Authors: Whitney Boyd
The deliciousness wins out over the pain. I polish the sandwich off, down my entire Sprite, chew the ice chips in a vain effort to calm my burning mouth, and feel proud of myself. If it’ll take eating the spicy Southern food to make me like a native Floridian, so be it.
Thirty minutes later, I am on my way back to the apartment to get the money to pay for my furniture and then off to find Maxie’s, a place that supposedly will take a wash-up like me.
❄ ❅ ❄
“So you want a job, huh.”
I nod, cross my legs, and sit up taller in the small, metal chair. I’d gone back to the consignment shop, paid and given them my address for the furniture delivery. Then I put on a new pair of heels, pulled my hair back with a Lululemon headband and hurried out the door to meet the owner of Maxie’s.
And now I’m in an actual interview, in the back of the diner in a tiny, dimly lit office.
Max smiles at me, the wrinkles around his eyes deepening. He glances at my legs and I nervously re-cross them to the other side.
“You a good worker?”
I draw a deep breath and nod a second time. “Absolutely.”
I’m prepared for this interview. On the walk over, I’d come up with a whole list of all the reasons why I’d be a good waitress. “Sell myself” like Mama had said. My reasons are pretty decent, and the moment Max asks me
I would be a good waitress, I’ll be able to rattle them off. I go over them again in my head, just to make sure I haven’t forgotten any.
See? Perfect reasons for why I should get the job.
Max hasn’t noticed that I’ve been lost in thought. He is still gazing at my legs and nodding his head slowly, as if he’s mulling over my answer that I’m a good worker. Abruptly he looks up and scratches the stubble on his chin.
“Great, you’re hired. Can you start tomorrow?”
I stare at him dumbly. Really? Two questions, me nodding my head, and I’ve got the job?
“Sure, I can start tomorrow.” I feel my cheeks lift into a smile.
“The girls will give you an orientation when you get in. Work starts at nine. See you then.” With a final glance at my legs, Max stands, shakes my hand, and escorts me back through the restaurant to the door.
I thank him again and, as the door closes behind me, I throw my head back and beam into the sunshine. I have a job! I have furniture! I have an apartment!
Despite not being a praying person, I whisper a quick thank you to the heavens and head on home.
1 Unread Message!
You still haven’t responded to my offer!!!!!!!!! I have no problem coming with you for any TV or radio appearances. I’ll even stand by you for the magazine interviews, although I know those are not as stressful!! *laugh* Just tell me when they are!!!!!!!! Plus, you really need to stop hiding in your condo. The more you hide away, the more people will think you’re ashamed!!!!
And just remember: A little affair never hurt anyone! Don’t act so hurt by it all. It’s making people talk!!!!!!
I step out into the bright sunlight of the morning and am locking my front door when I hear a young voice. I squint across the front steps and see a little boy with dark, curly hair, trimmed short around his round face. He looks about five years old and is wearing a shirt that is much too big for him.
“Hey,” I reply, putting my key in my purse and lifting my hand in a brief wave.
“What’s your name?” he asks, stepping on something crawling across the sidewalk. I look away. As much as bugs creep me out, watching them die is even more disturbing.
“I’m Kennedy. What’s your name?”
“My name is Carlos. Are you my neighbor?”
I nod my head, not really sure how to talk to little kids. I’ve never had much interaction with them before. I babysat once, when I was thirteen or so, and the kid had a tantrum, threw toys at me, and locked himself in the bathroom. Then he couldn’t get out, so I called the police and they came over at the same time the parents got home and—yeah, not a pleasant memory. But at least I got paid twenty bucks for my efforts.
My little neighbor is talking again. “Cool. Your hair is pretty. Mama says that people who wear shoes like yours are rich. Are you rich?”
This kid jumps all over the place in conversation. I glance down at my feet. I’m wearing high heels, a last season model by Gucci, but nothing that a boy would recognize.
“What makes my shoes special?” I ask, curious.
“How they are so tall. Mama says that rich people wear tall shoes and poor people wear shoes that are not tall.”
