Work drags on and I find myself watching the door. Logically I know it’s ridiculous. Gerard didn’t seem the type for Wednesday pizza night. But a girl can dream.
He would waltz in like he owned the place, gaze longingly into my eyes and say “Come away with me Pennelope. I’m a billionaire but all the money in the world is nothing without you!”
“Penny! Move your ass girl. That pepperoni deep dish is burning.” Dan, the manager, breaks through my revelry and I jump to save the pizza while it is still edible.
“Maybe don’t stand so close to the ovens. I think its cooking your brains.” He replies with a wink and smile. Dan is a thirty something divorcee that takes his job a little too seriously, but he’s good peoples. As is my co-worker Cindy. She’s a bit on the dim side and makes up for it with enthusiasm and affability. Her cherubic cheeks and blonde ringlets let her get away with a lot. I keep trying to set Cindy up with Dan but he is so straight-laced about being her boss that he says he won’t even entertain the thought. But I know he’s thought about it. Many times, I’ve had to tap him on the shoulder when he’s been in la-la land and every time he was staring at Cindy.
I cut and box three more pizza’s and nudge Cindy on my way to the front counter. “He’s ogling you again.” She looks over and catches Dan in the act. “Thanks Penny, now I’m all red and giggly again.”
“Your welcome, Hon!” I say with an impish grin.
“Just for that you get to make the next round of refills. That table of college goonies can’t keep their hands to themselves.” Cindy smiles and pushes two pitchers of beer into my chest. My options are grab them and comply or they go all over my shirt. “Fine, but I’m keeping their tips.” I say and back through the kitchen’s double doors.
Only one hour left to closing and a single table of loud cheering men are left in the restaurant. Sports fans are pretty common on weekday nights and I know more than a few by name but this particular group is new.
I move with speed and efficiency. If the round of drinks are poured before the football game’s commercial break it’s possible I won’t be noticed by the rowdy group.
“Why don’t you sit on my knee and have yourself a beer?”
Dammit!.. I turn to face the charmer. He looks like he should be playing defense in the rerun football game they were all glued to. Bulky muscles, blonde hair, blue eyes, and an overstuffed ego would be attractive to some women but he just isn’t my style. Ugh, why do I always attract men three times my size.
“No thanks, I’m not allowed to drink on my shift.”
I have half a pitcher of beer left and am leaning over to place it in the center of the table when the neanderthal squeezes my ass in his over-sized hand. “I can wait for your shift to be over,” he says as he holds onto my backside.
On instinct, I jerk back and my arm tips the pitcher and a glass full of frothy goodness over. Sending beer into the lap of my admirer. I couldn’t have planned it any better. “Oops!” I say with a smile.
He backs up quickly to belatedly avoid the beer, the chair leg catches on the carpet and he ever so slowly tips over backwards. To be honest, I could have caught him; but I didn’t.
I watch and laugh along with his buddies and all you can see of him are long arms and legs flailing at the ceiling. Finally he gets to his feet and through my watering eyes I see he doesn’t think it’s so funny. Barely holding off my giggles, I ask “would you like a napkin?”
The table of men erupt in guffaws once more. “You bitch. You did that on purpose!” he accuses, with a banana finger pointed in my face.
Well, there went that tip.
“I’m sorry for the accident, how about a free appetizer?” I say while beaming a fake smile. I pray he will say yes, because there’s a plate of garlic sticks waiting in the back that has spent some time on the floor. I was giddy thinking of the possibilities for payback.
“No, but I’ll take a kiss.” he suggests with a leer. It’s an obvious ploy to build up his ego, but by the looks on his friend’s faces, even they think it’s skeevy.
In a flash he has me pulled against his hard muscled body to the point that I can barely touch the floor. I kick his shins and turn my face away from his yeasty garlic breath. Where the hell was Dan!
“Put the lady down and I may spare you further dishonor.” That sure as hell wasn’t Dan’s voice. I crane my neck around when the lout looks up to see who dared to challenge him.
Oh my goodness, it’s my knight in shining armor. I mean doesn’t every woman have this fantasy. “Hi Mr. Fontaine.” I say and smile sweetly. I’m not worried at all now that some back-up has arrived.
“Hey, fuck off buddy. We were just getting to know each other, weren’t we Baby?”
“Nope.” I say and knee the guy in the nuts. He drops like a stone.
The men at his table laugh and sympathize with OOHH’s. They pick him up and haul him out of the restaurant. A couple of the guys apologize and leave a fifty on the table. At least they weren’t all jerks. I had a feeling that if Gerry would have done something there would have been a big brawl. But because their friend was taken down by a tiny woman they didn’t feel the need to jump in.
“Are you all right? Your not hurt?” Gerard asks with the sweetest worried look, then places a warm hand on my shoulder. I nod yes and give him an embarrassed grin.
“So, this seems to be a regular occurrence with you. Hmm?” he asks.
“Do you mean my being attacked, or you showing up just as I take care of the situation myself?.. I have to say that you might want to work on your timing.”
I smile to let him know that I am only kidding and begin cleaning up the tables. He picks up a few dishes and follows me to the busing station.
“I think I might. Now I’m unable to claim a kiss for my heroic services. Although, the last man who asked for a kiss left with a limp, so maybe it was a good thing.” He smiles and winks coyly and the butterflies in my stomach burst to life.
I blush at the thought of what our first kiss would be like; his soft lips against my own and his hands roaming my body.
He stops me again, “Are you sure that your alright? You looked a bit off just then. I was only kidding about the kiss you know.”
Then I really turn red, but hide it by walking to the kitchen doors, “I know, I’m fine really. Wait here just one minute, okay?”
I sigh and duck through the kitchen’s swinging doors just as Dan and Cindy are exiting the freezer. Both look quite flushed for just being in a giant icebox. I jump up and down and hug them both while squealing. “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.”
Dan smiles kindly, “I have no idea what you are referring to Penny.”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, you two. I have to say, it’s about damn time.” Dan sputters a bit, gets all blotchy and practically runs to his office. Cindy and I just giggle.
Cindy pulls on my sleeve, “Come on you. Let’s get the front cleaned up.” She pushes through the swinging doors and freezes. Her worried eyes meet mine and I think that maybe the boogie monster has walked into the restaurant, but there is only Gerard. “Can.. I… help you?” She stammers out.
I jump forward, “Cindy, this is my uh, friend Gerard Fontaine.” He even bows at the introduction. I smile and Cindy puts her hand to her chest with a relieved expression.
“Oh, thank god! I thought that you were here to rob us.”
Gerard looks puzzled, “I am very sorry that you were frightened. You must get quite a lot of ruffians through here.”
Cindy smiles, “Yes, uh… ruffians.” She gives him a once over and turns to me with mischief in her eyes, “Well I can get Dan to help me finish up if you want to take off a bit early. You don’t get many friends through here.” She lifts her brows when she says “friends” and I know what she’s insinuating, but I choose to ignore her.
“Thanks, Cindy. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I don’t wait around, my apron is thrown in the hamper and I grab my purse off its hook in the kitchen. Gerard and I are out of there in under a minute.
“Would you like to get dinner or coffee?” he asks as we stroll slowly towards my home. An emphatic yes just jumps out of my mouth, surprising me.
“I know of a great diner a couple blocks from here. If that sounds good?”
I went for the nod this time to make up for the geeky “YES!” I blurted out.
“Great” he says with his dazzling smile. Hell his everything is dazzling. Why was he hanging out with me?