- (142.54KB, 850x1063, nanowrimo-13.jpg)
“How have the customers been treating you?” says Mark.
“Enough to tip me,” you reply back. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since you’ve been treated like complete shit. You still get a “fuck off, cunt” every once in a while, but people actually come to the bar to get a drink instead of making a beeline to the waitresses.
“They tip you?” He laughs. “This is seriously a different place now, isn’t it?”
“Tell me about it. And get this—our cook? Hasn’t left yet.”
“But to be fair, our cook can kick anybody’s ass. First day of the job, right? There’s this real belligerent customer, and he demands to see the cook. She comes out, and he complains. The usual, but he gets ready to do something funny, and she grabs him by the shoulder and just nelson slams the guy.”
“I told you that we’d keep a cook around if they knew self-defense.”
“No, I said that. You just agreed.”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t often that we agreed on something. So, it must have been a sound decision.”
“Don’t spin it as if you actually did something.”
“Alright, alright,” he says, chuckling. “You’re right. I didn’t. I’ll admit that. But it’s fun messing with you. Just watching your reactions makes me remember the good old days.”
“You mean back when this place was a complete shithole?”
“Yeah, but it was a complete shithole with you, me, and Jasmine. Us three—I miss the times we were all together.”
“Maybe you do. Nowadays, I rather like my staff. Sure, all of them are a complete mess, but you know what? I appreciate that. At least they’re honest about themselves.”
“So you didn’t like me and Jasmine?” Mark wipes a fake tear off his eye. “Really stings, it does.”
“You left without a word. And our ex-boss? Yeah, she’s self-explanatory.”
“Fair point.” Mark leans up from his chair, looking around. “Come to think of it, where did Jasmine go? Did she split like me?”
“Who knows? I don’t really care.”
“Didn’t you two have a thing together?”
“No,” you say. “We didn’t.”
“Hey, Gallagher.” Mark adopts a softer look on his face. It’s a bit unsettling. “You’re more well spoken nowadays. I thought that you’d be the same since the last time we talked, but you’ve grown—good on you.”
“You were always the one who needed to grow up a bit,” you say, shaking your head.
You part with Mark amicably, which must have been a first in your lifetime. You’re still thrown off about it—he was about the last person you thought you’d see today. You spent most of your time hating the guy when the two of you were co-managers, but now you’re assailed with a strange feeling of indifference. And here you thought you’d never settle that grudge with him. Funny how that works. But, if you’re being honest, you can’t say that you suddenly love the guy now.
Your conversation with him makes you think about Momiji. No surprise there, since she’s apparently all you think about. But when was the last time she had to deal with a shitty customer? Aside from her first week here, you don’t actually remember. Is this what it’s like to be successful? Relatively speaking, business is booming. But if you want to keep it relative, then the Morning Spirits isn’t quite in the clear yet. If you had to compare to anywhere else, it isn’t exactly the most thriving place out there.
You see Mark out of your office with a wave, and hopefully, that’s the last you see of him. You associate him with too many bad memories, so it’s probably better off that way. Of course, as Mark leaves, nobody bats an eye except Lily, who does a quick double take before rushing up to you, rattling on with unfinished “who’s” and “what’s.”
“Was that Mark?” Lily finally completes her thought. “He was here?”
Cassie, noticing the commotion, decides to join you and Lily. “What’s happening?”
“Former co-manager,” you interject.
“Former co-manager—he just passed by!”
“And?” Cassie asks.
“And nothing,” you say. “We just talked.”
“What? That’s it?” Cassie pouts. A customer motions to her, an obvious frown on his face. “Uh. I should get back.”
Lily looks back to make sure that she isn’t needed before turning to you. “So what did Mark want?”
“I don’t really know. We just talked about the past, and how the bar’s been holding up nowadays.”
“Really?” She’s got this look like she doesn’t believe you. But honestly, you’re not sure if you’d believe yourself either. “I thought you always hated him? I remember one day—it was a really slow day, I think—you spent an entire day telling me how you were going to kill him.”
‘Yeah, but that was then, and this is now. It was a complete shitshow back when we were working together, and I get that he wanted to bail, but really? Guy just goes running and I have to do twice the work.” You heave a deep sigh—one that you’ve been saving since you became co-manager. “I just don’t care enough to hate him anymore. Well, actually, I still do—just a lot less now. And I’d love to say that he’s a good guy, but I just can’t. Anyway, today isn’t a slow day, and I know you want any excuse to get out of work, so I’m going to shut up and not give you that satisfaction.”
“Got it.” Lily winks. “Let me know whenever you need to vent again.”
“No thanks. And I’m not venting,” you say, though it feels more like a self-affirmation because you don’t know if Lily heard that last bit.
As you mindlessly take care of the bar and its customers, you spend the rest of the day mentally figuring out where you should look for extra staff. You know a couple of people who are great bartenders, but that’s also the problem: They’re great bartenders. In a dumpster town like this, bartenders are never without a job—and great ones more so. Once closing time hits, you decide that you should stop thinking about it so much and just slap a “Help Wanted” sign near the entrance. Apparently, taking an entire day to figure out something you should’ve done in seconds is why you’re manager.
After your obligatory goodbyes, you’re in the middle of locking up outside when you see Momiji come up and place a casual hand on the door, leaning on it slightly.
“Come here often?” she says, winking.
You unlock the door she’s leaning on, and she leans straight into the entrance, almost toppling over. Got her good, didn’t you? You watch her smugly as she walks out the door, a gigantic pout on her face.
“So, come here often?” you repeat back as you lock the door.
“Very funny. You only get a free pass because I find you the most tolerable out of anyone.”
“Same to you. You’re very tolerable.”
“You can’t get me with cheap flattery.” But despite what she says, Momiji laughs and takes your hand in hers. “Come on. Let’s go home already.”