A familiar piercing pain shot through her big toe. It was almost as exacting as her alarm clock. Big toe pain meant two hours to go in her shift.
She had switched over to nights and weekends at the restaurant but also accepted double shifts regularly. The mindless routine was helpful and there was no problem staying late.
She’d rather work weekends anyway as sleep was minimal these days and her social life was non-existent. Work was what she clung to. Work made sense and avoiding the pinches and accidental touches of the local male population was mildly diverting. Besides, she’d already counted the tiny violets on the faded wallpaper in her room.
Anything was better than that.
The polyester uniform with apron was not a problem. It was easier if people saw her as a role. She began to believe her name was ‘Honey’, ‘Waitress’, or ‘Blondie’. They sounded just as plausible as ‘Anne’ did.
“Anne, table seven needs a menu.”
“On it Millie,” Buffy nodded to the older woman standing at the kitchen pass through and closed the cash drawer. Millie picked up her four heavily laden plates and turned toward her customers. She winked at Buffy with a wrinkled eyelid varnished blue.
Buffy began her familiar ritual: pencil in hand and over the page on the order pad. She grabbed a menu from the counter rack. Her feet took her to table seven without even looking up.
“There you go, sir–” She stilled as her hand held out a laminated menu card. Black lacquered fingertips took the menu.
“Evening Miss…Anne, is it?” Spike stared at the happy face name tag on her left breast.
Buffy’s throat dried completely. The small restaurant was packed. It was game night for the local football team and the restaurant would be humming until closing. The team won this evening and everyone was in a celebratory mood. Buffy blinked with exhaustion and a general annoyance that Spike was here, in the restaurant and at her table.
She hadn’t done any slaying related activities for months. All that mess was left behind. Duty and obligation were packed away with the pain of what she had done.
This sleepy little California town was football, Millie’s pies and the ancient drive-in everyone fought to keep open for one more season. It was a haven from just the sort of riffraff sitting across from her looking intently at the nutritional selections.
Buffy exhaled heavily. Unsure of how to proceed she retreated to her routine. “We’re out of the corn chowder and the cherry pie but all the rest is available.” Spike’s mouth quirked to a tight grin as he scrutinized the lengthy list of home made pies available.
“You bake these pies, love?” he asked teasingly.
Just give me a stake. “Uh…no. That would be Millie. This is her place. Did you miss the neon sign out front?” Buffy’s face was implacable. Spike shifted in his seat.
“I’ll take the raspberry-blueberry with whipped cream,” he stated evenly.
“You’re gonna need to pay for it,” she said, knowing full well that vampires had no use for money.
Spike flashed a thick money clip from his pocket at her. Another heavy sigh accompanied her curt pivot. She walked to the counter and took the raspberry-blueberry pie from the lower display shelves. It was a wonderland of pastry behind slanted glass that was dotted with the nose prints of local children.
A large piece of pie found its way onto a small white dessert plate. Buffy shook the whipping cream can with venom. Her eyes trailed over the crowd and landed on Spike.
A few of the regular patrons were staring at his obvious fish-out-of-water-ness. A long leather coat, black fingernails, platinum hair and an indecipherable facial expression were a novelty next to the sweat stained farmer’s caps, cotton dresses, and the impossibly blue denims of the local teens.
He couldn’t have looked more dead among those sun kissed folks had he been lying in a coffin at table seven. It was a surreal and ethereal scene. Perhaps something Goya or Brueghel might have painted if they had come to the fertile fields of California.
Millie sidled up to Buffy as she picked up the dessert plate. “That one will be a big tipper,” Millie pronounced into Buffy’s ear. “I know people, Anne. Look at that baby face. Probably a movie person up from Los Angeles.”
“Baby face? Millie, that could be a serial killer,” Buffy spoke in a flat tone.
“Shoulders back Anne and put on your pretty smile, I bet he tips you a tenner for the pie.” Buffy groaned silently. That’s all she needed to do, flex her chest at Spike. Ugh.
The girls in the restaurant had given her plenty of advice on how best to encourage big tips from the customers without appearing to be the skank of the month. It was a wholesome dance of smiling, juggling plates and genuine friendliness.
Millie winked at her again and waved her ferociously plucked eyebrows high and wide. She turned to a regular at the counter. “Hey Duane, what’s shakin’?” Millie oozed the liquid smile of seduction known to waitresses nationwide.
Buffy walked back to Spike’s table with the pie. She deposited it in front of him and then caught Millie looking at her from the counter.
“Coffee… Sir?” Her voice strained.
“No thanks love, keeps me up nights.” Spike wrinkled his nose at her.
Slowly Buffy became aware that she held her pencil like a stake. Her feet separated automatically readying for battle. Adrenalin coursed through her body, throbbing noticeably in her big toe and temples. Spike acknowledged her readiness.
“You gonna let me have my pie, pet? Or do we throw down right here and give the locals a real show.” Spike’s tight eyes met Buffy’s; he could go either way. It was up to her.
“Just eat, pay up and leave. Preferably the state.” She turned and left him to his pie.
Millie was wrong. Spike left her a fifty.