Morgan hated being on Jonathan's shift. He'd asked her for a date and she'd turned him down. Now all the dirty jobs were hers. Today she was cleaning tables, wiping spills and mopping the floor. Normally those jobs went to new hires, not people who'd been working at Buffoon Burgers for months. She knew better than to say so but Morgan preferred the dirty jobs to working behind the counter. At least she didn't have to listen to the other girls suck up to Jonathan. They hated her too; she was the one Jonathan wanted to go out with, not them. It was like being back in high-school and she was so not interested in the man, but the others didn't care about that. Like her, they knew that as long as Morgan was working at Buffoon Burgers Jonathan wasn't going to notice anyone but her. So she looked like his favourite pop star, big deal, that wasn't her fault. What was she supposed to do? Dye her hair black and start eating the fat-laden King Klown special so she could put on thirty pounds? Not likely.
Okay, she should be used to it. And she had come to Toronto to be noticed, but not by the likes of him. Everyone back home said she should be an actress she was so good-looking, but here she was just another blonde wannabe. Oh she'd had offers, but most of them had been like Jonathan's. No way she was going to try to make it in show biz on her back. Her mother had tried that and ended up stripping for a living, then moving in with a customer. He'd left when Mom made it clear she was keeping Morgan; a family hadn't been his idea of fun. Mom had gone home and with a bit of help from her own parents, finished school and gone into real-estate. When Morgan said she was going to Toronto, and why, Mom had told her the story. Morgan wasn't sure she believed it. Like everyone in town she'd grown up hearing her father was a teacher who'd died in a car crash.
Morgan dumped another tray and slammed it onto the pile to be taken back to the dishwasher. That was her job too, standing in the steam at the end of the belt, then taking off the clean trays and lugging them to the counter.
"Aren't you guys supposed to smile?"
Hey, a customer who actually picked up after herself! Cool. "What's to smile about?" Morgan asked. Her question came out sounding bitter, like she meant it. Guess she did.
"Well, you're young, healthy and you've got a whole life ahead of you. Pretty good stuff if you ask me."
"Yeah, right. Easy for you to say that." The woman⁄girl, couldn't be more than a couple of years older than Morgan and was dressed to the nines in a designer suit. Morgan didn't recognise the line but it was so obviously expensive, like probably half a year's wages for a drudge.
"All you need is a break," the girl⁄woman said. She reached into her purse. Heck, the purse alone would be the price of a year's subway tokens. "I'll see what I can do for you. By the way, I'm Steffi."
"Hey Morgan, you gonna bring those trays or what? No visiting with friends when you're working." Morgan hadn't seen Jonathan sneaking up on her. One of his hands brushed where it shouldn't. Sure it was harassment, but just try and prove it. She'd have told him what for, but she needed the job. Rent in Toronto was expensive, even when you shared a place with two others.
"Sorry, Jonathan." Morgan said.
"If I were you, I'd kick him where it hurts." Steffi said.
"You'd only do it once, bitch. So, Morgan, you still working here?"
"Guess so." She picked up the pile of trays. "Nice talking to you, Steffi."
"You too. Drop me a line, okay?" Steffi slipped a business card into the side pocket of Morgan's uniform and left.
An hour later, Morgan reached the breaking point. Steffi had evidently challenged Jonathan's manhood and since she wasn't around, he'd been taking it out on Morgan. Even one of the other girls had suggested Morgan call the police and have Jonathan charged.
"He's not worth the trouble," Morgan answered. "But I'm so out of here."
She always wore exercise tights and a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath the ugly polyester because she couldn't stand the feel of cheap, greasy fabric against her skin. Without going back to the changing room she took off the Buffoon Burger costume and handed it across the counter to Jonathan, remembering at the last moment to rescue Steffi's card. It was worth doing just for the way his eyes bugged out of his head. Yeah, take a good look at the tits, pal. It's the last one you'll get.
"I'm getting my stuff from my locker," she told him. "I quit. You can mail my last cheque."
"You're not getting another penny unless you beg for it," Jonathan answered. "On your knees."
