Salamander 2 part 8
Tuesday, 4th of December, 2035
I woke up the next day feeling pretty good. A quick check
revealed that all the bruising was now faded to nothing and I had none of the
soreness I’d had the previous day. I seemed to be all healed up. Sleeping lots,
and getting a large quantity of food down me
, must have given my
regenerative abilities what they needed to repair my body.
I leapt out of bed and began to get ready. Gwen came in from her room getting up herself, “Hey you should be in bed,” she said.
“I feel fine, look,” I said lifting my pyjama top to show that the bruises were gone, “All healed up.”
“Hmm, well we'll go and see a doctor to see if you are OK to return to school. If you are then maybe you can return.”
“How would we get an appointment at this short notice,” I said grumpily.
“Well maybe Joyce's friend Sarah could take a look, since you are so keen to be back in school. Though that worries me. I'm sure no normal teenager would want to be back in school. Perhaps you were hurt worse than we thought,” Gwen smiled.
I stuck my tongue out at her, “It's not that I really like school, it's not so bad. I have my friends there. The main thing is I'm so far behind already I don't want to lose any more ground. Plus just hanging around in bed is pretty boring.”
“Well, I wouldn't want you getting behind,” Gwen said. “You get yourself washed and dressed. I'll see about getting you an appointment.”
I rushed off to get ready, washing and dressing as quickly as I could throwing on an outfit at random. I could hear Gwen talking on the phone and as I rushed back into the living room she was just putting it down.
She looked at me with a raised eyebrow, “I thought your friends were teaching you how to dress properly.”
I looked down at my outfit with its random assortment of colours and styles, “What? Is there something wrong with what I'm wearing?”
Gwen rolled her eyes, “Never mind I'm sure they'll drill it into you eventually, come and have some breakfast. I spoke to Joyce's friend Sarah and she said she luckily has a free slot just before lunch where she could look you over.”
I munched my way through a couple of bowls of cereal with much head shaking from Gwen who muttered, “Probably a good idea to get you back to school. At the rate you eat you'll eat up all the food.”
“It's probably ’cos I'm still healing,” I said with a mouthful of cornflakes.
I finished off eating and then helped Gwen wash up. We pottered about the flat for a bit. I did some of my remaining homework and Gwen did some reading. Soon it was time to head over to see Sarah. We got wrapped up and took the bus to the MORFS centre.
When we got to the centre we told the nurse at the desk we were there and then sat down to wait. There was the usual compliment of new MORFS kids sat waiting. Some were examining themselves every now and again, obviously still a little freaked out by whatever changes they had gone through.
Next to me sat a pretty young girl with bright blue hair and a long pointed blue tail that was moving about like it had a mind of its own. The girl kept touching her chest occasionally pulling out the neckline of her top for a better look, she was pretty upset though she tried to hide it. While she was inspecting herself her mother spotted what she was up to.
"Eric! Stop that." she said, seeing me looking their way she looked extremely embarrassed, "I'm sorry, he ... she has just changed."
"That's OK," I replied, "I understand what she's going through."
"How could you!" exploded the girl tears in her eyes.
"Eric!" her mother said exasperatedly.
I smiled at the new girl and leaned close whispering, "I used to be a boy too."
"Really," she said eyeing me up and down, "Did you just change too?"
"I changed a few months ago. It gets easier with time. I'm still not sure about all this girly stuff, clothes, makeup, and so on. But it’s getting easier," I replied.
"Do you miss being a boy?"
"Sometimes, but you have to focus on the good things. I've made some good friends who have helped me come through."
"I'm worried about going back to school. A MORFs girl got beaten to death there."
"What school is it, Wilynsford secondary?" she nodded, "That was exaggerated," I leaned in close, "I should know, I'm the girl. I wasn't that badly injured."
"But the news said ..."
"I know, crazy isn't it. I was sitting at home watching that reporter say that I was at deaths door. I'm not going to lie to you, kids do get bullied, but if you are careful you can avoid the worst of it. The library is a good place to go, Miss Gordon won't let anyone start anything."
