Supper with Supers was slow, business not yet having picked up from the winter break. Sizable as the town was, losing tens of thousands of students who made the pilgrimage home to visit family inevitably led to a downturn in business. It would take a few weeks to pick up as people settled back in, and there would be a nice boost on Valentine’s Day as last-minute diners realized all the fancier restaurants were already booked. Once the spring hit, things would be fully back in swing, and over summer there would be ample business from children out on summer vacation. None of which changed the fact that on the first weekend back from break, there were only four tables sat throughout the entire restaurant.
“Brenda says that if we don’t get anyone in the next half hour, you and I are cut,” Lacey told Vince. They were paired together in a section of the restaurant, one with a single elderly man steadfastly slurping down a bowl of soup.
“Huh?” Vince blinked and quickly looked at the senior server, trying in vain to hide the fact that he’d been spacing out. “Oh, we’re cut already?”
“No, I said we will be in half an hour if we don’t get sat.” Lacey followed the path his eyes had been set on and noticed they were directed right at the hostess stand, where Camille was organizing the menus for what had to be the fourth time this shift. “But way more interesting than that: you were checking out the hostess, weren’t you?”
“I… no, that would be… improper…” Even if the fumbled words didn’t give him away, the panic in Vince’s eyes would have certainly keyed Lacey into the truth.
“Relax, I’m not going to tell her or anything. Hell, I’m just glad to see you finally take an interest in someone. You know Brooklyn has been trying to test you out for a couple of months now. For a while we thought you swung the other way, but you didn’t respond to Juan’s advances either, and that guy is smoking.”
“I don’t entirely understand what you’re getting at, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m happier that way,” Vince said.
“Proving that you’re smarter than that costume makes you look. So, the hostess is your type, huh? Short, smart, shy, quiet; I can see where a lug like you would go for that. Think she digs you back?”
“I know she does.” Vince was as surprised as Lacey to hear the words come out. He’d held back on talking about it with the others, even with Dr. Moran, because in the scope of everything else they dealt with it just seemed so ridiculous a thing to worry over. With Lacey, it was different. She was a mundane, and so was this issue. It didn’t seem so crazy to open up to her.
“She told me how she felt before break, told me to take my time sorting out my own feelings. Camille hasn’t pushed the issue, but I’ve felt strange around her ever since, like the more I see her, the more she’ll expect an answer.”
“From your laser-vision a few seconds ago, I bet I could put in a pretty good wager about how you feel,” Lacey replied.
“Yeah… I do like Camille. She’s smart, tough, courageous; she’s amazing. But I also have this… ex from a long time ago. I’ve been trying to get over her for years; in fact I think my feelings for her soured my last relationship. I was making good progress, then she popped back up a few months ago and now I don’t know what I feel. I just… it doesn’t seem right to drag Camille into this if I’m not sure about my feelings. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“Let me ask you something, does our hostess know about any of this? Like, at all?” Lacey brushed a rogue hair out of her face, knocking her mask slightly askew, which she immediately readjusted. Brenda was a cool boss, but she was harsh about keeping in costume.
“All of it. I’ve known her for years now, and I tell her pretty much everything.” Vince chanced a quick glance to their only customer who was still slowly putting down the soup, spoonful after spoonful.
“Just making sure.” Lacey reached toward Vince’s face, as though she were about to straighten his hair. At the last minute, she pressed her middle finger to her thumb and flicked Vince directly in the nose.
“Ouch!” Vince grabbed the wounded appendage even as his eyes reflexively watered. “What the heck?”
“Stop being a big dumb-dumb. If the girl likes you, complications and all, then it’s not your job to protect her from bad outcomes. She’s an adult, she can make her own choices about the risks she’s willing to take, and it sounds like she’s decided you’re worth it. Not sure I get why, but we all have our own tastes.”
“No. No buts. Feelings are messy. If you’re waiting around for the perfect situation where no one has anything on the line, then you’re going to die alone, and probably with a massively swollen forearm. Newsflash: every relationship a person has ends in failure, save for one. Maybe two if you count getting remarried after they kick off, but the point is we all go in with a ninety-whatever percent failure rate. It’s just like when you were learning this job, you screwed things up until you started getting them right. If you really want the girl, and she still wants you even knowing the score, then you’re not holding back out of goodness or decency. You’re doing it out of fear.”
Vince rubbed his nose as Lacey finished her speech, topping it off with the same wide smile she used to greet the customers. “You might have a point,” he admitted after a few minutes.
“See, I told the other trainers you were teachable.” Lacey patted him on the arm and glanced at the lone table. “I’m going to go get the water pitcher and top off Mr. Soup. You do… whatever you think is best.”
Vince watched her head off towards the back, still momentarily dumbfounded at the harsh truths she’d laid on him. Lacey might not be able to run faster than a car or lift a bus, but she definitely had knowledge and skills that he was lacking in. And if there was one thing that life at Lander had taught him, it was to accept lessons wherever they came from. He turned and walked down the carpet, past the other sections and arriving at the hostess stand facing the empty lobby.
“I can’t give you the next table,” Camille said, glancing up from a dry-erase diagram of the restaurant. “There are way too many others ahead of you.”
“Actually, I think we’re getting cut soon anyway,” Vince said. “But that wasn’t what I came over for. I wanted to tell you that Alex and Hershel are putting together this big outing in a couple of weeks for a movie premiere. It’s going to be fun, I think, and I’d really like it if you came along.”
“Sure, I’ll pitch the idea to Thomas and Violet,” Camille replied.
“That’s great, and they’re more than welcome to join us. Just know, I really want you to come. I… it just won’t be the same if you’re not there.”
“Oh.” Camille turned back to her menus and diagram, willing herself not to turn into a tomato. “Yeah. Count me in.”