Susan has three problems. A failing restaurant, a proposal she does not want to accept from her current lover and a love for somebody who has moved on from his crush for her. Will she be able to sort all these issues out and be happy or will she have to move back to Italy. Let’s find out. Just in case you haven’t read the first instalment check it out here – Sweet Cakes Will Not Get You Love Or Keep You Warm At Night (Part 1)
Susan sipped some wine as she looked out of her seventh story window. It was raining outside, and raindrops spattered on the glass window. Susan usually loved the sound of the raindrops hitting the window but today she was distracted. Her heart was breaking, and she didn’t know what to do about it.
This heartbreak was bad, and it wasn’t even caused by a man. Her restaurant was failing. Covid 19 had come and disrupted everything. It was the middle of the lockdown and restaurants were only doing takeaways. Her restaurant depended a lot on the foot traffic of the mall. Now she forced to pay full rent for an empty restaurant.
On tv, she had seen people talking about landlords who were giving their tenants a reprieve. Those ones were lucky. Her landlord was a property management company, and they were not sympathetic to the tenants and their woos. She still had two months left on the contract and she wasn’t sure she would even have a restaurant to run let alone pay for.
On the love front, she was still loving Steve from afar. Antony her lover was stuck in Italy. The Covid pandemic had really affected Italy and they were in a lockdown. It is not like he could travel anyway. Kenya had stopped commercial flights from other countries and was only allowing cargo flights in and out of the country. Antony had been calling her and asking her to consider his proposal. She could get a good job in Italy and they could get married and start their family. Antony really loved her. The problem was great love but the wrong guy.
Susan felt so stuck. She had gotten job offers from some hotels in Italy and also a high-end hotel outside Nairobi to be the head chef. She had been considering it because she was bleeding money, and she needed a solution to her money issues.
Susan had been having trouble sleeping and even getting bad migraines caused by the anxiety she was feeling. She had taken to having a glass or two of wine to help her sleep at night. Sometimes it helped, but sometimes she lay awake in her bed worrying about the restaurant.
Susan walked away from the window and sat on her rainbow-coloured couch. She reached for her phone and called Steve. He answered after 3 rings and said hallo.
“Hello, Steve. I needed to talk to you. I hope it’s not too late to call?” Susan asked nervously.
“You can call me any time if you need me. What’s up?” Steve asked.
Susan didn’t know where to start so she just talked. “things have been pretty bad at the restaurant and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should shut it down and go work for somebody else…” She paused, “I know you are a business strategist and I thought maybe you can help me figure things out. I don’t know how much it would cost… I don’t really have a lot of savings right now…” she was silent for a minute “but I know if I don’t do something soon, I will lose everything I have worked so hard for.”
Steve who had just been listening said, “The first step is acknowledging that you need help. Why don’t I come over tomorrow and you can tell me more about it? We will see if we can figure this thing out. About payment, don’t worry. We can work out something. If worst comes to worst, you can be feeding me for the rest of your life. From you, I would accept meals as a form of payment. Anyway, I know this is serious. Thanks for reaching out. Try to get a good night’s sleep.” He checked his diary. “Can I meet you at the restaurant at 3 PM?”
“Yes, that will work for me. Thanks, Steve. It means a lot,” Sue said. She wished him a good night and went to bed.
The next day Susan dressed up in her favourite dress, wore her favourite shade of red lipstick and perfume. She was nervous, for many reasons. The last couple of months she had been avoiding Steve. He was probably too busy with his new girlfriend to notice. Also, he was working from home so now he did not have a reason to come by the restaurant. He still ordered food from her and it was delivered by bike.
Susan spent the day baking. She had a lot of baking orders, but they were not enough to sustain the business let alone pay the rent. Susan was listening to music as she decorated one of the cakes. She did not hear Steve come in so when she heard his deep baritone saying “Hi!” she almost tripped. Susan had been forced to let go of her kitchen staff, so she was the only one in the kitchen.
Steve looked good as usual. He was in a blue suit, with a white shirt which had two buttons undone. He looked different now because he had grown out his hair and beard, but it made him look more handsome. His cologne wafted across to her and damn this man smelled good. She wanted to go and hug him, but she restrained herself. She reminded herself, ‘this is a business meeting. Calm down.’ She wished she could convince her hormones of that. She felt hot and flustered.
