Dragon Fire Chapter 7
Dale and Kyle's Predicaments
It was Allie, Opal, and Serenity that were opening up the store today. Randy and Dale were scheduled to come in about an hour after open, when a bigger rush was planned. There was a sale planned for the day, some free tea with each purchase of teaware that cost $30 or more. Dale proposed the idea, but Serenity changed the numbers up to make it more appealing. Dale wished for it to be $100, but he always shoots too high on these things, or so Serenity thought.
Allie and Opal weren’t sure what was going on, but Serenity seemed especially frustrated this morning. She was in charge when Dale and Randy weren’t around, and she was barking orders like mad. If she felt either of the others weren’t working as hard as they could be, she let them have it.
“Allie!” Serenity screamed, “Put the labels on correctly! Don’t leave the discount sign crooked, it’ll look unprofessional!”
“Oh, uhm, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, stop making me waste time correcting you!” The last comment seemed to get at Allie a bit. Serenity showed some slight remorse on her face, but Opal had enough.
“Alright, what in the hell has gotten into you?!”
Serenity turned away, back to her work. “Nothing, get back to work.”
“No, not with you acting the way you are! Dale may have left you in charge, but you are NOT our manager! And even if you were, the way you’re treating us is unacceptable!”
“What’s unacceptable is how you guys aren’t taking this job seriously.” Serenity’s tone was almost deadpan. Opal was taken aback at the accusation.
“What makes you think we’re not?!” Serenity spun around, the previous anger now back on her face.
“What makes me think it is how lazy you’ve been going about work!” The two girls looked like they were ready to go for the other’s throat. Allie slowly made her way in between them, and turned towards Serenity.
“Uhm…is there something you’re not telling us?” Serenity’s anger made way to surprise. “It’s just that you’ve seem flustered since the day began, anxious even. It seems like it’s about work, but you’re behaving in a strange way about it.” Serenity’s eyes slowly lost some of their fire, as she sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration.
“I found out something when I opened yesterday. I’m assuming you’re all aware of how Dale tends to needlessly self-sacrifice, right?” Both girls looked worried as they nodded.
“What did he do…?” Opal nervously asked, hoping she wouldn’t hear the answer.
“I don’t know what he’s paying himself, but he’s sleeping in his car.” Allie and Opal had a mix of surprise and concern. They knew Dale, there was no point in questioning if it was true or not.
“Why is he doing that? He’s homeless?” Allie asked while looking out the window, as if to hope to see him.
“Yeah. When I asked Randy about it yesterday, he looked away from me and said it’s too embarrassing to speak about. I don’t know what’s going on, but he’s struggling.” She looked back to Opal. “I’m sorry, I tend to…get like this, when I’m stressed out.”
“No, it’s alright,” Allie calmly said, putting a hand on her shoulder, “I get it now. You were worried about him. Is the tea shop struggling that much?”
“That’s the thing; it’s not struggling at all. I mean we’re not exactly raking in the millions, but as far as I can tell with the numbers everything checks out. I don’t know what anyone’s getting paid, but if you’re all the same as me then that’s not a concern.” The girls stood around for a while, scratching their heads about what to do. Serenity sighed, “There’s no point in standing around like this. Let’s do everything we can to make this sale – no, this store – successful.” The girls nodded, and went back to work.
After some time passed, Dale and Randy walked in together for their shifts. Randy greeted them in his usual happy way.
“Heya girls! How was this morning?” Serenity tried her best to keep her composure while answering.
“Oh, you know, fine.” Randy’s eyes narrowed. He still remembers the conversation he and Serenity had yesterday about Dale, it seems.
“Uh huh…” As he continued to stare as a Serenity who looked straight into the upper corner of the room to avoid eye contact, Dale turned to Opal.
“So how have sales been? Have the signs been working.”
“We’re working hard Dale, so you don’t have anything to worry about!” Opal’s over the top excitement caught Dale off guard. What caught him even more off guard was the flying hug that came out of nowhere from Allie.
“WHAT THE HELL?!” None of the usual anger was in this shout, this scream was pure shock and fear.
“Don’t worry Dale, we’ll make things better, I promise!”
“WHY ARE YA’ HUGGING ME?!”
“Because I know you need it!” Allie’s nose twitched with a sniff. “Hey wait a minute, why don’t you smell?” Dale was left in a state of befuddled desperation, not knowing which direction to go with his emotions at this weird conundrum. Randy sighed as he tilted his hat down to cover his face.
“Guess the cat’s out of the bag. They know about where you sleep, Dale.” Dale broke his gaze from Allie to shoot Randy a puzzled look.
“My car? What about it?”
We’ll do what we can, Dale!” Opal said with a sorrowful expression. “We’ll make this shop successful, I promise!”
“What’re ya’ blabberin’ about?! What’s wrong with the shop?! And would ya’ stop hugging me?!” Slowly, Serenity’s gears began to turn in her head.
“Wait a minute….Dale, why are you sleeping in your car?”
“Saves on rent.”
“Can you afford an apartment?”
“Of course. I’m not gonna get one though so I can have more money to put into the shop.” All three girls looked at him in bewilderment. Allie slowly let go of her hug.
“So…” she began, “You don’t smell because…”
“I used Randy’s shower?” He raised an eyebrow in her direction, as if she was the crazy one here.
“But, wait…” Opal began, looking ever baffled at the situation, trying to find the right words for this, “Why don’t you at least sleep on Randy’s couch or something? I’m sure he’s offered.”
“I have,” Randy cut in, sounding defeated, “But he says it would be rude to sleep on someone’s couch when they don’t have to.”
