EJK: I wasn't lying when I said that the rewrite would be up. Also, I decided not to write an author's note in the beginning of a chapter unless it was necessary. For example, I'm still using parts of the original text that I'm fond of and my response to reviews will be posted at the end. Enjoy.
I could hear it in her voice. It was filled with regret and hollowness. That tone, I've heard it so many times, I've come to recognize it in an instant.
"I'm so sorry, Corrine." Sandra Parkinson, the buyer for Époque, spoke softly, her spindly fingers running over the smooth silk of the blush pink, brocade blazer I made with a modest peplum along the hem. Her eyes, lined with crow's feet along the corners, ran over my entire collection for one last time.
Facing back towards me, Sandra couldn't even bear to smile wearily, her voice gliding silkily through the empty space between us, "We're simply too full. Our stockroom is filled to the brim and…with this economy, we can't afford to exceed it the limit. What you've created here is simply wonderful and flawlessly crafted but I can't, for the time being, afford to add it to our stocks. Corrine, I'm sorry, I truly am."
I could barely speak from the heavy disappointment that weighed on my shoulders, my voice was throaty and hoarse, "Of course, I understand. Times are hard and you can't please everyone." Sandra handed over the large shopping bag filled with my garments. Hitching my oversized purse over my shoulder, I offered my hand in goodwill, "Thank you for your time, Sandra."
"Oh," Sandra's tired eyes brightened as she dug around her pockets for a few seconds, coming up with a tiny, beige card of some sort made from expensive cardstock. She handed it to me, explaining, "There's a flagship store that had opened two years ago called Strata, I'm sure you've heard of it, that Époque supplies and I know that they're in need of more diverse brands. That's the phone number of their buyer cum manager, her name is Grace Wright, just call her and tell her that Sandy gave you the number."
"Thanks." I felt the smile on face spread out wearily; at least Sandra cared unlike some previous buyers who hadn't even pretended to be sorry.
Great, my life was just great. It's just one giant carnival, a defunct one with creepy clowns and a broken merry-go-round. Stepping out of the warm, cozy building, I smacked my forehead in aggravation. Work. Okay, let's calm down now, my shift starts in twenty minutes so if I sprint there in my perfectly inappropriate knee length boots I'll make it with five minutes to spare. Fan-fricking-tastic. This day was just going great and then, I had to make a mess of it like always. Who am I kidding?
Tossing my purse and shopping bag off to the side, I hastily tied the required yet much too small black apron onto my tall frame while checking my time. Four fifty-nine, one minute left. Aw yeah, I rock, quietly I pumped my fist in victory. Taking my time card, I inserted it into the ancient machine which responded by stamping the time onto it. It's such an ineffectual method of keeping track of an employee's efficiency but my petulant boss, Mr. Withers or Tooth Decay Derry as we, the unworthy plebeians as he calls us, named him.
Leaning over the hostess stand, Libby Smyth, one of my dear friends, smiled knowingly to herself as she watched me bunch my tangled, messy hair into a decent ponytail and she commented cheekily, "In a rush, my worrisome plebeian? Got a marathon of Top Model to watch?"
"Shaddup, plebe. And you know Ms. Jay is fierce despite the whole gender confusion." I countered as I searched my purse for a suitable pair of black flats. Before you ask, it's New York; menial tasks such as walking can become perfectly hellish in heels. After thirty seconds of expertly sifting through the black hole that is my purse, I come up with a pair of orthopedic flats that I thought would be hilariously ironic to wear. Forget karma, irony is a bitch.
"Miss Flynn, see you had the time to deign us with your presence. No more dying aunts I presume?" A snide, sniveling voice crawled its way into my unprepared ears as I strapped on the ugly flats. Peering upwards, I'm confronted by the stocky, greasy haired being that is Tooth Decay Derry, the manager of this fine pseudo-Italian restaurant.
"Actually, my aunt, Irma Magdalene Adouche, isn't feeling well lately. Oh poor, I.M. Adouche, it just tears me apart to think of her debilitating disease." I replied sweetly, holding back the sarcasm in my tone. It was fun to mess with Derry since he spent the majority of the time making my coworkers and I deal with his rude comments and snide manner.
"I.M. Adouche?" As the realization of my joke dawned upon him, Derry grimaced as Libby and a few others giggled.
Bringing his face closer to mine, he grinned condescendingly, his sulfurous breath causing me to inwardly gag. He cocked his head to one side, speaking in the same mock pleasant tone as mine, "It's just that in the past few weeks, I haven't seen you much. I hope it doesn't become a habit."
