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To my followers who have stuck with me through the ups and downs (you guys are still there, right?) and to all you new viewers just tuning in-

Taintedmoonx proudly presents:

. : t h e . l o v e l y . c a f é : .

C h a p t e r . O n e

Welcome to the Lovely Café

"The harder you fall the higher you bounce."


"Welcome to The Lovely Cafe!" a chorus of excited voices chime loudly.

"You have got to be freaking kidding me," I deadpan, shooting Carly a deadly glare.

My best friend of several years just shrugs sheepishly. "I think it's cute."

"Cute, my ass," I mutter. The first thing I see when I enter Spencer's "The Lovely Cafe" I'm greeted by these overly-friendly employees who probably live off of happy pills? And to think I'll be one of them in just a few minutes? I think I'm going to vomit. Or shoot myself. Or vomit after I shoot myself.

I tell Carly what I think of the café and she frowns. "Sa-am!" She drags out my name into two syllables and sticks out her lower lip. "Don't you even remember why you need this job?"

I do. And yes, I admit that I need this job, but...stuck working in this "lovely" café with overly happy employees and Carly's crazy brother as my boss? No thank you. But Carly, being my - and I use this phrase with heavy sarcasm - bestest friend in the entire world, booked this job for me because, well, I was leading a pretty pathetic life up to this point...

We'll end up numb from playing video games
And we'll get sick of having sex.
And we'll get fat from eating candy;
As we drink ourselves to death...

There's crusty socks
And stacks of pizza boxes
Making trails straight to the bed...

Well there's a long,
Long list of chores
And shit to do before we play,
Oh let's just piss away the day.

"This song excellently depicts your life right now, Sam," Carly tells me, looking at me sternly. "Don't you have dreams to accomplish? Goals to achieve and a life to be made? You can't just crash at my place for the rest of your life."

I roll my eyes and increase the volume on the TV so I can drown out Carly's lecture. Unfortunately, Carly is pretty damn determined to talk to me today (for some mysterious reason I can't fathom) and grabs the remote from me to turn the TV off.

"What was that for?" I cry in dismay. "Taylor Lautner was just about to take his shirt off!"

"Ohmigawd really!" Carly squeals excitedly before she remembers that she's supposed to be angry at me (although I still don't really know why. I mean, I'm a good tenant...I think).

"Look, Sam, I know you don't have a job or a place to stay, and as your best friend, of course I let you stay here til you get back on your feet." She emphasizes the last five words and glares pointedly at me. "But look at you - you're not even looking for a job, and the only thing you do all day is watch TV and eat."

I snort and prop my feet on the coffee table in front of me and wiggle my toes before replying. "First of all, I would be looking for a job if the damned economy wasn't so screwed up." I look up from staring at my toes to see Carly's twitching eye fixed on my feet on her beloved coffee table. I smirk briefly before continuing. "Secondly, I would be eating, except the only food you keep in this apartment are vegetables and protein shakes!"

"I'm vegetarian, remember? Also, can't you just buy your own food?" Carly retorts.

"I would...except I kinda spent my last five bucks on some KFC a couple months ago..." I trail off sheepishly.

Carly throws her hands up in the air. "Then learn to eat food that isn't meat!" she cries in exasperation.

I roll my eyes. "Look, you've been a really good friend to me. You let me sleep here, watch TV all day, and I don't have to pay rent. But giving up meat? That's just asking too much." I get up from the couch to snatch up the remote.

"Which is why I got you a job!" Carly says brightly and escapes to her room.

"WHAT!" I fly off the couch and sprint to Carly's locked room. "Open the door, Carly! I told you I could find my own job!"

"Yeah, and look how well that turned out," comes Carly's muffled reply. "Anyways, dress nicely tomorrow and I'll drive you to work. I'd love to stay and chat, but I have a date tonight."

"This isn't over!" I growl threateningly before curiosity gets the better of me. "Who's your date?"

"Sorry, I don't wanna jinx it," Carly responds. "But we actually met at Spencer's café - whereyou'regoingtowork - and today's our first date since we exchanged numbers. Should I wear the floral print blouse or the pink one?"

"Floral," I reply automatically and take a step back when Carly opens the door and runs out.

"Gotta run - I don't wanna be late!" she shouts over her shoulder. "There's leftover pizza in the fridge. Stay safe and remember: stranger danger!"

