Night of April 18, 2017
Eleven months later...
Music Mood: Needed Me by Rihanna
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sugar Wallace was parked at her messy office desk, inspecting a draft menu as she gingerly chewed on her red pen’s end. She had been at it for nearly two hours now and the paper was marked to high heavens with strikeouts, carets, and sloppily scribed fresh ideas and corrections. What once had been a dull pressure at the front of her skull was now a throbbing headache from concentration. She sighed heavily in frustration and plucked the pen from her teeth, tossing it onto the desk. Leaning back into her office chair, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply through her nostrils as she massaged her temples. She knew owning and managing a restaurant wasn’t an easy task, but some days, she loved her job and other days, she wanted to jump into oncoming traffic.
There was just too much to do, but she nonetheless considered it a blessing.
There was never a slow day at the restaurant and she had enough to do to postpone going on to her empty rental house until three or four in the morning. Her hectic schedule had been the only constant thing in her life for the last five months since the restaurant opened. Before that, it was six months of working hand-in-hand with a construction company to restore the brick building and transform it into the restaurant she dreamed of.
Her office door burst wide and she cracked open her right eye just enough to see who was intruding in her own little hell. She groaned inwardly at the sight of her younger brother, Mallory. He sauntered into the office and plopped down into one of the two chairs stationed in front of her desk. He slumped lazily back in his seat, folding his hands over his stomach.
Sugar peeled back her eyelids, her attention immediately drifting beyond Mallory’s shoulder and to the opened office door he didn’t bother to shut. Down the short hallway, she witnessed an energetic kitchen swarming with her waiting staff and kitchen staff doing their proper jobs in a well-oiled chaos that could only be observed in during the evening rush. Though the sight pleased her through and through, she hated the fact that Mallory didn’t close the door behind him.
He never did.
She winced as a sharp pulse from her headache suddenly struck her like a lightning bolt.
“Why don’t you ever shut the door,” she asked in a defeated tone, arching an eyebrow at him.
Mallory twiddled his thumbs, ignoring her question as he always did. “Is this how it’s always going to be? You cooped up in this office stressing yourself out?”
Sugar frowned and said defensively, “I’m not stressed out.”
Mallory pursed his lips together and gave her an unimpressed knowing look that spoke volumes.
She casted her eyes to the ceiling and corrected herself. “I’m not as stressed as you think.”
“This place is your dream, Sugar. You’re the face of this restaurant that the customers need to see, but every night you’re slaving over that desk,” Mallory said as he untangled his fingers and spread his arms wide. “You should be enjoying yourself. Not stressing yourself out.”
The restaurant was her brain child—the only child she successfully brought into this world. She had nursed the idea for years and years, cradling and feeding it. She watched it grow and grow into something wonderful and grand inside of her mind. A single dream that always managed to bring a hopeful smile to her face at her darkest moments.
After her bitter divorce with her ex-husband Lance, she received a lump settlement of eighty-eight thousand dollars and nothing else. With eighteen years of being the loyal perfect housewife, her family and friends thought the settlement money awarded to her wasn’t enough to justify the blood, sweat, and tears she put into that marriage—into that man. However, Sugar took it without hesitation. It was exactly what she needed to make her dream a reality. She poured every single cent into bringing Sugar Mama to fruition.
Every dessert that each patron tasted was birthed, inked, and concocted by her hands first as delectable experiments. Every selected bottle of wine uncorked and every signature drink sipped was thanks to the genius mind of her annoying yet endearing little brother Mallory, a licensed bartender and wine connoisseur. Their partnership married well sometimes, but they had varying visions when it came to management and menus which was why she was editing a draft menu containing his new alcoholic ‘masterpieces’ as he called them. She wanted to ensure that his new ‘masterpieces’ complimented her desserts well.
Sugar gestured to the paperwork mess on her desk.
“None of this is going to finish itself, Lory. Someone has to do it,” she said, flicking her wrist impatiently. “I give you permission to be the pretty face of Sugar Mama. Go enjoy yourself. Mix and mingle with the customers.”
