DISCLAIMER: This is an Otalia-Uber fiction. The characters in this story portrays the physical and some personality attributes of the characters Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera from Guiding Light but they belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Blue for her great beta-ing skills!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By damnation



Russell was counting the number of covers that they did that day in the small yard behind Taters but his heart was not in it. When he lost count for the third time, he threw the stack of dockets onto the ground, muttering furiously under his breath, wondering where Ramsey was and why it was taking him this long to procure some alcohol from the bottleshop just down the road. Tammy, the single long standing waitress-slash-restaurant supervisor of Taters, approached him cautiously from behind.

"Sorry to bother you, Russell, but there's a man here looking for you. Says it's very important. He told me to pass you this," Tammy said nervously, holding out a slip of business card.

Russell looked up at Tammy and bit back his frustration. This had nothing to do with the poor woman. He snatched the card from Tammy wordlessly and gave her a nod. Knowing better than to linger and risk being on the receiving end of her boss' temper, Tammy scurried away as quickly as she could.

In the year and a half that she had been at Taters, Tammy had learnt to read her boss' mood. Beneath all that bristle, there resided a genuinely good fellow, even if Russell tried to keep him hidden. It was that and the fact that Russell had given her a job when no one else would once they learnt that she had no work experience in the hospitality industry at all that kept Tammy at Taters.

After the initial month of hanging in there despite Russell railing at her each time she made a mistake, the working environment took a turn for the better. Once Russell saw that she wasn't one to throw in the towel the first moment she got shouted at for something that she had done wrong, he ceased picking on her and let her be.

Tammy learnt the ropes of being a floor staff quickly and quite honestly excelled in it. She had a sweet disposition and an unassuming air about her. All the patrons loved her and all the chefs did not mind her. The only thing that gave her a cause for headache was to get another service staff to stay. And they also needed to hire a kitchenhand. Business was booming at Taters and it was no longer viable for the floor staff to do the dishes on top of service.

Russell had a well-known temper and an infuriating arrogance to match. In the past fortnight alone, they had lost three girls. Tammy sighed as she once again sifted through the resumes that she had received for the position and considered calling all of them to come in, one after the other, to see if any of them had any staying power.

Long, tapered fingers entered her sight, reminding her of their owner's existence. She looked up hurriedly and flashed the dashing man who looked to be in his early forties an amicable smile. "I've given Russell your card, Mister," Tammy said pleasantly. "I'm sure he'll be out soon... he's in the middle of some-"

"That's quite all right. Thank you," the man said with a toothy smile. "And the name's Richardson. Edwin Richardson."

Tammy was about to say something but she felt the looming presence of her boss behind her and clamped her mouth shut.

"Yes?" Russell's voice was tight, gruff.

"Mister Russell!" Edwin greeted, extending an arm. "Thank you for seeing me. I was wondering if I could have a second of your time?"

Russell looked at the man in his flashy suit and took an instant dislike towards him. But his curiosity was piqued; the business card stated that the man worked for Canning & Cameron, a big food franchise. Russell secretly hoped that the man had a proposition for him so that he could throw it back in his face. That would make his day better. He motioned for the man to sit down and joined him at one of the empty tables in the now shut restaurant.

Tammy followed her boss and the stranger with her eyes but lost interest quickly when their voices became muffled. She blew out a breath and finished cleaning up the coffee machine. The floors still had to be swept.

Moments later, Tammy looked up when Russell's chair scraped along the floor. He face looked thunder black and Tammy imagined that she could see the artery in his neck pulsing. She strained to hear what was going on and was not disappointed.

"Thanks but no thanks. And don't think I can't pick out a threat when I hear one, veiled or not," Russell informed the man who was still sitting down.

"Now, Mister Russell, I wouldn't be so quick to jum-"

"And don't you be telling me what I should or shouldn't do," Russell informed Edwin. "Get out. We're closed." With that, Russell spun on his heels and disappeared into the kitchen.

Tammy could see that the man looked a little embarrassed and a lot angry. He adjusted his tie and stood up. By the time his eyes met hers, however, the anger and embarrassment were gone. "Have a good night, young lady," he said with an asinine smile.

"I think you heard my boss," Tammy said stiffly. If Russell didn't like the man, then neither did she. In the short time that she had been working for Russell, she had become fiercely loyal to him. "We're closed."

