I woke with a start and observed the place where I lay. I was definitely not in my own bed. David was sitting beside me. I believed I was in a hospital. Everything was white. White curtains, bed covers and white walls. A few pictures of flowers and nature hung on the walls. The sun was peering in through the gaps in the window. The fan above me was moving slowly.
“What … what happened? Where am I?” I asked, scrambling for answers, panting heavily.
“You fainted. The banquet was a success, by the way,” he said.
“What ... the banquet ...” I said with a confused mind.
I felt hung-over. Too much information and too many images swirled around in my brain.
“Are you okay? You look like you have seen a ghost,” David said.
“I’m fine, really. I just want to go home.” I sighed.
David looked at me with a wide eye.
“I can take you home. We just needed to wait for you to wake up. You slept for two days. Technically, you were unconscious. Doctors examined you and believe this was caused by your middle childhood when you were drugged. They found some small disease cells forming and removed them. One said it could relapse, though, and that you could never have children,” he said.
I blinked. “What? That’s a joke, right?”
“Does it look like a joke?” he said, pointing to his face.
He wasn’t joking. If he were, he would have smiled or smirked by now, but there was nothing. I was upset by the news.
“Just take me home, please.”
“Don’t you start your new job today?”
“Oh for crying out loud. You are joking. Just take me home,” I raged.
David began laughing, but he didn’t say another word. Instead, he took my hand and walked me back to his parents’ house. The small country hospital was a ten-minute walk from his home.
“Greta, my sister wants you to come in to work today. She wants a strong woman. When I told her you were in hospital, she said, and these are her exact words, ‘If a person don’t work when they are weak, they are not living life. We only get better by trying,’” Nancy told me.
“Mum, she says that to everyone,” David said, rolling his eyes.
“I know. But that is who she is. We have to deal with it. Cannot leave the girl hanging.”
David nodded. It was true. Based on the image and personality I got from Sienna the other day, I could imagine what she would think if I was not to work.
John handed me a black and white suit for female waitresses and left me to change upstairs. My stomach was churning, my head was swimming and I was feeling a little drowsy and tired, making it harder for me to concentrate on getting dressed. This was a chance I had to take and there was no turning back.
“Oh, hello, dear. Welcome. Service starts in thirty minutes for lunch. We must hurry,” Sienna said, leading me into the kitchen.
The place was small and smelled sweet and meaty. Her restaurant was called “The Sienna Express.”
“Very popular service here, so we cannot have one mistake, okay?” she said, pointing to a bunch of recipe books on the shelf.
“So, what do you want me to start with?” I asked.
“There are menus and cookbooks over here just in case you need them. You help me be the cashier and be the server for the first couple of hours while I observe you. I’ll introduce you to the head chef. Come this way,” she said, nearly out of breath.
I followed her into the back of the kitchen where a row of ovens and stoves were. It was a little hot in this small room. A large bearded man appeared from the back. He looked familiar.
“Greta, this is my Mr Burns. Mr Burns, this is Greta Wilfred.”
It was him. I knew it. The one who kidnapped my sister. The one who worked at the school. He would have been out of jail by now. But how did he become a chef?
I shook hands with him. We both took a long look at each other. Thank goodness my hair had been died.
“Your face looks familiar. Are you related to anyone with the last name Shortstreet?” he asked curiously.
“Everything all right, Mr Burns?” Sienna asked.
“No, sorry, sir. I know no one with that last name,” I said to Mr Burns.
For the next few minutes, I kept wondering why people were sourcing me out or trying to find my true identity. I really did wish it would stop. I never wanted to go back to my old life. I wanted to be Greta Wilfred and that was what John had made me.
“Oh, that’s strange. No worries. If you were anything like those two little brats who got me thrown in jail, I might as well get rid of you,” he laughed.
I decided not to say another word. I followed Sienna out to the counter where people ordered and paid for their food. At this restaurant, you were not served at your table. You would have to get up to order and retrieve your food or drink. This was a weird service. Yet, it was popular, so it must be working.
“Sienna, why do you run a service with no waitresses?”
“Why would you ask such a silly question like that, honey? We waitress at the front desk. It’s just easier, I guess.”
“I don’t understand. I’m sorry if I sounded stupid.”
“Dear, no one is stupid. It’s your first day. We sell meals cheaper if customers come to collect their own food. More people come and we get a bigger profit. All works out in the end,” she said.
The service ran smoothly for the whole day. It wasn’t so bad after all. I made no mistake at all. I only had to stay for the lunch shift and the afternoon shift before I could go home.
I found the place fascinating and welcoming. A wonderful warm and supportive environment with great serving food. I got to taste some of Sienna’s favourite cooking examples; most of them she had created herself and she kept the recipes a secret, as they were great selling dishes.