Billionaire Protector

By: Nikki Chase

I give the man a smile, then pick up the plate and take it with me as I walk away. It's time to disappear into the kitchen and hopefully never see him again.



Do you know what hunger feels like?

Not the kind of hunger where you’ve already wolfed down a Big Mac and a large fries but you still have room for another one.

Not the kind of hunger where you’ve had a salad because you’re on a diet but you really crave some deep-fried junk.

Not even the kind of hunger where you didn’t have time to get lunch, so now your stomach rumbles loudly in the middle of a meeting, while you count the minutes until you can leave the office.

I’m talking about real hunger.

Like when I had to spend recess at the library so the other kids wouldn’t notice me not eating.

Or like when I had to eat the Halloween candy bars one bite at a time so they’d last longer.

Or like when I only had a few pieces of crackers, but I gave all of them to my little sister and went straight to sleep so I wouldn’t feel the hunger pangs.

I started working as soon as someone would hire me, for as many hours as it was legal.

By the time I was fourteen, I was already juggling school and the maximum eighteen hours per week of work. Sometimes, my boss let me work more and paid me the extra in cash.

My first job was as a waitress in a family restaurant. It was heaven. I could eat as much as I wanted during my breaks, and I could bring leftovers home for Emily, my sister. Suddenly, we didn’t have to depend on our mom to consistently put food on the table—something she was never any good at.

Then, I started working in the kitchen, learning the basics of food preparation, like peeling and cutting vegetables. I immediately fell in love.

Cooking, to me, has always been an almost spiritual thing. It’s an amazing thing, to get paid to create things that feed and nourish people.

I’ve worked as a chef for years now, and it still feels special when someone eats something I’ve prepared. It feels like I’m giving them a piece of myself.

It’s a great way to meditate, too.

I’ve had numerous struggles throughout my life, many of them of the financial kind. I was always stressed out, growing up.

But when I’m in the kitchen, it’s like I forget everything else and focus only on turning the raw ingredients in front of me into something edible—delicious, even, if I may say so myself. It’s like nothing else matters except for the present.

You can’t make good food without giving it your all. No one batch is the same, after all. It’s not just about the recipe. It’s a craft. Some even call it an art.

After high school, all my peers went off to college. I already knew where my passion lay, so it was easy to say no to tertiary education. I continued working in kitchens, learning by doing—and getting paid the whole time.

Unlike those suckers who ended up with huge debts after college, I had years of relevant work experience, savings, and a stable income by the time I reached my early twenties.

It was nice to have the resources to help Emily whenever she needed me. I could at least give her a place to stay and as much food as she wanted to eat so she never had to worry about, you know, staying alive.

She doesn’t need me much these days, though. She has her own kick-ass job, for which she moved from San Francisco to Seattle. She’s also married now, and her husband does a good job taking care of her.

It’s lonely now that I’m on my own, but I’m happy for Emily. At first, I didn’t approve of Cole, her now-husband, but I’ve grown fond of him. Whatever makes Emily happy, makes me happy.

I have to say, though, that seeing her so in love makes me a little envious. I’ve never had a man look at me the way Cole looks at her. I want someone to love and cherish, too, damn it.

Instead, all I have is one ex-boyfriend, although he’s been sending me flowers to ask for my forgiveness. I wonder if I should give him a second chance.

I mean, I’m not getting any younger here. I’m officially in my thirties already.

If this keeps up, I’ll end up dying alone in a tiny studio apartment, with random body parts having been nibbled off by my many cats before the cops could find my body. Serves me right for giving everything to my work, I guess.

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