"And if I were to stoop as low as you and your boss, I would say I fucking heard you. But seeing that I'm not, I'll just see myself out." He gave Tammy a condescending nod before exiting Taters. Tammy let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding and went to lock the door, just in case.

She wondered what all that was about.



Frances stirred the pot one last time and glanced at the clock. She wasn't sure what time her father was going to be home but she had made a huge pot of stew in anticipation of his return. She had a sudden craving for her mother's stew today and decided to make it. Marie used to make a big pot of it and they would have it whenever they were hungry.

She hadn't seen the angry woman all day after the incident, and for that she was glad. She hadn't been able to think about much else the entire day; the woman's flashing eyes kept appearing in her mind's eye and she would alternate between feeling guilty to amused and back to guilty for feeling amused.

Frances stepped out of the kitchen when she heard the key turning in the lock. "Hey Dad."

"Huh." Russell looked surprised to see her still up. He had been drinking and he knew that she didn't like it when he did so he was hoping that she would be in bed by the time he got home. Then his nose twitched. "Something smells good," he said. Indeed, the smell was clearing his alcoholic haze a little.

"I made stew. Are you hungry?"

Before he could answer her, Frances went back into the kitchen and began ladling out the stew on some jasmine rice. Russell allowed a ghost of a smile to seep through his stern countenance and followed his daughter into the kitchen. Marie used to do that--push plates of food before him regardless of whether he had already eaten.

He sat down at the stout dining table and suddenly felt out of place. He hadn't spent much time in the kitchen since Marie passed. Even though--or perhaps because of the fact that he was a chef by trade, the kitchen at home was Marie's territory. Sitting there, looking at the slender figure of his daughter from behind... he could almost pretend that Marie was still here. Then Frances turned around and his illusion shattered into a million pieces.

"Here," she said, oblivious to the pain lancing through him. "Made it just like Mum used to. Well maybe not exactly, but...." she trailed off, shocked by the wetness on her father's cheeks. "Dad?"

"I-" Russell quickly wiped his eyes. "Thank you. It smells lovely."

They dug into the stew wordlessly after that, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Then Frances broke the silence with a question. "Is there someone else living here? A woman?" She wasn't sure if her father was seeing anyone after....

"Ah, yes. I forgot to tell you about Kristen."

Kristen. Frances tried to push away the feeling of betrayal at her father's words. The man had the right to see other people; after all, he was only in his late forties! Nevertheless, it was still hard to envision and swallow. Her father loved her mother, was crazy about her even though they had been together for more than half of their lives. To have someone else take her place.... No! her mind shouted. No one would ever take her place!

"She's the other chef at Taters and she's renting the granny flat out back." Russell stopped talking when he saw the blank look on Frances' face. "What's wrong? Did something happen?"

Chef. Renting. Granny flat. A sense of relief rushed through Frances and she felt silly. "No, no. Um. We kinda had an altercation today while you were at work." Then, to be sure, she added rather fearfully, "She's not your girlfriend or anything, is she?"

Russell's eyes rounded, then he let out a rusty laugh. "Girlfriend? I'm too old to have girlfriends! That makes me sound like a paedophile!" Russell scratched his bearded chin in amusement.

"You know what I mean, Dad," Frances said as she rolled her eyes.

"Kristen would have a fit if she heard you," Russell continued as though he hadn't heard Frances. "She's very confident, astute. And an excellent chef."

"Sounds exactly like your type," Frances joked.

Russell shook his head as he took another bite of the stew. It wasn't Marie's stew, but it ran close. "My type is your mother. There could never be anyone else."

Frances bit back a sob at the simple words. She lowered her face and stabbed at her stew, her appetite suddenly gone. "It doesn't get easier, does it?" she murmured softly. And even though she did not elaborate her words, Russell knew exactly what Frances was referring to.

"No, it doesn't. I don't expect it ever will."



Nell Hutchins waved at the familiar figure crossing the street. She was into her third cup of cappuccino at Bad Manors and was wondering when her friend was going to show.

"Hey you," Frances greeted her friend, leaning over to place a kiss on Nell's cheek. "Sorry, the medical check up took forever," she explained. "I'm starving!"

"How's your Dad these days, Darl? You doing all right living back there with him?"

Frances shrugged. "It's okay, I guess. We don't talk much."

Living in that house again with constant reminders of her Mum was hard. Even though her Dad had taken away all the photographs of her, Frances could still imagine seeing her mother standing on the landing with a hand on her hip, sitting on the couch folding laundry, or stirring something at the stove; it was the main reason why she had dreaded her trip back.

