You walked from table to table, scribbling down orders on your notepad before giving them to the head chef to fill, constantly on the move as the evening progressed in the small restaurant you worked in. Despite its relatively shady location in one of the less desirable neighborhoods of New York, everyone loved the welcoming feeling that your workplace brought.
You were pleasant with everyone who came in, a kind smile given to a young couple, a quick conversation with one of the regulars, reassuring a small child who had spilled her drink that it was really no problem, the little things that seemed to matter. Being fresh out of college, this job seemed like a godsend, the paycheck keeping you afloat and then some as you searched for your dream job, and your way of thanking the owners would be to treat the customers with respect and kindness.
Your section of the restaurant had a slight lull, and you went to the kitchen to talk with Kensi, a fellow waitress and one of your good friends.
"Don't look now sugar, but this new guy looks like trouble," the older woman cautioned, but you turned to look anyways. The man who had just entered the restaurant was tall, almost abnormally so, wearing a tan trench coat and a trailing, frayed scarf. Ashy hair fell over violet eyes, and his mere presence cause most of the conversation to stop for a moment before restarting when the other occupants realized that the intimidating man had noticed.
You watched the man follow one of the other staff members to his table
in your section. Oh goodness, you thought, I better not screw up this man's order, or else he might kill me!
"That's some tough luck you got there sugar. Well, you better get going, don't want to keep him waiting," Kensi said before patting you on the back and heading off to tend to her own tables. You took a deep breath and walked over to the man.
"Hello! I'm ______, and I'll be your server today!" You said as cheerfully as you could. The man looked up and smiled in a way that caused shivers to run down your spine. "W-what would you like to drink?"
"Hallo! Um, yes, I would like some vodka please," the man responded after turning his attention back to the menu. You swallowed nervously, the owners refused to serve alcohol to avoid attracting the wrong kind of people and to keep the restaurant family-friendly.
"I'm sorry sir, but we don't serve alcohol here," you said, trying to keep your facial muscles under control before they betrayed just how scared you were.
The man looked up, obviously surprised, the expression mirroring one that a small child denied their favorite treat might possess. "You do not? All right then, I shall have water."
You nodded quickly, scribbling down the request. "Anything to eat just yet?"
"Nyet, I am good for now." The man said, dismissive and distracted by a train of thought. You turned on your heel and made a beeline for the drinks. Kensi stood there waiting for you.
"Sugar, what's wrong? You look like he tried to kill you," she asked, voice tinted with concern.
"He asked for vodka, Kensi. Vodka. I thought for sure he was going to flip out when I said we didn't have any!" you blabbed, unused to people requesting such a strong drink because your restaurant was infamous for not serving liquor. You normally never gossiped but you needed at least one person to understand just how much that man scared you!
"Oh, _____. What did he end up ordering?" a sympathetic Kensi asked.
"Water. I'm going to give it to him now," you replied, quickly filling a glass and walking back to the table.
The man wasn't looking at his menu anymore, instead he was watching the oblivious young couple as they laughed and chatted, his expression unreadable. But one look at his eyes- they were the windows to the soul- showed such a deep amount of sadness and longing it made you freeze for just a second before continuing over to the table and placing the drink before the man.
"Oh, thank you," the man said, the words sounding sad and distant, as if he was lost in his own little world.
You waited for a moment, but receiving no other response, you decided to say something, "Will anybody be joining you tonight?"
The man's body went rigid, the grip on his glass tightening to the point where it almost broke, his eyes betraying vast amounts of emotion: anger, pain, sorrow, but the most noticeable of them all being loneliness. "Nyet, I shall be dining alone tonight."
You hesitated, running time tables through your head and thinking why not? "I get off shift in a little bit. If you'll just hang around for a few more minutes, I can sit with you if you'd like."
"That is very kind of you to offer. I have noticed that you are nervous around me, da?"
"A bit," you answered honestly, "but still. Just let me okay it with my boss and I'll be right back."
"All right," the man said, lifting the glass and taking a sip of the water.
You walked to your boss's office. Mr. Jameson looked up from his vast amounts of paperwork before smiling at you, "Ah, ______, what can I do for you?"
"I need to get off shift early tonight. There is a new customer who seems very lonely and I would like to keep him company."
"Of course! You have such a big heart _____, you are free to go." You smiled and thanked Mr. Jameson profusely before hanging up your apron and walking back to the man's table, sliding into the seat opposite of him.
"So, what's your name?" you asked, and for the first time you noticed how handsome the strange man really was.
"I am Ivan Braginski. May I ask you a question?" Ah. So that's where his accent came from. He was undeniably Russian.
"Of course! Go right ahead!"
"You are scared of me, da? So why offer to keep me company?" Poor Ivan looked so confused, like he couldn't grasp the concept that someone would offer to do something like that for him.
"No one deserves to be alone on a Saturday night, and you looked so lonely, how could I not?" you answered.
"I do not know. You left work early to talk with me. What would you like to know?"
And so the conversation began.