Mallory grinned confidently, smoothing his hand over his shaved head suavely. “As much as I appreciate your acknowledgement of my pretty face, I’m not a sugar mama. I’m a sugar daddy therefore I would be a terrible marketing tool.”
Sugar snorted out a laugh before she could stop herself. Mallory always thought quite highly himself in the attractiveness department and it didn’t help that women flocked to him which further fueled his ego. Mallory was no doubt eye candy by societal standards, but in her eyes, he was still lanky twelve-year-old scrawny Lory and not tall lean twenty-eight-year-old Mallory.
“Sugar daddy,” she repeated with a burst of a giggle. “More like Sweet’N Low daddy, don’t you think?”
Mallory’s eyes widened as an artificial offended look swept onto his face. “Damn, Shug. You skipped right over Splenda and went straight for Sweet’N Low? Tell me how you really feel.”
Sugar pointed to the opened office door.
“Lory, go make yourself useful somewhere,” she ordered. “Now.”
Mallory put his hands up in self-defense.
“Alright, alright,” he agreed as he rose from his seat and went to the doorway. He gave her a mock salute on his way out, leaving the door wide open.
She let out a frustrated groan. “Lory, the door!”
Lory looked over his shoulder as he walked down the hallway, shooting her a wink and a smile. She rolled her eyes sharply as she pushed back her office chair and shot up, marching over to the door. She grabbed the knob to close the door, but stopped herself as she stared down the hallway. She hated to admit it, but the world beyond her office seemed a lot more intriguing than studiously editing a draft menu.
Maybe, taking a small break and doing a walkthrough wouldn’t hurt.
Sighing heavily, she exited the office and closed the door. She made her way down the hallway, stepping into the bustling kitchen. Waiters plucked plated desserts from a ‘ready’ table, situating them onto trays to be hoisted above their heads.
Cooks were lined up at their designated stations around the kitchen, preparing and cooking her recipes. She loved the sweet aromas of caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla that wrapped all around her. Sugar crossed her arms over her chest as she watched in an admirable awe as if she were a stranger on the outside looking in and not the key that made this possible. She took her time wandering about the kitchen, peeking curiously over shoulders and exchanging impressed smiles and praises to her staff as they did their jobs impeccably.
Eventually, she strolled out of the kitchen through swinging double doors and stepped into the server’s station, gazing out into the restaurant. The warm amber lights from a sea of dangling lightbulbs overhead were soft and dim. Six mason jars of various sizes with lit candles hiding within them was the restaurant’s signature centerpiece, providing an intimate atmosphere amongst the seated patrons. A jazz song fluttered the air. The restaurant’s walls were exposed red bricks with framed pictures of her family’s old bakery and her grandparents scattered about.
Customers sipped on their glasses of wine and cocktails. Customers ate forkfuls and spoonfuls of sweet desserts. Customers laughed and smiled and chattered.
Everything was just…perfect.
“I knew you’d come,” Mallory said with a wide grin as he entered the server’s station.
Sugar rolled her eyes. “Shut up, Lory.”
He found a spot beside her and joined her in observing the warm vibrant environment, nodding his head in approval at what he saw.
There was still a surreal sensation that she couldn’t shake as if she feared that this was all nothing but a dream and she would soon wake up to a duller world.
No, this was real.
This was very real.
Sandra, one of Sugar’s waitresses, approached her nervously. “Um, Mrs. Wallace?”
Sugar focused her attention on the pale-skinned brunette, concern splashing onto her face at the girl’s visible anxiousness. “Is something wrong, Sandra?”
“There’s a customer that wants to speak with you,” Sandra said after clearing her throat, glancing over her shoulder into the dining area.
“Is it a complaint,” Sugar asked, arching an eyebrow.
Since opening Sugar Mama, she could proudly say that there had yet to be a customer complaint aside from ones about the lengthy waits to get a table, which was sadly out of her power. However, if it was a genuine complaint about the service or food quality then she would resolve it. Honestly, she had been waiting for something like this. Another real dosage of being a manager and owner.
