Bill absentmindedly played with Hillary's business card as he sat in the bar of Glass Ceilings, Hillary's restaurant situated in the posh Manhattan area which indeed featured a glass ceiling. Bill didn't expect to find himself here. After battling with himself, he finally decided to contact her, as he had no other choice.
Not long after Hillary visited Bill in Arkansas, Bill's friend Vince Foster approached him for a business venture: a restaurant. Bill, now a Michelin-starred chef, quit his job at Aunt Betty's and left to establish a restaurant of his own. Vince managed go find a decent location in the heart of Little Rock at a good price. Bill and Vince each staked half of the starting capital into their new business. And at first, it seemed, things were off to a good start.
But the break that they were waiting for didn't come. They never really managed to break into the Little Rock restaurant scene, probably because their menu was too similar to Aunt Betty's, and people were into really into trying something new unless it was unique. Bill was almost driven into bankruptcy and he needed a job to keep himself afloat.
Bill, in the course of his job and soul-searching, decided that even though he already had a Michelin star under his apron, he still needed to expand his repertoire. He could apply for any of the five-star hotels in Little Rock but he felt that he wouldn't learn much from them. He needed a completely fresh start away from Little Rock.
And so, Bill reluctantly dug Hillary's business card from the pile of documents that he kept in his bedroom. He called The French Laundry, but they said that Hillary has already left and established her own restaurant in New York City. After some digging, he managed to find Hillary's restaurant: Glass Ceilings. He made a call to her NYC restaurant and to his relief, she wasn't there. But he did manage to get ab appointment with her, and now, he was sitting inside her restaurant, finally seeing her for the first time in three years.
From afar, Bill heard her distinct cackle. Her voice became louder as she approached the open area, surrounded by a band of chefs who were waiting for her instructions.
“We need to plan our fall menu. We only have until next month to do it,” Bill heard Hillary say. “One mistake and we lose our Michelin star.”
The chefs nodded and went to the kitchen to do their jobs. The hostess approached Hillary and whispered something in her ear, and her face suddenly looked urgent. Her eyes scanned the room until she met Bill’s, and her lively demeanor suddenly died. She became stiff and still, and the color was drained from her face.
She slowly approached him, straightening her clothes and tucking her hair behind her ear as she did so. Bill’s heart was beating like a drum. He awkwardly pulled the seat next to him. She sat down, looking equally uncomfortable as he was.
"I'm glad that you paid a visit to my restaurant," she said, trying to sound casual. "Have you had anything from our menu yet?"
"No, no, no. I am not here to dine," Bill said, thinking that he couldn't afford the meal anyway. "I wish I don't have to, but I have nowhere else to go."
"What do you mean?" Hillary asked, feigning ignorance. Of course she knew why he was here. She had been following his career after she left Little Rock. She knew the rise and fall of his business venture, but she didn't want Bill to know that; he may think she was stalking him unnecessarily.
Bill gulped and braced himself for the torture of telling Hillary his failure. His pride was extremely beaten, having Hillary hear the fact that he couldn't do better than her. When she broke his heart for the second time, he had directed all his hurt and anger into proving his worth: establishing his own restaurant. But then, his efforts had failed, he was there in her restaurant, begging for scraps like a dog.
To his surprise, Hillary looked distraught. But of course. She probably wanted to erase what happened between them because he would have been stain in her illustrous life, and there he was, coming to her from her darkest memories just to beg for a job. Judging rom her expression, he was sure
But the rejection that he was expecting didn't come. Instead, her distraught face turned into a sympathetic one.
"Let me guess," she said, "You came here because you wanted a job?"
"Well, my kitchen's already full," she said.
There it was. The "I'm sorry but I cannot help you" bullshit.
"But," she continued, "I can make an exception. I know you need someplace to start."
Bill's face soured. He tried to hide his surprise from her pronouncement.
"I will be happy to open a spot for you here in my restaurant, but on one condition."
"Sure. Name it," Bill replied.
"You will be a sous chef, and I know it will be a blow to your ego because you were already the head chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant, but here in Glass Ceilings, every one is versatile. Each chef can cook everything. And what I know is that while you are an expert on southern cuisine, your knowledge of other cuisines need work."
"In here, I want you to be able to create your own dish, based on what drives you, what inspired you," Hillary added. "That is what Glass Ceilings is for. This is where chefs get to expand their artistry on food. I can say that our chefs are all artists. They get inspired and they express their artistry on food. This is why customers go to this restaurant. Our chefs' creativity brings the ultimate culinary experience to our diners."
Bill simply stared at Hillary, struck. He was unsure if he would be happy that he offered him a job or offended because she had insinuated that he lacked skills. It would have been better if she never said anything at all. But then again, he was in no position to give him a piece of his mind. She might rescind her offer if he did.
"You have one week to think about my offer," Hillary said. "I know my offer wouldn't stand against the other restaurants who would want a Michelin-starred chef in their roster, but I can promise you that when you leave my restaurant, you will have the skills you need to go all the way. You can have my word on that," she assured.
Bill bit his lip. It's not as if he had a choice. Contrary to Hillary's belief, he had no offers from other restaurants. Apparently, the culinary word was no different from showbiz. Word of his failure spread fast, and nobody wanted a chef like him to work in their restaurants.
"I accept your offer," Bill sighed.
Hillary nodded. "Great. You will start after the fall shutdown. As you know, we take a two week shutdown at the beginning of every season to give our employees a well-deserved break. There's no reason for you to start prior to that shutdown."
Hillary decided whether to prolong this conversation or not, as this has been an ultimate torture for her. All along in this conversation, she was consumed by guilt, guilt from the terrible things that she had done to him. She thought it was a freaking miracle that he was talking to her. And now, by some twist of fate, she would be his boss. Part of the reason why she offered him the job was that she hoped it would help him forgive her, even though she hadn't asked for this forgiveness yet.
Hillary decided that she would let him be by himself. After all, she didn't even know how to start a conversation with him, even though years ago, talking to him was as easy as breathing. But then again, he had no idea back then how big of a bitch she was. She took a deep sigh and gave him his privacy.
Bill stared at his hands, still in disbelief that he had landed a job and at the same time, bracing for the flood of painful memories that were sure to surge because of constant presence. No matter how hard he tried to put her behind him, she was still there, lurking in his mind and his heart. He quietly kicked himself for not being able to escape from her. Bill looked around to see if she was still there, but he was a little disappointed that she was not. His heart broke a little bit when he realized that she hadn't properly said goodbye to him, but he had to learn to live with that. He had to learn once and for all that Hillary would never choose him, over her career or her boyfriend who he can never measure up to.
He had to, or else he wouldn't survive.