"That's ever so unlikely. Remember my friend who was here earlier?" Morgan waved the card in the air. "Well, she's a lawyer. Pay me now, or see me in court."
Morgan walked out of Buffoon Burgers for the last time--not likely she'd eat in one after seeing what the stuff really was--with cash in her pocket and a smile on her face. Steffi had been right, life was pretty okay if you gave it a chance.
Two blocks from the apartment Morgan had a sudden sinking feeling. Quitting Buffoon Burgers hadn't been all that bright. Rent was due in a week. She didn't have enough to pay her share and it wasn't like the girls she was sharing with were exactly friends. They wouldn't cover for her, not even for a day. She needed another job, and fast, and getting a recommendation from her previous employer was kind of out of the question. She couldn't blame Steffi, but Steffi had said she could give Morgan a helping hand. Right now, she needed one.
She took Steffi's card from her pocket. It was like a bad joke, no last name and no phone number just Steffiemail@example.com and underneath that "let me be your fairy godmother". Funny, real funny--except Morgan didn't feel like laughing. She didn't even have a computer to access her old Web email account, so even if Steffi were okay and just had a really sick sense of humour, getting in touch with the woman⁄girl was going to be a hassle. Still, she'd give it a try. It would only cost a couple of bucks at Virtual Sludge, the Internet cafe down the street. Morgan had never been in there but it looked okay, much better than its name.
"Anything else?" the guy behind the counter asked as he took Morgan's money.
"No, I don't think so, thanks." The coffee smelled great but it was out of her price range. So was the computer time but if she could just remember the password for her Web mail she could write her mother as well as Steffi. It bothered Morgan to call collect. It was like admitting she couldn't take care of herself.
Her free email site wasn't working properly. All it did was ask if she wanted to open a new account and when she said yes, didn't let her. Morgan sighed. Not hot and not mail--it figured. Okay, she'd just have to try somewhere else. She did. It didn't work either.
"Here, you look like you could use it." The guy from the counter put a large coffee down beside her.
"I'm not interested, thanks," Morgan answered. "You're not my type." It seemed to happen over and over, everywhere she went. Maybe she should go on the Buffoon Burger diet after all so it wouldn't.
"You're not mine either," he replied. "I like 'em tall, dark and buff, like the dude at the back table. He's Washington, my partner in the real world as well as in Virtual Sludge. By the way, I'm Pete."
"You're forgiven, as long as you say I don't look it. A woman like you must need to beat straight guys and bent ladies off with a stick. Hey, don't you go looking at me like that. Just 'cause I'm not interested doesn't mean I'm blind, okay? You're a hottie."
"Okay." Morgan laughed. "Sorry again. And thanks for the coffee but I really can't afford it and I don't like taking charity."
"Who does? And it isn't charity, it's a bribe. You've got that worried, unemployed look in your eyes, and we're looking for help."
Morgan knew exactly what Pete meant about the look. In Toronto you saw it every day on every street corner. "Sure, like I'd be any help around here," she answered. "Heck, I can't even set myself up with email."
"Allow me." Pete pulled up a chair beside her. "What's your name?"
"Morgan. Sorry." She was blushing, she just knew it--how rude--she hadn't even introduced herself.
"No need to be sorry. I'll set you up with one of our Virtual Sludge accounts. There you go, all done. I'll leave you alone now. Enjoy your coffee and think about my offer. With all due respect to your mind, having a hot blonde body working here would be good for business. Men are so shallow."
"Aren't they just," Morgan answered. "Thanks, Pete. I'll consider it." She'd already decided to accept. The coffee was great and no way her supervisor was going to hit on her.
Still, she did write Steffi, telling her she'd just walked out of Buffoon Burgers and into a great new job and that she'd like it if Steffi dropped by some day to say hello. Morgan wanted to ask Steffi about the fairy godmother thing on the card, if nothing else, but didn't. She hoped Steffi would visit because she'd got a good feel from the girl⁄woman, like maybe they could be friends despite the obvious differences in their backgrounds and places in life.