"Of course not, you know my only priority is to this restaurant." Lying, I rose up, my full height dwarfing his puffed up figure. I wasn't about to explain that the moment my collection is picked up by a buyer that I would flip him the bird and skip the hell out of this hellhole or the fact that I kept making up deceased relatives to cover up my meetings with buyers. He flinched as I stretched out my arm to take a serving tray behind him and I smile innocently.
"Well, it better be, Miss Flynn. Because I'm watching you, if you even slip up once whether it be dropping a cup, like the clumsy giant you are, or spill a drop of water outside of the cup. I will be there. And when I have the pleasure of firing you, I hope you won't make a scene."
Glaring unfazed by the diminutive man's threat, I chuckled derisively, "You better place your hopes elsewhere because I won't let you have that opportunity."
I could still feel his beady eyes trained on my back as I walked away, knowing how serious the man was.
The first two hours go by smoothly and I headed over to my next table, hoping that they would be cordial as my last few had been. Already I'm tempted to swallow my words as I come across the most distant couple I've seen in years. A beautiful woman in a white Calvin Klein dress that has been contoured to her voluptuous body flipped her glossy black hair over her shoulder and coldly glared at her handsome companion, who sits across from her in a detached, indifferent manner. As I approach them, I can already tell that the woman was in the process of giving me a New York once-over, a basic assessment of who someone is based on one's appearance. Her eyes started from the top, at my messy ponytail, then trailed down gradually to my feet, which were snugly cased in the hideous flats, and her thin nose bunched in disapproval. So, there will be sunny skies ahead if I ever get out this probable shit storm.
"Hi, I'm Corrine and I'll be your server today." Smiling my friendliest grin, I am greeted with stolid silence.
Waving her manicured hand to stop me from reading the specials, the woman replied without even making eye contact, "I'll have ice water with a slice of lemon in it, but bring the lemon separately. Without seeds. And the water better not be from tap, I can tell. If you don't have Evian, Poland Springs is perfectly suitable."
Oh, I have a choice? I grumbled to myself.
"Alright, one ice water with lemon and..." Turning to the man, I asked politely, "Sir, will you be having anything to drink tonight?"
Staring off into space, the man doesn't answer until I repeated my question in a louder, firmer tone. He stared at me emotionless before asking for a bottle of Chianti, looking like he needed every bit of it. After writing down the drink orders, I grumbled my way back to kitchen. After pitting a pitiful limp slice of lemon free of seeds, I filled a glass with water from a bottle of Evian, adding a few cubes ice in the end. Loading it on the plastic tray, I brought out a bottle of Chianti from the wine chiller and fished out a wine glass from cupboard. Passing by Libby, I could tell she was smirking at my balancing circus act.
Drawing closer to my table, I saw the woman leaning closer to the man's face, her face the image of furious rage. Not that I'm surprised by her, but I'm surprised that the man isn't even reacting.
Her tone was no less murderous. "You're not only a fool, Dominic, you're an idiot. Who do you think you are, saying no to me? Do you even know who I am? Well, I know who you are. You're a coward. A foolish, gutless coward. I bet your own shadow scares you. You know, Tyler wouldn't have done this. Then again, Tyler was and still is many things that you aren't."
"…" His eyes are downcast and full of pain with each attack the woman made with her acerbic words.
"Here's your water." Tactfully interrupting the woman's tirade, I placed the glass of water in front of her along with a tiny dish containing the stupid lemon. Turning to the man, I gave him a sympathetic glance as I filled his glass with a deep red wine. Pulling out my writing pad, I held my pencil to it expectantly, "What would you like for dinner tonight? We have the eggplant parmesan and baked salmon with cream sauce as our dinner specials tonight."
"Give me the salmon." Tossing the laminated menu at me, the woman waved her hand annoyed at my presence.
"I'll have the pumpkin ravioli with roasted squash." The man spoke up, his face brightening up all of a sudden.
Staring oddly at the man, I pulled away and wrote the orders down, "Okay, sounds great. I'll be back in about twenty minutes."
With a turn of my heel, I entered the kitchen and clipped my order to the spinning rack on a counter. The compact kitchen was muggy with various cooking aromas yet it comforted me, it had that old fashioned homey feel. It was like I've been transported into my grandmother's kitchen, it was like home. Slumping onto the counter, I suddenly wished that I was home.
"Hey, Corrine." Looking back from the meat Bolognese in the pan, Louis Grey grinned at my slumped figure. "Run in with Derry? Last time I saw him, he had his big boy briefs in a bunch over the lighting. I don't suspect that you've been messing with the lighting, have you?"
