interrupting?” I asked as I approached and pulled a chair out to take a seat. My feet were tired.
Sookie shook her head and sipped her coffee.
“Mama drama,” Amelia supplied.
I nodded. I’d had my own issues with my mom but nothing near as bad as what Sookie was probably going through. Instead of commenting on it I asked, “Have you girls ordered? Is Arlene treating you well?”
“Yep. She just walked away.” I nodded again.
“How are you feeling?” I asked Sookie.
“Been better,” she answered. I noticed there was a bruise forming on the right side of her face.
I started to reach out to touch it, but quickly pulled my hand back. “Um, what happened to your face?” She didn’t have that bruise when she passed out the night before.
“Hangover and a lack of coordination,” she replied.
“Been there,” I chuckled. “I once stepped on a Lego, hopped around on one foot, which is a sight at this height, and then tripped over the end table. I broke the table, my toe, and had a puncture from the Lego. I also got a knot on my head from the wall when I hit it.”
“So you hit the jackpot too,” Sookie said. The corner of her mouth lifted just a fraction of an inch. She was still cute even with a swollen jaw.
“You have no idea. I had a four-year-old giggling like a loon as she watched the whole thing transpire. I didn’t talk to Dawson for a month after that since he’s the one that got her the Legos.” It was my fault for not paying attention. I still blamed him.
“That must have been when I met him. He was probably lonely,” Amelia snickered.
“Probably,” I chuckled.
Sookie stayed quiet, sipping her coffee and looking at the people passing by the cafe. I wanted to get her to talk so I could get to know her better sober but she clearly had a lot on her mind.
“Sookie, what were you saying about needing a job as soon as possible?” Amelia said with a pointed look.
Sookie’s eyes snapped to Amelia’s face and if looks could kill, Amelia would be in a billion pieces, floating out on the Pacific.
“Nothing,” Sookie said just as pointedly.
“Are you any good with numbers and math?” I asked, ignoring her dirty look. I hated doing the books. If Sookie was any good at it, I would happily help her with a job until she found something better.
“Are you kidding? I can’t even balance a checkbook,” she replied. “I have zero skills, okay? You don’t want to hire me, trust me.”
“She’s a quick learner,” Amelia said.
“If she’s willing to learn,” I pointed out. I directed my attention to Sookie again. “I have simple software that I can teach you in less than an hour. If I can do it, anyone can.”
“Look, I appreciate the offer but I don’t think us working together is the best idea, okay? You seem like a decent enough guy but you keep eye fucking me and I’m not interested in any kind of fucking right now and I think it would make for a really awkward working environment.”
“You’re delusional,” I chuckled. “Yes, I find you attractive, but I find a lot of girls attractive. That doesn’t mean I’m eye fucking you. You don’t want the job, great. I’ll find someone else that needs it.”
“Sookie needs it but she’s being stubborn,” Amelia told me.
“She doesn’t want it,” I shrugged. I learned my lesson about fucking around with employees.
“I can figure it out for myself, Amelia. I do appreciate the offer, Eric,” Sookie said.
“Uh huh. I’ll let you girls get back to lunch.” I got up from the table and went back to the kitchen.
I could read between the lines. From what I gathered Sookie was in desperate need of a job, which probably meant mommy and daddy cut her off. She didn’t want the job I offered, that wasn’t waiting tables. That was a far cry closer to princess than servant since her highness couldn’t be bothered. I was sure she still assumed I was some poor bum that had to work in a kitchen to live, which meant I was beneath her. I liked Sookie, and I was willing to help her since she was Amelia’s friend. That was how I worked.
I got into the kitchen and checked the tickets to see what was up. I saw the spinach, feta and egg white omelet that wasn’t on the menu and instantly knew it was Amelia’s. On the same ticket there was a chicken fried steak. Sookie was from the south, and hungover. I was willing to bet good money that was for her.
“Charles, I got this one,” I said, pulling the ticket to get it started.
