This is a Sample only. Book now available on Amazon kindle and Paperback. Chapters taken down.
The first time I ever saw him was during a long rainy night. The clock ticked eleven p.m., which was cutting close to the restaurant closing time. Since it was a weekday, the restaurant barely had any customers. I worked at a small Chinese restaurant called Sea Dragon, where we served the best chicken dumplings and roast egg rolls in town; that’s what the restaurant was popular for, and people loved visiting here all the time.
My co-worker, Kathy, had left early tonight because she had a date. She’d requested me to cover for her, begging me with her puppy eyes, and I eventually gave in. Kathy usually did favors for me too. Thus, I was left alone with Diego who seemed to be mopping a puddle of Coke that a kid had spilled a few minutes back off the floor. He gave me a tired smile, a smile that indicated the impending doom of Friday, knowing full well that it was going to be hella crowded. We barely had time to breathe on a weekend.
We were almost done cleaning all the tables when suddenly, Sam, the chef walked out of the kitchen frantically. Worry was written all over his face. He had never seemed so agitated before, so this was clearly something serious.
“What’s wrong, Sam?” I inquired.
“It’s my daughter,” he replied. “My wife was telling me on the phone that Lily is being rushed to the hospital because she’s running a high fever. I... I need to go.”
“You can’t!” Diego interrupted. “It’s still an hour before closing. What if there’s another customer?” He threw me a look.
“Can’t you guys just manage for one hour? Please.” Sam’s pleading eyes turned towards me. “I need to be with my daughter.”
I nodded. “We will manage.” I placed my hand on his back, giving it a reassuring pat. “You can go.”
“What? Are you nuts?” Diego shrieked. “If Manager Jeff finds out, we are going to get our asses handed back to us. And we could get fired!”
“Jeff doesn’t need to know,” I said. “It’s just one hour. No one’s going to walk in at this time”
Diego sighed and resumed his work. His face was going red. It looked like he was going to burst a vein or two. Sam packed his stuff and stormed out of the door, thanking me for the millionth time. I watched from the window as he settled into his old Honda civic and pulled out of the parking lot.
Fifteen minutes after Sam left, the little restaurant bell dinged, indicating there was a customer. I knew that if it was just one person or perhaps a couple, I could manage, but in walked three men in suits and occupied a table near the window. One of them was Asian, the other was a lanky redhead, and the third, by the window, looked younger than the two. I approached their table with a smile, and they probably noticed I didn’t have a menu card in my hand.
“Gentlemen, actually we closed early tonight because the chef had to leave due to an emergency. We wouldn’t be able to serve anything at the moment,” I said. “I apologize.”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the weather’s bad outside, and there aren’t many restaurants in this area, and most of them are closed,” the attractive Asian explained. “Isn’t there anything you can serve us?”
“Chicken fried rice and Wonton soup,” I suggested. “That’s the best I can make.”
The group of men agreed to the suggestion. Feeling motivated to become the evening’s chef for once; I rushed back into the kitchen, tied the apron around my waist, and began dicing the veggies.
Diego was nowhere in sight, probably sulking in the staff room at the back, having wanted nothing to do with my little adventure of serving the customers in the restaurant without a chef. He clearly did not trust my cooking skills. I, for one, had always been observant of what Sam cooked and had tried his recipes at home a few times, and it had turned out good. Although I just knew a few things off the menu, it was enough to serve someone during desperate times like these.
A few minutes later, I served them their dinner. “Enjoy your meal,” I said and resumed my work.
I noticed another man seated alone a few booths down. Diego had served him coffee and turned the “open” sign to ”closed."
I could feel a pair of eyes boring into my back as I wiped the counter with a rag. I turned to look, and the young man from the trio was staring at me. He smiled. So I smiled back at him and looked away. Something about his attitude gave me the creeps. I didn’t dress sexy because I appreciated predators staring at my ass. It was part of my job. They told me putting on makeup usually earned a lot of tips, and yes, my co-workers were right. I knew it was appealing to some men to see women serving around dressed in a Chinese Qipao, and I received more compliments for it, but some men were downright pervy. That was what bothered me about this job.