I sigh and plop myself back into the couch. Moments later, I straighten up suddenly, Carly's words from earlier finally clicking in my head.

"I'M WORKING AT THE LOVELY CAFÉ!" I holler at the front door. "YOU ARE SO DEAD, CARLY SHAY!"

Someone shoot me now.

Of course, now that I'm actually inside my so-called house of work, I'm starting to wonder if agreeing to this was actually a good idea.

"CARLY!" Spencer cries, obnoxiously loud as always. "CARLY! IT'S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN!" He envelopes Carly in a huge bear hug, then turns to me.

"SAM!" he shouts, the volume of his voice increasing tenfold. "SAM! IT'S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN!"

I sidestep his incoming bear hug of death and despair and give Carly a look that says: "This is the hyperactive monster of a boss I have to work with?"

"I'm really thankful for all this, really," I say, backing away slowly. "But I think I'm gonna find a building to jump off of - 'kaythanksbye!" I quickly turn around to make my escape - only to bump into a pudgy male.

He gives me the universal head nod that all guys seem to use. "You the newbie?" he asks gruffly.

I shoot him one of my famous death glares that's been known to cause even the toughest of men to cower in fear. "Yeah, what's it to you, lard-face?"

"Sam!" Carly exclaims.

"What?" I shoot back indignantly. "He's fat...and he's not wearing a shirt."

"Gibby!" Spencer yells. "How many times have I told you to wear a shirt during work?"

Gibby mumbles an apology and says something about "getting excited," but at this point I'm tuning them out and focusing on Carly.

"So, Carly," I say. "How was your date last night?"

Carly shrugs. "Meh."

I wince. "That bad?"

My best friend shrugs again. "I dunno. He was kind of...bland. I mean, he was attractive and all, but he seemed kind of distant the whole time."

I pat her on the shoulder. "That sucks," I tell her sympathetically. "Now, if you'll excuse me – "


Carly's firm tone stops me in my attempt to escape. I slump my shoulders and sigh in resignation.

"Fine, I'll take the stupid job," I mutter, ignoring Carly's squeals of joy. "When do I start?"

"The first shift starts in half an hour," Spencer declares loudly, suddenly popping into the conversation. "So you can start now – Gibby will fill you in on the details and introduce you to the other workers."

Oh joy.

"Oh, Sam, I gotta go to work." Carly's tone is apologetic. "You'll be okay?"

I wave her off with my hand. "Nah, I'll be fine. You go and do your reporter-business."

"Thanks so much for doing this for Sam, Spence," Carly gushes. "Good luck, Sam!" And with a twinkling of bells, she's gone.

I stare after her retreating figure and feel a rush of guilt and gratification overtake me. I don't have time to dwell on those feelings when Spencer thrusts a bundle of clothing into my arms.

"Change into these and go meet Gibby in the back. WORK STARTS IN A QUARTER TO SEVEN!" he added in a bellow. "C'mon, kiddo, hustle back."

I reluctantly take the uniform and make my way to the back of the café. Today is going to be a long day.

"Hey!" Carly's cheery voice greets me. "How was work?"

"It was horrible! I can't believe I let you convince me into doing this!" I exclaim.

Carly's happy expression turns sour. "Sam," she warns.

I roll my eyes and plop back on the couch. "It was fine," I grumble, turning my attention back to the TV. Mm...Channing Tatum, come to momma!

"Too bad he's gay," I say aloud.

"Who? Channing Tatum?" Carly hangs up her blazer and joins me on the couch.

I turn to face Carly. "Carls. So. You never told me the name of your mysterious date."

Carly doesn't take her eyes off the TV when she answers me. "Oh right. His name was Fredward Benson."

I immediately start guffawing. "Fredward? What the hell kind of a name is Fredward?" I barely manage to get those words out of my mouth before I dissolve into more peals of laughter.

Carly frowns. "Don't hate on people's names, Sam," she chides. "And he said most people call him Freddie, anyway."

I stop laughing and sit up straight. "Did you say Freddie?"

Carly gives me a sidelong glance. "Yeah. Why?"

"Does Freddie happen to have short brown hair? And sits like something crawled up his ass and die?"

"Yeah. No – wait – yeah. But why?"

