“I think it’s more of a protective thing,” I told her. “He’s worried about you.”
“Well, he shouldn’t be. It’s delivering pizza, not going into warfare.”
I laughed, but once Mac had arrived, I kind of had to wonder if she wasn’t sort of right. First, he repeated what he’d already told us about handling the money and keeping the car locked even if you were only out of it for a second. Then he moved on to the importance of stepping far enough back from the door after knocking that no one could touch you when it opened. He was just segueing into a few cautionary tales from his own experience to emphasize these points when Layla looked at her wrist and said, “Can we start now?”
He made a face at her. “You’re not wearing a watch.”
“True. But if I were, it would say you’ve been talking too long.” She turned on her heel, starting back to Seaside. “I’m going to get our first order, Sydney. Warm up the car!”
We both watched her go, her steps light. She was more excited than she’d been at any point during the training. “Don’t let her go to a door alone even if she insists she’s fine,” he said as she disappeared inside. “And if she starts talking too much to customers, cut her off. Get the money, give the pie, and go. Should take no more than five minutes.”
“Right,” I said, again feeling like I was being prepped to infiltrate enemy lines.
“And only take the cash you’ll need to the door with you. If you have to make change, turn your back.”
“If you’re ever in doubt or feel weird, just leave the pizza. It’s not worth it.”
I nodded just as Layla emerged from Seaside’s door, carrying a warmer in her hands. She was beaming as she approached. “It’s our maiden voyage! And in your neighborhood, Sydney.”
“Really?” She held out the slip: sure enough, it was an Arbors address, although not one I recognized.
“We need to be careful, though,” she said, shooting Mac a serious look. “You know how dangerous those rich people can be.”
“Ha-ha,” he said as she opened the back door, putting the pizza on the floor as he’d taught us. (There was less risk there of cheese slide, apparently a cardinal sin in the delivery business.) Then, to me, he said, “Drive safe.”
The ride over was uneventful, marked mostly by Layla making grand plans for what we would do with all our tip money once it started rolling in. By the time we pulled up to a large Colonial in my neighborhood, she’d spent more than I figured we’d ever make, unless we planned to do this into our thirties. Little did I know that as soon as the door opened, our new endeavor would pretty much be over before it even began.
“Pizza’s here!” a voice called, and then there were footsteps, followed by the sound of a lock flipping. We both stepped back—Mac would have been proud—as the door opened, revealing a guy about our age, blond, with blue eyes and broad shoulders, wearing a U football jersey. When he saw us, he smiled.
“Do you need me to come pay?” a woman’s voice, older, called from down the hallway behind him.
“No, I’ve got it,” he replied, then stepped outside, shutting the door behind him. I took another step back, but Layla stayed where she was.
“Extra large half cheese, half ham-pineapple,” I said. “That’s fifteen-oh-nine with tax.” (“Recite the order and price first thing, even if they’ve already paid over the phone. It’s like a verbal contract they can’t renege on, plus they’ll know how much they should tip.”)
Although I’d spoken, it was Layla he was looking at as he pulled out some bills. “How much for the delivery?”
“For you, it’s free,” she told him.
“It’s my lucky day, then,” he said, peeling off a twenty and handing it to her. “Keep the change.”
“Thank you!” she said cheerfully, pocketing it as I opened the warmer and handed him the pie. “I hope you enjoy your lunch.”
“I would, if it meant you weren’t leaving,” he told her.
“Duty calls,” she replied. But I was pretty sure I saw her blush. “Pies to deliver, money to make.”
I turned around, hoping to give the signal that she should do the same. But of course, she was lingering, following me down one step but not the next.
“If I were to order another,” he said, his hand now on the knob, “would you deliver it?”
“Maybe.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Or it might be my big brother.”
“Fifty-fifty chance?” He smiled. “I’ll take those odds.”
To this, Layla said nothing, instead just following me back to the car. Once safely inside, engine on, I said, “You do realize you just broke, like, every one of Mac’s rules.”
“Do you know him?” she replied. “Like, from the neighborhood?”
“No,” I said flatly. He was still on the steps, watching us, as if he thought maybe she might get out of the car. I backed out of the driveway, quick. “Never seen him in my life.”
When we got back to Seaside, another order had been placed from the same address. So we doubled back across town, this time with Layla primping the entire way. More flirting ensued and another five was tipped, while I stood by feeling awkward, to say the least. This time, when we returned, Mac was waiting, the warmer in hand.
“Same address?” he asked. “Three pizzas?”