The three men seemed to be enjoying the meal, and when it was time to pay, one of the men pushed his American Express card towards me, along with numerous hundred dollar bills.
“You’re pretty good at cooking for someone who doesn’t work as a chef,” the dark-haired man said.
“Thanks,” I said with a smile and then noticed the tip he’d given me.
Four hundred dollars as tip? Either he hadn’t noticed how much he’d given me or he was totally insane. The two men stared at him incredulously, and my jaw was probably on the floor, too.
“It’s for you. Don’t be so surprised,” he added.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course,” he said.
A few seconds later, I gained my composure, and I knew that my face had lit up by then. “Thank you so much, sir. I really appreciate it.”
I was desperate, alright. I had bills to pay, my father’s debts to clear, and a whole bag filled with responsibilities. It didn’t help that my salary wasn’t much. The tips helped me a lot. I pushed the money in my pocket and went as far as to see the customers out of the door as a polite gesture for their generosity.
After the coffee drinking customer had paid and walked out, Diego and I were left to close the restaurant. He stayed at the cash counter to settle the bills while I took the trash out of the back door. The storm had come to a halt. I placed some leftover fish and water for the stray cat that I’d been feeding for over the past few months and started to make my way back inside the restaurant when a strong hand reached for the doorknob first and slammed the door shut. I looked up to see who it was. The darkness made it quite difficult, but a flash of lightning allowed me to see that it was the same man as before. The man who’d generously tipped me.
I fidgeted. “Do you need anything?”
He straightened his blazer jacket and turned to look at his watch and smiled at me. “I can give you an extra two hundred.” He suggested, smiling coyly. “What do you say?”
“I don’t understand.”
He sighed, took my hand in his and placed it on the crotch of his pants, rubbing on it slightly, and groaned. “I have my car parked just around the parking lot. We’ll make it quick.”
I snatched my hand out of his grasp, feeling disgusted. “I’m not a whore.”
“Oh c’mon. I saw how you were smiling at me,” he said as if that explained anything.
“I smile at all my customers. It doesn’t mean anything.” My voice was shaky by now.
“Just a quick fuck. You can do some exceptions for extra tips, right?”
I reached for my pocket and thrust the dollar bills in his face. “Here. I don’t need your money. Now, move out of my way.”
I should have known he was one of those creepy men who lured women by showing them the power of money. I shouldn’t even have accepted such a hefty tip.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
He let go of the door handle, so I opened the door and started walking in when he grabbed me out of nowhere, slammed the door, and locked it behind him. Next, he grabbed me and pushed me against the wall, ripping the top button off the dress. I struggled, screaming for someone to help me when he covered my mouth with his palm. I heard my own muffled cries over the sound of thunder. I tried to knee his groin, and I may have scratched his cheek because it was now bleeding.
I smacked him, and he smacked me hard in return, and I heard him call me a stupid bitch. I was resisting so hard, but I felt like I was going to lose the fight. I had this gut feeling that something bad was going to happen. I realized this was the end; an ugly one where I would probably end up sexually assaulted and dead somewhere near the dumpster. They said you should never beg for mercy at the person causing an assault because begging usually fed their fantasy and made their experience even more fun, but I wasn’t even in the state to think of all that.
I continued to repeat the words “please." My dress was tattered and dirty from struggling on the ground. He had my wrists pinned down. His knee was nudging between my thighs as his hand made its way towards my panties when suddenly, he stopped. I was brawling, trying to pull myself to a sitting position, covering myself and I dared to look towards him to see what had stopped the assault.
A man was standing in the alley. I couldn’t see his face properly, but at that moment, I knew that he was my knight in shining armor.