An Inconvenient Beginning (NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry)

Entry for the second round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.

Summary: “I have work on Saturdays! How else are we going to pay the rent?” In which Alina pays the rent, does waitressing, is miserably late for work, and life is basically inconvenient.

Alina had always liked pizza. There was just something comforting about the soft, slightly crunchy crust and the way the cheese and tomato melted together. Her roommate Liv preferred going to a cafe for coffee and donuts, so she found it quite odd that Alina preferred to do her homework with pizza and a glass of milk.

 

So it wasn’t much of a big surprise when she’d taken the waitressing job at L’uccello Rosso Pizzeria, where what Alina considered the best pizza came from. It had to do with the fact that they were struggling to pay rent, were each at part time jobs after college, and that the pizzeria was nearby. The pizza part was just a bonus. A nice, suspiciously convenient bonus, that is.

 

But this particular morning, it seemed like not even the idea of pizza would placate her.

 

Liv had caught a cold – resulting in sniffling, complaining, and demanding breakfast in bed. She’d also forgotten to set the alarm clock last night, much to Alina’s annoyance.

 

“Liv, it’s my first day of work,” Alina hissed, mouth full of toothpaste. “Look at the time!”

 

It was exactly eight thirty.

 

“Sorry, Alina,” Liv sniffed. “I also have a list of things for you to buy. Could you stop by a store to get them?”

 

Alina huffed.

 

“Sure.” She shoved on her uniform, waving. “See you.”

 

“Thanks,” Liv called. “Sorry again for inconveniencing you. And good luck with your new boss. I hear he’s pretty mean.”

 

.

.

.

 

I guess it wouldn’t hurt to stop by the convenience store, Alina decided. It’ll only take a few moments. Besides, it’s across the street from the pizzeria.

 

Hopping off her bike, she quickly locked it to the bike stand and rushed in, running an eye down Liv’s list.

 

“Soup, five cans… socks… cupcakes… toenail clippers?”

 

Well, anything to keep Liv happy. She paid, shoving the items haphazardly into her purse. Her watch read 8:49; she was supposed to have been working at eight. Vehicles streaked by in the streets, blurs of colour before her eyes. Alina’s heart raced. Her first impression of Enzo had told her that he was not a patient man. Hopefully he wouldn’t fire her on the spot.

 

Sprinting across the street, she barely managed to pull her hair into a neat ponytail before entering the pizzeria.

 

“There you are!” a waitress, Belle, said. “You’re late!”

 

“I’m so sorry,” Alina burst out. “My roommate forgot to set the alarm clock last  – ”

 

Someone cleared his throat.

 

Alina turned and raised her hands in surrender, eyes wide.

 

“I don’t want to hear any excuses,” Enzo said brightly. “Please start working. I don’t pay you for coming to work ONE HOUR LATE.”

 

“Forty-nine minutes,” she corrected automatically, and Enzo’s grin grew feral. “Um. Sorry.”

 

“You’re a waitress. SO GO AND WAITRESS. I’ll talk to you. Later.”

 

Alina hurried away. Liv was right; he was mean. Possibly crazy, too. Six days a week toiling next to an oven for years sure had consequences. He could probably marry his spatula and think it was normal.

 

.

.

.

 

She didn’t know how she managed to do it, but she spilled, broke, and cracked nearly everything in her grasp that morning, all because of the way Enzo glared at her grumpily from the kitchen. At the end of the day, she collapsed in the washroom, thoughts of her unhappy customers making her grimace. Her stomach writhed with apprehension. Despite the fact that Enzo was three months younger than her (and three times moodier), she felt prompted to race home immediately. This would definitely end messier than Enzo’s triple cheese-and-tomato deep-dish pizza. That she was sure of.

 

She entered the kitchen, and stopped abruptly.

 

“I’m sorry,” Alina squeaked, seeing Enzo’s expression.

 

“First impressions, Alina. All I ask of you is to arrive before eight. Be glad I don’t make you come at three in the morning.”

 

“But – ”

 

“I don’t need people I can’t trust working here. If you prefer weekdays, I’ll reschedule, but I don’t tolerate disrespectful employees. If you’re here to pay your rent while being as lazy as possible, leave. NOW.”

 

With every word, Enzo’s face grew redder and redder. Alina flushed indignantly. Enzo would be furious, but she’d had a long day, and this was the last straw.

 

“I’m sorry, but I’m currently juggling college, a sick roommate, three part-time jobs, and  – ”

 

A ball of dough flew towards her, and she dodged it.

 

“HEY!”

 

“Tardy. Makes excuses. And now it’s MY fault you’re stressed?”

 

Seething, Alina flung a rolling pin at him.

 

Enzo ducked momentarily, only to be slapped in the face with his own spatula.

 

Growling, he threw a handful of flour in Alina’s direction.

 

“You dare – ”

 

She hurled her hairbrush at him, her shoe, every last item in her purse. Finally her hand closed on the cold metal of the nail clippers. With a single lob it spun gracefully in the air –  

 

– and landed with a deafening smack on Enzo’s forehead.

 

A solemn pause.

 

Oh, now I’ve done it, Alina thought dismally as Belle went hysterical.

 

Enzo stared at her, dumbfounded, then –

 

“I knew you had it in you,” he said, laughing loudly. “That’s the kind of passion I’d like to see at work.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You’re not fired. You can keep working here if you take your job seriously. I might even raise your salary.”

 

Alina goggled at him.

 

“Are you feeling alright?”

 

“I’m feeling perfectly fine.”

 

“You’re not mad that I threw… nail clippers at your head?”

 

“Next time, don’t bring weapons to work. I’ll turn a blind eye to it today.”

 

A slow, gradual grin began to grow on Alina’s face as she realized what he was implying.

 

And so it came to pass that Alina was able to pay the rent. She worked at the pizzeria three days a week with Enzo, Belle, and eventually, Liv. It was the money, she told herself, the income. The pizza part was just a bonus.

 

A nice, suspiciously convenient bonus, that is.

 

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