As for the other reasons.... Mainly, there was guilt. Guilt at leaving her father to his own devices. She was not proud of that but in her own defense, she could not stay and see him destroy himself with his drinking.

"I heard Taters is looking for staff. I met Alison last week and she said she walked out. Says your Dad's an arsehole."

Frances frowned but she knew first hand how bad her father's temper could get, so she let the comment slide. "I'm sure they'll find someone else more suited for the position," Frances said diplomatically.

Her parents had bought Taters shortly before Marie left them. Frances had taken off before the restaurant was open; in all honesty, she had her doubts as to whether it would ever be open. She was glad that her father had picked himself up to do that at least.

"Maybe you could go help out while you're here," Nell suggested. "Alison's been telling anyone who would listen to stay away from Taters, that the food's bad." Nell gave her friend a sympathetic look.

"What? What a fucking bitch!" Frances said, her voice raising. It was one thing to bitch about her Dad's reowned temper and another to blemish the quality of Taters' food... which... she had yet to try herself but that was besides the point.

"Sorry Darl. I told her that if she couldn't handle the heat, to stay out of the kitchen--or, in this case, the line of your Dad's fire. Told anyone who would listen too, that the food's great, and everyone should know that chefs have God complexes. Bitchy waitresses who've just been fired, on the other hand...."

Frances felt her anger dissipate and chuckled at Nell's words. "Thanks." She quickly placed her order then turned back to her friend. "God complex, huh?" At Nell's nod, she wrinkled her nose and grinned. "That he sure has."

Taters was bustling when she dropped by the establishment on her way home. A quick glance at her wrist watch told her that it was dinnertime. Plenty of hungry people to feed. She felt a little better knowing that the popularity of the place hadn't gone down despite Alison badmouthing it.

"Hi there! If you could grab yourself a seat, I'll be with you as soon as I can!" A cheery voice greeted her.

Frances looked at a slightly flustered looking redhead and responded with a smile and a nod. She grabbed a menu and made her way to the beer garden that was to the far right of the restaurant. The beer garden was separated from the small yard behind the kitchen by a thatch fence but it looked like a whole different world to the cluttered little yard.

Taters wasn't a big place. Indoors, it held two large oblong tables that were made out of heavy oak doors and two comfortable looking couches. The beer garden held two four-seater and two two-seater tables. Frances spied an empty two-seater table and went to help clear it.

"You don't have to do that, hun," a woman behind her said.

"That's all right," Frances said over her shoulder. "I don't mind."

"Well then, thank you! We're a little short-handed around here these days."

Frances went to the kitchen with the few stacked up plates and cutlery. There, she noted that the bench around the dishwasher looked like a disaster area. Her father and Kristen were bent over their stations, hard at work. It took her but a second to make up her mind. She began rinsing some plates and stacking them on the tray to put through the dishwasher.

"Oh, now that's just too much!" the same waitress cried out when she spied Frances at the dishwasher. At her exclamation, the two chefs looked up from their work and Frances froze, unsure if she had crossed any boundaries.

Russell's expression softened when he saw his daughter. "It's okay, Tammy. That's my daughter, Frances," he said gruffly.

Tammy looked like a deer caught in headlights at the revelation. Frances gave her a dimpled smile and resumed what she was doing. "All right then. Well. I'll just get back to work then," she stuttered before hightailing out of the kitchen.

Frances snuck a look at the kitchen behind her and quickly looked away when the woman whom she had very recently emptied a pail of dirty water on looked up from her chopping board. She hoped to stay under the radar tonight.



"No, Dad, I really don't mind. And you don't have to pay me. I was happy to help."

"You get paid or you don't help," Russell answered gruffly. Frances rolled her eyes and pocketed the cash that her father had placed in front of her. She made a mental note to leave him some money before she left.

"Thanks then. And for the record, I didn't do it for money." When her father didn't answer her, Frances trudged on. "So, uh, Tammy said that you guys are short-handed?" she inquired casually. "I'm not busy till I leave.... I could help."

"I don't want to trouble you. It's your time off. We'll find someone soon."

Frances rolled her eyes again. "Well, until you find someone, I wouldn't mind earning some extra cash," she said, putting herself out there. If getting paid was the only way her father would accept her help, then she could play it his way. "I could come in before the dinner rush and stay till close."