Amelia’s omelet would take seconds so I started with Sookie’s steak. It took a couple minutes to prepare it before I tossed it in the cast iron skillet. I made a fresh batch of country gravy every morning when I showed up, but decided to make more for Sookie. I knew from the night before she liked pepper, I hoped she liked sausage too.
It didn’t take too long to prep Sookie’s plate. Charles didn’t listen, as usual, and started Amelia’s omelet. I had the plates ready to go within fifteen minutes. I didn’t wait for a runner and took the plates out to the girls myself.
“I assume this is for you?” I said as I set Sookie’s plate down in front of her. There was the chicken fried steak, a biscuit, gravy, and a second plate with scrambled eggs and bacon. Amelia’s plate had her omelet and fruit, like she always ordered.
“Yes, thank you,” she said.
“You’re welcome. Enjoy, ladies,” I smiled at them and turned to walk away.
I got back to the kitchen and went straight to the tickets to start getting orders out. I had a feeling I was going to have to bring Josie back to the cafe after school so I could finish the paperwork for the night. We closed at two, she was out at three. I usually had time to get shit done. It wasn’t happening that day.
“How was school, princess?” I asked as my daughter climbed up into my truck. She was tall for her age but still had to climb to get in.
“It was good. Landon married me at lunch,” she informed me.
“Married you, huh? What did that consist of?” I pulled the seat belt over her body and then put the seat back. I had an extended cab that she wasn’t going to fit in for too much longer.
“Kailey was my flower girl and we said our promises and then he kissed my cheek.”
I smiled at her before walking around to the driver seat. “How did he propose?” I asked, looking back at her while I waited for some of the other cars to clear out. I wasn’t so worried about the new husband. I would worry when she hit her teens and told me she got married. Then the little shitstain would meet the business end of my shotgun.
“What’s that mean?”
“How did he ask you to marry him? Or did you ask him?” I clarified.
“He asked me. He gave me a peach ring and asked me to marry him,” she shrugged. She had no idea what marriage really was.
“That was sweet of him. Don’t you think Uncle Tray is going to be jealous?” I smiled.
“He’s got that wife,” she replied.
“True. So do I get to meet this Landon kid? He is married to my princess, after all.”
“You don’t need to meet him, Daddy. I’m no dummy,” Josie said with sass.
“No you aren’t,” I agreed. “I still want to meet him. Unless you’re planning on divorcing him.”
“Not yet. Maybe someday.”
“Okay. What do you want for dinner?” I pulled away from the curb into the ridiculous line of cars.
“Hmmm… Maybe chicken nachos?”
“Sounds good. Want to make them or get them from the taco place down the street from the house?”
“Yours are better.” I didn’t even have to pay her to say that.
“Are you going to help me?” I smiled. I loved doing hands on things with her, and teaching her to cook. Having Josie taught me an incredible amount of patience that I didn’t have when I was younger.
“Can I do the chopping?”
“As long as I can help you hold the knife.” My knives were sharp. The last thing I needed was for my daughter to lose a finger which was likely if I didn’t help her. That way I could teach her proper technique. I didn’t want Josie growing up with no cooking skills. She needed to be able to take care of herself.
“I’m not gonna chop off my fingers, Daddy,” she said like I should know better.
“Fine. Small knife and you don’t cut until I see where all your fingers are.” It made me nervous. I’d taught her well though.
“I saw this video on YouTube of a girl playing this game with her hand on the table and her fingers like this,” Josie put her hand on the seat next to her with her fingers spread apart, “And she sang this song while she moved a knife between her fingers like this.” She was tapping back and forth from one finger to the next. “And she cut her finger real bad before the song was over.”
What kind of shit was Felicia allowing her to watch?
“That girl is silly, princess. I hope you don’t think that’s a good idea. I would hate for you to get hurt.” I would lose my fucking mind if she did some stupid shit like that.
“I told you I’m not dumb,” she reminded me.
“Good girl. Are you getting excited for camping?” I turned right to head toward our neighborhood.
“Uh huh. Jennifer is teaching me how to make fire.”
