Vertgates Serial: Lumi Ranta Chapter 3

It had been fifteen days since I was sentenced–I mean scheduled to do these service hours at this freaking frozen treats farce of a business. I’m sure I ended up smelling like milk, chocolate, and cherries every time I went back home to my parent’s place.

They’d always ask me how I was surviving this place.

“So, Lumi. How’s life at the ice cream mines?” My dad would typically ask.

“It sucks. I had to milk a cow for some fresh moo juice for the masses and I spilled the blueberries at work when I didn’t see the jar.” I complained even though my old folks would call what I said whining.

“It’s a lesson you need to learn, Lumi.” My mom would join in on shaming me while I did my time at Helka’s Dairy Castle. “You can’t just be using your powers whatever you want. You know sometimes you have to conceal your magic instead of giving in to your feel–”

“Stop, mom! You’re making me sound like an overrated and spoiled princess.” I shot right back. “Look, isn’t me not being able to use water magic or ice magic for a whole month punishment enough even though I didn’t hurt anyone?” I had my arms akimbo as I did my best to argue against my mom and dad.

“Be glad you aren’t in jail.” My mom quickly replied to me. “You’re lucky you got a soft punishment for your crimes when others haven’t fared so well in the courts. Count your blessings, Lumi.”

I just huffed and went straight to my room. It was the biggest bedroom in the house and I loaded it with posters of chillwave musicians since I liked that kind of music before it was cool for people in the mainstream to copy those kinds of sounds. There were some books on the shelf that dealt with magic in the elements. Hey, I had to practice some spells and it was great how they had water and ice-related spells to improve my craft or possibly find new ways to prank others when they don’t expect it. I lay on my bed wondering how the last few parts of my sentence would be. Sure, I did learn some things, but I don’t know where else I could use these skills.

It was then the next day, and I went back to Helka’s Dairy Castle. During this time, I had my own temporary name card and apron each time I worked at this dairy dungeon. “How are you, Lumi?” Helka smiled like nothing was wrong with anyone. I also saw that some cashiers were ready to open the store and man the registers when everything was ready.

“You know, the usual,” I said to her. “Just another day as part of my sentencing, so I’m just going through the motions here.”

“That kind of attitude isn’t the right one to have here.” Helka corrected me while still sounding cheerier than a bird addicted to sugar. “I have a couple of cashiers ready, so we can focus on preparing the food more often while they ring up all the customers.” I saw that the cashiers were a teenage boy and girl respectively. They had to have been a year or two younger than me, and this was most likely the first job they’d had in their lives. I’m sure they were in it because of the money they can make even though this wouldn’t pay that much not that they would care or know about what other jobs make in the area. The two of us went into the backroom to deal with getting some of the freshly made ice cream that was stirred earlier by Helka. We got out these tubs and scooped them up and put each flavor in each container before we put them in the freezer in the kitchen behind the registers. Some of them we inserted in the machine to have it poured out for different textures and other ice cream treats. That was just so much work lugging all of the freshly frozen ice cream into the main kitchen and I got a huge workout out of it even though I didn’t want this much exertion. If I wanted to exercise, then I’d go to the nearest gym from here. The customers started flocking in the second we put all of the new frozen stuff away that would be ready to serve. Those teens did all the work for ringing up each customer and they were surprisingly good at it. Certainly beats me having to cashier and serve people simultaneously.

We got the orders and Helka and I were at work getting everyone’s food right. One of the requests I got was a banana split which I did and brought it up to the customer who wanted it. I got back and Helka was finishing up a sundae. “You did a good job with the banana split.” She said in passing as she brought the sundae to the customers upfront. “I watched your technique and adding the right items to that order.”

“Yeah, if you say so.” I said half-heartedly. Who cares how good I’ve become at making banana splits? That’s not going to get me out of here or allow me to progress in my career. No, working in this particular industry wasn’t going to cut it, and someone like Helka better realize that quick. There was a flurry of more activity as people flocked to get something cold on this warm day outside. I was sweating in dealing with all of those orders handed to us while the teen workers got to relax and not worry about dealing with the farm behind the store or having to constantly prepare the next batch of treats for the masses.

“You’ve been really improving so far, Lumi. I’m impressed.” Helka tried her best to encourage me. She seemed to be legit, but I had to take her words with a grain of salt.

“I guess, but I’m not trying to be the best dessert maker ever, you know?” I responded to Helka. “I never wanted to be here and I’m going to be there for a couple of more weeks. Why do you treat me like I’m the employee of the month when I’m just a part-time temp at best?”