"I was so tired out today that I totally forgot about what happened today," I tell her. "I met Freddie today."

Carly's eyes light up. "Well, what'd you think of him?" she asks excitedly.

"He was the worst freaking tipper ever!" I shout. "I can't believe I forgot about that!"

"Oh God, Sam, I can see where this is going. Please tell me you didn't – "

"He only gave me, like, fifty-cents, so I'm like 'Oh joy! Fifty-cents! Now I can finally pay my bills and health insurance!' and then he's all like, 'Oh, is that too much?'"

"Please tell me you didn't – "

"That damned sonnuva bitch got what he deserved," I finish triumphantly. "I poured his coffee into his lap and spit on his donut!"

"Oh no, you did," Carly moans, covering her face with her hands.

"Relax, no one saw it," I reassure her, crossing my arms over my chest. "At least, I hope not...Well, at any rate, he didn't seem too pissed off," I recall. "He just picked up his donut and left."

Carly is silent for a moment. "But he was really hot, am I right?"

"Oh yeah," I agree. "He was damn sexy."

"I think I'm going to give him another chance," Carly decides.

"WHAT?" I squawk. "Isn't that against the law or something? You are a traitor to this friendship, Carly Shay. I can't believe you're betraying me for this stupid jerk who tipped me so little money I can't even buy a one-dollar beef jerky!"

"Sam, you poured hot coffee in his lap. He'll be lucky if he can walk tomorrow."

"Yeah, well, the next time I see him I'm going to kick that sorry little ass into next week," I mutter determinedly.

My plans are foiled, however, when he doesn't show up at the Lovely Café for the next three days.

"That's strange."

I look up from counting the money in the cash register to see a frowning Spencer. Odd – Spencer never frowns.

"Freddie isn't here today. He's one of our regular customers."

I freeze. Crap on a stick.

"Oh well. Maybe he's just busy with work." Then Spencer seems to remember something and a secretive smile appears on his lips. He shakes his head with a quiet chuckle.

I stare at the cash register, which has grown a knowing smirk that says, "You're fucked."

"Shut up," I grumble vehemently and hastily stuff the money back in.

I switch my attention to the door and to the bustling streets outside.

Oh Lord, shoot me now.

The chiming of bells breaks me out of my misery, and I look up curiously – the Lovely Café doesn't open in another twenty minutes.

"Spencer!" a tall, dark-haired chick sings. "I'm ba-ack."

"VALERIE!" Spencer booms, obnoxiously loud as usual. "VALERIE! VALERIE! IT'S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN!" he lunges forward to give her a bear hug, but she wisely sidesteps him and heads over to where I'm standing.

"Hi," she says with a smile, giving me a calculating once over. "I'm Valerie."

"Sam," I respond shortly, ignoring her out-stretched hand. Something about this girl rubs me the wrong way, but I can't put a finger on what it is exactly.

"Alright girls, you two play nice!" Spencer calls. "I'm going to check on the others."

"Will do, boss," Valeria replies saccharinely.

Gag me, I think in disgust.

Valerie immediately drops her facade when Spencer disappears behind the curtain that leads to the kitchen.

"Listen here, newbie," she growls threateningly. "There's a customer who always comes here – his name is Freddie – and whatever you do, you are not allowed to serve him, talk to him, touch him, or breathe on him in a five-foot radius. Freddie is mine. Are we clear?"

I stare at her.

"I said, are we clear?" she leans forward and practically spits on my face.

"Fine! Fine. Jesus," I mutter under my breath, preparing to turn away.

Valerie stops me with a vice-like grip on my shoulder. "Good," she says sweetly. "Because if I ever catch you around him, your life is going to be hell. Got it?"

"Ow! Shit – fine!"

"We're going to be the best of friends," Valerie informs me with a bright grin. With those lovely parting words, she turns and flounces off.

I rub my sore shoulder and don't comment. Ah, now I know what about this crazy lady rubs me the wrong way – she's a two-faced bitch.

I inwardly smirk. Valerie has no idea who she's dealing with. With an evil chuckle, I set about cleaning the tables and rearranging the napkins.

Welcome to the Lovely Café.

I disclaim.

Thanks for reading guys! And the chapters will be longer in the future - I just wanted to introduce everything/everyone in this chapter. :)

Hope you like it!

Reviews are greatly appreciated-