Unfortunately, Payton got to the restaurant about fifteen minutes late. She found Tiffany leaning against the wall outside the restaurant with her arms folded across her chest frowning.
“Goodness, you can’t even make it to a dinner date on time,” she teased. “Do you make all your dates wait?”
“Excuse you, this is not a date, it’s a business meeting.”
“Even worse to be late to. Anyways, come on in. Our table is waiting.”
A sharply-dressed hostess grabbed two menus and led the ladies to their table. As she trailed behind Tiffany and their hostess, Payton took the time to examine the white tablecloths which complemented the red velvet chairs and matching crimson candle centerpieces. Then she looked in awe upon the large crystal chandelier which illuminated most of the restaurant, and she couldn’t help but notice how its light glimmered on the polished black marble floor. The soft string-music danced in the air with the aroma of mouthwatering food and Payton’s heart pounded at this exciting opportunity to play magnate for a night.
“Can I start you both off with something to drink, perhaps put in some appetizers for you?” the hostess asked once the ladies were seated.
Payton’s attention snapped back to the present and she opened her menu to read it over. Of course, everything on the menu peaked her appetite.
“Yes,” Tiffany responded. “I’ll start with the shrimp cocktail and a bottle of your best house wine with two glasses.” Tiffany winked at Payton.
“And I’ll have the corn chowder,” Payton replied.
“Great choices,” the hostess replied. “I’ll put those in right away.”
“So Payton, shall we get down to brass tacks?” said Tiffany once they were alone. “Tell me, how comfortably do you and your brother live right now? Are you financially capable of handling an emergency if one were to arise?”
Payton glanced down at the table and bit her lip. Her intuition told her that Tiffany already knew the answer to this question. “As I mentioned at the apothecary, he’ll be turning eighteen in two years and then he’ll be bringing in income.”
Tiffany studied Payton. “Hm. That doesn’t quite answer my question, now does it? Though it seems to imply that you have no way of being financially prepared for an emergency until he turns eighteen. Do you honestly think life will wait two years for you to be prepared for it?”
Payton nodded in understanding. Before she could reply, their waitress arrived with two wine glasses and a bottle of wine. This provided her with time to process Tiffany’s words while the waitress opened the bottle and filled their glasses half way with her best service smile. Payton took a sip before Tiffany was provided her glass. She found it to be a bit dry, but had hints cherry and plum in its flavor. It tasted of tantalizing promises of financial security and dreams coming true.
“Good, isn’t it?” Tiffany smirked. “If you work for us, you could afford to drink this kind of wine any time you desired.”
Payton studied Tiffany for some time and thought it best not to answer just yet.
“You know, the appetizers will be coming out soon,” said Tiffany. “We should look at the menu for what we want as our main dish. I already know what I’m getting.”
Payton took a couple moments to peruse through the menu, and she brightened up at all her options. “The steak with the wine glaze sounds great.”
It seemed like no time had passed at all when the waitress returned with the appetizers. “All right, ladies, have we decided on a main dish?”
“Yes ma’am,” Tiffany chirped. “I’ll have the roast goose, and my friend here will have the steak with the wine glaze.”
The waitress jotted down the orders and left the ladies to enjoy their appetizers with a subtle bounce in her step. Payton didn’t hesitate to get started on her corn chowder. It was impressively sweet and creamy. In fact, she couldn’t remember having chowder quite that flavorful.
“You seem to have quite an appetite for quality food,” said Tiffany. “Does your brother have the same pallet?”
Payton glanced up at Tiffany and suddenly felt ashamed of herself. She sat up and worked to take her time on her soup. “I’m sure anyone would enjoy fine food.”
Tiffany chuckled as she nibbled on her shrimp cocktail. “Of course. Fortunately for you and your brother, you’re one of the few who are provided the opportunity to enjoy it everyday for the rest of your lives.”
“What exactly are you offering?” Payton finally asked.
“The company I work for desperately needs someone with the experience and knowledge you have,” Tiffany explained as she swirled the wine in her glass. “The department you would be working for is called the Brass Hearts. We sell various services to people, including making and selling elixirs and remedies in our market. We would pay you triple what you’re currently making and you could send that money back to anyone who may need your financial aid, such as your brother. You would also be working closely with one of our nurses and assist her when needed. If you excel in your position, we’ll discuss a promotion for you to become one of our nurses.”
Payton swallowed a mouthful of chowder. “It all sounds great so far. Will I need to relocate?”
There was a moment of heavy silence between the two and before Tiffany could reply, the waitress returned with their main dishes. Payton couldn’t help but dive in. The steak melted in her mouth and gave the wine a sweeter flavor, pairing perfectly. For a while, all that could be heard between two ladies was the clanking of the silverware against their plates as Tiffany thought how to best word her answer to Payton’s question.
“Yes, you would have to relocate,” Tiffany finally said. Payton had nearly forgotten that she was at a potential business meeting. “We’re located in the city of Zaphyr, and you’ll be staying with us. However, we could arrange for you to visit him, or he could come live with you. It is quite a train ride from here, but it’s still in the human kingdom here in Liadon. Though, you’ll be working with other creatures such as elves and mermaids. But you’ll be able to take care of your brother, so it’ll be well worth it, I assure you.”
Payton glanced down at her plate. “I’m not sure I can take a position where I have to relocate. My brother comes before my career, even though getting my foot in the door for nursing is tempting.”
Tiffany regarded Payton silently over her glass of wine. “Well of course your brother comes before your career. I never questioned that. However, two years is more time than you may think, dear. Consider that though you may have to be away from your brother, you can still send him enough money to provide him with more than what you are now.”
Payton slowly chewed her steak and couldn’t bring herself to look at Tiffany as she processed the proposal. Rather, she gazed down at her glass of wine looking for advice at the bottom of the glass.
“Look, I understand you must love your brother very dearly and you would be sad to leave him,” Tiffany continued. “But sometimes you have to follow your head instead of your heart. I’m telling you, my lead will be very pleased to have you as his apothecary girl and you would be as much of an asset to us as we will be to you.” Tiffany dabbed her mouth with her napkin upon finishing her meal and then lifted her wine glass before she asked, “So what do you say?”
Payton tried to review all this new information, weighing the potential pros with the certain cons, and pondering her life scrambling beneath Marlene at Brynn’s Apothecary so that she and her brother could have so much as fresh bread on the table. She shot Tiffany a fleeting glance, surprised that she had been allotted this much time to reflect.
“Well?” Tiffany probed, her tone sounding more like a challenge than an invitation this time.
. “I think I’d like to discuss this with Lawrence before I give you a definitive answer.”
Tiffany felt she should’ve expected this. She flashed Payton a considerate smile before she flagged their waitress down for the check. “Of course. If you want to make sure your brother wants for nothing ever again, come meet me in The Lucky Tavern right on the edge of Zaphyr Saturday evening.”
Payton nodded. “That seems fair. You’ll know my answer by either my presence or absence at the tavern.”
Tiffany finished off the rest of her wine with a pleased sparkle in her eye. “I know you’ll make the right choice. For Lawrence and for yourself. Be sure to arrive by six. Don’t keep me waiting this time, love.”
Tiffany wore a confident grin as she handed the money over to the waitress and glided out of the restaurant without so much as a “good-bye.”