"Shaddup. Or I'll tell Didi that you went to karaoke instead of meeting her parents last week."
"Hey, that's uncalled for. So, what is it this time, the elitist couple, the bratty kids, or the nitpicky critic?"
"Aren't they all the same?" Groaning, I let Louis laugh at my prone figure. "It's elitist couple with a pinch of nitpicky, one-half cup of witch, and five whopping quarts of estrangement."
"Want me to mess with their orders?" The mischievous grin painted on Louis's face reminded me how lucky I am to be on his side. "Put in some rancid cream of mushroom soup into the cream sauce or some leftover jack-o-lantern in the ravioli?"
"God, no! I'm scared to think what you would have come up with if you actually hated them. Dear God." Grabbing my tray, I gave Louis my most horrified expression before rushing off to help my other tables.
Calling from behind me, Louis sounded exasperated. "For Pete's sake, I was joking! You know that, right?"
Aside from the table with the estranged couple, I had a great time attending to my other guests, who were amiable and sane. All were happily eating except for the dreaded table that I had yet to deliver their order. Sucking in my breath, I picked up the salmon along with the ravioli. As I left the kitchen, I heard shouting in the dining room and Libby rushed over to me.
Libby took a firm grip of my arm, preventing me from escaping, and whispered hurriedly, "Dude, have you seen your table? That chick is cray cray. She's making a huge scene. And that guy's doing nothing. You better get over there before Derry finds someway to pin this on you."
"I know." Sighing, I ducked my head and rushed over to the table with the belligerent woman. Slapping on a perky smile, I spoke reasonably through clenched teeth, "Miss, you're causing a scene. It's making the others uncomfortable. Please if you have a problem, take it outside this restaurant."
Jumping up defensively, the woman prodded my chest with her thin finger so forcefully that I am forced to step back. She looked beyond furious like she was ready to cut me with the cutlery, safe to say I'm a bit scared. "Excuse me? Who said I had a problem? Dominic, did you hear what this crazy girl is saying? Scene? What scene?"
The one we're in now, you lunatic, I bitterly thought as the woman composed herself and sat back into her chair. Setting down the orders, I asked if there's anything more they need.
"I'd like a cappuccino and chocolate cake to cap off the night." Looking up and into my eyes, the man smiled wearily. His hand shook nervously, the spoon he was held clattered noisily against his plate.
"Of course, what better way to end?" Facing the temperamental woman, I asked politely, "And for you?"
The woman didn't even look up; she kept spooning in miniscule bites of salmon into her tiny, pouty mouth. Noticing that the man's wine glass was empty, I picked up the weighty glass bottle, "Would you like me to fill up your glass?"
In response, he held out his glass, "Yes, please."
Smirking, the woman said sardonically, "First, it's cake. What are you a fourth grader? Only children like sweets but you're probably a rare form of a child. So why not? Second, you can't even fill up your own glass. Now, you need a woman to do it? It wouldn't be the first time you needed a woman to take care of your business."
I don't know what happened but something in me snapped like a thin, crunchy twig. All I knew was that I had had enough of this woman practically terrorizing her date. As I was pouring into his glass the hand holding the bottle jerked to the side, dousing the woman with the burgundy liquid. I would say it was accidental but I have a good feeling that is was far from it. Her bleached white dress was dyed red while her glossy curly hair hung in lank clumps under the weight of the liquid.
Startled by my own impulsive action, I squeaked, "I'm sorry! Please, let me help you clean that dress. I have a friend who'll be able to get all of the stains out and I'll pay for it! I'm really sorry."
She didn't say a word. She let her screaming explain her emotions for her. The whole restaurant ogled in shock while the woman opened her mouth to scream a blood curdling screech, never stopping for breath. Wringing her hands, the woman tried to claw at my face but the man held her back, I just stared blankly at the whole mess, stupefied at my actions and emotions. Okay, I'm in control of this little situation. Not this snooty Valley girl with her shiny Cartier watch and glossy black hair. Oh God, I really shouldn't have come to work today; I really should have said that my aunt died, I mean Tooth Decay Derry doesn't know how many aunts I have and who cares what that little dwarf thinks? Oh joy, now she's called him over although how she managed this while screeching like a banshee is beyond me. All the while, the man just stood there so still like a statue contemplating suicide. Well I have five seconds to come up with an excuse because what Tooth Decay Derry lacks in dental hygiene he makes up for in speed. I was so close from going the whole night in flawless service that I could taste the bitter resentment Derry would have felt if this whole ordeal was avoided.