“When they don’t…?!” The gears in Serenity’s head were trying to work overtime, until they eventually stopped. She looked at Randy, her face and voice matching his defeated tone from earlier, “So that’s what you meant by its too embarrassing.”
“What’s too embarrassing?!” Dale was getting more and more confused.
“Dummy.” Allie said while looking to the side.
“So dumb…” Opal followed suit, looking towards the ground.
“You dumbass!” Serenity screamed, glaring directly at him.
Today at work was everyone but Dale, who was taking some time off to find an apartment (after several days of yelling and nagging by everyone else). It was a decently busy day, and with Dale gone everyone had to step up a little bit to keep things running smoothly. Randy was at the cash register, checking out old Millie. He let out a long sigh as he handed her the change. She couldn’t help but notice.
“What’s wrong, son? Sad your boyfriend isn’t here?”
“You know I don’t like those comments Millie,” Replied an annoyed Randy. “He hasn’t been in for over a week now, and frankly it’s been a bit boring.”
“Oh, why’s that?”
“Without him to tease, I’m just working a regular job.” Randy pouted as he slumped his head.
“Oh, my sweet dear boy. You really are love-struck with Dale, aren’t you?”
“Look around you, child. You currently have four employees, all of which are ripe for the teasing.” Randy raised a curious eyebrow.
“Alright, I’m intrigued. Do you have any ideas in mind?”
Millie grinned, “Plenty…” They both looked around. Allie and Kyle were behind the bar, with two customers sitting and enjoying some tea. Opal had just brought over a third customer, as she explained to him the bar and how he can try some tea first before he buys any. Millie gave a devilish smile.
“Follow me, young one…” Millie and Randy made their way over to the tea bar, as Allie greeted them both with her usual sunshine filled voice.
“So why are you back here Millie? Want more tea?”
“Yes dearie, one more cup for the road,” she said as she sat down. She looked over at Kyle, who was drying some dishes. “Boy, it sure must be nice to work at a place like this, young man!”
“It’s pretty good,” Kyle said, never lifting his head, or even cracking a smile.
“I can only imagine! A spry young lad like yourself, working with three lovely young ladies you can ogle all day!” Kyle stopped his drying. Allie stopped her tea making. Opal stopped from heading back to her post. Serenity opened the door from the back room, shooting Kyle a wide eyed death stare.
“Oh, I, uh…” Kyle’s voice increased a few octaves, never breaking eye contact with the cup he was supposed to be drying. Randy caught on, and smiled widely himself.
“Yeah, I’ve been wondering Kyle, who do you like working with the best? For business purposes, of course.”
“Oh yes,” Millie added on, “And which one would you consider the prettiest?” Kyle looked like a deer caught in the headlights. All three girls were now flashing him looks, all of which Kyle could feel in his soul. The other patrons at the bar were sipping their tea in enjoyment of the entertainment.
“I, uhh….I don’t know if I should be answering that.”
“Nonsense!” Randy exclaimed, “It’s so I know how to pair people better during work hours! It’s nice to know who you work best with! Tell us, Kyle, who do you have the best chemistry with?” The bar patrons decided to join in.
“Tell us, Kyle.”
“Who’s it gonna be, Kyle?”
“I don’t even know you people!”
The fun was cut off with Serenity slapping her hand on the tea bar, next to Randy and Millie. She had her eyes closed, seemingly trying to hold in her fury. “I don’t think this is work appropriate, Randy.”
“How so?” His seemingly innocent question made Serenity’s eyelids shoot straight up as she glared directly at him and his stupid smile.
“Because it doesn’t even matter who Kyle likes!”
“Wait what?” Kyle seemed more hurt than confused as he finally turned around.
“Yeah!” Allie chimed in, as if hoping to change the patron’s opinions, “Kyle’s too young for this, he probably doesn’t even know about these things!”
“Allie, I’m 18…”
“And furthermore,” Opal was next to land the verbal body shots, “none of us would even care! He’s given me the most looks out of anyone, but I’ve never said a thing about it!”
“I did what now?!” Kyle looked as if he wanted to hide, but had nowhere to go. Millie seemed proud of herself.
“Come again…?” Serenity seemed to take some offense to Opal’s comment. “Hun, I’m pretty sure I get the most eyeballs out of anyone in this store, Kyle AND Dale included.” Opal scoffed.
“They were probably looking to make sure you didn’t scowl at them.” Serenity did not take kindly to Opal’s jab.
“Well, you two can talk about all of the eyeballs that you want,” Allie seemed strangely determined for some reason, “feel free to fight over Kyle’s pervy gaze all you wish! But I can go ahead and claim Dale’s heart.” Opal and Serenity turned towards her in a fury.
“Come again, little girl?!”
“That’s right, so you two can fight over Kyle, as Dale will already be taken.”
“Oh, you’re not passing those scraps off to me!” Serenity interjected.
“Thanks but no thanks, you’re closer in age to him, he’s all yours!” Opal piled on.
“Uhh, girls?” Randy interjected. In unison they all screamed,
Randy simply pointed a finger, the girls’ eyes followed it to a dejected Kyle standing in the corner, drying the ever so dry cup, with a thousand yard stare. All the girls looked absolutely horrified, as they ran over to him.
“Oh my gosh Kyle, I’m so sorry!” Allie went up and hugged him.
“We took it too far!” Opal joined in on the hug.
“That was so rude of us!” Even Serenity joined in on the group hug. The three customers all looked at Kyle, who was now smothered by their bodies and chests, and felt a strong tinge of envy. Randy turned to look at them.
“I trust you gentlemen will be back?” All three nodded.