I got off the train with my duffle bag slung over my shoulder and an overpriced ticket in my grasp. I had gone on the train's website at 3 AM and bought a ticket for the 7 AM train, spent the rest of my night packing. It was all for this, to be standing about 2 hours away from all my problems, with a fresh start and new hope.
"First things first," I muttered. I took my phone out and texted the only person in Karanes that I knew.
Reiner, we hadn't been particularly close, in fact the two of us were barely acquaintances, but in high school we had raced against each other at track meets and when we had tied a few too many times decided to train together and exchanged numbers. Reiner had moved away for college and so it had been two years since we had even spoken let alone seen each other.
But Reiner was a great guy and he showed up at the train station not twenty minutes later in a beat up pickup truck.
"Hey mile-long hop in," he cracked a smile and I jogged around the side, tossed my bag in the back and got in.
"Thanks for meeting me here Reiner, I owe you."
"No problem man, I knew when you woke me up at 5 AM that it had to be something important." He threw a sidelong glance at me and his stare lingered. I knew what he was looking at, I'd looked better for sure. My eyes had dark circles and I was sure that it would be hard to keep my head up. I was lucky that Reiner had a nice couch he was willing to let me borrow until I had a job and a place of my own.
"Ya I just felt like I needed a change of scenery," I looked out the window.
"Well, it's really different than what we used to have in Trost. But man I think you'll love it, I have some friends I could introduce you to. Also, I shot my boss a text on the way over here. I work at this restaurant, it can be kind of lame sometimes but there's a few chains and locations and the pay is above minimum. We might need to swing by there around noon to meet him but he said he might be willing to meet you."
"Wow Reiner, thank you," I said genuinely surprised.
"Ya no problem, he's kind of a pain in the ass sometimes but if you keep your head down a job is a job."
"No seriously," I nodded. "It means a lot," I smiled. Reiner started talking about his time in college, apparently, he dropped out in his second quarter, sent his mom home a friend's transcript for the completion of it so she wouldn't be pissed he squandered her money. But as Reiner talked about his culinary classes and how amazing they had been I stared out the window at a view that would probably never get old. Running parallel to the train tracks was the ocean, vibrant blue and reflecting the sun out onto the road. It was gorgeous, I would have to go down to the beach the first chance I got.
"Did you bring interview clothes?" Reiner asked after slapping my leg, he had probably asked once before.
"Sorry I was distracted by the ocean," I admitted. "It just reminds me of fresh starts, I'm hoping I get one here." I smiled at him and from the look on his face, I wondered if I had made a mistake. A quick glance in the side mirror told me everything was fine, though.
"You ok man?" Reiner asked, his eyebrows knitted together even as he stared at the road.
"Ya, it's just been a hard week. I just really want to start over, somewhere fresh."
He nodded and didn't push. "So clothes?"
"Everything I've got is in that bag, you know your boss better than me so you tell me when we get back to your place."
"Alright sounds logical," he smiled and started making his way inland away from the ocean. The drive was about another ten minutes until we reached his apartment, it was in a nicer complex, it had a bunch of glass and shiny stainless steel. The whole complex had a modern look, actually as I looked around the whole city had a modern look to it. There were vibrant green hedges, newly trimmed grass, even the people were dressed sharp, much nicer than I would be. I had four favorite pairs of jeans, some nice slacks, mostly t-shirts, one button up, and some sweaters. I had to pack my running shoes of course and some basketball shorts to keep myself in the shape I was used to. I also had the two grand I had stashed in a compartment Armin had helped me create back when we were both a little too into recreational drugs and needed to sneak them into our homes. Apparently that money would be going towards some interview clothes, I shouldn't complain I was really fortunate that Reiner had stuck his neck out for me so readily.
"Hey I'm going to go get a spare made for you ok," Reiner said as he twisted the key into his lock, apartment 221. He opened the door and the space wasn't very furnished, and what was wasn't furnished very nice. I winced a bit at all the take out containers on the floor, likely leaving some stains on his hardwood, it was a light grey and went well with the black and white color scheme. I took a deep breath and dropped my bag on the floor. "It ain't much but it's free for you right now so don't bitch," he laughed seeing my face. "Wash up, take a shower, your hair looks like hell, I'll pick up some cover up for your eyes man, don't want you looking like a zombie when you meet Furlan."
