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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2192360
New? Who knew? What's new? Who knew? All Words: 998
"I was only trying something new!" Savita pleaded.

"You are NOT here to try something new," Mrs. Rao scolded her. "You are here to cook dishes customers order as per the recipe I have given you for the dish. Now, take this back to your cooking station. I'll go and give the customer a free drink to make up for the extra time she has to wait while you start over. And the cost of the free drink comes out of your pay. Something new, indeed!"

It was not the onions that were making Savita cry, but it was a relief that the recipe Mrs. Rao had given her included onions, so that she didn't have to explain her tears to her colleagues. In fact, Binu helpfully told Savita to cut the onions under water, since they were causing her to sniff so much.

Mrs. Rao stormed back into the kitchen.

"I've given her the drink, but she says she's in a hurry. She'll eat whatever you've cooked up. LOOK at this dish. Nothing at all like the photo in the menu! Don't you know that people order this dish looking at that photo? Something new! My goodness!"

So saying, Mrs. Rao went out of the kitchen again -- more slowly this time, carefully holding the tray with the offending dish placed on it.

Binu came over to Savita's cooking station. "So that's why you were crying. I was wondering how onions could've done that to one of us."

Savita gave him a weak little smile. "Yeah, we're experts on food -- onions, hot masala powder, great fumes .... we know the way to survive these things!"

"But we don't know how to survive a grumpy boss?"

"Binu, shhhh ..." Savita admonished. "She could be back here any moment. Or one of the others could tell her you called her a grumpy boss."

"What's that? Don't talk so softly, I can't hear."

"I'm not going to say it loudly, not here."

"Well, how about somewhere else then, after work?"

"What?" She was startled.

"Savita, you can't talk here. Let's go somewhere after work and you can talk to your heart's content."

"Are you asking me on a date?"


The connecting door swung open, Mrs. Rao marched in, Binu dashed back to his own cooking station and Savita hastily resumed the chopping of the onions, forgetting that she didn't have to make the revised dish any more.

"That's one drink AND one dish coming out of your pay, young lady," Mrs. Rao informed her.

"What?" Savita stammered. "Did -- did -- she --"

"She refused to pay for it," Mrs. Rao threw over her shoulder as she marched back out.

Hardly had the connecting door swung shut behind her, than Binu was back at Savita's elbow.

"Before you can start sniffing again -- how about that date?"

"Okay, I suppose," she replied.



They finished their shift after the last of the late lunchers had left, and before the office goers on tea break had started entering.

"Where shall we go?" Binu asked, as she climbed on his motorbike behind him. "Your helmet on firmly? Hold tight now. You haven't said where to."

In spite of herself, she giggled. "You haven't given me a chance to speak after you asked. Well, to start with, let's get out of here."

"Out of here. Your wish is my command."

They wove out of the parking lot.

"Right," he said. "We're out of there. Now, where to? And are you hungry?"

"It takes me time to get hungry after I finish my shift," she replied. "Surrounded by food, cooking smell ... "

"I hear you. Well, let's just hit the road for a while, shall we, then?"

They drove for half an hour, during the course of which both of them entertained themselves singing 'On the Street where You live' loudly and tunelessly.

Savita was giggling helplessly by the time they disembarked in the parking lot of a small cafe. "Don't join a band," she said to Binu. "Not as lead singer, anyway."

"I won't if you don't," he replied, opening the door for her and following her in.

It was a pleasant place. Neither of them had visited before, and Savita decided to try the chef's surprise.

Chef's surprise turned into customer's surprise as she ate.

"Binu," she whispered, putting her fork down. "Binu ..."

"Something wrong?" He was frowning at the look on her face. "What is it?"

"Binu, this is exactly the dish I cooked up for that customer, when I was trying something new."

"What?" He leaned over and helped himself with his spoon. "By golly, it's good!"

"I'm glad you think so," said a voice from behind him. "I'm Gauri, by the way, I own this place."

"And she owns this dish," Binu blurted out.


"This dish," Binu said, ignoring Savita's gesticulations. "Where did you get the idea from?"

"What did you say?" Gauri demanded. "Why did you say she owns the dish? What does he mean?' She turned to Savita.

Hesitatingly, Savita told Gauri the story of her day.

By the end of it, Gauri was smiling. "You won't have that drink or that dish taken out of your pay," she said. "Because I'll be paying you your next salary. I loved it, but that Mrs. Rao riled me up so much, grumbling about customers being in a hurry and so on, I just walked out of there once I'd eaten. I was going to offer to pay for the drink, too, actually, before she started muttering at me. I came back here, put 'chef's surprise' on the board, and tried it out myself. Would love to have more original stuff from you."

Savita was speechless.

"Well?" Binu asked. "Are you going to take her up on the job offer?"

"Yes ..." Savita managed to say.

"Excellent," Binu replied. "Then I can formally ask you to marry me. We're not allowed to marry those who work in the same establishment, but now that you're moving here ..."

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