She took his silence for consent and she went to the kitchen to put the kettle on boil. She peered out of the kitchen window when she caught movement in the granny flat across the lawn.

Kristen Black.

The woman, chef, tenant, was reticent at best. Whenever she spoke, it was either to say something monosyllabic or scathing. Frances could see how her father would get along with the woman. Personally, she found Kristen rude and bossy.

"If you can lean, you can clean," the woman had informed her dryly when Frances finished with the dishes and was standing to one side, looking for something else to help with.

Frances scowled at the memory and she slammed the kettle onto the stove with more force than necessary. Then she reached up on tiptoes for two mugs. She spied more movement across the lawn and saw the door to the granny flat open and close. Kristen had exited the flat and was coming towards the house. Soon enough, a knock sounded on the door just beside the sink. Frances went over to see what Kristen wanted.

"Oh, it's you," was the first thing the impudent woman said. Frances narrowed her eyes as she held the door with one hand.

"Yes?" she asked, injecting as much frost as she could into that one word.

Kristen caught sight of her employer and landlord behind Frances and addressed her next words to him. "Hot water's acting up again, Russell."

Frances felt her hackles rising. It was one thing to lash out at her when she dumped all that water on her by accident. She could even handle Kristen bossing her around at Taters; after all, a commercial kitchen was the chefs' domain. But here, in her home, in her Mum's kitchen....

"Excuse me, I'm standing right here and I'm asking the question so if you would look at me when you're answering, I would appreciate that," Frances said in a rush before she lost her nerve.

An elegant brow rose and Kristen scrutinized her. Then she repeated herself, word for word, but with her eyes on Frances.

"My name's Frances."

"I assume your last name's Russell too," Kristen said with a shrug. Kristen had a point and that pissed Frances off even more.

"To assume is to make an ass of you and me," Frances grinded out, feeling slightly foolish at uttering the first thing that came to her head. Now she was sure she would have lost any chance of gaining the woman's respect. She sounded like a sixteen-year-old when she said that.

"Is that right?" Kristen asked, trailing her eyes over Frances' features. Her voice had dropped an octave and it sent a tremor through Frances for reasons she could not pinpoint.

"I'll have a look at it, Kristen," Russell said from behind Frances, effectivly ending their conversation. He shot his daughter an amused look when he walked past her, his toolbox in tow.

Frances stomped her way back to the now whistling kettle and took it off the fire. Huffing loudly, she decided that a shower was in order--damn the tea!

Kristen peered over Russell's shoulder as he fiddled with the hot water line that led from the water storage tank on the roof of the granny flat to the bathroom. She sighed as she rolled her head left and right, wishing that she was washing away the grime of the day that very moment.

"You know, Kristen, you're welcome to use the bathroom at mine when I check this out," Russell said over his shoulder. Almost as though he knew that Kristen was going to reject his offer, he continued with, "There's a tub...."

Kristen bit her lower lip as she considered his offer. "Are you sure?" she asked tentatively, knowing that he knew that she had already caved with that question.

"Go for gold," Russell said, bestowing her the gift of a rare smile.

Kristen couldn't help but notice the difference in Russell. It was slight but there, nevertheless. And Kristen noticed that Russell didn't take as many swigs from his stashed bottle of bourbon after Frances appeared at Taters that evening. Speaking of whom.... "You never mentioned a daughter, Russell," she commented before she could stop herself. She, of all people, should know a thing or two about the need for privacy. Her own closet wasn't exactly devoid of skeletons. She was busy lamenting at her slip of tongue that she almost missed what he said. "Huh?"

"She's a beauty, ain't she?" Russell said softly. "Looks just like her Mum. Even more so now that her hair's all grown out and no longer streaked with all the colours of the rainbow."

"Rainbow?" Kristen echoed her boss dumbly as a mental image of Frances in a punk emo outfit and multi-coloured hair flitted into her mind. Oh, no, wrong image. What kind of image went with rainbow coloured hair anyway?

"She said she was making a statement. You know," Russell threw Kristen a look, "for being gay."

Eyebrows crawled up Kristen's hairline. "Gay. Huh."

"Some lucky woman is going to be with her one day," Russell said ruefully.

"Um...." Kristen didn't know what to say to that and chose to change the topic. "I'll go grab that shower then. If you're sure," she reiterated. At Russell's absent nod, she rummaged her drawers for something to change into, grabbed her towel, and made her way to Russell's house.

Part 8

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