A/N: I know I probably shouldn't be starting a new fic, while I still have one on the fire (Java Jive), but I had an idea and it kept calling and texting and im-ing me, begging to be written. And, then it sent me flowers pleading with me to publish it, and I'm a sucker for flowers, so yeah...a new fic, here it is. Hopefully I can keep up with both in a timely fashion! As always, I do not own any of these fabulous characters - they belong solely to Charlaine Harris.
"Ok Sookie, lesson time is over."
Lafayette nodded his head towards the big clock on the opposite side of the kitchen and I saw that it was almost five o'clock. I cleaned up the area we were working on and put away my knife set before standing up on my tip toes to plant a kiss on Lafayette's smooth cheek.
"Thanks, Chef!" I said with a huge smile.
"Anytime darlin', now go get ready for your shift!" he said with a grin as he gave me a playful smack on my behind. I smiled even harder, still amazed that the celebrated Chef Lafayette Reynolds was giving me cooking lessons. After working at Merlotte's as a waitress for over a year I found myself coming in ten or twenty minutes before my shift started just so I could hang around in the kitchen, fascinated by the controlled chaos that went on in there. Lafayette had noticed and instead of shooing me out of his kitchen, he had graciously agreed to work with me on my own cooking skills once a week. I had always loved cooking, ever since my Gran handed me my first bowl and whisk almost twenty years ago. I had a natural affinity for it and was eager to learn more beyond my signature meatloaf and family recipes. Lafayette was an artist in the kitchen and I was lucky that he had agreed to work with me. We got along like two old girlfriends and always had fun gabbing away as I learned how to perfectly julienne vegetables or make a silky smooth buerre blanc sauce. He liked to joke that he was my Fairy Godchef. I actually looked forward to coming in to work, despite having to spend hours on my feet in the front of the house.
I had lucked out getting this job in the first place. My friend Arlene had been a waitress here and had given me a good recommendation. As far as restaurants go, Merlotte's was at the top. It was the upscale steakhouse in town, catering to wealthy couples out on dates or businessmen eager to impress an important client. The food was rich and satisfying, exactly what you would hope for in a quality steakhouse. The kitchen staff was wonderful and didn't mind me hanging around before or after my shifts, and the other waitresses quickly became my good friends.
After giving Lafayatte a wave, I headed down to the staff room and grabbed my uniform from my locker. I slid on the form fitting white button down shirt and snug black pants before giving myself a once over in the staff mirror. I fixed my hair a bit and went upstairs to see what the daily specials were. I saw Arlene coming in and waved hello to her. She rushed up to me full of excited energy and hugged me tight.
"Sookie! Tonight is going to be one exciting shift!"
"Why? What's up?" I didn't remember seeing that somebody had booked our private dining area, so I couldn't imagine what she was talking about. I didn't have to wait long to find out what Arlene was talking about, since she was bursting at the seams to tell me.
"I just found out that J.B. is going to ask Tara to marry him! He had Lafayette hide the ring in their dessert and he's going to propose when they come in for dinner later tonight!"
J.B. du Rone and Tara Thornton were regulars at Merlotte's and we all loved them. J.B. was vice president of something or other at his family's company, and despite not being the sharpest crayon in the box he was a total sweetheart. His girlfriend Tara was an up and coming designer and they made a habit of coming into Merlotte's a few times a month for dinner. They were both easy going and good tippers and the entire staff liked them, so it was easy to be excited that J.B. was going to propose.
After ooh-ing and ah-ing over how romantic J.B. was, and pestering Lafayette to see the ring, Arlene and I headed in to start our shift. My section was fairly empty at first, but filled up pretty quickly as the evening wore on. The majority of my customers were pleasant enough, and the night was going smoothly. Around six o'clock I noticed J.B. and Tara were seated in Arlene's section. I waved to them and flashed J.B. a huge thumbs up when Tara wasn't looking. Poor J.B. The guy was sweating bullets and his legs kept shaking under the table. I couldn't wait to see him finally pop the question.
However, I never actually got to see the proposal take place. Instead I was distracted by one of my regular customers I had taken to calling Mr. Table for One. I had started calling him that since he always sat by himself when he came in. His name was actually Eric Northman, and he was some sort of well known businessman in town. Mr. Table for One was quite the mystery. He has been coming in to Merlotte's for the past couple of months, every Friday at seven pm on the dot. He always sat in my section and always ordered the same thing: a rare steak with a twice baked potato and a side of steamed green beans. We actually don't have steamed green beans on the menu, but Lafayette said he didn't mind making them when I asked him about it the first time he had ordered them. He always finished his meal with a glass of Crown Royal and was a decent tipper. He never engaged me in conversation beyond giving me his order, and thanking me when it arrived. Whenever I came to his table to ask how things were he would just give me a curt nod and say, "fine." Never once had he asked me how I was doing, and never once did he ever call me by my name.
We had plenty of businessmen who dropped in to the restaurant after a long day at work for a steak and a drink. They sometimes would eat by themselves and not talk much, which was understandable. Mr. Table for One really shouldn't have bothered me, but for some reason he got under my skin. Perhaps it was because he would come into the restaurant and every single woman would stop what they were doing and stare at him as if he was the only man in the room. Perhaps it was the way he filled out the tailored Armani suit that he usually wore, the jacket accentuating his muscular arms and the pants straining slightly right under his leather belt. It could also be his piercing blue eyes that would look at me without betraying a glimpse of what was going on in that mind of his. Every single time he came in I wanted to ask him about himself. Every single time he came in I just stood there, taking the order I already knew he wanted, without saying a word.
And so, at seven pm on the dot, on the night that J.B. duRone was about to propose to Tara Thornton, in walked Mr. Table for One, sitting at his usual table in my section. And while Tara was having her dessert served to her as a nervous J.B. looked on, I was walking over to hand an unnecessary menu to the scowling Greek god at table one. I tried to crane my neck over to Arlene's section to watch as J.B. got down on one knee but was heavily distracted when the man in front of me quietly said, "Good evening, Sookie."
I whipped my head back around and stared at Mr. Table for One, wondering if I had just heard him correctly. He had never said my name in the months that he had been coming in. He had never wished me a good anything. He was looking at me expectantly and I just kept staring at him, unsure of what he wanted. Our eyes were locked in some sort of strange staring contest, each willing the other to break first. I was snapped out of it by the sound of clapping and cheering coming from across the room. Oh, good. Tara must have said yes. And despite being excited for them, I couldn't stop looking at Mr. Table for One. Finally I came to my senses and replied, "Good evening Mr. Northman," handing him the menu. "Steak, potatoes and green beans as usual?"
"Actually, I think I'd like to hear the specials tonight."
Is he actually trying to have a conversation with me? Answer the man, Sookie!
For the life of me I couldn't remember what the specials were, despite having described them to at least ten other tables earlier in the evening. I got it together for one second to answer the man in front of me.
"If you'll excuse me for a moment Mr. Northman. I'll be right back with the specials."
And with that I turned around, hoping I didn't look as flustered as I felt and quickly made my way towards the back, almost bumping into a busboy in the process.
A/N: So, there you have it. Hopefully you guys are into it. hm...I could suddenly go for a steak and some potatoes...