I laugh. “Well, maybe some rich people wear high heels, but I’m not rich, I promise. I just like them. Besides, you can buy cheap high heels. They don’t cost any more than normal shoes.”
Carlos wipes his nose on his arm and squints at me. “Really? Cause my mama never wears shoes like that.” He looks skeptical.
I nod and begin walking down the sidewalk. “Well, maybe she doesn’t like how they fit. Sometimes tall shoes hurt your feet.”
“Like walking on tiptoes?”
“Exactly. Only you never get down from it.”
He seems satisfied with that. “Where are you going?”
“To work. It’s my first day, so I’m a little nervous.” I haven’t admitted this to anyone other than the mirror and hearing the words aloud makes me even more anxious.
“I like work. Mama says that one day I’ll be able to work and earn money. And then I’m gonna buy all the candy in the world. Like sour soothers and gum balls and chocolate and—”
Carlos keeps going, rattling off a million different candy types. I glance at my watch again.
“Great,” I interrupt, stepping down the front walk. My heels make an important clicking sound on the pavement and I can’t help but feel even more beautiful and elegant now that I know a five-year-old kid is admiring me. “I’m going now. I’ll see you later, okay?”
Carlos waves goodbye and I walk briskly away.
Seize the day. I feel sort of invincible, like Superwoman. Waitressing can’t be all that difficult, can it?
❄ ❅ ❄
I arrive at Maxie’s just before nine with aching feet from the ten minute walk in the high heels. I can’t help but think that maybe Carlos’ mother is right. Only rich people wear heels. Poor people in the working class are much better off in something comfortable. But I really wanted to make a good impression on my first day, and all the hostesses at the fancy restaurants Todd and I used to eat at wore designer clothes and high heels.
The front door is unlocked, even though the lights are off and the sign says
. I enter, pushing open the door and taking a couple small steps inside. I’m ready for this so-called orientation that Max promised yesterday in the interview.
It is silent and I don’t see anybody. I might be the only person in here.
“Hello?” My voice is small but it seems loud in the quiet room. “Is anyone here?”
There is a crash in the back and a deeply-tanned girl in her early twenties with bleached blonde hair in dreadlocks and bright red lipstick pokes her head around a door marked
“We’re closed until nine.”
I hold up my hand as if I’m in school with a question. “I’m actually here to work,” I begin, but she has already ducked back into the kitchen.
Making sure I don’t trip on anything, I walk across the faintly lit room and push open the door. “Hello?”
“I told you, we’re still closed. Please get out before I make you get out.” Dreadlocks stands up from behind a cupboard and glares at me.
“It’s my first day,” I interject. “I’m Kennedy and Max told me to come here just before nine and that you guys would show me the ropes.”
“Your first day?” she repeats, a look of horror appearing on her face. She groans and smacks her forehead with her palm. “Seriously, Max hired someone else?”
I feel distinctly unwelcome. “Um, yes, I guess so.”
She turns her back on me and pulls dishes out of an industrial-sized dishwasher. She piles them on the counter behind her. “I told Max we didn’t need another waitress. I
told him.” With that, she tosses a handful of silverware on top of the plates and glares at me.
“I’m sorry.” I hate having to apologize for something I didn’t do, but I don’t feel like I have much of a choice.
She sighs. “Whatever, not your fault. I’m Leila. Christine starts at eleven today. There are also three other waitresses who work the shifts opposite us. Welcome to Maxie’s, where we are underappreciated, overstaffed and, as you will find out, underpaid.”
She walks to a brown cardboard box at the far end of the kitchen and pulls out some ugly fabric, that, when she unfolds it, I see is a dress. Sort of.
“This is the uniform. Used to belong to Linda, the chick who quit here about two months ago. Disgusting color, I know. But at least when it’s a puke green color all other stains sort of blend in.”
I take it between two fingers and sniff it. “Are you sure this has been washed?”
Leila snorts, grabs a pile of cutlery, and walks out the door to the dining room. “Of course I’m not sure. Half the dishes we serve food on haven’t been washed. What’s a little sweat and grease anyway?”
I think I might gag. I hold the uniform in one hand and follow Leila out the door. “Okay, I’ll wash it tonight. Can I just wear my street clothes for today?”
