Mrs. Rotundi

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Nick slumped against the kitchen wall, waiting patiently for the last entrée. The hot steam of nearby boiling water moistened his clean-shaven face in a melting mist. A colorful motley of simple, yet elegant plates decorated his tray. The chef’s best soup, a large bowl of Zuppa Toscana, was going to be the last addition to fill the tray’s gap.
“Tony, is that soup ready yet?” Nick called, losing his patience. “Come on, man, you’re holding up a table that’s been waiting a while.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the chef, Tony, grunted. With a moment’s passing, the creamy orange soup was added to the tray.
Nick whipped out of the flexible double doors, the artful tray balanced on his rigid forearm. As he swooped to the right table, he peered across the small room where his coworker, Andrea, was greeting a couple.
After dishing out the meals to the hungry family, Nick again turned his head to look at the couple, now being led by Andrea to a table on the left side. He recognized the woman—a business acquaintance of his father. He had met her once before, and her glowing presence always made him feel strangely uncomfortable.
She trailed behind Andrea in a gallant stroll, her hands swaying slightly at her side, displaying two rings with ornate almond-sized diamonds and other smaller golden trinkets. A tan high-fashion dress was fitted to her thin body with a fox-fur coat draped about her shoulders. A brown leather purse highlighted the golden diamond-studded bracelets around her wrists. Her glowing eyes met his, and he quickly turned away, realizing that he was staring at her. He instantly retreated back into the kitchen.
Andrea followed behind.
“You gotta wait the couple that just walked in,” she said.
Nick pretended not know who she was referencing.
“Which couple?” he asked.
Andrea rolled her eyes.
“The one that just walked in. Large-bellied man in casual business attire; very fashionable middle-aged woman with short, light blonde hair—whipped up like she just came from a salon.”
“Oh . . . right.”
Andrea darted back out the double doors. Nick hesitated before going out. He wished he didn’t have to wait her table.
He dragged his nice black dress shoes over to the couple’s table. He felt awkward. How was he supposed to greet the woman? Was he supposed to act like he remembered her? Did she remember him?
“Hi there, welcome to Il Pilazzo. I’m Nick, and I’ll be your waiter tonight,” he droned.
He acted as if he didn’t recognize her and recited the standard greeting. She watched him carefully, an air of dominance radiated out from her like the warm rays of the sun. She carried herself like a queen. He was only an inferior mouse looking up at a giant.
He handed the man and woman each a leather-covered menu. She watched him expectantly. He stood awkwardly until her royal voice broke the silence.
“You’re Nick Gardner’s son, aren’t you?” she said, her light eyebrows rising.
“Uhhh . . . yeah,” he peeped, shifting his eyes uncomfortably. “Mrs. Rotundi, right?”
“Yes,” she said with confidence. “And this is Mr. Rotundi, of course.”
Nick extended his hand. The large man’s firm grip almost made his nervous body jump.
“Well, I’m surprised you didn’t greet me right away,” she chastised.
She had caught him being ignorant, and he felt as if her long nails were tightening around his neck. A reddish heat began to fill Nick’s clean-shaven cheeks.
“Oh, I apologize, Mrs. Rotundi,” he quickly spurted. “This job has got my mind running all over the place.”
“I don’t want to hear an excuse,” she replied sharply. “Mr. Gardner, whenever people see me, they greet me with all due respect. I don’t expect you to differ.”
Nick could now feel the heat reaching his ears. He resembled a tomato.
“Yes, Mrs. Rotundi,” he responded. “I apologize.”
She smiled and nodded with acceptance, allowing his tense muscles to begin to relax. However, he could still feel a great distance between himself and her. As a woman of great status in the business world, she was on the highest level, and he wanted to kick himself for offending someone so respectable and high-class. Her overpowering presence had intimated his youthful, teenage mind, causing him to always feel awkward around her. He never knew how to act around a person of such importance. His remedy was to retreat; but it had not worked, as his inexperience and shyness still ruined him.
For the rest of the evening, Nick carefully catered to the couple. He was as polite, friendly, and outgoing as he could possibly be. His nearly 360° turn seemed to be working, and it appeared as if Mrs. Rotundi had forgiven him.
“I’ll have to tell your father what a nice, good-looking boy you are,” Mrs. Rotundi said on the way out. Her words felt more like a powerful proclamation than a compliment.
“Oh, thank you,” Nick replied giddily. He held the door for the couple’s exit and waved them goodbye. “Have a great evening, Mr. and Mrs. Rotundi!”
With the completion of the night, Nick knew what to expect when in the company of the magnificent Mrs. Rotundi. He realized that he should never let his own insecurity allow him to behave so foolishly. He wanted to become a highly respected man like his father, and Mrs. Rotundi gave him a little push in that direction. She helped him to the first rung of the ladder of greatness. While she stood at the top, she kindly reminded him that he had more to climb.





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