I sighed internally. I was allowing her to use knives. I guess I would keep quiet about the fire. It was a valuable life skill, you know, if there was a fucking zombie apocalypse.
“That’s great, princess. Is Jennifer teaching you anything else?”
We went quiet. Josie started humming to herself while I drove us home. I had her until Friday and then Felicia would get her back for a few days. Sharing custody sucked, but it was better than not seeing Josie at all. Felicia tried to get full custody at first but her lawyer couldn’t find anything bad that would prove me to be an unfit parent. She was pissed, and I didn’t know why. The split was mutual and she was a lesbian. She had nothing to argue about. It wasn’t like she wanted me back.
I turned onto our street a couple minutes later. When I got to the house Josie waited until I turned the truck off before she took her seat belt off so she could get out of the truck.
“Do you have homework?” I asked, following her into the house.
“Just a spelling worksheet,” she answered.
“Alright. We’ll work on it before bed. We can start on dinner in an hour,” I told her. I needed a nap still.
“Okay. Can I have a snack?” Josie took off her shoes by the door.
“Of course you can.” I walked into the kitchen with my daughter on my heels. “What would you like? I got that yogurt you like. PB&J…”
“Yogurt, please.” Josie climbed up to sit beside the island. “Hey Dad?”
“Hey Jo?” I replied, looking over my shoulder.
“When are you going to get a girlfriend?”
I blinked at her.
“Uh… I don’t know, I haven’t been looking for one,” I told her. I’d been too tired for a girlfriend. I had fuck buddies, but Josie never met them.
“You should get one. You’re getting old.”
“I’m not that old,” I chuckled. “Maybe one day. I’ve been so busy with the cafe and hanging out with you.”
“But Jennifer said you wouldn’t be so grouchy if you had a girlfriend,” Josie told me.
Jennifer could suck my dick… not literally.
“Do you think I’m grouchy?”
I was and I knew it. I tried not to take my long days out of Josie, but sometimes she got the shit end of the stick when I had a bad day. I did need to get laid.
“You know you’re going to have to share me if I get a girlfriend, right?”
“Nuh uh. She can go somewhere else on my days,” Josie said. “No one likes a clinger, Daddy.”
“But what if we get serious and she moves in here with me?” I didn’t know why she knew what a clinger was. It was funny though.
“She can go to a hotel.” Of course.
“You don’t want to meet her and hang out with her?” My first thought jumped to Sookie for some stupid reason. Josie would love Princess Sookie, as long as she wasn’t a twat to my daughter like she tried to be with me.
“Only if she’s nice, likes princesses, dogs and pink things,” Josie replied.
“I’ll put that in a personal ad,” I told her. “She has to like pretty eight-year-old girls too.” Josie was my number one priority. She would trump any woman that I had in my life.
“I’ll see what I can come up with,” I promised. I got the yogurt from the fridge to give to Josie, followed by a spoon.
“If you can’t get a girlfriend can we get a dog instead?”
I had to think about that. I only had her three and a half days a week which meant I would be responsible for it the rest of the time.
“You’d have to pick up poop,” I told her. “You’d have to feed it and give it a bath.”
“I’ll give it food and a bath but no poop. That’s gross.”
“No poop no dog. If you want it you have to be responsible for it, princess.”
“But it’s going to eat and need baths when I’m not here. Mommy said we can’t have a dog because Jennifer has allergies.”
“I’ll think about it,” I said. I knew I’d give in eventually. I admittedly spoiled the shit out of her. “You have any more convincing arguments?”
“Could I have a little sister instead?”
“I need a girlfriend before I can give you a little sister,” I snorted.
“Because I can’t have babies on my own. Only women can have babies,” I told her. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll think about the dog while you’re camping and have an answer for you when you come over next.”
I hated it. I was a sucker for my little girl and she knew it. We were going to be getting a puppy. Either that or I was going to have to get a girlfriend, which I could get on board with before a puppy. Especially if it was the pretty blonde that kept declining my job offers.