Sandra shook her head slowly. “Um, no. He said he’s…your ex-husband.”
Sugar blinked in surprise at the waitress’s words. Lance was here?
“I know he’s lost his damn mind coming up in here,” Mallory growled suddenly.
“Mallory, watch your mouth before a customer hears you,” she whispered to him harshly, swatting his shoulder hard.
“You want me to handle this, Shug? He and I can go for broke outside,” Mallory said angrily, but complied with her by lowing his voice.
Sugar scoffed and replied in a sarcastic tone, “Yes, Lory, go beat him up outside so the customers can have some entertainment to go with their cocktails and desserts. Brilliant idea. Now, chill out.”
He pursed his lips. She could see his struggling restraint twitching in his brow, but she knew he wanted to beat the hell out of her ex-husband.
“Thank you,” she said calmly—appreciatively—before she turned her attention back to Sandra. “Where is he?”
Sandra told her where Lance was seated and she left the server’s station, sauntering through the restaurant—her fleshed dream—in search of the man that was supposed to stay in her past. She found him seated at a table near a short platform that contained a grand piano. He wasn’t alone. He was with his wife, Mariah. They were enjoying their desserts and drinking white wine.
“What a surprise,” Sugar said as politely as she could.
Lance had been in mid-gulp of enjoying his wine when she arrived at their table. After he finally swallowed, he placed the wine glass back onto the table with a wide smile.
“It’s good to see you, Sugar,” he greeted, his eyes running shamelessly down the landscape of her body. “Really good.”
The heated look in his eyes caught her off-guard, causing her brows to scrunch briefly in bewilderment. Immediately, her eyes cut to Mariah who eyed her viciously as she slid a forkful of strawberry cheesecake with chocolate drizzles into her pouty mouth.
“I wish,” Sugar cleared her throat uncomfortably, “I could say the same. To what do I owe the honors?”
“A night out on the town. It’s been a long time since we’ve had some time to ourselves,” he said. “We thought this was the perfect place for a date.”
Their son was almost eight months old now. It was a detail that she hated that she knew.
“Must be very difficult being new parents,” Sugar returned.
Mariah—wanting to be a part of the conversation—interjected dramatically, “Extremely, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. There’s just something about being a mother. It is the most important job any woman could ever have.”
The young woman smiled sweetly as she added, “Well, for those who are capable of having children anyway.”
The statement was meant to be a sharp jab at Sugar’s painful history of infertility that Lance no doubt filled her in on, but Sugar refused to give Mariah some form of sick satisfaction the girl was seeking. She reacted by smiling kindly at the girl, but the smile never reached her eyes.
Sugar examined Mariah momentarily. Her brown skin was glowing and flawless in the moody amber lighting of the restaurant. She wore her hair in a high long ponytail that was perfect for wrapping it into a fistful and yanking Mariah roughly onto the floor for a swift kick to the face. If she kicked hard enough, maybe blood could stain her expensive cream-colored cocktail dress Mariah wore.
“Well, this restaurant is my baby,” Sugar said, “and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, I’m sorry to cut this reunion short, but I have other important matters to tend to…”
As she turned to leave, she heard him say, “Technically, this restaurant is mine and yours, don’t you think? I gave you the seed you needed to bring this to life.”
Sugar froze as his words collided into her like a runaway train hitting a brick wall. She blinked as she processed what she just heard him say.
Lance brought his wine glass to his lips once more, his eyes never leaving Sugar.
Of course, he wanted some type of credit or recognition after all her hardworking. He wouldn’t have been him if he didn’t try. For eighteen years, he swatted away the concept of Sugar Mama off like it was a pestering fly every time she brought it up. Now, that it was alive and thriving, he wanted to pretend he was the reason for her success.
She earned that money from that settlement.
