Voices rose and fell throughout the dining room; whispers and laugher ringing in the air mingled with the clatter of silverware. It was decorated richly, with brightly colored cloth and modern furniture. The restaurant was a greatly appreciated part of the upper east side, with most of their patrons being the more affluent variety.
The main dining area was brightly lit by chandeliers, but neither the light nor the cheerful atmosphere served to sooth Alice’s mood. Stress continuously weighed on her, like heavy chains shackling her to reality. The green hues that usually made her eyes so remarkable were somehow absent from her usually vibrant hazel eyes.
The day had been long and hard; somewhere in the middle of her shift she had thrown her long blonde hair into a messy bun. Her short black server’s dress was rumpled and stained with grease from a mishap with a plate of food an hour before. It didn’t help that a couple of her customers had complained to her manager about her state of disarray.
How was she going to remove that stain? If only she had paid more attention to her foster mother’s lectures. The woman had tried to give her tips for living alone, but chores had always bored her. Not to mention, she had been so excited about moving to the big city, that it had been all she was able to think about. Alice had thought that all of her dreams would come true, just like any eighteen year old. If only she had known of the many hard lessons that had awaited her.
If only she had listened to all the lessons the lovely woman had tried to teach her.
The last year had been hard on the young woman. She could barely keep on top of her day job now, and she felt her dream of being a world renowned songstress slipping through her fingers. It didn’t matter how desperately she tried to cling to her aspirations, the stress and fatigue weighed her down. At this moment, she had no auditions to ready for. There were no contracts to sign, or sight of a record deal at all.
She had worked herself into exhaustion and complacence.
At night there was no respite, either. Her dreams had been invaded by nightmares from her past, and her failing future. She felt as if she was drowning, no matter how optimistic she tried to be. In this new city, she was alone and had no one to turn to; she couldn’t bear to worry her kind foster parents states away.
She would continue to persevere, just as they had taught her. Mind over matter would work in this situation, right? All she had to do was believe in herself.
Today just happened to be one of those days where she had to try extra hard at it. Alice smiled brightly at one of her regulars as she started to take away the older woman’s plates. “Thank you so much for your visit today! See you next Monday, ma’am?”
The woman in question barely smiled as she tightened her colorful scarf around her throat. “Why, yes. Now, have a good day, Sam.”
Alice. Her name was Alice. She had a name tag, and everything! She even served this customer exclusively every time she came in! “Yes, ma’am. Have a wonderful evening!”
She never let her smile slip as the customer walked away and towards the door in the front of the room. Once again, she had left the server only a meager tip. Still, that wasn’t what really bothered her about the occurrence. Was she that forgettable? Alice had never thought so before…
Her eyes burned as she carried the plates towards the waitress station in the back of the combined sections.
It was out of the way in the back corner of the restaurant, the light above it darkened. It almost gave the atmosphere as if it was trying to shrink away from the rest of the dining room, as if to not distract the patrons from the rest of the elaborately decorated area. The top black counter was almost immaculate since it was nearing the end of their shift, and the condiments and silverware were neatly put away. No one wanted to stay over just to clean up their mess; it also helped that it was a bit of a slow afternoon. It gave them plenty of time to keep the station in order.
Anne was already there, putting away a couple of menus in a small pocket that was placed on the side of the metal station.
Her aqua blue hair, newly dyed, was up in a high ponytail. It swished around in the air as she danced and added a few dishes to the back bin sitting on the bottom shelf. Even though Alice was still feeling down, it made her chuckle. “Someone’s happy,” she remarked as she put the plates into a large black bin. Hopefully, the busser remembered to grab them soon…
“It’s the end of our shift, Alice!” she replied, taking off her apron with a flourish. Anne was always in an unnaturally upbeat mood; honestly, Alice loved working with her the most. The shifts they had together always seemed to speed by. “Why wouldn’t I be happy to get out of this soul sucking place?”
Alice giggled as she washed her hands and wiped down the metal top once more. It never hurt to be thorough. “It’s not that bad, you know.”
Err, well, it wasn’t quite a lie. Sometimes, she actually enjoyed her time here.
“Eh, I guess you’re right.” Anne used her hip to bump Alice out of the way so that she could wash her own hands. “I’m just ready to go home. I have a new game I want to play. Aaaaaaand, I might be slightly addicted to it.”
