On Thursday of the following week I met with Paolo at the restaurant. The first thing he wanted to know was if I had put in for the final semester work study program. I told him I didn't because at the time (early October) I didn't see any need to. He told me I would be needed in the kitchen from early afternoon until service began for training. I was crestfallen at this news. How was I going to get out of school at that time of day? He thought for a minute and told me he would make some calls. "I know the Superintendent of Schools", he said. "I'll call him and make him an offer he can't refuse". I just looked at him with my mouth hanging open. "Huh?", I said. He gave a big laugh. "Nothing so drastic, Rita! He's a regular customer here and we sometimes cater his meetings. One of his daughter's even had her wedding catered by us. He owes me. He will pull some strings. "Oh!", I said with a sigh of relief. He explained that my initial duties would be prepping for the other chefs. "I'm not talking about chopping vegetables and fruit, although you will do that. You will be expected to prepare fish, meats, and poultry as well as making pasta dough. We then toured the kitchen. It was bigger than I expected. Work stations were sectioned off. Towards the back were four huge ovens where I was told all the baking was done. This was the sole domain of the pastry chef, Martina, who I later found out would be the only other woman working in the kitchen. I was introduced to Roman who I was told was sous chef under Paolo. "Rita, you will take all direction from Roman. He will instruct and oversee your work. Understood"? I nodded . We then went back to his office and I filled out some paperwork. Paolo handed me a package. It was a set of chef's whites. The uniform I would be wearing in the kitchen. They were sparkling white with "Cafe Roma" in red script over my right breast. I was as thrilled as if he had given me a pair of Prada shoes! (I really was!) I thanked him again for the opportunity and told him he would not regret it. "Joe and I are well aware of your situation. Rest assured you will be judged, but only on the quality of your work. You may not have known this but Laura is, ah was, my godson. Now she is like a daughter to me", he said. I didn't know that. "Well, Chef, she is like a sister to me", I replied. He smiled at me. "Bene, bene! You begin your duties in two weeks. We will supply the necessary cutlery if you don't have your own but I advise you to get the proper tools for the job". I told him I had a complete set of Henkels that I was sure would be fine. "Very good! I will make some calls and you will be set to go. Caio, Rita".
I couldn't believe this was happening. I went home on cloud 9. I sat in my bedroom and lay my chef's whites on my bed. I was a bit disappointed that my name wasn't also on the coat but I knew I'd have to earn that privilege.
Tonight was our last night at the library. I decided to go out in style. After showering and a relaxing douche I lay out my outfit for my last day at work. A conservative knee lenght skirt with a matching blazer, white satin blouse and a pair of three inch heels. Fixing my hair in a neat pony tail I sat to do my makeup. Nothing over the top. Just the kind of look you'd expect from a librarian or school teacher. I packed a purse with the essentials, kissed my Mom goodbye and headed out the door. As I was pulling out of the garage I saw Danny pulling in. He saw me and smiled. I waved and blew him a kiss. He called out to call him later. When I got there Monica was already at work. She too was dressed casually but feminine. I noticed she was dressing a bit more femmy these days. I guess Stephanie was rubbing off on her as well as the other way around. It was an uneventful night. I filled her in on my meeting with Paolo. Laura was really Paolo's godson", I asked. "Well, Larry was anyway", she told me. She went on to tell me that when Laura was first kicked out of the house her father and Paolo took her in. This caused big problems in the family. But as in all things Nona had the final word. "Laura lived with us until she finished school and got her real estate licence. She started making good commissions and got her own place. That girl was born to sell houses. High end stuff, too"! I thought about how funny families can be. Mine were supportive from the very start. Laura was lucky to have a safety net. I dreaded to think what would have become of her if she didn't. Just the thought of that angel in any distress was unthinkable to me.
At the end of our shift I was feeling kind of melancholy. As always,almost from the beginning Monica and I were in the ladies room. "Shit!", I heard her say. "What's wrong?", I asked. "I have a run in my stocking"! "Well, we can't have that". I opened my purse and took out a spare pair of pantyhose I keep for just such an emergency. "Here, these should fit", I said. "Pantyhose?", she said with a bit of distaste. I laughed. "Beggars can't be choosers", I told her. She smiled. "Thanks, honey. I'll change and meet you at the mirror". We fixed our lipstick together for the final time in our little oasis. We didn't say a word. When we were done we gave each other a sisterly hug. "End of an era", I whispered. "Yes, but the beginning of alot of new things. Let's go get a cup of tea, okay"? I agreed.