At this point the girls tail tapped me on the back, “Oh I'm sorry,” she said, “It seems to have a mind of its own doing things without me wanting it to.”
“That's OK I had the same problem with my tongue at first. I'm sure you'll get a better handle on it if you work at it,” I said.
“What does your tongue do?” she asked.
“This,” and I shot my tongue out grabbing a magazine and pulling it in dropping it in my hand before retracting my tongue fully, “It's like a chameleons very handy for stealing biscuits.”
The girl giggled at that, she seemed much happier now that I had talked to her. I hoped she would get on OK. Largely I'd had other problems in my first few weeks as a girl. Still it was a tough and confusing experience having to sort yourself out again.
“Eric Marlow?” a nurse called and the girl's mother stood up.
“Come along Eric, say goodbye to the nice lady,” she said.
“Bye,” said the girl with a big smile.
“You were really good with that girl,” said Gwen.
“I knew a little of what she was going through that's all,” I replied.
“She seemed much happier after she talked to you. You have a really caring nature always thinking of others. I'm proud of you,” Gwen said with a smile.
“Amanda Wilson?” the nurse called out.
“Do you want me to come with you?” asked Gwen.
“Sure, unless you'd rather stay here?” I replied.
We went over to the nurse and she sent us off to Sarah's office. Sarah came and greeted me with a hug.
“Hello Amanda, I like your new name it suits you. How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Hello Sarah, I'm feeling good thank you,” I replied.
Gwen and Sarah shook hands, “Thank you for seeing us on such short notice Doctor,” Gwen said.
“Oh no problem, and please call me Sarah. So then missy, you have been getting yourself into all sorts of scrapes from what I've been hearing.”
“Well it's not really my fault that some people at school took a dislike to me,” I said a little sheepishly.
“They are a bunch of small minded fools. I hope they throw the book at them. Anyway let see what the damage is.”
She began examining me, checked me over, prodded the bits where I had been injured then sat me on the scanner and took a look at me with that. She showed me the scans compared to the ones from the previous day taken at the hospital.
“Remarkable, there is almost no sign of any injury. A few traces of bruising but nothing more serious. It looks like your hand is nearly fully repaired as well. Give it another few weeks and it'll be good as new."
“It was a bit odd after getting hurt. I was very tired and hungry but then the bruises began to fade very quickly. It caused some problems with the people at the hospital. They thought Gwen had beaten me because of it,” I told her.
“Hmm, well I would guess your body went into some sort of regenerative state where it committed all its energies to repairing the damage. Which would explain your hunger and tiredness. I'll put a note in your file about this accelerated healing so that other doctors don't jump to the same conclusions the hospital staff did.”
“Why did this happen like that though? I didn't get really tired when I lost my hand,” I asked.
“At that time you were pumped up with adrenaline. Your fight or flight response would have been off the charts. I would guess that overrode the rapid healing. It makes sense if you are in a dangerous situation the last thing you want is to be in a sort of regenerative hibernation state. I guess you were on the run and scared for long enough that normal healing took over. It could also have something to do with where you were damaged. In this case your internal organs took a pummeling and they are more important to your survival than your hand."
“So am I fit to return to school?” I asked.
“Yep, your body is healed up nicely. You can return as soon as you like."
“Oh goody,” I said clapping my hands together in excitement.
“Are you sure she's alright. Maybe she hit her head or something, a teenager wanting to return to school that much can't be a good sign,” said Gwen with a smile.
“Hmm you're right it must be more serious than I thought,” said Sarah laughing.
I stuck my tongue out at both of them causing them to burst out laughing.
There was a knock at the door, “Come in,” called Sarah.
Anna stuck her head round the door, “Thought I might find you here you little minx,” she said looking at me, “You trying to steal all my patients? First Sally and now you've gotten to young Eric before I've even seen her?”
She was smiling and I could sense her
e amusement so
I played along, “Hey you snooze you lose, now if I can only get them to cough
up I'll be the one laughing.”