“Hey. Please have a seat in the restaurant. I didn’t know it was 3 already. Let me just grab the books, some snacks and coffee then we can get down to business.” Susan said as she removed her apron.
Susan put some coffee to brew and went to her office for her accounts books which she took to Steve. She went back for the coffee, poured it into a thermos and carried it with some cashew nut cookies back to the table.
Steve asked her questions about the business and took a lot of notes. Susan was getting nervous. It must be really bad. Finally, he stopped taking notes. He had removed his jacket and when he reached for a cookie his well-toned muscles could be seen.
“so, do you want the good news or the bad news?” Steve asked.
“The bad news first,” Susan said nervously.
“well, this is the worst time to have a struggling restaurant. Covid has really messed up the hospitality industry. Also having a space that you are paying for but not using is a really big disadvantage” Steve was serious. “but I feel like you have a few options that you haven’t taken advantage of. I know you are not really big on using social media, but this is the perfect time to use it. It is not expensive, and it can really boost your business. I can do a social media strategy for you. We can discuss and see what you are comfortable doing and what you are not. Are you in?”
Susan was relieved that at least there was something she could do. She only used Facebook to keep in touch with her family and friends. Although she had Instagram and Twitter accounts, she never used them. She preferring to spend the time she was not in the restaurant, playing basketball, reading, and hiking.
“Yes. I am in. but I guess you are going to have to teach me everything because I have no clue where to start.” Susan bit her lip as she waited for Steve to reply.
“Well, I can do that. Let me just figure out what you need. Then we can get started,” Steve said as he stood up to leave.
“Ok cool. How will I pay you?” Susan asked.
“Let me figure this thing out and what it will take to set it up. For now, don’t worry about money. You’re my friend. We can talk about money when your business is up and running. I would feel bad if I took advantage when things are this bad. I believe in you and your business. With a little luck and a lot of strategy we can turn things around for you.”
As he put on his jacket Steve asked, “How is Antony?”
Susan said, “he is ok. He is working on some products he wants to launch in the international market in the next few months.”
“You haven’t thought of going back to Italy? I know you had a good life there!” Steve said. It was the way he asked her that made her pause.
“Kenya is my home. I have thought about it and even though I know that things can be hard here, this is where I want to be. That’s why I am fighting for this business.” Susan said firmly.
“What about Antony?” Steve was asking. She wondered why he was insisting on knowing.
Susan sighed. “I need to break up with him. He deserves somebody who wants the same things he wants.”
Steve hugged her. “it will be ok. You will figure things out. I am always here if you want to talk.” He took his bag and left.
Steve came up with a social media strategy for her and a strategy for partnerships that Susan could explore. Thrice a week he would come work with her to show her how to use social media and some tips and tricks to use. Slowly her online business started picking up. She was using Instagram mostly to sell her cakes and meals. Steve showed her how to leverage on TikTok to do short videos of her making cakes. He even got some of their friends who were bloggers and influencers to talk about her food and do giveaways of cupcakes.
He also helped her advertise her restaurant for small parties for companies that wanted to have celebrations and families that wanted a space to have a small party with social distancing. He also got her a partnership with a flour company to be an influencer of sorts.
The last two months had been interesting working with Steve. She had come to admire him even more. He had a work ethic that rivalled hers and he had given her great ideas that had brought the business back to life in a different way.
Susan was clearing up the restaurant counters. The room was empty. Susan had decided to close the restaurant until further notice. Her lease was up, and she had decided not to renew. She would be working from home for the foreseeable future and she had moved one of her big cookers and an oven there.
While it was not ideal, Steve had convinced her it was the best thing she could do businesswise. “you can still open up another restaurant when the time is right. For now, with the coronavirus pandemic looking like it might not have a solution soon, you are better off not paying rent.”
Although it broke her heart she had to agree with Steve. Susan had sent all her restaurant furniture and ovens to her parents’ farm on the outskirts of Nairobi. They had a barn type of structure where she could store her things while she decided what to do. She wasn’t sure what would happen but now that her business was flourishing, at least she wasn’t anxious. All thanks to Steve.