"Thanks, I'll be done in like fifteen, do you have a hair dryer?"
"Ya, it's under the bathroom sink. If anything goes wrong and you need to be picked up or something just call my pal Bertolt. I left his number on the fridge so go ahead and give him a ring if anything gets weird." I shouted my thanks and Reiner ducked out. I grabbed my phone and the charger and tossed it onto the bathroom counter to charge while I stepped into the shower. I grabbed the $30 concealer that I had picked up from a brand makeup company a few days ago. I could have mentioned to Reiner that I had the good stuff but I liked having some backup in case something went wrong. Reiner would spend ten bucks on the drug store brands max and if I got the job today I'd definitely take him out.
Before I could even consider unpacking or taking a shower for that matter I had to clean this floor. I went into the kitchen and took some trash bags out of the large pantry after trying four other cupboards. Apparently, Reiner thought that trash bags belonged with dry foods for some reason. I opened it up and started tossing old Chinese food bins, pizza boxes, and countless numbers of used silverware. I also had to pick up the odd cup here and there and toss it in. I tied the bag up and set it by the door after emptying the actual trash into it too. I looked for something to clean the floors with but alas couldn't find anything so I was forced to let them be.
I ran the water until it had a nice singe to it and stripped my clothes off. I stepped in and borrowed some of Reiner's shampoo, I was a little put off that it was for light hair but it had a nice smell to it and I didn't really feel like one use would make much of a difference anyways. The shampoo and conditioner washed out easily taking dirt and probably blood with them down the drain. The body wash Reiner had was pretty much to die for and I hoped that was the scent that stood out most. I was careful around my face as I used a gentle washcloth. I stepped out of the faux marble shower and onto the stunningly contrasted black shower mat. There were lines of grey running through the faux marble in the shower and on the counter tying the light white and dark black together, most of Reiner's touches were grey including the toilet seat cover, the towels, and shower curtain. I pulled the hair dryer out from under the sink and laughed at the bright pink color, I plugged it in anyway and got to work. I didn't really have any hair routine since it was mostly the messy look that got me through my day to day life, I'd pull a brush through it before I left. My phone lit up. I tried not to look at it, I knew it was only about 10AM and there was a pretty good chance that it was Armin texting me after receiving the news. I bit my lip as his face took up the screen and he tried to facetime me. I was naked and also without the makeup so I really couldn't answer that. I declined the call and took my hands through my hair to test how wet it was. I dried it a little more and then started to apply the makeup around my face to make it appear more normal, I left my eyes with the rings so I could pretend to use the makeup Reiner would bring back. I unpacked my two button-ups, surprise surprise it seems that I thought I'd need to be more fancy than I remembered. I picked the dark green one, hoping it drew more attention to the color of my eyes rather than the circles under them.
"I'm back," Reiner called as he tossed the door shut. "Woah," he stopped in his tracks. "All my boxes are gone," he looked around. "Did you clean?" he sounded more pissed than pleased, "before you even got settled in you decided to clean?" he scoffed. "Clean freaks," he threw a key at me. "It's all yours, if you get lucky and get the job maybe you can get the urban setting which is walking distance or if you get placed out on the pier with me and we can carpool if we get matching shifts."
"I'll take anything I can get, to be honest," I shrugged.
"Great, get some clothes on, wait no, let me see what you brought first." He leaned against the front door. I held up the black slacks and dark green button up. "It's not bad," he conceded. "Anything short sleeve?"
"Only t-shirts," I left out the fact that I wasn't willing to wear short sleeves to any sort of professional setting.
"Nah just wear that then, it's cooler here than Trost anyways and we're going to the pier restaurant so you won't look too out of place." I pulled the button up on and then the pants. I tucked the shirt in and cursed my mixed up mind for not packing a belt. I took out my nicer shoes and running shoes to get them out of the way. I found some socks and slipped the shoes on after them. "Here let me grab one of my belts for you," he pushed off the door and went into his room. He came back out with a black belt and I slipped it on. "There, Furlan will love you," he smiled. "Let's go, I'll let him know we're on our way a little early."
"Ok sounds great," I wiped my sweaty palms and took a deep breath.
"Don't sweat it, he shouldn't be too hard on you." Reiner opened the door and I followed him out into the hallway and down to the car. "Your cover up is on the dash," Reiner said as we climbed into his truck. We drove down the same way we had come up but turned away from the train station another five minutes and he pulled into a back lot. "It's all the way at the end," Reiner said as we climbed out of the truck. "You got your makeup on well," he teased.