The tips at Virtual Sludge were great, and Pete and Washington didn't put up with Morgan getting hassled by customers. Washington actually tossed one guy out the door, after which the word got around that "no meant no", but that Morgan would date guys she liked--nothing serious though. After a month of getting bonus tips she dumped her roomies and moved into a one-room apartment of her own. She didn't spend much time there. Much to her surprise, most of her off time was spent at Virtual Sludge, bouncing around the Internet and making friends all over the world, friends who had no idea what she looked like or even if she really was female. She became the resident expert on instant messaging and chat, with a reputation for being able to actually find groups that weren't just cyber-sex and wannabes, but people who actually had thoughts.
By the time Steffi walked in the door, Morgan had given up on seeing the woman⁄girl again so she could ask about the card. She probably wouldn't ask anyway. In a way Steffi had been Morgan's fairy godmother even if she hadn't done a thing. Steffi looked pretty much the same, except Morgan thought the girl⁄woman was three or four inches shorter, more Morgan's height. It looked like Steffi was wearing the same suit though and it still fit perfectly. The height difference thing was probably all imagination on Morgan's part.
"No, I suspect you're right," Steffi said. "I probably am taller. Funny how I can remember the clothes but not the height. So, Morgan, do you still want to be an actress?"
"You really are a fairy godmother then?" Morgan knew she hadn't commented on Steffi's appearance out loud. That would have been rude and worse, would have sounded foolish--like this didn't. She was sure she hadn't mentioned wanting to act either.
"I've got a couple of actresses who are all lined up for a fall," Steffi continued, acknowledging Morgan's spoken question with a smile. "Trouble is, one of them is in rough with drugs and the other has pissed off everyone she knows. I could transfer either one of them with you, but I'd feel I was doing them a favour, not you. You haven't got it bad here."
"I like being me," Morgan answered. She hadn't had time to think about it of late, but she did. And a trip home to see her mother was in order, just a few days but a visit. They had been writing and chatting on the Internet but that wasn't quite like being there. At Christmas--she would go home for Christmas for sure.
"Good idea," Steffi said. "I'm glad you thought of it. I just know your mother would like that." Her smile had a twist. "And I'm glad you like being you. Guess we can do things the old fashioned way."
"I'd rather do it on my own, or not at all," Morgan answered. "Are you really a fairy godmother? Oh my, I guess you are!" Steffi's body had seemingly rolled up into a fist-sized ball of light that hovered at Morgan's eye level. The suit, green eyes and smile were all gone. The ball dipped once, as if in a curtsy and streaked out the door without opening it.
"Talking to yourself, kid?" Pete ambled over. "They say that's a sign of old age."
"I'm not old," Morgan answered. Crazy maybe, but not old. Pete hadn't seen Steffi. Matter of fact, when the girl⁄woman cam in Morgan hadn't noticed the puff of cold air that always happened when someone came into Virtual Sludge now it was November. Fairy godmothers evidently didn't need to use doors.
"No, you're not old, and you're turning into a real knockout now you've filled out some," Pete answered. "When we met I thought you were the anorexia poster girl." He gave Morgan's shoulder a companionable punch. "Which reminds me," Pete continued. "You know that weird looking guy with beard, the one you and Washington think is cute? Seems he's something half-way important over at COSMO-TV and he was asking if I thought you'd like to audition to read the weather. Wanna be a weather-bunny, honey?"
"I never thought of it." Maybe she could do it part time and still keep on at Virtual Sludge. It would be nice but no big deal either way. Steffi? Was she behind this? "Sure, I suppose so." Morgan continued. "So why didn't he ask me himself?"
"'Cause he knew you'd figure he was just hitting on you. Which I think he'd like to do, if you ask me and which I think you'd like him to do too, but not until the weather job is settled. I'll tell him that, and that you're interested both ways." Pete turned and walked away, down the counter.
"Pete, don't you dare!"
He looked back over his shoulder. "Why are you complaining? Of course I'm going to interfere in your life. That's what friends are for."