Speaking of Steve, he had invited her over to his house. They had spent so much time at the restaurant and her house when he was coaching her that he decided she needed a change in scenario. He hadn’t talked about Mary for a while, but she assumed she would be there. Susan hadn’t wanted to ask him about her. She could only face one heartbreak at a time. She had broken off things with Antony because she knew it was the right thing to do.
Steve lived in a semi-detached house with a bit of a compound. She had never been there before. He had moved in a year ago from an apartment which she had visited a couple of times. She guessed he had moved because it was time to settle down. She knew he wanted somewhere he could put down roots and raise a family.
Susan had carried a plant for him as a gift plus some shopping and some cake and wine for dessert. Steve like her had grown up on a farm. They both loved plants and trees. When she entered the compound, she could see potted plants in bloom everywhere.
Steve opened the door when she knocked. He was wearing an apron over a black t-shirt and jeans. He welcomed her into the sitting room.
“Should I help you?” she asked. “I can cook you know!”
“Nah you are always cooking for me when I come over. Let me cook for you today. Besides, I know you are tired and today has been an emotional day for you. Just sit down, relax and listen to some music.” He poured her some wine. “Relax. Today you are my guest.”
Susan took her glass of wine and sipped it as she walked around to look at his beautiful art.
In half an hour they were sitting down to eat. Steve had prepared some seasoned pork ribs with sauteed potatoes and some greens.
Susan had thought she would see Mary and was surprised she was not here. She asked, “Should we wait for Mary?”
Steve said, “Mary and I broke up a couple of months back. I thought you knew. Things were going well but we were forced to spend a lot of time together during the first months of the pandemic. We quickly discovered that we did not have a lot in common. We were arguing a lot. She wanted to go out and hang out with her friends all the time and not take precautions. You know I am. Cautious.” He had a sad smile, “well at least I found out before I proposed! She is a lovely lady, but I guess she is not the one for me.”
Susan said, “I am sorry to hear that you broke up.” Susan didn’t how to feel about this new development.
There was a bit of awkward silence. They served food. They watched tv as they ate and talked about general things.
Susan helped him clean the dishes. Then they settled to eat dessert with the wine she had brought. They were watching a comedy about a couple of guys who dressed up as nuns to escape the mob. Nuns on the run was hilarious and they were both laughing when it ended.
They sat there in silence then Steve said, “can I ask you something?”
Susan said “Yeah. Of course.”
Steve said, “I don’t want to bring back old stuff, but I just wanted to know. What happened that day I kissed you? I thought we had a vibe but the next day when I wanted to talk about it you blew me off! I know it probably doesn’t really matter to you, but it did to me. It still does.”
Susan had not expected this. She put down her glass of wine.
“I think I was embarrassed. To be honest I don’t know why I behaved like that. But I regret the way I acted. I wish I could turn back the clock. I would do things differently.” She picked up her plate of cake and fiddled with the spoon.
Steve looked surprised. “What would you do differently?”
Susan sighed, “I guess I would do the mature thing and talk to you instead of pretending nothing happened. I think I was surprised by how I felt when you kissed me. I think I couldn’t deal with how you made me feel. I was thinking about my business and how I needed to focus on it.”
Steve asked, “how did you feel?”
Susan said, “well I liked you and I liked the kiss a lot. A little too much!” She blushed.
“Ok,” Steve said. “can I ask you something?”
Susan looked at him. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“What do you feel about me now?”
“Well, I…” Susan had not seen this coming. She did not know what to say. She needed to be careful with her words. “I like you. I regret not taking the chance to get to see where things could go. But I lost the right to ask for a second chance…”
“What if I still like you?” Steve confessed. “If I still can’t get you out of my head. Would you give me a second chance? I thought I had put my feelings for you behind me but working with you and spending time with you reminded me about why I liked you. Do you think there is a chance we could start over?”
“Yes!” Susan exclaimed with a smile on her face.
Steve came over to Susan’s seat, pulled her up and kissed her. The kiss was everything Susan had dreamed about and more. She felt like she was a dream that she would wake up out of. She wanted to pinch herself to see if this was real. She pinched herself to make sure. It was. It was real. It was happening. She had gotten a second chance.
During their 6th month anniversary, Steve proposed to Susan during a romantic picnic he had planned out of town. Susan said yes. They are planning to have a wedding in May 2021.
Thank you for reading this story. If you loved this story check out some of my other stories on love.