She was late again.
Even without checking her wrist watch for a confirmation, as Mereya ran past the sea of people returning from work along the busy Manhattan road, she knew she was late and even as she had a valid excuse, she knew it it wouldn’t stand with the restaurant manager.
She was running on borrowed time here, she was a repeat offender and it was a miracle that she still had this job after a month of tardiness….well, a miracle named Delores Miguel, the owner of the restaurant. She was well aware that if it was up to the manager, she would have been long gone, probably sorting through newspaper clippings for anyone willing to hire a clumsy, forgetful, tardy, but spirited 19-year old and considering how difficult it was to get a decent-paying job, she would probably end up disappointed repeatedly.
It had been something that she was even hired here, but being intelligent had it’s advantages….but that was as good as it got for her. All she had were her brains and those brains were an asset when they weren’t on ‘hibernate’ mode. She was book-smart, everyone knew that, her parents knew, her siblings knew, her neighbours knew, teachers and classmates alike knew that Chimereya Ani was book smart, but she wasn’t anything else and the bitter truth was that you’d have to be more than book smart to survive in this cut-throat world.
She wanted to go to college, she wanted to study business administration, she had worked hard and gotten a partial scholarship, but she had to wok to keep herself in school. Her parents- well, her mother now, contributed all she could to her studies, but there were three other kids behind her and she could only do so much with her nursing salary.
Getting a job was the only way, now, if only she could keep that job.
She burst into the back entrance of the classy restaurant and was met with the stunned faces of her co-workers who were all staring at her like she was crazy. Considering the speed with which she had come here and the haphazard manner she was sure she looked like running out of her small apartment, she was sure half of New York probably thought her crazy by now.
“Hi.” She spoke breathlessly before rushing to the locker room to change to her uniform- her two sizes too small uniform. She swore the manager had it in for her when he gave her this uniform, she could easily fit into a size 10 and she knew it wasn’t hard to find a size 10 in any outfit, but the manager had gotten her a size 8 and it took her more time than normal to struggle her way into the ouitfit and countless complaints on her part had yielded no fruits despite his many assurances that he would ‘look into it’….she swore when she finally graduated and was working in a big firm, she would come back here to make his life hell and gloat for all the hardship he put her through.
“Ani, late again I see”
Speak of the devil.
Mereya froze in her movements, what the hell was wrong with this sick pervert? Did he think he could just burst in without knocking? Here she was, in nothing but a pair of pants and her bra and he just walked in like he owned the damned place. Thankfully, her back was to him, but still, she found his presence highly uncomfortable when she was for all intents and purposes, half naked.
“Can I at least finish changing?” she asked, trying her best to take the edge off her voice. This wouldn’t be the first time he had barged in on her in a state of undress, she was starting to think he enjoyed the sight of her exposed skin.
“I don’t recall stopping you, go ahead.” He replied casually.
Reigning in her emotions, she put on the small shirt a little forcefully, ignoring the slight pain it caused her having to squeeze her 38C breasts into a fairly smaller bust. Once she checked that she loked presentable….well, presentable enough in this slutty version of their uniform, she turned around to face her personal demon. Victor Guttierez.
There were a lot of reasons for any sane human being to hate Victor; he was conceited, shallow, rude, entitled and an all-around, douchebag. His work ethics were questionable and the story was he only had this job because Delores was trying to do her sister- his mother, a favour. What Mereya loathed most about him though, was his ability to switch personalities from a demon to an angel. That was why she was yet to accuse him of sexual harassment, because outside of the space allowed for staff use, Victor was an ace at his job. He came off as gentle, understanding, dedicated and all of that bullshit required to be named ‘Employee of the Month’, if he wasn’t already working here, one would’ve thought him an actor- and he had the looks to match as well.
His 6 ft. 1” build was lean muscled, so that the many suits he wore to work- and he loved those suits- fit him nicely. Dark hair framed a sculpted, masculine face with a strong jaw-line, thick brows and dark brown eyes. The staff liked to call him James Bond because he had the pretty boy looks, but all she saw when she looked at him was an ugly, tormentor. Too bad no one would believe her, she seemed to be his only victim here.
Sometimes she thought he was racist, but he had a good relationship with the two other black employees here, other times, she thought he was a chauvinist, but he was a chic-magnet and the girls had nothing but stellar reviews for him and other times, she thought he had issues with her because she wasn’t skinny.
She wasn’t fat per se, just a little plumpy where necessary. She liked to take early morning jogs to keep fit and clear her head everyday so she wasn’t out of shape. She did have slightly thick thighs and full breasts, but her midriff was toned and all of that went well on her 5 ft. 4” frame. She wasn’t fat, it was Victor who had issues.
“If I saved a penny for everyday you came in here late, I would have enough money to start up my own restaurant, complete with a state-of-the-art kitchen and Wolfgang Puck preparing the meals.”
“I’m sorry, I was very busy…” she might hate the man, but he was justified in scolding her.
“We’re all busy, but not so much we forget we have jobs which we get paid for.”
She lowered her gaze, unable to think of some form of defense for her constant late-coming, “I’m sorry”
“And if I saved a dollar for every time you said that, I would be a millionaire by now.”
She held her tongue, what else did he want her to say? Fine, she was no model employee, but he acted like she didn’t bust her ass up here every single day. She worked twice as hard as most of the air-headed bimbos in this establishment, she wasn’t graceful in her execution of her tasks, but she got the job done and he could at least cut her some slack for all of her efforts.
With her gaze to the floor, she didn’t notice him approach her, the next thing she knew, he had his hand under her chin and raised her head up to meet his eyes, “You’re a young and intelligent woman from what I hear, and….” His eyes took a brief survey of her form, “…you could probably pass for attractive to some. You should learn that you’ll need more than your pathetic apologies to get on the good side of some of us.”
He let go of her chin and walked out of the small room, leaving Mereya in a state of shock and trauma. She fought back threatening tears and straightened her back. She wouldn’t let him get to her, she needed this money and she needed this job, she would only try harder to avoid him as much as possible.