She suffered and sacrificed day in and day out for eighteen years for that money. Her reward was long overdue. When she was a nineteen-year-old newlywed, she dropped out of college and worked multiple jobs to put him through college and support them. She did that for five grueling years. She kept food on the table and made sure it was cooked for him. In-between the shifts, she kept that tiny apartment spotless. She was his study buddy and his tutor. She had her first pregnancy at the ripe age of twenty years old, but miscarried in her first trimester because she wouldn’t slow down. She didn’t have time to mourn or cry. She had to continue working herself to death for the sake of their survival—for a promised future where she could take it easy and ripe the benefits of her hard work.
The promise was nothing more than a lie. She had never been blind to the falsehood, but once upon a time, she accepted it note for note for the sake of her sanity—for her love for him.
Sugar stubbornly held his gaze that reflected his smug pride.
No, he didn’t make her. She made him. She made him into a successful man, but he was responsible for turning himself into a monster.
Sugar snickered humorlessly, narrowing her eyes. “That’s a big stretch, Lance, and you know it.”
He shrugged with a grin. “I think I should get a plaque dedicated to me or a big framed picture of me on the wall. No, no. I’ve got it,” he said and snapped his fingers as he got a new idea. “You should honor me by creating a drink. I know Lory can come up with something nice that encompasses my personality. Maybe, he can put a mystery ingredient in there too.”
Mariah giggled in approval. “Oh, a mystery ingredient would be perfect. You have such a mysterious air about you, baby.”
Sugar wanted to gag at the girl’s attempt to stroke Lance’s ego, but what made her want to gag even more was that it was working.
“I’m glad you think so,” he said as he took ahold of his new wife’s hand and kissed the back of it. A sickening sensation clenched Sugar’s belly at the display of affection. She hated how he kept his eyes on her while he did as if he were trying to drain out a reaction from her. She needed to get away from them before she threw up in disgust.
“What do you think the mystery ingredient for my drink should be, Shug,” he questioned, cocking his head to the side.
“Spit,” Sugar said coolly.
Mariah’s smile waned, but Lance held his smirk firm.
“What did you just say,” Mariah asked, her voice oozed with a challenge.
Sugar leaned down boldly to the girl’s level, deciding to take her up on that challenge. The fact of the matter was youngsters nowadays were always quick to fight each other, but rarely did they come across an individual who lived by old school rules and it was for the best. They’d be too busy choking on their broken teeth to call 911 or Snapchat a story for help. That guarantee was bright in Sugar’s eyes.
“You heard exactly what I said, sweetheart.”
Mariah’s fierceness shrunk quickly and the fear that rolled off her was rather palpable.
“You’ve always had a sense of humor,” he chuckled, wagging his finger at her as she stood upright again.
She couldn’t deal with this anymore.
“Well, sadly I’m going to have to cut my comedy act short. You see, I have a restaurant to manage and I happen to manage it quite well. Please, feel free to enjoy our desserts and wine and don’t forget to tip your waitress handsomely before you go,” Sugar replied before she swirled on her heels and walked away.
She marched her way back to her office and slammed the door shut before she plopped down into her office chair. The door swung wide open and Mallory barged into the office.
Sugar tilted her head back and groaned. “Mallory, close the door!”
He ignored her as per usual. “I can’t believe that fool had the nerve to sashay up in here with his little wh—“
“Don’t,” Sugar interrupted swiftly, shaking her head. “Don’t call her that, Lory.”
Mallory sucked his teeth. “That’s what she is, Shug! Why are you defending her?”
“I’m not defending her,” Sugar shot back. “I just don’t need my employees to hear you call someone out of their name. I don’t care if she is one or not. Now, I need you to go out there and make sure everything runs smoothly while I get back to work on this menu.”
He clenched his jaw tightly and shook his head, but followed her directions nonetheless, leaving the room without protest. He closed the door behind him, sealing her into the tomb of her office. Not wanting her mind to linger or wander on the fresh events with her ex-husband and his new wife, she picked up her red pen and did what she did best.
Work, work, work.
Here is the second update for the night. I hope you enjoy this latest installment of Sugar Mama. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Off to write another update. ;)
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