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The Lucky Fan

1

The Other Option

1312

When I closed the office door, Boss's sharp eyes met mine. I winced inwardly. Here we go again, Lara.

 

"How many more days are you planning to mess up for me?"His voice was cold. His gaze pierced through me. "How many more stupid things are you going to do to annoy me even more?"

 

I just lowered my head. I clenched my apron as my embarrassment washed over me. I couldn't give him an answer because what could I possibly say? I didn't mean to spill soup on our customers for three consecutive days—yes, I admit I'm being dumb.

 

"One more foolishness, Lara. Just one more and I'll fire you—"

 

My throat went dry, anxiety fluttering in my chest. I cut in before he could continue, "Boss, I assure you, this won't happen again." I held up my right hand as if making a pledge. "I promise."

 

I’m desperate to keep this job. My dad just passed away last month because of that fucking COVID-19. I've used up all my savings because of him. We were quarantined too. The government aid we received . On top of that, my sibling needs data connection for their online classes.

 

I'm pretty broke, to the extent where I'm borrowing money just to put food on the table for both my sibling and me. I don't have anyone to ask for help. We’re on our own now. Our parents are both gone. Our relatives are in the province, barely making ends meet themselves.

 

I really, really need this job.

 

"I don't need a fucking promise," Boss's cold voice continued. "I need you to just do it! I'm tired of having my day ruined because of your stupidity, so please, take your job seriously. I'm paying you right, I hope you return the favor with your work."

 

I forced a smile while swallowing the little pride I had left. Turning my head repeatedly in embarrassment.

 

"Could you please go now before you add to my already terrible day?" Boss's irritation was palpable as he settled into his swivel chair, his focus shifting to his laptop.

 

Feeling small, I left his office. This had already happened three times this week.

 

"Hey, you little witch!" Badette tapped my shoulder. She's my closest friend at work. We both applied at Montero Restaurant as waitresses. We were both hired too.

 

"You need to step up your serving game. Your mind is always somewhere else," she advised with a smirk.

 

I leaned my back against the wall, letting out a sigh. I can't even deny my own stupidity. Because it's true. I'm scatterbrained. I'm dumb. I'm an idiot.

 

"Sir Rustan was really over the top, did you know we could hear what he said to you earlier?"

 

I looked at her, just shrugged. There's no point in acting surprised anymore. And really, why bother? I'm already well aware of the words he threw at me.

 

"He's like, super good-looking, but he's got these 'time of the month' tantrums—seriously! If I were his girlfriend, he'd be on his best behavior just because of how pretty I am!" Badette continued.

 

"As if he'd even consider you!" Shobe, the cheeky janitress, chimed in. Apparently, she's been eavesdropping on us. "His girlfriend is drop-dead gorgeous."

 

"Hey, news flash, they've broken up!" Badette flipped her hair dramatically, despite its short length. "I did some FB stalking last night. His relationship status is single now!"

 

"What a jerk.", I chuckled.

 

"Well, why not, right? I'm single, he's single," Badette retorted with a mischievous grin. "It's a match made in heaven! Literally!"

 

"Here, take this," Shobe handed something to Badette. "Give yourself a good whack on the head."

 

"Hey, you're nuts, huh!" Shobe ran inside, immediately chased by Badette. Meanwhile, I could only laugh. They're like cats and dogs, really.

 

I slung my bag over my shoulder. I followed that with securing the lock of my locker. Now I was just wearing a plain t-shirt and loose denim jeans that I got from a thrift store.

 

Just as I was about to leave, I was taken aback by Senior Cook Kuya* Peter standing in my way. He was still in his uniform. I think only he and I were left in the restaurant.

 

*Kuya is a respectful title given to older male relatives or non-relatives.

 

"Dear, promise me you'll get some early rest when you're home. Your mind's all over the place at work," he sighed before handing me a brown envelope. He sort of shoved it into my hands, so I had no choice but to accept it.

 

"We all chipped in, so you should be covered for both you and your sibling's meals this week. No need to stress over it."

 

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I fought to swallow the lump in my throat. Alongside the warmth spreading through my chest.

 

"Get your sibling some decent meals. And make sure you get enough sleep so you're not all over the place at work, okay?"

 

"T-Thank you..." I couldn't hold back the sob any longer. My lips trembled as I managed a shaky smile, my tear-filled eyes fixed on Kuya Peter. In his eyes, I caught a glimmer of a tear as well. He quickly brushed it away.

 

"Alright, that's enough. This kid really… Don't worry, we're family here. And in a family, we look out for each other."

 

He smiled at me. "Alright, dear, it's getting late. You should head home now."

 

Tears still flowed warmly as I bid him goodbye. I kept thanking him without pause. He had no idea how much they've helped me now. It's been an immense help. A huge one.

 

This is one of the reasons why losing this job is not an option. This place is like family to me. They understand my struggles. They're always there to support me.

 

If I were to get fired from this job, I wouldn't know what to do.

 

"Oh, why is my baby crying?" My boyfriend greeted me as soon as I arrived.

 

"Nothing," I smiled at him.

 

He's completely unaware of the challenges I'm dealing with. He doesn't know about the burdens I'm carrying. I can't bring myself to share it with him. It's not easy. I'm embarrassed. I fear he might feel sorry for me instead of truly loving me. I'm worried that in the end, all he'll have for me is pity, not love. My pride is almost gone. There's just a bit left, and maybe it's not a bad idea to leave even a tiny bit for myself.

 

Besides, not much will change if I open up to him. He's going through his own struggles. He's still studying Nursing. His parents are making ends meet for him. I wish he could just focus on his studies without any worries. Even if I could at least help him with that.

 

"Are you sure?" He persisted. His concern was evident in his eyes.

 

I smiled, messing with his hair. "Yes," I said before taking his hand. He pouted, playfully ready to argue, but he couldn't do anything as I pulled him towards the jeepney terminal.

 

When we passed the corner full of idle bystanders who did nothing but catcall, Enrique left me. I entered our house with a sense of happiness. I was sure Beatrice would be delighted with the roasted chicken and menudo that I bought from Aling Pacita's eatery.

 

As I opened the door, I anticipated seeing Bea's smiling face, but what met my gaze was entirely different.

 

Eyes filled with fear. She stared at me as if silently pleading for help.

 

"Ate..." Her small voice trembled.

 

My throat went dry as my eyes landed on the person who emerged from our kitchen. A man about my age, his arms adorned with tattoos, a lip piercing in place.

 

Fino.

 

The person my father owed a significant debt to. A really large debt. "What are you doing here? Haven't I told you I can't pay you yet?" I responded irritably.

 

He licked his upper lip, which was obviously swollen before he came to our house. This wasn't surprising to me because even Dad himself warned us not to get involved with him. This guy is a drug addict, just like Dad.

 

"I've got a proposal for you to settle the debt," he smirked, drawing closer. I instinctively took a step back.

 

But it was too late when my back hit the closed door. I couldn't do anything as Fino grabbed my arms. I could already smell the smoke on his body. His lips pressed against my ear.

 

His voice was husky as he whispered, "Make videos for me."

 

I struggled. "What—what?!"

 

"Be a porn star. We'll upload them on Pornhub. I heard you can make good money there."

 

He licked the edge of my ear, prompting me to push him away. He just laughed while watching me.

 

Me? He wants me to become a porn star?

 

Is he being serious?

 

What the fuck?

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