"It's an important interview," I brushed the comment off like I hadn't been hiding things for the better part of five years now.
"It would be great if you could get it your first day in town."
"Ya, it would," I whistled lowly as we passed a Bugatti. "Damn," I whispered.
"Ya we get some high-class clients, must have gotten lost, though, the restaurant pays for covered parking for all guests and they validate parking for them too."
"I wish they had a valet," I joked as we walked up the steps to the pier.
"You and me both," he laughed. "But unfortunately I'm just a cook."
"It's great that you like your job so much, though."
"I got pretty lucky, my friend Bertolt had suggested it when I was struggling through college."
"Will I get to meet this guy soon?"
"Ya, he comes over and crams usually once a week since his roommates party harder than he'd like."
"So he's still in college?" Reiner nodded. The restaurant was getting closer and it was really nice. The front was white and light blues and there were two french glass doors leading into the area. Once inside the blue and white continued in the interior, white half walls, that came up to about the average person's knee, maybe a little higher, the rest was glass panels that provided a panorama view of the ocean. The napkins were a gorgeous light teal to match the rest of the highlighted color, the dinner plates and salad plates alternated between white and the same teal. The table clothes were a light grey that could appear to be almost white in some lights.
"Reiner," a man at the front greeted, his outfit was casual while still looking expensive and I had a feeling that my dad who was a doctor might wince a little receiving a bill from this place. "It's good to see you, I thought you didn't work until five tonight, though?" they shook hands.
"Naw I'm here to see Furlan, I've got a friend here who might be joining the team." He gestured back at me.
"Oh is this Bertolt?" he asked as he looked at me.
Reiner laughed a little and shook his head, "No this is Eren, he's new to the city."
"Oh hey Eren," the guy smiled. "Nice to meet you, I'm Marco."
"Nice to meet you too," I held my hand out.
"Well Furlan is in the kitchen you can go right back."
"Thanks," Reiner smiled and he started leading me off. "Hey Furlan," Reiner called as he entered the kitchen, a few guys looked up and waved, a few even made a vocal greeting and Reiner nodded his head to them. He snagged a spoon that one of the cooks was using to stir and popped what appeared to be a mashed potato of some kinds in his mouth before tossing the spoon into the sink. "Don't mess up the recipes just because it's lunch guys," he called after him. "It should have more cheese than that." A few men mumbled 'yes chef' while one very enthusiastic man yelled after Reiner. Reiner looked behind him and shot the guy a smile. "Good job," he nodded and the man went back to work, grating more fresh cheese.
"Hey Furlan," Reiner said while knocking on an office door. I was absorbed in the atmosphere of the kitchen, it looked a little hassled, there were metal prep areas in places that didn't make sense to me but all of the cooks seemed to be working flawlessly. The restaurant hadn't appeared to be even three-fourths full and so the kitchen didn't appear to be full either. Several stations were unmanned and there was a large metal door that I assumed led to the freezer. They had a fridge with glass doors and I could see everything neatly prepped and waiting in the machine. Even the space back here was high end, there were several ovens and stove tops too, everything seemed to be working flawlessly. A woman came through the double doors, she wore an outfit similar to Marco's but instead she had a skirt and a small heel to accentuate her legs. "Furlan," Reiner knocking a second time drew me out of my trance.
"I'm sorry are we keeping you waiting?" an icy voice asked as the door swung open. A man much shorter than Reiner glared up at him with cold eyes of steel that seemed to be daring him to say another word.
"My apologies Mr. Ackerman, I wasn't aware you were in the restaurant today," Reiner hung his head, cheeks flushed. "I had texted Furlan that I would be bringing by someone who might make a good addition to the team but we can wait until you're done of course."
"We've already been disturbed now and this is my restaurant so why don't I interview the kid for you?" his eyes were narrow as the turned on me. I gulped, hopefully not audibly and tried not to look away.
"Thank you for your time," I tried to make it sound less like a question but to be honest, I was terrified to step into that office.
"Come in," he hissed through clenched teeth. "Furlan," he barked as I stepped forwards and my step faltered, "put the classified crap away until it's just us again." I saw the other man in the room move to file some papers back into a folder and roll up a large blue page. "Get in," the man said more forcefully.