“You don’t have to be so negative.” Helka tried to knock out my snide attitude and my pure reluctance of being here. “You’ve been a fast learner in doing all the tasks here at the Dairy Castle.”

Nice try trying to stroke my ego, Helka. If she thought that I’d become a full-time worker at her little shindig, then she was totally wrong. I was just doing this for me as I deal with this cruel and unusual punishment. Helka shouldn’t be so delusional into believing that I would keep on working with all these desserts after I finish my sentencing. Then again, I couldn’t give her as much attitude as I wanted like cussing her out or intentionally making a huge mess in her store. Since she’s in cahoots with Master Aarne and maybe some of the blue-bloods in town, I knew I would get an earful from the powers that be and get a longer sentence because she would sing like a canary drunk on a love potion if I crossed her the wrong way. All of this made me want to facepalm in dealing with this woman who acted way too sweet for her own good.

“Could you check the back room for any more fresh foods we can use?” Helka ordered me in the most sugary voice possible.

“Yes, Helka.” I flatly spoke before going to the backroom in a huff. It was getting old taking all these orders. I’m glad she didn’t yell at me or felt like a jerk (at least not on purpose). I checked to see if there was any new ice cream that was ready. Nope. There wasn’t enough to fill the tubs. Thank god. I won’t have to lug in more of those buckets full of Helka’s so-called organic high-quality locally made sugary stuff. I looked to see what could be brought right away. The only things that were ready were the frozen yogurts and I lugged those back into the kitchen. I put those in the freezer in a jiffy while I just sighed given all the crap I had to deal with. Once I got back, I swore the customers must have cloned themselves when I was gone for a few minutes because the line became much bigger than when I last saw it. The cashiers were slacking behind on orders until they started calling them out to me.

“Two chocolate frozen yogurts.” One of them called out.

I was on it as much as I loathed running around like a headless chicken to get all the ingredients or other confections around. Luckily, I brought some fresh batches of fro-yo, so I went to work on it. I made sure everything was presentable and delectable before serving them up.

“No need to thank me.” I snidely self-congratulated myself once I had everything to order.

“Lumi, we need three scoops of pistachio ice cream with almonds on top.” The other cashier called out.

“On it!” I said almost automatically. Oh great. Now I started to feel like a machine in responding to others. A reluctant machine, but still more automated than a human, to say the least. I got the scooper and went straight for this green ice cream. Why couldn’t it be like mint chocolate chip? Why would anyone want pistachio-flavored ice cream at all? People have the weirdest tastes, I swear. I also wasn’t going to make the same mistake I did with the macadamia nuts since I knew where the almonds were. I set everything up and delivered it to the guest who wanted this treat. It better be tasty even though I wouldn’t have pistachios in my ice cream. “Here you go and you’re welcome.” I said to the person who ordered it. It then became a whirlwind of activity as I made all the treats while the teens were just being drones on the registers. Helka was busy taking care of some of the managerial stuff and wasn’t around most of the time for this period of time. She finally came to see how we were all doing as we conquered this line of customers.

“This is delightful!” She gushed at our supposed progress in serving everyone who walked into her Dairy Castle. “Good job in helping everyone.”

“If you say so,” I replied. “Of course, it would even more delightful as you’d say if I wasn’t the only one making all the ice cream treats by myself. I’m just saying.”

“Lumi, what’s with the attitude?” She challenged me. “You were able to do that much by yourself since you’re a fast learner and you’ve been applying what you’ve been taught into practice. I’m glad you can be trusted to do that much.”

I just scoffed when I heard her lame answer. “If your teaching is that good, then why didn’t get any additional help from other employees who know how to make these desserts? I mean, some of them are so basic that a child could make them.” I then continued to make my point even stronger. “Also, if there were at least two people on the kitchen floor making all the orders here, we can go through the lines way faster and that’s more customers. That translates into more money. Shoot, I don’t even have a business degree and even I could figure that out.”

“You’re in no position to question my business, Lumi,” Helka argued. “If you’re going to give me all this attitude, then I can find a way to extend your sentence.”

