What a jerk" Sarah commented after witnessing our heated discussion.
"He's a hottie" Veronica added, twirling her hair as she watched him leave in his Rolls Royce. How could someone be such a jerk? I grabbed the bills and tucked them in my pocket. Though I didn't want it, leaving it there would gain unwanted attention. Who leaves two thousand dollars on the table of a café? As much as I needed the money, my pride would be wounded if I used them for myself. Especially after the way he insulted me.
Soon after the customers left, we closed the café. The kitchen counter was too small to accommodate six waitresses and Mariella so we occupied any place with a socket. All electrical appliances that were not required were unplugged and electrical blenders and food whisks took their place. The grinding of blenders mixing flour, cream and butter filled the room. The smell of various flavours blended into a fragrance that compelled my stomach to involuntarily churn.
Mariella fixated on baking the six-tier cake. The two ovens in the kitchen were occupied with cupcakes so we had to dispatch each layer of cake into our houses to increase the pace of the process. An hour and a half later we assembled all the layers of the cake and the kitchen counter had been completely conquered by piping bags filled with different coloured cream.
The customer had demanded fifty cupcakes of five different flavours which would be impossible to bake while the counter was occupied with a stressed Mariella yelling insults in Spanish every time someone tried to approach the oven.
We were six waitresses and could bake fifty cupcakes in three to four batches if we hailed to our houses. Veronica was assigned with vanilla cupcakes, Mindy, Delilah and Mikayla took the task to bake peanut butter, red velvet and coffee flavoured cupcakes and I went ahead and took the task of baking chocolate cupcakes. Sarah stayed with Mariella and helped with the cake and the pear frangipani tarts.
I grabbed a few piping bags and stuffed the malted milk frosting into the bags. I covered the cupcake batter with a silicone stretch lid and hurriedly shoved it in a cloth bag with cupcake moulds, oven mitts and trays and hailed back to my apartment. The door flung open and I rushed to the kitchen counter.
I opened the notepad on my phone and scrolled for the directions to bake.
The clock struck noon and I managed to set the temperature of the oven. I filled the cupcake moulds with three fourth batter and placed it in the oven at 400°F for the first five minutes and at 350°F for the next ten to fifteen minutes. Mariella specifically told me to keep an eye on the cupcakes when they're at 400°F. I managed to bake five batches of cupcakes within an hour and thirty-five minutes dot. This was when the easy part of baking was over and where hell began.
For the next half an hour I fumbled with the piping bags, trying to make a simple design with the malted milk. Squeeze, dislike, scoop, repeat had been on loop for what felt like forever until I finally managed to get the design I wanted.
I learned baking in my childhood but it was the whipped cream that always gave me trouble. Squeezing the right amount of cream on the cupcake without messing up the design I was aiming to make felt like conducting a surgery.
By two-thirty, I finished garnishing the cupcakes with shreds of chocolate. I heard my phone vibrate in my pocket. A message from Sarah flashed at me
Doll up girl.
We're about to go to a rich ass client's mansion and we need to look hot AF.
I didn't have anything to wear to a party so I wore a full sleeve white blouse and a black pencil skirt with a pair of stalking and paired it with kitten heels. They were the best when it came to jobs where I had to run around but also look elegant. Also, they were the only pair of heels I owned. I put on some make-up and braced myself for the worst.
I jerked at the sound of the doorbell. I unlocked the door to find Raphael standing in front of me.
"Ready to go?" he asked me. I nodded in agreement. We both carried the trays of cupcakes and placed them in the truck. The truck smelled like a chocolate house filled with treats. The other girls had already gathered and I was the last one to get in. I greeted them and squeezed next to Sarah.
She wore a full sleeve black dress thigh-neck neckline and the way the dress hugged her body like keep the ugly duckling of the group. Her dress was elegant yet seductive. She went for the no-makeup look which highlighted her beauty and hid her exhaustion.
"Girl we're going to a Gala, not a job interview" she scolded.
"This was the most elegant dress that I had," I explained. She gave me the girl-you're-so-dumb look.
"You could have borrowed a dress from me". Amid the chaos, my looks were the last thing I bothered about. My main agenda was to do my job perfectly and be there for Mariella. It was her first big order and I bet she was fretting about it.
An hour and a half later, we finally came to a pause. We had reached the gates of a huge mansion. The doors of the truck burst open and the security team stepped in to check the truck. After the examination, we were allowed to go inside. The drive from the entrance to the doorstep of the mansion was twenty minutes long. We finally reached the back exit of the mansion.
We were not the only bakers there. They seemed to have split up the order. Their truck looked more professional and they wore a uniform. White shirt with a grey pencil skirt for the women and grey pants for the men.
They started unloading their desserts and we stood in awe as they kept placing desserts one after the other on the serving trolley. Their trolley was filled from top to bottom; from chocolate truffles to tiramisu, the deserts released a sweet fragrance that collided in the evening air, smelting into each other like butter melting on bread.
We pushed our trolleys into the kitchen. The kitchen had an aura that usually battlefields possessed. The shrill clanking of pots and pans had the ring that swords possessed while slashing into each other. Pans tossed in the air, shooting food like cannonballs. Knivesstore through meat like a guillotine piercing into human necks. But instead of copper, the air was smothered with a cologne of flavours blended into a fine mix that could invoke hunger in a full man's stomach. The hustle in the kitchen was like that of the jostling of soldiers in a war.
There was a spirit of competition among the chefs. Not among themselves but they had the urge to win against the selective, rather choosy tongues of the rich. To commoners, making such a fuss over dinner could mean pointless but I understood exactly what they were going through. I hailed from a wealthy family and I could guarantee you, even if a pinch of salt altered in the dish, they would create a ruckus out of it. They look at the slightest details to find flaws in them just so they could exercise their power on the artists, to 'show them their place' as I would like to call it in the dialect of the rich.