"Sorry," I scrambled in, careful not to crowd or hit him in the doorway. The office was more spacious than it had appeared from outside, it intruded into the kitchen about four feet but it borrowed about another ten from somewhere else, making more than enough room for a desk, multiple filing cabinets, and a dart board full of pictures.
The man who had let me in leaned back against the desk and crossed his arms. I was torn between my good manners of shaking his hand and really not wanting to piss him off anymore.
"Sorry about him," the man who must have been Furlan said as he rolled his eyes and stepped forwards. "Levi, apart from being a close personal friend, can be a bit of an ass sometimes. He thinks that even when he shows up unannounced when I have plans he should still be the most important thing in the room." For this man's sake, I sure hoped he was a personal friend, the man before me didn't seem interested in taking anyone's shit and I felt like I could witness a firing or a murder right now.
Levi however just exhaled a bit and turned his head away.
"I'm Furlan, pleasure to formally meet you."
"Hi I'm Eren, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me," I shook his hand firmly. "It's an honor to meet with both of you, from what I gather I'm pretty lucky to be here on the same day the boss is."
This earned an amused noise from Levi as he pushed himself off the desk and unfolded his arms. He looked me up and down for a moment before extending his own hand. "I think luck is just about the last thing that had a hand in that kid. Levi Ackerman," he nodded then reclaimed his hand.
I wasn't quite sure what to say to that, but thankfully Furlan took the lead. "Well Eren I have a few of our standard interview questions for you, but given the fact that Reiner recommended you I wouldn't stress too much if I were you."
"Furlan, go take a lap around the restaurant," Levi made a circle with his index finger. "I'll handle this," he grinned.
"Fine Levi, but remember that Reiner is our head cook and anyone can train to be a waiter," he shook his head and left the room.
Levi tilted his head a bit. "Do you know anything about this restaurant?" he asked.
"To be honest, not much no," I tried not to look away from him. "I just got into town this morning and Reiner told me that he had spoken to Furlan shortly after that. I pretty much just showered and came here. I do have some experience as a waiter though," I hoped that would make up for my completely lame response of not knowing anything about what this man had spent his time and money on. Hell maybe it was even a life long dream fulfillment of his and here I was waltzing in asking for a job without even knowing the name. I glanced around the office hoping for at least the name of the restaurant.
"So you've waited tables before?" he quirked an eyebrow.
"Yes sir," I looked into his eyes again.
"Ok," he nodded. "Do you feel confident enough in your skills as a waiter to work tonight from 5 to 11?"
"If I were allowed to look at a menu then absolutely," I nodded quickly.
He looked me up and down again. "Fine I'll go grab you a menu and a uniform for tonight, I'm very particular about how my staff looks so I'll inspect you before I let you anywhere near the floor."
"Ok sounds good, thank you, sir," he left the room and I stayed in the office. I took a deep breath, already working a six-hour shift, just have to prove that I can handle it. I nervously touched my pointer fingers together, then the middle, then the ring, then the pinky, then back up to the ring, middle, pointer and repeated until the door opened.
"Here you are," he handed me a menu. "Spend however much time you need with it I'll get you a uniform, what size."
"Large shirt and 34 pants," I was already looking at the cover of the menu. He nodded and left the room.
'Garrison' was written in elegant script in black on a stark white menu. Under the 'G' was a red rose with its stem curling around the elegant cursive. Above the 'n' a second rose sprouted up towards the top of the menu. There was nothing else on the first page, I opened the menu and the page on the left was now a very pale, almost white blue, the one on the right was a sky blue. The menu read elegantly:
Shrimp Cocktail with Three Sauces
Lobster Rolls (4 pc)
Crab Cakes (4 pc)
Seafood Crab Dip with Four Types of Cracker
Bacon Wrapped Barbeque Shrimp
Fried Artichoke Hearts
Your Choice of Three Dips and Two Crackers
(Italian Tuna, Creamy Shrimp, Deviled Crab, Pimiento Cheese, Garlic Clams)
Entrees: From Net to Table
Boiled Lobster Tails
Cajun Seafood Pasta
Crab Stuffed Manicotti
Entrees: Fresh Picked For You
Grilled Eggplant, Tomato, and Goat Cheese
Grilled Portobello Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper and Mozzarella
Grilled Garlic Parmesan Zucchini
Grilled Potatoes and Onion
Entrees: Tender Meats
Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs
Chicken with Red Wine Sauce
Filet with Garlic Butter
Marinated, Spicy Vegetables
Pita with Your Choice of 3 Toppings
Garlic Roasted Broccoli
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Green Beans and Bacon
Baked Potato Casserole
Chocolate Molten Cake
(Apple, Cherry, Strawberry)
(Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle, Fudge, Peanut Butter, and Lemon)
The menu was extensive but well balanced and fit neatly onto two pages. I noticed that at the top of the menu the word 'Dinner' sat in a plain script. I wondered then what was being served right now. I opened the door and stepped into the kitchen, most of the people didn't even look at me although Levi did stop what he was doing and walk over.