Was this lady serious? I’m doing all this work and she’s going to punish me for doing my job? The nerve of her. I’m getting better even though I didn’t want to be here and she has no right to tell me how I’m doing my job when I’ve been following orders more or less for over two weeks now. “Fine, but don’t come crying to me if your lines get too big to manage with just one person on the floor. Now, if you excuse me, I’m due for my fifteen-minute break.” I walked away while hanging my apron up before going into the break room. It was this small space with a couple of tables and a fridge. I almost felt like I was in a business asylum since things were whiter than the vanilla ice cream we sold, but there was a bulletin board with achievements that Helka’s Dairy Castle received over the past few years. For fifteen minutes, I just sulked while eating some barbecue potato chips. It was certainly the opposite flavor of the foods we sold here, but I needed this contrast beside the fact that it was my favorite flavor of chips. Helka had some nerve for not staffing enough people to satisfy the customer’s needs. It’s surprising with all the awards she’s won and with how much business traffic she got for years. It wasn’t just me looking from the outside in, but I just thought it was so obvious and there needed to be a change going on. I was just here for the hours served to do the time for the crime I did. Come to think of it, I started to feel strange by feeling normal. Without magic, without abilities, and without all of my freedoms that came with it. After stewing a bit, I went back to the grind.

Once I returned after taking my break, there was another huge line that appeared while I was gone. I swore they must really like to get their frozen treat fix whenever I’m not around. Life is stupid like that since working at Helka’s Dairy Castle. I saw the owner herself scrambling to get everyone’s order ready for everyone who’s talked to the cashiers so far. If I had some popcorn and didn’t have to work, I would’ve stayed in the corner just snickering at them from afar. There was a part of me that really wanted them to fail, but since I was on the clock and my freedom was on the line, then I guess I just have to help Helka. I got my apron when I walked on the kitchen floor. “Okay, what’s the next order?” I asked.

“Two Neapolitan ice cream dishes. One has cherries while the other has granola.” One cashier called out.

“You got it.” I went to work on getting that multi-colored flavored ice cream dishes while Helka was busy as she made the finishing touches to a loaded banana split for someone. The kitchen was now my domain whether Helka wanted to admit it or not. I also must have beaten my record for completing some orders as I got everything ready. To think I didn’t even have my cryokinesis available, or else I would’ve beaten that time in half. I brought the Neapolitan dishes to the two waiting customers. After that, I just kept on taking more orders while racing against time (okay, I wasn’t going to slapdash everything to make up for that time, but it’s whatever) and I wanted to prove a point to my boss. Before anyone knew it, the line shrunk and everyone got what they wanted. I saw Halka panting after finishing up a plethora of peach parfaits.

“Oh boy, I’ve never expected business to pick up so soon.” She wiped her brow after finishing what was left in that dessert queue. Helka then looked at me. “You really…” My boss then stopped herself before she can say anything else again.

“I really what?” Go on, Helka. I wanted to hear what you were about to say. Just spill your guts out and just admit that something was true. There’s no way you were going to ignore this elephant in the kitchen. No, really…finish it.

“You really helped save us when you were done with your break.” Helka said. Her confession wouldn’t end there and I relished in her eventual admission of guilt. “The thing is that you were right all along. You’ve been getting fast, yet proficient at working here, but having you do everything yourself while I was away was negligent of me. We can use more trained workers on the kitchen floor.”

Oh, yes. That confession was sweeter than the junk we sell here. I had never been validated in multiple ways before. Now she was forced to admit that I was a useful person at once and that I was better than her other employees. I just couldn’t help but grin in pure satisfaction as she was kissing my keister. Who was right, Helka? I was right, and don’t you forget that.

“You certainly look excited right now,” Helka told me. “While I meant everything I said, it doesn’t give you the right to feel holier-than-thou just because you were proven right.”

My smile disappeared and I almost gasped. “How could you tell I was feeling that way?”

“Because that smile spoke louder than words. I may be a naturally cheery person, but I’m not as naive as you think. If you’re trying to conceal your feelings, then you’re going to have to do better than that.” Helka called me out on my attitude. Dang, it’s like she could read my mind. I seriously wondered if she had telepathy or ESP and I just didn’t notice it. “Now that you’re still relishing in being right, let’s clean up the kitchen a bit after making all those dishes.”

I just sighed. “Yes, Helka.” My victory was so short-lived. Even when I had legitimate concerns, there was always some way where they could verbally fight back. Ugh, me and my big smile. This got me in trouble. We cleaned up everything as traffic slowed down at this little ice cream parlor. Maybe we had some kind of understanding now that we were working more often and I was complaining less? I didn’t know, but it did bug me a bunch that I couldn’t get one over on my boss at this point. This would continue for days and I couldn’t wait to get out of here while proving that I (supposedly) learned my lessons whatever those lessons were.


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