“Hehe, that's what I have all that training for, it's not to teach you how to help people, but how to extract money from them while you do it,” she chortled, “All kidding aside you did good with helping both of them. With some training you could probably work helping kids like I do. Your empathy combined with your caring personality could make you very good at this sort of thing. Something you should think about when career day comes around. Anyway I need to be going, more patients to see. I've got to get to them before some amateur gets there first and steals all my glory, glad to see you are OK.” she winked at me then dived back out the room.
“You been playing therapist in your spare time?” asked Sarah.
“Kinda,” I said, “There was this girl at school I sort of helped without really realising it. I tweaked her emotional state, then today I chatted with a kid in the waiting room who had just changed and seemed to be having a tough time because of it.”
“You tweaked her emotional state, interesting, well empaths do often work healing emotionally disturbed people. It takes a lot of skill and power to do well, but from personal experience I can say that healing others is a very rewarding profession so if you have the aptitude, it may be worth considering. Anyway I'll write you a note to say that you are OK to attend school again. Try to stay away from bullies in the future,” said Sarah.
“I do try,” I said. It wasn't so much a problem of me staying away from bullies more that they wouldn't stay away from me.
Armed with my note that said I was cleared to return to school, we headed back home for some lunch. I was keen to return to school immediately, but Gwen said I should at least wait till tomorrow before going back.
I helped Gwen make some sandwiches and salad for lunch and then we sat down to eat. After we were done and we had cleaned up it was time for Gwen to go to work.
“Are you going to be OK?” she asked.
“Yeah I'll be fine, I can catch up on my homework. I might see if I can arrange to see that lady about the job later.” I replied.
“OK but you be careful.”
She gave me a kiss and was out the door, I settled in to get some of my homework out the way. I hated to think what I had missed while I was ill. It seemed every time I was making some headway into the huge mound of work something happened that put me behind again. After I had got through a fair amount of my work I decided to call the lady at the restaurant.
The phone rang a few times then it was answered by a woman’s voice, “Hello."
“Hello, this is Amanda Wilson. I was going to come for an interview, but I had to cancel due to being in hospital. I was wondering if I could reschedule if you are still looking for someone,” I said.
“Certainly, we still need people. If you don't mind my asking what happened to you?”
“Well I was beaten up at school. I'm all better now though.”
“Hmm you too! I saw on the news that some other girl was badly beaten at school. Seems a lot rougher than when I was a girl. Anyway I can see you anytime, in fact now is a good time if you are free.”
“Sure, it will take me half an hour or so to walk down there.”
“That should be fine. Come to the back door of the restaurant, ask for Angela.”
“OK see you soon, Bye.”
“Bye,” she said and rang off.
I grabbed my coat and then left a note in case Gwen got back early. I took my mobile so she could contact me if she needed to and I was out the door. It was getting pretty chilly of late so I pulled my coat tight around me, the bitter wind cutting in to me. I wished I had a hat to keep my ears warm. I tucked my hands deep into my pockets to keep my fingers from getting cold.
The various businesses had all their Christmas displays out trying to get in on the lucrative present buying season. They had just started putting out the decorations. When I had been with my parents we didn't have decorations or a tree. We spent a lot of time in church listening to my Uncle Richard give his long sermons on good and evil. It was not a happy time of year for me, hours spent in that cold church with its uncomfortable hard wooden pews. There wasn't even the big meal or presents to look forward to as compensation. My parents didn't believe in such things.
I hurried on moving swiftly to counteract the cold and was soon outside the restaurant. I considered whether I should disguise myself, but I decided after my last experience it would be better to do this au naturel so to speak, they would only get their knickers in a twist later if they found out. Steeling myself, I found the side alley and made my way past a load of dustbins to the back door, I knocked then waited.
A short while later a man dressed in a white uniform answered, “Yes what do you want?” he asked.
“Hello, I'm here to see Angela,” I replied.
“Hmm, wait here I'll get her,” he said and slammed the door shut. It was a bit rude to leave me out here in the cold but I tried not to let it bother me.
