Chapter: 01

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"And here's a strawberry milkshake for the sweet girl!" Little giggles followed as I put the glass down. The diner was a little less crowded compared to other Friday evenings.

"Thank you, Elena." I bent down to her height and she placed her lips on my cheek. This was our usual. Almost a few months ago she had walked in with Stacey, her babysitter. She was kind of bummed because apparently some kids at her school had been mean to her.

Some kids can be really cruel. The other night I was serving this table and a little boy after a brief observation had stated that I was dumb because all blondes are supposedly dumb. I had kept my mouth shut and walked away, knowing very well that nothing decent would have come out of it.

Well as I was saying, back then I had cheered her up with a milkshake on the house and at the end of the day she had officiated that we were best friends. Making friends can be so easy for children!

"You're welcome, sweetheart." I kissed her cheek causing her to grin widely.

"I am sure Ava comes here mostly to see you. Milkshakes are just an excuse." Stacey smiled at me, the skin at the corner of her eyes wrinkling with the action. Ava had been visiting the Treats for almost a year now and I had never seen her with her parents or family. I wouldn't lie that I had not been a little curious but I didn't like my nose where it didn't belong.

"If it's so, I am glad. I love seeing her." I passed Stacey a smile and lightly ruffled Ava's hair before excusing myself from there. Walking inside the kitchen I put the tray down, a smile tugging at my mouth from the latest conversation I had with that sweet kid which was a rare occurrence considering the number of unpleasant customers we had to deal with on a daily basis.

It however,  turned into a frown as soon as the latest concerns came swimming back to my mind.

My Dad's health, let's say, had been better than this and the treatments had been charging a hefty price. After the blockage in his heart was diagnosed, he couldn't continue with his job and our savings were being sizeably drained out. A surgery was required to be performed and it would be expensive to say the least. Though Dad had been trying to hide it from us but it didn't get past us that all that had left him feeling helpless. I pressed my fingers against my forehead and shut my eyes.

"Elena." I looked up, surprised that I hadn't noticed Olivia walk in.

"Liv, hey!" I tried forcing a small smile which at best came out as a grimace. Balancing emotions was never a strong pursuit of mine. Putting on a facade and smiling when I got matters pressing me was out of my abilities.

Liv exhaled. "You are worrying too much!" Concern reflected in her voice. Olivia had been my best friend from primary school and we had been inseparable ever since. She had been there for my first breakup, she had consoled me after I had embarrassed myself in front of the whole class and the list went on.

"I can't help it. Things are not the best and my income is hardly helping." Saying it out loud only added to the weight of the predicament I was in.

"I know but stressing this much can't be good for you! You're already working two jobs." I worked as an HR executive at Sailspace and I took up serving at Treats as my second job. My current financial conditions had me in this predicament.

"You don't understand!" It wasn't loud but dismissive? Yes. I meant it. She was an event manager and quite successful might I add. Her parents weren't dependent on her either. Don't get me wrong, I was happy that she was in a good place in her life but she wouldn't completely understand how stressful things currently were for me.

"Yeah I don't! Nobody understands what it's like unless they are in your shoes but what I understand is that you're working your ass off. You're doing your best!" She was almost shouting and I was grateful that the diner was almost empty.

"No I'm not. I shouldn't have left my last job." I spoke, gently hitting the edge of the counter with my foot. Before Treats, I worked as a bartender in a club where I was making much more than this.

"That wasn't an option. How could you have possibly worked under that perverted guy?" She sounded shocked that I was at all considering it. A few weeks back I wouldn't have actually. Workplace harassment by a sleazy perverted boss— the same old thing.

Pressing my lips in a tight line, I ran my hand through the length of my hair. I had applied to a number of firms, hoping I could switch to a better paying job but I was yet to hear back from them. "I don't know Liv, I just-" I was cut off by a squeaky voice.

"Elena? Are you sad?" Ava stood there , looking up at me with her bright doey eyes. I sighed before a small yet genuine smile touched my lips. I crouched down in front of her.

"Maybe." I shrugged.

"Don't be sad. Do you want candy ?" The corners of her lips dipped down in distress. I smiled and shook my head at her suggestion.

"Although, I would very much want a hug." She stuck her arms out towards me eagerly. Wrapping her hands around my neck, she kissed my cheek before pulling back and smiling at me. "Are you happy now?" Her eyes shone hopefully which had me nodding at once.

"I am. See, I'm smiling." I flicked her nose causing a small giggle to escape her lips. She was precious. For a child her age to care so much was rare.

"Ava, we need to go home now ." Stacey, who had been standing behind her, said.

"Okay." She looked back at me and waved.

"Bye,Elena." I smiled at her.

"Bye, Ava." The bell rang as Stacey and Ava left the diner.

"The kid is so sweet!" Liv smiled.

"She is. Kids have got such simple lives. Candy is the solution to all their problems." I chuckled and Liv joined before we fell into a comfortable silence.

She brought her hand forward and encouraged me. "You are applying for the jobs. I know you're going to land one."

"Hope so."

* * * * *

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