We were both in a pensive mood as we sipped our tea. I tried to brighten things up by bringing up our previous "girl's night". "Stephanie is so sweet. I'm so glad the two of you found each other", I gushed. Monica didn't reply. "What's wrong?", I asked. "Not having second thoughts are you"? "Of course not", she replied. "It's just that......" "Monica, tell me what's on your mind", I demanded. "You're going to think I'm being foolish"she said, looking away. "I'm waiting", I said. Then it all came pouring out. "It just came too easy. She just did anything I asked her to do. From the first time she put on my panties it was like I created a Frankenstein"! "Bride of Frankenstein", I corrected her. She smiled at that. "Yes, very good, Rita"! She went on and on about not being a challenge enough. I listened patiently and ordered another round of tea. "Let her get it all out", I thought. When she was through I took her hands in mine looking her in the eyes. "Do you love her?", I whispered. "With all my heart, Rita, with all my heart!", she said with tears in her voice. I was shocked. I'd never seen this side of Monica before. I had to put her back on track. "Listen to me, Monica. Forget all about this "challenge" stuff for a second and think. It's not all about you but it is about what you do. You know what you do"? She just sat silently. "You save lives is what you do. You enhance them and bring out the beauty. What you did for Laura, what you did for me and now what you're doing for Stephanie is a godsend. Who else would do that and with so much love? She was silent for a minute. "When I was in high school, this is right after Laura moved in, I was seeing this guy and I tried to get him to dress up. He wanted no part of it and eventually we split up. He bad mouthed me all over school. I was referred to as weird and a dyke. Luckily I had Laura's shoulder to cry on. I decided I probably was a lesbian. In my first year at college I made it with my roommate, Leah. Beautiful girl from Hawaii. We had some nights, let me tell you", she chuckled. In the end she returned home and I realized I still wanted a relationship with a person with a penis. It's just that the guys I attracted were just to damn macho for my taste. I remember reading a book called "Regiment Of Women" and it changed my perspective". I told her I had read that book as well. "I did alot of research about the dominant female. I didn't want to be a dominatrix or anything. I don't like giving pain or humiliation. It's more like taking a caterpillar and turning it into a beautiful butterfly". She was smiling again. I moved back home and spent most nights with Laura. My first butterfly. It was so fulfilling for me to bring out the woman that was buried in her soul". "I'd say you did a pretty good job", I said. "Yes, I guess I did. I continued to date but I felt nothing. I was always drawn to feminine things. "Well, my saving grace after Laura moved out was meeting you". I blushed. "No, really Rita, you were such a saving grace for me. Although", she smirked, "you weren't much of a challenge either"! I laughed. "I bet you say that to all the girls!", I said, batting my eyelashes at her. "I so wanted us to be a couple after we met but I realized that you and Danny would never part company so I poured cold water on that idea". I was flattered. "Well", I said, "we do have our moments don't we"! I gave her a flirty wink. "I do so love you, Rita. That's what I meant the other night when I thanked you for all you've done for me. You were the bridge between Laura and Stephanie. Without you I might have drowned". "Thank you, Monica. You were my bridge as well. I guess we are all soul mates. Now, are you feeling a little better"? Monica smiled and took out her cellphone. "Princess", she said, Mommy will be home soon and I'd like to see you in that black lace Teddie tonight okay, pumpkin? Yes, the matching hair bow is a nice thought. Oh, and Rita says hello. Okay, baby girl, see you in a few. Love you, bye"! Hanging up she smiled and looked at me. "Is that answer enough?", she sighed. We stood and hugged. As we walked to the car I told her not to put me in that position again. "I'm the one who's suppose to get guidance from you", I told her. We drove in silence for a bit. When I pulled up to Stephanie's apartment we hugged again and kissed. "Thank you, Rita". "No, Monica, thank you. Now go in there and work on that beautiful butterfly".
What a night! I called Danny when I got home and filled him in on my day. I persuaded him to come over. When he did he found me in our bedroom just wearing my new chef whites. Less than five minutes later we began to cook.