The atmosphere of the kitchen added Mariel la's stress. I squeezed her hand in mine in assurance. She took a deep breath and took my hand in her hands.
"Everything will be fine" she chanted. I was in awe of her strength. I would have fainted in her place.
"Now that's the spirit" I cheered. A small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. It was faint and one would miss it if one didn't look carefully. Raphael put an arm around her shoulders.
"You're gonna rock it mom," he said.
"Yes. We will" she corrected him. The girls gathered around, a trolley in each of their hands. We were waiting for someone to lead us into the venue.
A man appeared in the kitchen. His eyes blue eyes locked on Sarah. I could feel her. shaking next to me. His gaze raked her body, dragging from her face to the curves of her waist, highlighted by the dress that hugged her body, to her feet. He produced his hand towards her and she shook hands with him. His icy eyes grew darker at her touch. His hand moved towards me but his gaze set its target on her I shook hands with him, his cool metal rings pressed against my hand.
"Are you Mariella?" he asked, looking at Sarah.
"N. No" she stuttered. I had never seen her so nervous before. She was always the dominant one. Every boyfriend she has ever had was always the good guy but this man was different.
"I am Mariella" she spoke, interrupting the tension in the air. His gaze tore away from Sarah, never to meet her again.
"I am Aidan. You spoke to me on the phone today morning," he said.
"Yes. I recognize" Mariella said, stepping forward as if she were trying to protect us.
"Where is the venue?" I asked. He finally looked at me. He smiled at my question and replied.
"Let me lead you from here" he suggested. We followed his lead. Golden frames of portraits glimmered in the dim-lit hallways and statues sat on tables, staring at us as we walked past them. The marble floor was coated by a red carpet, almost as if we were walking in the hall of fame. After what felt like forever, we reached the oversized mahogany doors that sealed the venue. Intricate floral designs had been engraved on it. Curlicues of flowers and vines swirled on them, wooden bees and butterflies studded on the flowers as if they were living On cue, the guards opened the doors.
The doors swung open to expose the most elegant ballroom I had ever seen. My former house had one too but what I saw in front of me was nowhere near to what my ancestral mansion had.
It was a room matted with black, tables scattered everywhere, Ivory seats covered with velvet and the tables hid under the white covers. Each table had white peonies sitting on top of it and a bottle of champagne and champagne glasses adorned the table. A glossy pathway lay from the main entrance to the opposite end of the room. It was wide enough to use as a dance floor. Two circular counters stood on the east and west ends of the room. A beautiful halo of flowers hung on top of the circumference of the counters, a chandelier studded with lights and diamonds hung in the centre of the halo. East end of the counters was being encountered by delicious cuisines. The guests hadn't arrived yet and we had one hour to set up.
Aidan pointed towards the west counter.
"That is where you're going to be stationed tonight. The party starts at six and exactly at six you must leave the venue," he said. We began pushing our trolleys to the west counter when Aidan stopped us.
"We'll take care of the cake". We stopped to look at each other's faces. A man in a uniform appeared in front of us.
"Dan here will take care of the cake," he said, as Dan moved forward and pulled the trolley away. We moved to the west counter where cupcake stands were waiting for us. Ten cupcake stands stood on one part of the counter, each coated with a thin layer of gold on the inside. I started placing cupcakes from top to bottom.
The shelves under the counter were open except for one. I attempted to open them without others noticing but I ended up earning a glare from one of the men in suits.
Everyone in the ballroom wore suits, from the caterers to the guards.
Our time was up and we were done with the arrangement. The countertop was occupied by various cuisines, arranged in ascending order from the starters to the dessert. Caterers in uniforms and bow ties stood ready, ready to cater to the guests. Seven minutes to six and guests had already started arriving. People flooded into the room, the men in their suits and the women in their gowns, clinging to their husbands.
Aidan stood at the door, greeting the guests and opposite to him stood a man. His physique had been wrapped in the suit he wore, his fresh green eyes bore into every guest that arrived, scanning them for potential threats.
As I saw guests taking their seats, fear shot into my veins as if someone had injected me. My blood gushed in my ears as my body stood firmly rooted in my spot. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. It felt like my heart was pumping pure adrenaline.
I saw familiar faces studded among the guests, greeting and hugging each other. I knew them from the galas and balls that my family conducted. Every time I was dressed up and dragged to these gala's, every time I was open to the undesirable gazes of middle-aged men. Physically, they would behave like a gentleman but I knew that deep in their perverted minds, they'd undress me already.
I shot out of the ballroom through the back exit that we had used to come in. Sarah called out to me but it was too late. My legs wouldn't stop until I was far away from them. If they found me I'd be dead, or worse, I'd be sent back home to that monster. I ran as fast and as far away as I could.
There were guards everywhere but they didn't chase after me. They didn't even seem to notice me. As if crazy women running in the halls were a common thing in this house. I took the flight of stairs and ran as much as could until I stumbled upon a step and fell. In front of me stood an isolated hallway. No soul stood at the doors like the other hallways. I passed by the hallway, trying to find a person to guide me out of this place. I tripped and fell on one of the doors as it opened wide. With a thud, my chin hit the floor. I stood up to find a man, wearing nothing but a towel that barely covered his thighs. His abs peeked behind his hirsute chest, his stubble had been trimmed, hiding his diamond-cutting jawline. He was everything a woman could want but I hated his face to my core.
His eyes were stationed at my face as my gaze raked his body. A smirk grew wide on his face. His gaze shifted to my neck, sliding down to my chest. It stayed there for a while before raking at the curves of my skirt that hugged my hips. I almost hated my skirt for revealing so much without even revealing my skin. His eyes shifted back to my face as I grunted his name.