High School Soap Opera
By the end of the night when the last customer is out the door, I’m exhausted, and I still have no idea where I’m going to sleep. The couches look pretty comfortable, and I wonder if Jack will let me stay here. I sit down on one, take my shoes off, and massage my left foot. I watch Jack wipe down the bar, then he opens the register and starts counting the money inside.
The cook comes out of the kitchen with a large tray full of food. It’s a sampling of the appetizers they serve here, and he sets the plates on the bar. He bites into a chicken wing. Jack grabs a slider, then looks around. When he sees me, he beckons me over. I leave my shoes behind and cross the room barefoot. This is so much more comfortable, and I vow to burn the heels the first chance I get.
“If we don’t eat the leftovers at the end of the night, they’re just gonna get thrown out,” he explains. “Help yourself. Once I’m done with the till I’ll get down to what everyone really wants: the tip jar.”
“I can get used to a job like this,” I say, taking another fry. Gertrude, the middle-aged waitress, snorts. The other waitress, Selena, smiles at me and takes a chicken wing. She’s only a few years older than me, and she’s really friendly.
“Where you from, Jenna?” she asks. “I’ve never seen you around, have I?”
“No, I just… got here. Today. I don’t exactly know how I ended up here, though.” I reach for a slider just as Jack is reaching for the same one. Our hands touch, then pull back, and we look at each other. He lets me have it, taking a nacho instead and dipping it into the cheese sauce.
“Yeah, same here,” she says, and I look back to Selena. Did she come through the TV too? No, that’s silly. “I bounced around for a while before I landed this job. I’ve had so many jobs, I can’t even count them. I was going to drop off my resume at the pastry shop, but then it burned down.”
“I heard about that,” I say. “Does anybody know what happened?”
“The police are investigating,” Jack says, still counting the register. “I hear it happened the day before the owner was going to be making a big bank deposit. Sounds a little fishy, if you ask me.”
“Serenity has an alibi,” Selena contradicts. “She and Boyd were at their engagement party. Most of the wealthy folks in town were there, and she never left the building.”
“Dolf wasn’t there,” I murmur, then shove a few fries in my mouth.
“What was that?” Selena asks.
“Nothing, I just… I heard that guy Dolf doesn’t have an alibi.”
“Maybe, but does he even have a motive?” Jack asks.
“He’s a jerk,” Selena says. “Does he need a motive?” The chicken wings are done, and she moves on to the nachos.
“My money is still on Serenity,” Jack says, closing the register. “She stands to get a lot of cash from the insurance company if she’s cleared.” He finally empties the tip jar, then he starts sorting the bills. Selena helps by gathering the coins and grouping them into dollars.
I decide to drop the subject. I don’t want to get involved in the soap opera, I just want to know what it’s like to live in this world for a while. And then maybe I’ll stay if it’s better than my real life. Besides, if I accidentally talk about things I’m not supposed to know, I’ll be risking the inevitable questions that would be raised about me.
“Where do you live, Selena?” I ask. “Is it big?” She eyes me, not sure what I’m getting at.
“I have a studio apartment,” she stays suspiciously. “It’s tiny and crowded. Why?”
“I need a place to crash.” I look back at one of the couches. “Maybe…”
“Sorry, Jenna. I don’t even have room for me in my bed, I definitely don’t have room for visitors.” She adds, loudly, “Maybe Gertrude can let you stay in her guest room.”
“Humph,” Gertrude grunts, which sounds like a big fat no to me.
“I have a spare couch,” Jack offers. He starts totaling the tip money on a calculator. Selena turns to face me, her back to the bar, and her eyes widen, telling me to go for it. I look at Jack. He has stopped totaling and is looking back at me, waiting for an answer.
“I…” O.M.G., what do I do? He thinks I’m 22, but I’m 17, which means whatever age difference he thinks is between us is already 5 years too low. “I have to pee,” I say. I don’t know if going into the bathroom with bare feet is a good idea, but it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment.
