I let this go for a while to do other work (mainly in the "Hunger Games" fandom), and I have already been working toward winding this up. However, there's one thing left that I have been wanting to do since before I even thought of this particular story, and here it is...
At the start of the second month, the rushes were past, but on most days, the Silver Linings Restaurant was still getting as many customers as they could seat. They had two new waitresses, but Jasmine was still working, and Tiffany was in every weekend, and clearly happy to be there. Patricio watched from behind the counter as his soon-to-be daughter-in-law smiled and laughed as she took an order from Von and Ronnie, by now among their regulars. He went back into the kitchen, and embraced his wife. "This place is a miracle, Dolores," he said. "No- it's one miracle after another. But one thing they don't tell you about miracles is, they're exhausting."
It was after lunch when the moment they had been putting off finally arrived. The reporter arrived, accompanied by a camera crew and a man with a bland face in bland clothes. Patricio stepped out from behind the counter, and put a fatherly arm around Tiffany, while the remnants of the lunch time crowd looked on.
"I'm Gerald Heart, and this is the Heart Beat," the reporter said. "Here we are at the Silver Linings Restaurant, scene of a confrontation last month between the restaurant owner and myself. We're here in hopes of burying the hatchet."
He turned to Patricio. "Mr. Solitano, the first thing I want to say is that I was out of line, and I am sorry," he said. "I extend my apologies not only to you and your staff, but to your customers." There was a smattering of applause from the customers, several of whom had witnessed the incident.
Patricio extended a hand, and shook. "I apologize for threatening to break your camera phone over your head," he said. "I lost my temper. People who know me know I do that a lot. I'm always working on it."
The reporter turned to the waitress. "I also wanted to talk to Ms. Tiffany Maxwell," he said. "Miss Maxwell, I think I can speak for both of us us when I say, thank you for stepping in. You were the one who kept a clear head, and I'm not going to deny, things could have been a lot worse without your good temper. Is there anything you would like to say?"
"Yes," Tiffany said, grinning broadly. "You're welcome. And hey Mom, I'm on TV." Then she moved out of frame and into Pat, Junior's arms.
"There is someone else who asked to meet with you," Heart said. The nondescript man who had accompanied him stepped into frame. "This is Charles Donner, better known as the Restaurant Renegade, credited with single-handedly making the Silver Linings Restaurant a smash success. Mr. Donner, are you worried that appearing on camera will damage your career as an undercover critic?"
"Not at all," he said, pointing at himself. "Nobody remembers this face."
Heart turned to Patricio. "Mr. Solitano, I understand that the attention Mr. Donner brought to your restaurant has been something of a mixed blessing," he said. "It's a common experience for new businesses to struggle with the demands of unexpected success. It's fair to say your business is among those that have managed to cope. So, do you have anything to say to Mr. Donner?"
Patricio looked at the Restaurant Renegade with narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. "I remember you. Your order cleaned out the last of our jalapenos," he said. He pointed a finger and said deadpan, "I kill you. Don't come back."
Customers stared, and Heart looked into his camera like a deer in the headlights. Then, without missing a beat, the critic smiled and said, "Thank you, sir. I'm sure I deserve it!"
That was when Tiffany burst out laughing, and the customers did the same.
"That's it," Patricio said as he returned to the kitchen. "We're here to stay."