A short while later a woman in her thirties opened the door and beckoned me in, “Come in you must be Amanda, I'm Angela it's nice to meet you,” she said offering her hand, which I shook. She didn't seem fazed by my appearance or bothered by my scaly hands at all.
She led me into the back of the restaurant which was a bustle of activity, with people cooking and chopping and rushing about.
“We are just getting things ready for the evening rush,” she said, nodding to the activity, “This is a family restaurant, my father started it. He passed away a few years ago and my sister and I inherited it. I run the business side of things she is the head chef.”
She lead me into the restaurant proper where they were setting tables and lots of waitresses of various ages in smart uniforms were bustling about getting table cloths and cutlery. There were a few early customers but mostly it was still quiet I suspected it was the lull between busy periods.
“Now where to place you, do you have any experience in this sort of thing?”
“No Ma'am,” I replied.
“Angela's fine sweetie, well we could certainly use the help serving up. I'll see if our head waiter thinks he can use you. Frank?” she called out.
“What is it,” said an annoyed looking man with slicked back black hair in a smart suit.
“This is Amanda she's going to be working for us part time. I thought she'd make a good serving girl she can help shift stuff from the kitchen,” said Angela with a smile.
Frank looked at me with distaste, his disgust permeating his mind, “You want to have that ... girl out front!”
“Yes,” said Angela her eyebrow raised.
“That would be a disaster! We can't have something that looks like that serving up food, we would drive away all our customers. No it simply will not do! Take it away!” he waved his arms dismissively as if I was a tray of food he was turning down.
I sensed Angela starting to get angry, “What! You can't be serious?!”
“I am deadly serious Angela, I have worked hard to get a certain clientèle here and I'm not about to let you ruin things by having that thing in a waitresses dress making the customers sick. Force her on me and I shall quit!” He shouted and stormed off.
“What an arse that man is, I'm sorry if he offended you,” said Angela, “Unfortunately I can't replace him, anyway maybe my sister could use some help. I'm afraid it probably will be loading the dishwashers.”
“That's OK,” I said. To be honest the idea of parading around in a waitress’ uniform to serve food scared me to death and I preferred a role somewhere out of sight.
Angela led me into the back, “Joan,” she called out.
A fairly stout woman who seemed older than Angela but with obvious familial resemblance came over. She was dressed in a brilliant white outfit with a small cap.
“This is Amanda, she has applied for the part time job for a few hours each evening. Frank turned her services down so I was wondering if you could use an extra pair of hands.”
“Hmm, she looks a bit scrawny, she'll probably end up burning herself on all the hot things around.” said Joan with a severe assessing look.
“I'm stronger than I look ma'am and I don't burn,” I said.
“What do you mean don't burn?” asked a puzzled Angela.
I shrugged, “Exactly that, I'm fire proof. I'm a fire elemental.”
“Hmm, well that could come in handy I guess, can you lift that?” said Joan indicating a big plastic tray full of dishes.
I reached down and lifted the thing, it wasn't very heavy I could hold it with one hand.
“Well, looks like I could use you, but hear this just because you'll be working part time doesn't mean I'll be working you easy. You'll be expected to put in your best efforts, no slacking.”
“Good, you do the work we'll get on fine, you call me chef understand.”
“Oki dokie, come along with me Amanda I'll get the paperwork sorted out, can you start tonight?” she asked.
I looked at my watch it was coming up for 4, “I guess so, I would just need to tell my sister.”
We walked to the office and Angela took me through what I would earn and what my responsibilities would be. I would work from 5 till 7 as many days as I could and get paid under minimum wage. I mentioned that I might have the club thing on Mondays and Angela said it wouldn't be a problem, she put me down to work Tuesday to Friday. I might get called to do work on weekends which would give me more money.
She let me use her phone to call Gwen on her mobile, she was momentary taken aback by my sudden start, but could see no problem with it. Angela had a brief talk with Gwen to confirm that I had permission to work and to answer any questions Gwen had then handed the phone back to me. By now it was coming up for start time so I told her I would see her later and rang off.