"Derry! I demand to know why you hired this idiot and why she spilled cheap wine all over my five-hundred dollar Calvin Klein dress! And I just had my hair done! Did you hear me?" The banshee poked Derry in his chest forcefully, which startles him.
"Oh darling Sasha, I am so sorry!" Furious, Derry wheeled around and bowled me over with his eggy breath. "Corrine, what is the meaning of this? I'll have you know Miss de Bonne is a valued patron and I hoped you would have treated her as such! Sasha, dear, what can I do for you? Would you like for me to send everything to dry cleaning?"
"No, I'm an adult. I can do that by myself. What I want is to return to this restaurant free of her!" Pouting her plump lips, Sasha's rail-thin arm pointed dramatically towards me.
"What! It was only an accident and I offered to have it cleaned! There really is no need to be so drastic Mr. Derry. It's just a dress, I mean a gorgeous dress that I ruined…Please, I need this job. I have no other options. With this economy, jobs are hard get. Please, I work hard and provide good service, you know that."
Since I'm pretty much fired, I have nothing to lose and resorted to begging on my knees. Despite the fact that Miss de Bonne (what does "de Bonne" mean anyway, consumer of bon bons?) was smirking, I can't care because I need this job. Badly. Half of the people in this restaurant felt bad for me while the other half thought that I should be lit on fire tied to a cross; so I have a fifty/fifty chance. Stonily, Mr. Derry gave me a pitying stare. Maybe he was a man of forgiveness, I know it's a long stretch but I have to believe in miracles. For a brief moment, I felt hope that was until he opened his mouth.
The instant the word "fired" hit me, the room and everything else fell into slow motion. All I could hear is Derry's voice sluggishly telling me, "My decision is final, Miss Flynn. You can call Maggie to send you your last check but right now, I want you out of this restaurant!"
My lips trembled as I picked myself up from Tooth Decay Derry's feet and defiantly I said, "Fine, I'm leaving. But rest assured, the only time I'll ever call this restaurant is to cancel on a reservation!"
Without another word, I spun on my heels and shoved through the front door in the smoothest manner I can manage. Humph, I don't need him or that cheap restaurant that charges twenty dollars for a can of Chef Boyardee. Oh wait, I ducked my head in the door for one last time to say, well at least to lie, "By the way, Miss Sasha, that cream sauce on your salmon wasn't cream sauce at all. Do the math."
Brilliant, I managed to get myself fired from my fifth job this year. I contemplated on what jobs I haven't failed this year and considered being a mall elf; however, the thought of degrading myself to a mall minion was enough to make me queasy. But, it was probably the only option I had left. So, tomorrow, I would have to go down to the mall in Times Square and face those smug managers who'll probably laugh at me. Sounds great like everything else in my life. At least, the day didn't get any worse; I managed to sneak back into the restaurant to retrieve my purse and bag full of clothes without running into that sulfurous breath goblin or his master, Sasha de Bitch. Staring down at the large shopping bag filled with my hopes and dreams, I made a disgusted sound in my throat and threw it into the trash. What's the point? I'll never make it in this city. I'll probably live in a dirty one bedroom apartment, probably eaten by my many theorized cats, before I become successful in this horribly status-oriented city.
My cell phone rang and brought me out of my self-pitying stupor. The caller id said Myra and I feel tempted to turn off my phone. Myra is my adopted sister from South Korea, younger to be exact, who is a successful interior designer heading the famous Malaise design firm. The instant she stepped into New York, Myra and I became roomies, which meant we would split the rent half-and-half. This was a great arrangement until she became famous, earned more money, and moved into an expensive modern penthouse. For the first few months I did fine by myself until I got fired from my first job and dropped out of law school, which meant that my parents would excommunicate me and cut off my monthly allowance, and eventually, Myra, who got wind of this, forced me to move in with her. Two years later and I'm still paying rent to my younger sister. Sad I know; pathetic I acknowledge. I could just hear Myra saying, "I told you so. Go back to law school." in a fake Asian accent.