“Girl, what are you doing?” Selena asks as the bathroom door shuts behind her. “Jack doesn’t hit on anyone. Do you know how lucky you are that he’s inviting you to stay in his house?!”
“That’s not what I heard,” I say. “Gertrude said something to the cook about Jack giving hand-outs to lots of girls.”
“Get this straight,” Selena says, putting her hands up, palms facing me, in a gesture that says stop. “Gertrude is a middle-aged hag bitch who makes up gossip to make her life more interesting. The only reason Jack hired her is so that nobody can claim he’s discriminatory. That’s why he hired Ramon too – he’s the cook, and he barely knows English.”
“Whatever, that still doesn’t excuse what she said.” I look in the mirror and play with my hair, even though I’m not that kind of girl.
“Puh-leeze! Gerty is jealous that we still got it, and she doesn’t. You should be flattered that she thinks of you as a threat, but I don’t know what she’s so worried about. None of the customers flirt with her anyhow.” Judging by Selena’s body, she gets plenty of attention from guys in the club. She reaches into the middle of her bra and takes out some cash. “Here, I’ll split it with you. Don’t tell anyone, though, I’ll get fired.”
“What is all of that?”
“My tips. Most of them. I put some in the tip jar so nobody suspects anything, but I’m not busting my ass and wearing my clothes this tight so Grandma Gerty can get my hard-earned dough.”
“I don’t know, it’s my first day and I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“Are you kidding? Us hot chicks gotta stick together. I’m offering you some of this because I’m trusting you to do this with me. We put some money in the jar, we put some money in the bra. Sometimes if I let the guys put the money in my bra themselves they give more. End of the night, we split it down the middle.”
“And if I don’t agree to it?”
“Then I take all this cash here,” she says, pointing to the counter, “and tell Jack that I came in and found you taking it out of your bra. And then what will the boss think? I’ve been here a year, honey. You think he’ll keep me with my experience, or you, the pretty girl-next-door type who showed up out of the blue with no past, no place to live… not even a purse. You got ID? How old are you, anyway?”
“Why would you want to cut me in though? Doesn’t that lower your take-home if I don’t get as much tip money as you?” And then I look at her more closely. She’s older than I realized, probably in her mid-thirties. I gasp. “You’re jealous of me!”
“You’re dreaming, Jenna,” she says, and she starts collecting her tips.
“Let’s make a deal. We can have our own little tip pool,but you have to help me learn this job as fast as possible. It’s bad enough I had to ask Jack for a job and now a place to sleep. I can’t let him down by sucking.”
“Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind that one bit,” she says evilly, and I realize how it sounded. She starts counting the money.
“At the job,” I say, blushing. “I meant, sucking at the job.” She laughs loudly.
“Trust me, honey. He’s a guy. You sucking… at the job… still sounds like something he’d enjoy.”
At first I can’t believe what she’s saying. Then I remember that I’m in a soap opera now. Not only is her dirty mind believable, not to mention that what she’s saying is probably a logical thing to happen in her world, though it’s not something I plan on doing… It also makes sense that there is so much gossip and jealousy within the very small staff of the Stargazer Lounge. I guess before I came to Spruce Ridge, however that happened, I didn’t think that even the background characters would have such rich plot lines on a soap.
“So… here’s your share.” She gives me $50.
“That can’t be half,” I say, looking at the bill.
“I didn’t say you would get half today, I just said I would share. Between this and what Jack is giving you…” She laughs again. “Sorry, between this and your share of the tip jar, you might even have enough for a motel room… But I would suggest clothes. You’ll need to dress a bit skimpier if you want to make this kind of money.”
It crosses my mind that Selena is one lap dance away from a job at a strip club.
