(Continued from Scenes From An Italian Restaurant – One)
By the time Connie returned, most of the wait staff was in place and William, the regular bartender, had called off. So she, along with Marie would cover the bar which wouldn’t be a big deal on a Sunday PLUS her regular tables. When people asked how she stayed so thin she’d tell them, “Come watch me work!” But she was smooth and flowing; not herky-jerky the way some looked when they were rushing about. She’d done this long enough to anticipate where she was needed and had an amazing memory for faces and particularly drinks. Nobody was thirsty in her bar.
She caught Marie watching her once and raised her eyebrows in a “what’s up?”
“You OK?” Marie mouthed. She answered with a tight smile and a nod. But now that Marie had brought it up, thank you, she wasn’t completely OK. Being busy stopped her from thinking about last night-from trying to remember what caused her to leave the cash out…to forget the change this morning…whatever had scattered her. And she wasn’t crazy-she knew what was going to happen to her after close and every time she looked at the clock her chest felt a little lighter and her stomach gurgled. But really, what Chef was going to do to her paled in comparison with how she was beating herself up over last night.
She saw herself the way she was right now: handling tables and the bar-dancing and moving and making money for herself and Antonio. Not as the absent minded waitress who left cash out on the bar overnight. Or forgot to go to the bank this morning. She sidled over to Marie during a lull.
“We’re busier than I thought we’d be.”
“We’re moving them through…”
“Yeah…Well…some are comfortable. Uh…How late you think the staff will be here?” She was concerned about Antonio coming out of the kitchen with a wooden spoon while waitresses were still counting tips.
Marie shrugged, not even looking up. “I told them they had to be gone by six. That there was a private party coming in and we had to turn quick.”
“You did that?” asked Connie smiling.
“You really don’t want to get spanked in front of Dominic”, she said, waving to the pizza guy manning the oven across the room who had no idea what they were talking about.
She squeezed Marie’s arm. “I love you! You…you’re staying?”
“You want me to?”
“I don’t know exactly….”
“I don’t know. A little, sure.” She leaned against Marie and whispered. “Hurts like hell, I’ll tell you that.”
“I imagine it does. I’ll stay.”
Connie ran her hands back along her temples and patted the tight helmet of jet black hair that sprouted a tight pony tail in back. “Thank you…” she said before turning back to the bar where ‘Chianti in the leather jacket’ was almost empty.
Marie had seen Connie spanked once, years before. She had happened into the restaurant before opening on her day off and heard the two of them arguing in the dining room. By the time she made her way to the archway to see what the ruckus was, the sound of the first swat stopped her cold. Two more steps and she saw them. Connie, leaning against the wall with her butt pushed back and Tony, holding up her skirt smacking her hard on the panties with a wooden spoon, each loud “thwack!” answered with a small “Ow! Ow! Ow!” She had quietly backed out of the room, then the restaurant, feeling what she thought was embarrassment. Maybe fear. But she worried it might have been something else.
Over drinks a couple of weeks later Marie confessed to what she had seen. Connie smiled wistfully over her Negroni. “Yeah, he was pissed…I can’t even remember why…”
Connie reached over and patted her friend’s hand. “Chef and I have…an understanding. It’s OK.” She took another sip in silence then asked, “Did you ever…I mean, did he ever…?”
“Did you ever…at home…?”
“What? Charlie? He won’t even yell at the dog. “
They had giggled like schoolgirls and for the first time Marie began to feel that she was on the outside of something that she wasn’t sure she wanted to be inside of. Wasn’t sure but wasn’t sure she wanted to be on the outside either. Was she missing something? She had known other times when Connie was “going to get it”- that’s the way Connie put it. “I fucked up the wine order and William had to go pick some up-I’m going to get it later”. That was always Marie’s cue to make herself scarce.
But that was her call-she was the one who didn’t want to see. Didn’t want to know what really was going on. Or didn’t want to think about it. She was the matriarch here-the boss was fifteen years her junior. The rest were kids. Connie was closest…she sighed. She couldn’t imagine how that would work. Just couldn’t. But she wondered.
Lost in thought she picked the bottarga from the cooler and put it on the mandoline. Thin even slices. Thin even cuts. Breathe-slice-breathe-slice-thin strokes. “How the hell would that even work?” asked her mind refusing to be lulled.
To Be Continued…