The Inklings: Chapter 12

Feeding an addiction had been hard work. John only realized how hard it had been now that he didn’t need to do it anymore. So, an unexpected bonus of those awful years was that now he was a really hard worker, and not just a hard worker but a determined one. This meant that the rest of his month at the Pizza restaurant went really smoothly. The problems John faced there were nothing compared to those he’d faced in his previous life. He turned out to be a calm and fair manager. The staff loved him and the customers were always satisfied. It was only when it came time for his father to decide whether he could stay on as manager that John felt any stress.

John and D’arby were still busily calculating the profit for the month when John’s father parked his car outside. He’d come an hour early to catch John unawares, and because he was curious to see how things had been going. He walked into the restaurant and saw D’arby and John with a calculator, various pieces of paper and strained expressions.

“Hello” said John’s father. “So what was the profit?”

John was too scared by the unexpected presence of his father to be able to do anything except give him the piece of paper that he and D’arby had been writing on. John wasn’t sure whether the profit was up or down. John’s father looked at the paper briefly and then asked John who D’arby was.

“He’s my friend D’arby. He is better at maths than me” explained John.

“Ok. How’s everything been going then?” said John’s father.

“Ok” said John. He didn’t want to chat. He wanted to know if he’d passed the test. “Well?” he asked

“Mmmm, I suppose you can stay, but don’t get too comfortable. You have to keep this up” said John’s father. Then he looked at D’arby and asked “Has John really been keeping out of trouble?”

“Well, he keeps doing the ironing, but apart from that he’s been very well behaved” answered D’arby.

John’s father didn’t understand this joke and decided it was time to leave. “I’ll leave you to it” he said

“How’s Mum?” asked John

“She’s well” said John’s father, and he left.

D’arby and John discreetly watched John’s father through a gap in the restaurant curtains as he got into his car and drove off. Then they started running around the restaurant laughing, until D’arby tripped on a chair and fell over.

D’arby limped off to uni, leaving John to get ready for the lunchtime shift. John couldn’t wipe the smile off his face and he decided that he would sell his first special pizzas that night.

It was also going to be a special night for Fanta too. She and Syafika had decided to go out for dinner together. Ever since Syafika had met Vincent Fanta hadn’t seen much of Syafika. Fanta had actually been missing Syafika’s company, and she was looking forward to hearing the latest about Vincent.

As Fanta approached Syafika’s place she could see that the front door was open, and Amanda was trying to fit a wardrobe through it. Fanta hardly recognized Amanda, but that was normal. She was always changing the way she looked. This time Amanda was wearing nothing but a short lace nightie that had been dyed purple. Her eye sockets were filled with matching purple eyeshadow and her shoulder length hair was so blonde it was white, apart from some purple streaks. Fanta was wondering how Amanda managed to have such a dark tan when she never went outside during the day, when her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Festus.

Festus slammed the car door angrily and yelled at Amanda “What do you think you are doing!” He was so loud that the neighbours opened their blinds to look out.

Amanda was still busy trying to manoeuvre the wardrobe through the door and didn’t pay any attention to her father so he walked closer and yelled the question again. Amanda had managed to get the wardrobe stuck in the doorway and because of this barrier between her and her father she wasn’t scared and said “Why don’t you help me, you lazy arse”

Festus gave the wardrobe a kick and yelled “Just you wait until I get my hands on you” before heading off towards the back door.

“Thanks Dad” said Amanda as the wardrobe came loose. She gave it one final push and it slid out across the front verandah and onto the front steps before falling sideways onto Rose’s gardenia bushes.

Then Amanda ran upstairs to lock herself in her room before her father got to her, not that he would have done anything except yell some more.

Fanta was wondering whether she should enter the house when there was about to be fireworks, but she didn’t have to make the decision because Syafika came outside in a hurry.

“Let’s go before Dad sees what else Amanda has done” said Syafika. She took Fanta’s arm in hers and they hurried off.

“What was Amanda doing?” asked Fanta

“She decided to throw out all of her furniture” said Syafika. “She moved the wardrobe downstairs by herself and it was so heavy she couldn’t control it. It slipped down the stairs and when it got to the bottom it knocked a hole in the wall between the kitchen and the living room.”

Fanta didn’t bother asking why Amanda would do that. Nobody could give an answer except Amanda, and she never bothered to answer questions.

“Where are we going for dinner?” asked Fanta

“I want pizza” said Syafika. “Let’s try that funny little place with red and white checked table cloths that we saw from the bus on the way to the beach that day”

Fanta remembered the place and said “Ok”. She didn’t really like pizza but she thought she could bear it if that’s what Syafika wanted.

