Kaitlyn leaned in, bringing the smell of smoke with her. I fought the urge to step back. Even after years working in restaurant kitchens, where most everybody was a smoker at least when drunk, I hated the smell. "Of 'course' I heard. I'm surprised you're still here. Not here in SoDo, like, in Seattle."
"I'm still here," I said through a clenched jaw. Kaitlyn Avilleira and I had quasi-bonded in our early twenties, a little over five years ago. We were the only two women on the line at Atelier Laurent, and we had to have each other's backs if we didn't want to get banished to the pastry kitchen.
Having her back didn't mean I liked her.
"That's really strong of you." Kaitlyn pulled me in for a one-armed hug that might actually have been an attempt to strangle me. "I'm rooting for you, girl!"
I gritted my teeth in a smile. This was the song and dance of our relationship: seeing who could pretend harder that we 'did' like each other, because we were busy fighting so many stereotypes about women on the line that there was no way we could fulfill the one where the only two women were enemies. "Thanks, Kait!"
An uncomfortable silence settled over us. I looked in the direction of the bus. No, I 'stared' in the direction of the bus, willing it with my eyes to appear.
Alas, I had not developed any magical powers in the past few minutes.
"We have to get drinks sometime," I said. "And catch up. It's been way too long."
"'Way' too long," Kaitlyn said. She tossed her long, shiny brown hair. Her eyes sparkled, and her cheeks were naturally rosy. 'She' never had to wear blush or undereye concealer to keep coworkers from asking her if she was sick. "Wait till I tell you about working for Chef Marcus. He works me like a dog." She trilled a laugh. "I almost wish I could take a break like you."
I clenched my jaw and told myself that I couldn't hit her or I'd get arrested, and going to jail was really the only way I could make my situation worse. Well, that, or moving back in with my parents in the suburbs, into my childhood bedroom with the shag carpet and no lock on the door.
"Well, I'd better be going," Kaitlyn said, just as I was saying, "Well, I'll let you go." Our words clashed, and we both laughed nervously before hugging yet again. "You should finally open that restaurant now that you're free and have all this time," Kaitlyn said as she backed away. "I'll be there opening night!"
Thankfully, she was off before I had to respond. I made a face at her back. Of course I wanted to open my restaurant now that I was 'free' and had 'all' this 'time'. But opening a restaurant either took lots of money, which I didn't have even before the whole unemployment situation, or a bunch of rich investors willing to throw their money away on my behalf, which, again, I 'wished'.
The bus was delayed, obviously, and it took me twice as long as it should have to get home, the whole time crammed in next to a manspreader who kept giving me dirty looks for trying to sit in three-quarters of my own seat. I stared hard out the window, watching the warehouses and industrial lofts turn into the residential buildings and parks of Crown Hill. By the time I stumbled through the door of my apartment, I was done with today. I pulled off my clothes, dropping them in puddles on the floor, so that I could shower the stink of failure away and then eat something for my soul. Like more Nutella out of the jar.
My phone chimed. 'It's probably the temp agency already rejecting me', I thought glumly, digging it out of my bag. Sure enough, it was an email.
But it was from Adrianna Rogalsky of 'Chef Supreme'. And it started with, Hey Sadie, just like my firing-by-text. 'Fantastic.' I took a deep breath as I clicked it open, readying myself for yet another important food world person to tell me how inadequate I was.
Hey Sadie, I enjoyed our conversation earlier. Upon further discussion with the 'Chef Supreme' team, we'd like to fly you out to New York for some more interviews and cooking tests to determine whether you'd be a good fit to compete on 'Chef Supreme' season 7. Would next Wednesday work for you?
I dropped my phone. 'OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod'. What if I'd just shattered my phone and I couldn't afford a new one and I couldn't get back to Adrianna and... and...
I picked it up. It wasn't even cracked. I opened up an email and wrote Adrianna back about how yes, I'd love to come in whenever they needed me because it was my dream to be on 'Chef Supreme' and I couldn't wait to meet—