Back at the bar, we find Jack sitting alone. Gertrude and Ramon took their share of the tips and left, and Jack sits on a bar stool. There are two even piles of cash next to him. I made Selena promise to take me shopping before work the next day, and I hope she’s right that I’ll have enough cash to get a few outfits.
“So what’s the verdict?” Jack asks. “Am I driving you to my place, or did you decide on something else?”
Selena walks up behind Jack and pressed her chest into his back as she reaches across to pick up her tips. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or does he actually look uncomfortable? “She’s not staying with me,” she says. She walks backwards toward the back door. “Don’t forget what we talked about,” she tells me. “You had a few pretty good ideas back there!” She laughs as she turns and exits the building.
“What was that about?” Jack asks. I sit on the bar stool two away from him. “Are you blushing?”
“Wow, is this all for me?” I ask, ignoring his questions and picking up the last pile of cash on the bar. I flip through it.
“Three hundred tonight,” he says. “It’s not as much as usual since my other bartender quit, but it’s not bad.”
“Not bad? I don’t know if I’ve ever held this much money before.” I move slightly, and the chair moves. I put my hands on the bar and twist, and the seat of the bar stool turns with me.
“Right, most people just use credit cards and direct deposit these days,” he says, assuming that’s what I meant. He looks amused at my playing with the bar stool, but I don’t care. This is fun.
“Sure,” I say, pretending he’s right. I stop turning in my seat. “It’s too bad my purse was stolen. I lost my credit card and my ID.” He looks at me, alarmed.
“In here?” he asks. Of course he would think it happened here, I couldn’t have gotten in without my ID, right? “My father was right, I should have security cameras installed in here.
“Don’t worry about it. I can report the card missing tomorrow. I just can’t get another ID without some other proof of identity.” I bite my lip. Here I am again, damsel in distress waiting for Jack to rescue me, but this time there’s no way he can. I don’t have fingerprints on record here, or a birth certificate, or anything else that will help anyone to ID me. I realize that if I were to have some freak accident and die here on the spot, I would probably be filed in the morgue under the name Jenna Doe.
“I have a friend who makes fake IDs,” he says. “No questions asked.” He stands up and goes behind the bar to get his keys and a black leather jacket. I didn’t see him as a leather jacket kind of guy.
“But you have a bar. You’re supposed to be completely against fake IDs.” I get up and head for my shoes, which are still over by the couch.
“It’s a lounge, not a bar… And yes, I am against underage kids getting fake IDs to get in here illegally and expect me to serve alcohol to minors, which could get me in huge trouble. But you’re not underage, right?”
“I told you, I’m 22,” I call from across the room. I sit down to tie on the ribboned stilettos.
“See?” He smiles. “I’ll ask him to come here tomorrow night, and you guys can talk in my office.” When he says talk he makes air quotes with his fingers.
“Anyway, how old are you?”
“Younger than you is my guess,” he says, then chuckles. I must look as confused as I feel, because he adds, “I know how it works. If a woman tells you her age, you have to add five to get her real age.” More like subtract five.
“Not me. You don’t have to add five years to my age.” This isn’t technically a lie… not that it matters, since I already lied.
He laughs. “Fair enough, I’ll go with it.” I stand, and my toes feel pinched. This is why women aren’t supposed to take off shoes that hurt – because when we put them back on, the pain is magnified. “Why do you wear shoes like that if they hurt that much?” Jack asks. I look up. I didn’t realize he was so close.
“Fashion hurts.” I try to say it like I believe it, but I can’t help agreeing with him. Like magic, he hands me a pair of fuzzy blue slippers, which he had been holding behind his back. “Where did these come from? You’re totally my hero right now.” I sit down and take off the devil shoes.
“It’s not easy bartending,” he says,”going back and forth all night.” I slide my feet into the slippers. They are still warm.
“Aww, you wore them tonight?” He nods. “And now my bare feet are getting down and dirty with your sweaty foot stink.” He laughs.
“What can I say? I’m a gentleman.”
I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One