It was a particularly busy night at John’s pizza place, and he was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to use any of the special pizza dough yet. He had left it too late to make it and it hadn’t risen properly yet. “At least it will be ready in the second half of the evening” he thought and scanned the restaurant, trying to work out how many addicts were missing out on their cure that evening. John didn’t only count illicit drug addicts as addicts. That was only a small portion of the addicts in the world. It was the legal drugs that affected the most people. He could see three alcoholics and no doubt there were a few smokers there that evening too. Then there would have been at least one person who was addicted to prescription drugs (and probably didn’t even know it). John was wondering whether the special ingredient would also cure people who were addicted to other things, like shopping, when the restaurant door opened and Fanta and Syafika walked in.

It was fortunate that John wasn’t carrying any plates at that moment.

Fanta and Syafika sat down at one of the small tables near the front window and John hurried over to give them menus. He wanted to say something clever, but couldn’t think of anything and so he came out with the standard “Would you like to order any drinks first?”

Syafika ordered sparkling mineral water for them both while Fanta just stared at John. She remembered him. He was the strange man who had stared at her the other day. Fanta remembered John because people usually didn’t pay her much attention.

When John left the table Fanta asked Syafika “Do you think the waiter is handsome?”

“No way!” said Syafika “But I’m fussy now I have Vincent so maybe you better not listen to my opinion”

Fanta didn’t want to appear too interested in the waiter and so she returned to the topic of Vincent. “So, are you in love with Vincent?”

Syafika needed a few seconds to consider her answer. Fanta didn’t think that meant good things for Vincent.

“If I had written down all the qualities I wanted in a man and had put little check boxes next to each item on the list, then when Vincent came along I’d have been able to tick almost all of the boxes” said Syafika

“Almost all?” asked Fanta

“Yeah, I’ve always wanted a man with a six pack, and Vincent doesn’t have one” said Syafika “Although he does have nice arms and shoulders. He likes exercising, but for some reason he doesn’t spend enough time on his abs”

“What about his personality?” asked Fanta. She didn’t know why Syafika was so worried about a six pack. Couldn’t anyone get one of those if they really wanted?

“Yeah, he looks grumpy but he isn’t. He’s really nice. He tries very hard to make me happy. He gives me presents all the time and calls me at least twice a day” said Syafika

“And?” said Fanta

“And what?” asked Syafika

“Nothing” said Fanta. “I just thought you’d have more to say after having spent all your spare time with Vincent for so many weeks”

Syafika was going to say something about it sounding like Fanta was getting jealous of Vincent, but she stopped because John was back at their table.

“Are you ready to order?” asked John

“Ahhh, sorry. Not yet” said Fanta, realizing that she and Syafika hadn’t even looked at the menu yet.

“Take your time” said John and he left the table, wishing again that he’d been able to think of something clever to say.

“So what do you want?” asked Fanta

“Let’s share pizza number three and a salad” said Syafika. Food made her happy so she forgot she had been about to say something nasty to Fanta.

“Good” said Fanta. She wasn’t even paying attention to what Syafika chose though. Fanta was too busy watching John as he took the order of the people at another table. She could see that he was trying to concentrate on his job while also looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“You like the waiter, don’t you?” said Syafika

“Yeah” replied Fanta

“He looks like a drug addict” said Syafika “He is so jumpy and scrawny. You have bad taste”

“He looks interesting” said Fanta, and then she couldn’t help adding “Which is more than can be said for Vincent, if I can only go on what you have said tonight”

“Well, you don’t know Vincent” said Syafika

“So tell me about him!” said Fanta. “Why are you so reluctant? I thought you’d be hard to stop!”

“Well… I guess it isn’t what I expected. I’ve never felt any heart racing excitement over Vincent. It is just nice to be with him. Maybe this is what love is really like. I just thought it would be so much more like in movies and books. There was no struggle for us to get together. There was no build up of tension. We just met and liked each other and get on well” said Syafika

“Pooh. That does sound boring” said Fanta “It’s like you went straight from being strangers to being a married couple”

“Yeah, well, that is the only thing that might be exciting. I’m wondering if he will propose soon and how he will do it” said Syafika

“So will you say yes if he asks?” asked Fanta

“Of course” said Syafika

Fanta was unhappy. Something wasn’t right. If Syafika was happy, why wasn’t she behaving that way?

“Hey, your favourite waiter is coming back to take the order. Sit up straight and smile” said Syafika

Fanta sat up straight and looked over her shoulder. John was already there. Fanta smiled and John smiled back. He forgot what he was standing there for.

“Can I order yet?” complained Syafika.

“If you could wait another few minutes it would be nice” thought John but Fanta had already looked away.

