Pop. Pop. Pop.
"Max, you're doing great. Just keep making round balls of dough and then gently flatten them with your palms as you did with the cookie batter," I said, as I wiped down the grill and the fryer.
I needed to start the evening dinner prep for the people who'd come in for wings and other side dishes. My feet ached but I felt happier because Max was cooperating with me for once.
I hadn't known him for a while but I could see that all he needed was a little bit of guidance. I felt myself growing attached to a 20-year-old man who was a grown-ass adult but acted like a child. It wasn't his fault that nobody was there to watch after him.
Maybe I can teach him some street smarts and book smarts while he's here with me. No guarantees that he'll listen though. Unless I bribe him with different desserts every day.
I heard the diner's little bell make noise so I walked up to the counter and smiled.
"How are you today ma'am?" I asked politely waiting for her order.
"Great. Can I have two chocolate chip cookies, a dish of mac and cheese, and some chicken wings to go please?" responded the woman.
"No problem, coming right up," I answered with a smile. She handed over some cash after looking at the total from the register's mini screen.
The kitchen smelled odd but maybe it was just me. I was still tired from this early morning's adventure.
Max was talking to himself as he continued to work on his little cookies.
I started heating up the mac and cheese I'd made this morning whilst heating up the oil. I placed the defrosted wings into the fryer's basket and waited.
Pop. Pop. Pop. Specks of oil flew out from the fryer.
What the hell? Why is that popping? There's no water in the fryer.
I leaned closer and screamed in horror when I saw an orange flame encompass the bottom of the fryer.
"Max, evacuate the diner now! Fire," I screamed at Max. For once, he chose to listen to me as he saw the flames climbing up the sides of the fryer.
"Kari, what about you?" he said, starting to tear up.
"Just go," I screamed as I grabbed the bag of white flour and baking soda that was nearby. I couldn't find the extinguisher yet.
I don't want to die like this. Not from a bloody fire.
I jumped the contents of both bags into the fryer from a foot away and sighed in relief when the flames slowly diminished.
I coughed from the smokey fumes and rubbed my watering eyes as I staggered towards the back door to get a breath of air.
One crisis averted. I need to call Mario ASAP. How the hell did that fire start?
Clearly, I spoke too soon because right as I turned around to check the front of the diner for remaining customers, I saw another fire blazing on the yellow cloth above the fryer.
Shit! There's no more flour left and the rest of it is near the storage closet on the other side. There's no time.
I can't put out a fire by adding water or oil because I'll get hurt.
There it is!
I grabbed the fire extinguisher from underneath the grill and aimed for the fire that had now reached the ceiling.
My lungs were burning from excursion but I couldn't let this place burn down. It was Mario's pride and Mr. Thompson's establishment.
The last thing I needed was to get sued.
I sighed again as the flames went out and checked to make sure that there weren't any residuals of the fire.
The kitchen was a mess. Completely covered in a layer of smoke and there was flour everywhere. This would take me a long time to clean up.
I sprinted out to the front of the diner and made sure nobody was inside. There was a small crowd on the street and I could see that somebody had called the fire department.
I needed to call Mario so I grabbed my cell phone and left the diner.
People gasped at me when I walked out of the diner unscathed.
I must look like shit.
I dialed Mario's number and he finally picked up.
Mario: Hey what's up Karina? How's Max doing?
Me: The diner was on fire. I think somebody set it on fire intentionally. But it doesn't make sense. Only Max and I were in the kitchen.
Mario: What the fuck? I need to call Quinton. Are you okay?
Me: I'm good but I'll be needing a facial pretty soon.
Mario: That's not funny. I texted Quinton and he said he's coming.
Me: Damn, I'm getting fired for sure.
Mario: I'm sorry. I can't do anything because I wasn't there. But Max was.
Me: It's fine. I'll keep you in the loop.
Mario: Ciao bella.
The woman who placed the order for the chicken wings walked over to me and handed me baby wipes from her child's stroller.
"Here," she said as she looked me up and down.
"Call your parents. They must be worried if they just saw the news," she said pointing to the Burberry News representatives who were live on the scene.
"They're not in my life anymore. Thank you for the wipes," I responded and looked away as her eyes filled with pity.
I hated that look. Don't pity me. Just understand my pain.
Max spotted my head in the crowd and ran over to me. He engulfed me into a big hug and I struggled to getaway.
What if he set the fire? But why? Why would he do that when it's clear that he's so attached to me?
A couple of minutes later, a sleek white Infiniti pulled up to the curb and an extremely handsome man stepped out of the car.
"Mr. Thompson, what's he doing here?" somebody mumbled in the crowd.
"Get an exclusive story," shouted one of the journalists.
"Who is Karina and Max?" Quinton said. I swallowed my fear and stepped out of the crowd, dragging Max with me.
"A word, in private please," he said. Anger simmered in his eyes but it looked like he was in control because he pushed it back down, and suddenly, he was wearing an emotion mask. I couldn't read him.
Well, this is the end of my baking career.