Sighing in defeat, I turned off my cell phone and walked down the block into the shopping district. Shoving my frozen hands into the soft, downy pockets of my cream colored Marc Jacobs cocoon coat which I managed to practically steal in a sample sale, I observed the myriad of boutiques show off pin thin mannequins garbed in bright, beautiful outfits to instill further jealously and lust within me. Abruptly my calfskin boots stopped in their tracks and my eyes brightened in disbelief. Furiously, I scrubbed my eyes to make sure they're clean as I read the gigantic sign that seemed to be heaven sent. Strata is having a sale, REPEAT STRATA IS HAVING A SALE! Strata never has a sale. Ever. Fifty percent off on everything in store and what just happens to be in the window display out front? Those Sonata mules I've been begging Santa for (I know it's a bit immature but I have an inner child I need to satiate once in a while). Sea foam green satin topped off with a satiny bow in the same shade and trimmed in lace. Its kitten heels are the perfect height and the soles give the impression of walking on a cloud; I know this because I've tried these shoes on ten times. Each time I had to turn away and make the hardest decision in my life (at that moment I mean). And now… I have a chance. A chance at happiness… even if that happiness costs eighty dollars.
"Excuse me… miss?" A hand gently touched my shoulder and I realized that I've been drooling in a sale-induced trance. Turning around, my face meets a warm but nervous smile. It's the boy toy that sat so complacently while Sasha de Banshee screamed shrilly (I dare you to say "Sasha screamed shrilly" three times fast). He didn't even defend me, not that I expected him to. I mean, he let that Chihuahua bark all those insulting things towards him without batting an eye, why should I expect him to act like a white knight for me?
Feeling weary from today's ordeal, I asked exasperatedly, "What do you want? An arm or a leg along with my job, I suppose?"
"Miss, I'm really sorry for Sasha's actions. I had no idea that she could be that irrational and petty. Well, that was a bit of a lie, actually. I think we both know that…" Nervously, he combed his fingers through his coffee-colored hair. His face was red with embarrassment and his demeanor seemed so genuine that I decided to soften my dagger-filled glare.
"Whatever. I sucked at waitressing anyway: could never keep track of the tables, always late. She only did everyone a favor. There's nothing you could do anyway, Derry was waiting for an excuse to fire me anyhow. My guess is that he's rude and not ginger." Shrugging noncommittally, I stared back into the window and proceeded to ignore him.
Laughing a hoarse laugh, the man's face returned to its tanned complexion. "I actually understand that reference. Is that sad? Miss… May I know your name?"
"As I've mentioned before, it's Corrine Flynn and yours?" I asked out of political correctness.
"Dominic Strata." It took a few seconds for me to process this and when it does my jaw dropped. He saw my expression and chuckled. Like a clairvoyant angel, he pointed into the window. "Yes, that Strata. Do you see anything that interests you?"
Shaking my head, I rejected his offer in spite of how much I wanted this. I can't take advantage of his kindness; my grandmother raised me better than that. "Oh no, I couldn't do that to you. Really, unless you're offering a job." I joked. His face returned to its embarrassed tint of red and I immediately apologized. "That's not what I meant. It's not your fault I lost my job." Maybe your girlfriend's.
"Look, I'm really sorry that I didn't stop Sasha. And I would like to repay you. Please allow me to have that honor." He saw my reluctant face and started to shuffle around his pockets. "Look, if you really need a job I have a proposition."
Excuse me? If he's going to say what I'm thinking he's going to say, then he'll be walking home with a limp. "You said you need a job, right? We have an opening at Strata; the position is an assistant-stylist. Though, it's not a guaranteed job. What I mean is that you have to be interviewed first. You will need to call this number and tell them that Dominic told you to call about the job. Miss Flynn, I cannot tell you enough how sorry I am about Sasha. Hopefully, I will see you later." He took my hand, put a familiar card in it, and closed my hand gently. Before he left, he held out a familiar shopping bag, "Are these yours by the way?"
At the sight of the bag, I broke eye contact, "No they aren't."
"Really? Miss Flynn, I personally saw you dump those clothes into a garbage disposal, shoving them into the poor receptacle while muttering something. It would be a shame to throw away such beautiful clothing in any case."
Dominic held out the proffered bag until I took it back tentatively. Feeling satisfied, Dominic dipped his head in a respectful bow and walked away as snow began to fall in gusty flakes. There are miracles. Smiling, handsome miracles, okay, I'll admit that this is the first. Suddenly, my feet burst with renewed energy and I ran after him. Knowing that I'll never catch up to him at this rate, I yelled, "Thank you!"
Dominic's head peered over his shoulder and his warm green eyes crinkled bemusedly. Before walking away, his lips formed a small smile that tells me that this can only be the beginning.
EJK: So, what did you think? Is this better than the original? Did you get the Doctor Who reference? Well, I hoped you enjoyed this new version of Satin Roses. As always, I enjoy genuine critique that inform me of any logical and grammatical mistakes that I've made but completely missed. Flames will be used to make buttered toast.