Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Girls Night Out [Part 1]

It was two p.m. By this time, everyone working should've already been back at their offices, ready to face the mundane tasks of working again after a hearty lunch. Everyone working a seven-to-five job should not be lingering at the bar. Like what this particular young woman was doing.

But the rules didn't apply to her. The reason why? She owned the bar. And the restaurant next to it. Yes, Othello Restaurant/Bar is the property of one Lauren Knightley, chef and sometime security consultant. And she was proud of it. Barely out of her twenties, she'd managed to single-handedly bring the now-famous and sought-after restaurant into the eyes and tastebuds of various food critics, all of which had given Othello very good reviews.

It wasn't all managed without a couple of bumps in the road, though. When Elle, as her friends fondly called her, finished work on the restaurant and started on the nightclub, she realized that her budget for the club wasn't enough. Sure, she had some money left, but if she didn't get a loan - and soon - the club would only be half-completed.

Too proud to ask money from her family, Elle then contacted one of her best friends, Louisa deRossi, who agreed to invest on the condition that a. Lou gets to live in the empty apartment over the nightclub, b. She gets ten percent from the bar's profit, and c. She gets a job as a bartender.

The last condition made no sense to Elle, but hey, if her investor wanted it, who was she to argue? So it was then settled, and Othello managed to rise again.

Elle snorted cynically. Still dressed in her chef's uniform - yes, she was one of the few people who like to partake personally in the managing of her restaurant, and besides, she was a very good chef - she had one eye on the calculator, the other on the money bills that were placed methodically on the bar's table top, and both hands rubbing her temples tiredly.

'Whatcha doing, Elle?'

She winced at the chipper tone her friend's voice carried as she bounded down the staircase that led from Louisa's apartment to the bar. 'Can you tone it down a little?' Elle raised an eyebrow blearily. 'I'm getting a second migraine.'

'Whoa, a second migraine.' Louisa deRossi chuckled. 'You sure you're not hungover?'

Turning around in her seat, Elle shot a glare at her friend. 'Unlike some people,' heavy sarcasm here. 'I'm very responsible. Speaking of responsible,' she took a sip of the glass of OJ. Instant painkiller. 'Did I see some guy climbing up the stairs to your apartment last night?'

Lou scowled and threw a pout. 'Elle, you know I'm not like that!'

Elle shook her head. 'I know. It's them I don't trust. Ditto for Patrick.'

'Uh-oh.' Lou knew who she was talking about. Even though Elle was the rightful owner of Othello, Lou was sometime put in charge while Elle was out doing her security consultancy, which, according to Elle, brought in a huge paycheck.

'What about Patrick?' Lou asked warily. Patrick was an old hand, a college boy who'd been promoted to tiller duty at the bar after he did a good job as a waiter in Othello's restaurant side for several months.

Elle shrugged, her hand pulling off her chef's hat and throwing it carelessly on the table top. 'Tiller's missing around fifty dollars every night. And Patrick's in charge of tiller duty.'

Lou frowned. 'You think he stole it?'

'I don't know what to think,' Elle murmured, leaning back in her chair. Her eyes were shut, and a hand was absentmindedly rubbing her neck. 'Our profit each night is around five to seven hundred. Fifty dollars a night isn't hurting us. Much. But still, I'd like to know who stole it.' Now her eyes opened, and her gaze was steely. 'And I'd like to know tonight.'

Lou bit her lip. 'And how are you going to do that?'

'Dunno,' she answered. 'I'll need to figure that one out. As well as planning the menu for next week,' Lou groaned. 'And auditoning the bands.' Lou gave another groan. 'As well as auditioning a back-up just in case something happens. And I'll have to renew the contract with the people who supply us with our fresh produce. Not to mention a chat with the fishermen, and the butcher...' At the end of this, Lou had her hands clasped over her ears, and Elle had a wry but tired smile on her face.

'Gosh,' Lou finally replied. 'I can see why you're so exhausted. Do you even sleep?'

'Couple of hours, maybe four, five a night?'

'Four a night,' Lou repeated. 'You realize you can get sick on four hours of sleep a night?' Elle didn't answer. 'C'mon, let me help you. I can audition te bands and I'll help with the contract. You talk to your produce people and plan the menu. Hell, I'll even help you deal with the Patrick thing. Alright?'

'No, not alright,' Elle spoke up. 'I appreciate the help and all, but I need to do this stuff myself. Alright?' She stood up and glanced at her watch. It was almost three. And Lou was giving her the puppy eye look. 'C'mon, Ellie.' she said, her hands clasped together. 'Pleeeeeeeeeease?'

Elle had to smile; it was that contagious. And the moment she smiled she regretted it, because a few moments later, she started laughing; it was good though, she thought to herself, to have a friend who could make her laugh every once in a while. God knows it helped keep her sane. 'Okay. You can audition the bands, but everything else I'll do myself.'

'On one condition.'

Elle cocked an eyebrow. 'I'm listening.'

Lou broke into a mischievous grin. 'You're going to chill tonight, with your friends, in your nightclub. And I'll be choosing your clothes.' She ended her sentence with a strong stance, crossing her arms over her chest, and Elle suddenly wondered what would happen if she turned it down.

A beat. Then, 'Okay.'

'Brilliant!' Lou cried, giving her friend a hug. 'Now you go and do what you chefs do, and I'll pick you up at eight. It's a date!'

Laughing all the way to the kitchen, Elle shook her head in despair. Lou had better not pick anything to embarass her tonight.

Or else.

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