It wasn’t the first time that Anne had said something like that. The woman loved to describe herself as a ‘gamer’.
“Ah,” she answered nonchalantly, as she started to undo her hair. To be honest, Alice had never really been interested in video games before. One of her foster siblings had played them whenever he had free time, but Alice would only watch if she didn’t have choir practice. She herself had never played them. “Is it good?” God, that sounded stupid. It was just something that people said though, if they had no idea what the other person was talking about.
Anne turned to her, her grey eyes bright. “Totally! I have a gunner in the game.”
A gunner? She never knew that Anne had an interest in firearms of any sort. On the contrary, the woman actually came off as a pacifist. “That… Doesn’t seem like you.”
“I know,” she smirked, looking down at her phone. “The game actually picks out your class for you. Some kind of psycho-thingy.”
Psychological? Or physiological? What kind of game did that anyway.
The other girl continued on as Alice untied her apron and laid it on the laundry pile underneath the station. Anne did the same, and together they started walking towards the back of their restaurant.
God, she was so ready to clock out.
“I actually partied up with a song maiden last night. I hadn’t realized before how many buffs their songs actually give-”
“Songs?” Alice perked up at that as she ran her fingers through her tangled blond locks. “As in, actual music?”
“Yep. I guess they create songs on their own or something?”
“Oh, my god.” Still, music in a game. Now that was awesome. If she could do that, perhaps she could practice her vocals? “What about-”
A loud ringtone interrupted their conversation. “Mhmm. Hold that thought.” Anne turned away as she answered her cell phone. Well, it was a good thing that they were already in the back of the kitchen.
Alice grabbed her time card and punched out, sliding the card through the plastic grooves. Well, maybe she could even use the game as a jumping off platform. Would concerts in a game like that be popular?
Anne and Alice both grabbed their things from their metal lockers. Still, Anne was talking up a storm on her phone. From what Alice could gather, it was probably her boyfriend.
It wasn’t until they had made it to the employee’s exit that Anne finally hung up and slipped her phone into her purse. “He said he’s waiting for me outside. I guess that game will have to wait a little bit.”
Anne punched the bar that opened the door, her enthusiasm causing an audible bang. She held the door open for her coworker, not even glancing back at the scathing looks she was drawing. The kitchen was bustling with activity, the line cooks trying to rush through their orders and serve the guests, and they did not like distractions in the least. If only Alice, herself, had the courage to be that confident.
Her cheeks burned a bashful pink as she avoided looking at them.
Alice sensed that her time was running out, so she asked the only question that she needed answered. She might end up regretting her purchase, but she would never realize that until much later.
“What’s that game called, by the way?”
“Oh! That’s right, I never told you.” Anne turned to her, her smirk mischievous. “Hymn of Elys. If you grab it now, you have about a month until the newest expansion.”
“The newest expansion?” Confused, she tilted her head.
“Yeah, it introduces new areas and such to the game. This time, it is supposed to revamp the song maiden’s class and song system.” Anne sent off a quick text, and Alice heard her phone vibrate inside of her pocket. “Supposedly, they’re even supposed to introduce the ‘goddess’ of the world to the game. I heard you sing, right? Like, well?”
So much information, so fast, was starting to make her head spin. “Yes, at least I think so.” Confidence, Alice, confidence. Her mom said she had to start believing in herself more. “I mean, yes. I sing professionally.”
Anne tossed her a sarcastic eye roll, but it was friendly. “Gotcha. Well then, you need to start playing soon. Send me your player ID, and we’ll totally make a party!”
“Sure!” Alice smiled. Was this what it was like to make a friend at work? What would she need to play? She had some money saved up from Christmas, and her parents had said to spend it on something that let her have some fun. This would probably apply…
Anne must have seen her ride, because she started to skip away. Her blue hair bounced with every step as she raised a hand to wave at her friend. “See ya later! Oh, and the expansion’s going to be called ‘Song to the Goddess’.”
‘Song to the Goddess,’ hm. Well, she would probably have some catching up to do if she only had a month.
Alice was determined as she grabbed her phone from her pocket and tapped the icon for her GPS. The phone found the quickest route to the closest video game store, and she was on her way.
It was time to start working on her own happiness, and her future.