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Faking It For Mr Right
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The first ring I ever wore was the one he slipped over my finger.
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With a sigh, I lean farther over the puddle that used to be our back floor. Some days my job isn’t too bad—it pays the bills, at least. But some days it makes me want to throw in the towel, quite literally, run out into the parking lot and scream. Today, unfortunately, is one of the latter. I sop up the worst of the spill, courtesy of a couple and their brood of five children. The youngest were cute, but the oldest entertained themselves by having a mini food fight.
My arms ache and my back twinges, but I keep scrubbing until the floor shines. Bob won’t have it any other way, and I know I can’t leave this restaurant until I can see my reflection in the floor. My boss is nothing if not a micromanager. And tonight we’re busier than usual, thanks to Amy Bletcher’s wedding. That woman has more best friends to invite to her wedding than I’ve met in my entire life.
But that’s what happens when you grow up in a small town and never branch out, like me. Amy’s one of the many who got out, headed to the big city and lived up her life. Seeing all her city friends, extravagantly dressed and rolling into town for her big wedding just makes me question my life choices all over again.
But it’s not like I really had a choice. And besides, there are things I love about my small-town life. My best friend Devan. Our friendship. Being close to nature. It’s beautiful here, when I get the chance to enjoy it.
Lately, though, that’s been less and less often. My work schedule has taken over my life. Even between Devan and I, we barely make enough to cover rent from month to month.
I sigh and throw in the towel—literally. I’m going to need another one to finish cleaning up this sloppy mess.
As I’m climbing to my feet, I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. I head into the back room before I answer; Bob doesn’t like it when we take phone calls while on the floor. Not that any of the usual crowd would mind. But I have a feeling that tonight, with all these well-dressed New Yorkers in town, Bob will want all of his staff on our best behavior.
When I’m safely inside the kitchen, half-deaf from the rattle of plates and pans in the sink and the whistles of the chefs as they fry up meals, I answer the phone.
“Melanie?” The voice on the other end of the phone is so croaky I can barely recognize it.
“Devan?” I ask, only after checking the caller ID. “You okay?”
“No,” my bestie groans into the receiver. “I think I caught that cold Giovani had last week.”
I grimace, remembering how one of our bartenders infected the majority of the kitchen staff after a particularly gruesome coughing fit. Bob reluctantly sent him home, though only after the rest of us complained that we didn’t want to catch the plague.
Too little too late, I guess. I rub my neck subconsciously and pray I haven’t caught it too. Then my eyes land on the schedule pinned to the wall beside me, and I realize why Devan’s really calling. Her shift starts at 6pm, right when mine is supposed to end. “You should stay home,” I tell her.
“Bob will kill me,” she protests, but I cut her off.
“I’ll cover your shift.”
Her breath hitches over the line. “Are you sure?”
“I’ve got this, honey. Besides, the last thing we want is you bringing Amy Bletcher’s entire wedding party down with the flu a day before the big bash.”
She laughs, which turns into a hacking cough that makes me grimace. “Thank you,” she finally manages, her voice more of a wheeze than anything.
“Stay in bed, watch some crappy movies,” I say. “I’ll bring home some of Carl’s chicken noddle soup tonight when I’m off.” When I finish at midnight, since Devan’s working the closing shift. I’ve already been on my feet since my shift started this morning. They throb at the very thought of an extra five hours of standing. But what am I going to do? Make my bestie work while she’s dying?
I take a deep breath, wish Devan a long restful night, and hang up the phone. My arms and my neck ache from scrubbing the floor on top of carrying all the trays I’ve been balancing all day. All my body wants to do is beeline home and collapse face-first onto my couch.
At least I’ll make a little extra cash today, I try to reason with myself. Maybe when Devan’s feeling better she can cover one of my shifts and I can splurge on a massage or something. The one spa in town runs a special discount on Tuesdays.
Forcing a picture of that into my mind, I summon all my remaining willpower and reach for another rag to finish mopping up the spill. As I do that, though, I lean into the sightline of the bar staff. Mistake.