Angela gave me all the paperwork and then got me an electronic pass, she then showed me how to use it to get into the restaurant via the back door and sign in to show I was working the right hours.
She assigned me a locker, she attached a label to it so it had “Amanda” in bold print on the door, then showed me where the uniforms were and the various things I would need to wear as this was a food preparation environment.
“OK, looks like we are all set, get yourself changed and scrubbed then I'll see about getting you started.”
I dressed in the uniform putting on the hairnet and hat and all the other hygiene related things. I put my stuff in my new locker. I locked it with my employee pass then gave my hands a good wash so I was ready to start. Angela took me through the process of clocking in then took me into the kitchen.
“Right let's put you to work then,” said Joan.
“Well good luck Amanda, I'll leave you in my sisters capable hands,” said Angela with a smile. Then she headed off.
“Tony!” shouted Joan.
“Yes Chef?” asked a young boy in his late teens.
“This is Amanda show her how to load the washers. Amanda you learn from Tony how to do this as tomorrow I expect you to get here and just get on with the job. I don't want to have to show you again. Is that clear,” Joan asked in a stern voice.
“Yes Chef,” I said.
“Good girl, now get to work,” said Joan walking off.
I followed Tony over to a series of big boxy machines, “OK, these are the dishwashers we use. They’re very good industrial machines so we don't have to wash things by hand but they do need loading correctly. That's where you and I come in.”
He lead me over to a stack of plastic trays filled with dirty dishes and cutlery, “You take one of these trays over to the dishwashers, we load up the washer till it's full then switch it on. I'll show you how when we fill one. Then we move to the next washer and so on till they are all full. We clean the trays, then when the washer finishes we load the plates into the racks over there to dry ready for use. We then load the free washer up with more dirty plates and so on till we run out of plates or, in your case, it's time to go home. OK?”
I nodded it looked pretty straight forward, “Good, now follow my lead and if in doubt ask.” he said giving me a smile.
He grabbed one of the trays of dirty dishes groaning at the weight. I grabbed another but had no trouble with it. I guessed either my enhanced musculature was stronger than his or he was worn out from doing this all day. I followed him over to the machines and we began loading the plates into it. I carefully observed what he was doing and copied it, slotting the plates into the machine and putting the cutlery into the baskets provided. I noticed there were no glasses or cups; I guessed they had other machines somewhere that sorted those out.
We finished the first trays and went back for another and pretty soon we had filled the machine up. Tony showed me how to load the machine with detergent and how to seal it up and switch it on.
“OK, you do the next one while I watch to make sure you do it right.” he said.
We got back to it, I focused on getting the work done, it was boring and hard but I was being paid to do a good job so I made sure to give my all. Pretty soon we had the second machine loaded, with Tony looking over my shoulder as I put in the detergent and set the machine going.
“Good job, let's get the rest of these done then I'll show you how to wash the trays,” Tony said with a smile.
We worked hard, the huge stack of dirty dishes slowly reducing though more kept coming from the serving area to replace the ones we had set washing. Pretty soon all the machines were going so Tony showed me how to wash out the trays and set them drying for reuse. This was pretty basic just using a sink and water jet to clean them out using a brush to get off any stubborn dirt and setting them on a drying rack. Pretty soon that was done and we had nothing to do while the dishwashers did their thing.
At this point some of the cooks noticed me, “Hey who let this animal in the kitchen,” said some guy in an apron.
“Yeah the food people will shut us down,” said another.
“Hey leave her alone,” said Tony.
“What you defending this lazy animal!” said another guy.
“Lazy is the last thing she is. She's liable to put me out of a job with the pace she's setting,” Tony said.
“Maybe that's what she wants,” said the first guy, “That's it, isn't it freak, you're here to put us all out of a job.”
“It won't be her that puts you out of a job the way you're going Charles, back to work the lot of you!” said Joan who had appeared behind them when no-one was looking.