Syafika smirked as she ordered. Fanta was busy examining her napkin and wondering why she was feeling so nervous. She wasn’t normally like that. Fanta was used to being level headed at all times. She should say something before John left the table, but what could she say? Then she realized that there was something she could say.

“I saw you the other day, didn’t I?” asked Fanta

“Yeah, I saw you too” answered John, with a bigger smile than before and he took their order into the kitchen.

“Where did you see each other?” asked Syafika. “Or was that just your bad attempt at a pick-up line?”

“No!” said Fanta and started laughing. “I just saw him in the street, on my way home from uni”

“Yeah I can imagine him hanging out in the street. I hope he isn’t the one making the pizzas. You don’t know what he might put in them” said Syafika.

Fanta didn’t know if the pizza really was good or if she was just in a good enough mood to enjoy eating anything. When it was time to leave Fanta insisted on paying the bill, and Syafika smirked again as she watched Fanta go over to the cash register, which was conveniently being operated by John.

“Did he ask for your phone number?” said Syafika as soon as she and Fanta were outside.

“Yeah, but I didn’t give it to him” replied Fanta

“What!” said Syafika and she stopped walking to stare at Fanta

“I asked for his instead” said Fanta and she held up a piece of paper with “John” and a phone number written on it.

“You are naughty” said Syafika

“No, I’m just cautious” said Fanta

“What do you mean?” asked Syafika

“Well, you did say he looked a bit dodgy. I want to make sure he is normal before I let him know my phone number or where I live” said Fanta, and although she said it like she was joking, she wasn’t. Fanta had also decided that John had probably had a colourful past and she wouldn’t be letting him meet her sisters or know where she lived until he had told her about it.

It wasn’t until Fanta and Syafika had left the restaurant that John remembered the special pizza dough. He wasn’t sure he should use it anymore, but that was just because he didn’t know if it would be healthy for him to have any more excitement that night. That was only a passing thought though and he went into the kitchen to make sure the special dough was used for the rest of the evening.

There were three people working in the kitchen and they were so busy that evening that they were only just coping. Ellen made the pizzas five nights of the week and she was fussy about the dough. If it wasn’t made properly she was likely to throw it at someone in anger and storm out. When John appeared with some alternative pizza dough that he’d claimed to have made Ellen didn’t hide her disgust. “Do you have to try it out when it is so busy? What if it is crap? We won’t have time to make new pizzas!”

“I’ve already tested it and its great” said John. “Try it! You’ll like it”

“Don’t bother looking for a job in advertising” said Ellen, but she took the pizza dough anyway. Ellen thought that if she did John a favour he might do her one back and she asked “How’s your friend D’arby these days? Is he going to be coming in to the restaurant soon?”

“Probably not. He’s too busy writing up his thesis” said John. “Why?”

“He’s my type. I like a younger man, especially one who looks so serious. Is he single?” asked Ellen

“Yeah, he’s single” said John, and he wondered whether Ellen was D’arby’s type. They hadn’t talked about women much yet. There always seemed to be something more pressing to talk about. Ellen was right though, D’arby really was pretty serious. “I’ll tell him you asked about him” said John with a wink, and then he went back to the dining room.

The rest of the evening was an anticlimax, except that Ellen mentioned to John that his pizza dough was a little bit better than the normal one. The customers all ate their pizzas like there was nothing unusual about them, then they all paid their bills and left. Nobody seemed to have undergone a life-changing event. Perhaps the secret ingredient didn’t work when it was mixed with pizza dough. Or maybe none of the customers in the second half of the evening had been addicted to anything. Or maybe everything had gone to plan but anyone who had been cured had just thought that the relaxing feeling they were experiencing was just because of food and good conversation.

After the restaurant closed John whistled all the way home, and thought about Fanta. He hoped she would call him soon.

John was still whistling when he got home, and continued to whistle while he made some toast. D’arby soon appeared in the kitchen, looking annoyed because John had woken him up.

“Why are you whistling? I’m trying to sleep” said D’arby

“Want some toast?” asked John

“You were trying to wake me up, weren’t you?” said D’arby

“Yep” answered John and crunched into his toast.

“What happened then?” said D’arby and sighed.

“She came to the restaurant” said John

“Is that all?” asked D’arby “Will you let me sleep now?”

“No, it isn’t all. She took my phone number” said John, with a satisfied smile

“Why didn’t you get hers?” asked D’arby

“She didn’t want to give it to me” said John

“That’s not good. She probably only took your number to be polite and then threw it in the bin” said D’arby.

“Oh” said John. D’arby went back to bed.

John unfolded his sofa bed and sat on it, while staring at the floor and trying to work out whether Fanta really had seemed interested in him or was just being polite.

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