“Not a chance,” Leila grins. She seems to enjoy my discomfort. “One day in a dirty dress won’t kill you, right newbie?”
I shudder, but nod reluctantly. “Fine. I’ll put it on. So, um, what exactly am I supposed to do today?”
Leila places a knife, fork, and spoon on a napkin on the nearest table. “Let me guess. You’ve never been a waitress before. You need money, so you thought you’d try it out. And Max hired you because he thinks your legs are hot in heels. Seriously, who do you think you are, Paris Hilton? Please tell me that those shoes are Gucci knock offs and not the real thing.”
I’m flustered and look down at my aching feet. “Um, they’re real Gucci, actually. But I didn’t know I’d be expected to wear something different.” Suddenly I feel very stupid. So much for making a good impression by wearing nice shoes.
Leila shakes her head and slams some cutlery on the next table. “You’re not
to, but it’s common sense. Do you think people will leave tips if your shoes cost more than their cars?”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. In fact, until a week ago, I hadn’t thought much about money at all. It always was just there.
My parents were corporate lawyers, both partners in the largest law firms in the country. They’d worked over a hundred hours apiece each week, but what they lacked in being loving parents they more than made up for in monetary allowances. I’d had the cars, the clothes, everything I could have wanted. Except for their love and attention.
But that’s beside the point.
Anyway, after losing a major lawsuit, my dad committed suicide when I was twelve, leaving my mother and me behind with all his investments and a lot of money. Then my mom died in a car crash when I was eighteen, so I had her life insurance and my trust fund on top of everything else. Those ran out eventually, but by then I’d met Todd and he was going to be a huge star. And he was. Games and endorsement deals for him meant more trips to Bali and more spa dates with teammates’ wives, designer clothes, and everything else.
So truthfully? Gucci had just become a bit of a habit.
“I’ll try to wear something different tomorrow, if that helps,” I tell her and look around for more plates. Maybe if I assist her in putting things on the tables, she’ll realize I’m needed here.
“You don’t talk like you’re from here. Where are you from anyway? Your accent says Idaho farm girl, am I right?”
“Really? I have an accent?” I’m a bit surprised.
Leila tosses the next handful of cutlery a bit too far on a table and a knife falls onto the floor. She bends down, blows off some dust, and puts it back on the table.
“Not an accent, exactly, but you talk different. I’m guessing if it’s not Idaho, then it’s somewhere in the Mid-West. Utah? North Dakota?”
I ignore her question, staring in horror at the knife she just placed back on the table. “Um, are you sure you shouldn’t wash that? The floor can’t be all that clean and . . .” I trail off at her expression.
Leila shakes her head and says, looking upward, “Of all people, the newbie
to be a clean freak.”
I flush, a bit embarrassed. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, but still, don’t people expect their restaurants to be clean when they go in? “I didn’t mean to offend you . . .” I begin, but Leila holds up a hand to silence me.
“I get it, okay. I was like you once upon a time, too. But you’ll find out soon enough. Gary, the cook in the kitchen? He doesn’t wear a hairnet. And I think it’s a bit questionable if he ever showers. The food isn’t fit for human consumption, but the prices are good and we usually have a crowd, especially for dinner. So little things like dirty forks don’t end up mattering. All that matters is we serve the customers, they don’t notice the mouse traps in the corners and Max is happy. Got it?”
I grimace. “Mouse traps?”
“Just be grateful the cockroaches are gone for the time being.”
I feel a little dizzy. “Look, maybe I’m in the wrong place. I’m not very good at things like this. I like things being clean and, and neat and, well, not mice-infested. I think I’m in the wrong job.”
Leila smiles at me and for the first time it seems genuine. “It’s Carley, right?”
“Kennedy,” I reply with hesitation.
“Kennedy. Right. I think I prefer newbie. Anyway, don’t let my orientation freak you out. This isn’t a bad place. Max is a bit of a tool and Gary is nasty, but the customers who come in are nice enough, usually, and it’s a job. Even when people all over America are losing jobs, Max will never fire us. We’re safe here, you know? So just give it a shot. You’ll fit in all right.”