“Yes Chef,” the onlookers all chirped racing off and trying to look busy.
“How is she doing Tony?” asked Joan.
“Good Chef, she's getting the hang of it quickly we loaded all the machines in a flash, I just need to show her how to unload and what to do and she'll be on her own,” said Tony.
“Good, keep it up,” said Joan nodding in my direction.
“Yes Chef,” I replied. She seemed to be a woman that you got no second chances with, I would have to make sure I didn't let her down.
There was a ping from one of the machines, “Right, back to work newbie,” said Tony.
We hurried over and he showed me where to put the clean plates and cutlery. Tony taught me to check that the plates were in pristine condition before stacking them, just in case they had any residue left on them. A couple needed another go so we left them in the machine.
After this we got back to it. It became a blur of loading and unloading the machines shifting plates about and cleaning out the trays. I barely noticed the time just focusing on getting the job done. I was a bit surprised when Angela came over and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey there, time to stop, you're done for today. How's she been doing Tony?” Angela said.
“Oh excellent Angela, she'll have me out of a job at the rate she's going,” Tony said with a smile, “Anyway can't stop or chef will have me cooked as the new special. See you tomorrow Amanda.”
I said goodbye and let Angela lead me over to clock out and get cleaned up. She showed me what to do with my now dirty uniform. I got changed and then followed her out to the back door. Joan came over when she saw us.
“You did good today kid, keep it up and you'll do fine. Tomorrow I want you to get stuck straight in when your shift starts. You know what to do now so you should have no problems,” Joan said.
“Yes Chef,” I replied.
“Good girl, I'll see you tomorrow 5 sharp and don't worry about those knuckle heads who were hassling you earlier I'll have words with them. So long as you do your job you are welcome in my kitchen,” she said giving Angela a brisk nod then walking off.
“She likes you,” said Angela, I looked at her a bit doubtful. “I know it's hard to tell but take my word for it, I know my sister well and she likes you. Anyway you'd best be getting off home now Amanda, I'll probably see you tomorrow and if you have any problems let me know. Bye now.”
“Bye,” I said and exited the restaurant.
I walked home my body aching all over, I wasn't used to this kind of physical labour. I was pretty tired from all the shifting stuff about so I just wanted to get home and sleep. As I was walking it occurred to me that I hadn't told D that I would be in school again tomorrow, given that I had a while what with the walk I decided to use my mobile. It was the first time I had used it for its designed purpose and it made me a little giddy with excitement. I was now one of those girls I had seen chatting to their friends on their mobile phones.
“Hello Tish, how are you doing,” said D when she answered the phone.
“Hiya,” I replied, “Pretty good. I went to see Sarah today and I'm cleared to return to school. I wanted to go in straight away but Gwen said I should wait.”
“Cool, I'll swing by your place tomorrow. So you up to much, you wanna come round or something?”
“I'm a bit tired after work and I've still got to have my dinner so I'll take a rain check.”
“Work? Since when do you have a job?”
“Since about 4 o'clock today. I applied to this restaurant and they have me working in the kitchen. I just finished my first shift. Not very glamorous or very well paid but it's a start.”
“Right well, try not to overdo it, OK.”
“Yeah, I'll be careful. I get the feeling the chef is a real slave driver. I'll try not to wear myself out too badly.”
“Only you could leave a hospital from being beaten up one day and roll straight into a kitchen job the next. Mum's calling me for dinner, you'll have to tell me about it tomorrow.”
“Will do, see ya later D.”
“See ya,” D said and rang off.
I wandered into the flat a bit later, Gwen was watching the box and I flumped down next to her.
“Hey there career girl, how was work?” she asked, I opened my mouth to answer her but yawned instead, “Oh that bad huh, well you snuggle down and get some rest while I finish dinner.”
I dozed off almost immediately dog tired but oddly satisfied. I had been earning money to help our little family along, and it made me happy to do it. Gwen woke me later for dinner. After we had eaten I dozed in front of the TV too tired to do anything else. I went to sleep pretty early, worn out from all the working.