"There's no way you already feel comfortable with the menu, it's made to be simple but not that simple kid."
"No sir, I was hoping there would be a way for me to taste at least some of the dishes so that I could more properly recommend them to patrons," I was nervous talking to him at all, but out here in front of other people was worse.
"Very well," he nodded and uncrossed his arms, putting his hands into his pockets. "What do you want to try first?"
"Whatever is the most convenient."
"Sir," the man who had previously yelled at Reiner appeared holding a bowl while stirring vigorously. "We have a few unwashed bowls and dishes if that would be helpful. Someone would just have to identify for him what they were."
"Fine, fine, do that then, I don't know what's in them. I'm going to find Furlan, there's a bathroom in the back that I've hung your uniform up in, at the end of the night you take it off and leave it there again so we can clean it. You don't get it dirty do you understand? Any mark no matter how small, you tell Furlan right away and he'll get you a new shirt, ok?" I nodded rapidly. "Good, I'll be around. Good luck remembers you aren't hired just yet." I gulped and nodded again.
"Here, Eren right?" the guy asked while he grabbed my arm.
"Um ya," I said looking away from Levi and back at him.
"My name is Connie, I can help you figure out what's what, and we'll get you some of the meats to taste too, people usually send something back at some point so it'll be a great chance for you."
"Ok, thanks for your help. I'll wash the dishes once we're done."
"You don't have to," he smiled. "We have a dishwasher who comes an hour before dinner to get them ready."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate the break," I said. I rolled up my sleeves once it was just me and Connie towards the far side of the kitchen where most people weren't working. I tried to ignore as his eyes lingered over the scars on my wrists, or worse the bright red lines that were still trying their best to heal. I heard the doors to the front swish closed and realized, as I saw his retreating form through the small windows, that Levi had only just left. Connie pointed out some of the dishes which I tasted and committed to memory, I kept the menu right next to me so that I could stare at the item as I tasted it and repeat it about ten times in my head. Then Connie would ask about ones I already tasted and I would describe them. It was pretty helpful actually. We got really lucky, according to Connie, and one woman sent her filet back claiming she had asked for medium rare instead of medium, so I had a chance to taste that. The cooks were really gifted and I was suddenly glad I hadn't eaten in almost twenty hours.
"I think that's everything, Connie," I said as I finished looking at the menu, well everything that dinner and lunch have in common anyways. "Thanks for your help," I smiled as I started washing some of the dishes.
"No problem," Connie lingered as I began looking over the menu again to make sure I was ready for tonight. "Hey Eren," I looked towards him again. "We should exchange numbers once I'm off, no phones on shift and all, don't you think?"
"Sure that sounds nice, I don't have a lot of friends in the city so that would be really fun."
"Cool, we can exchange schedules once you get yours and meet up for lunch or dinner sometime, I can take you to some of the best spots in the city." He smiled brightly and I was actually excited to do that. "And Eren," his voice had changed now as he was about to walk back to his station. "If you ever need to call about something, well then," he stared at my wrists and suddenly it clicked, he didn't want to be friends, not really. "Then you can call me then too, ok?"
"Ya of course," I forced a smile onto my face. Maybe I shouldn't have washed the dishes. I stared at the bubbles as they swirled around a pot I was cleaning before I dumped the accumulated water out and watched them circle the drain.
AN: I'm so excited about this new story. I'm going to be aiming for weekly to biweekly updates. I'll do my best but I am still writing it and sometimes things come up so I hope you guys will be patient with me. If you like this story I have another Levi Eren one called 'Life Beside You'. Enjoy.