For Disclaimer and Notes please see First Chapter
Marie, age 15, 5 months
"Marie, you're up," Helen, the head waitress, called from behind the counter. I glanced over my shoulder to see who she was referring to and frowned slightly when I saw the lone man sitting in the booth in the corner. He looked a little rough from where I was standing and I imagine it was more so up close. I quickly finished stacking the clean plates and grabbed my pen and pad off the counter before
heading over to him. He sensed me coming and looked up as I approached his booth.
He was wild looking. His hair stood up in all directions. He had these huge muttonchops that no one grew out anymore. And most of all, his entire demeanor screamed that he was dangerous and to leave him alone. The urge to turn around and let one of the other women handle him was fairly strong. But he locked those hazel eyes on me and the intensity of that gaze, even for that brief moment before he shifted his eyes, was so intense that it made my heart race. Never before had a man looked at me like that. But the moment was so short that I convinced myself that I had to have imagined it.
"What can I get for you?" I asked him, as I pressed the tip of my pen in the pad in my other hand.
"Hamburger. Two of them. As rare as you can get them. And a Coke. And you better bring over an ashtray too," he gruffly got out. I quickly wrote it down and then started to walk away when he reached out to stop me. I instinctively flinched away from him and something, something close to guilt and/or pain, flashed across his eyes. But it was quickly dismissed and he pulled his hand back.
"I'm not going to hurt you, kid. I just wanted to add some fries to that," he quietly told me. I nodded, quickly, and headed back to the counter to place the order.
I quickly rewrote the order and put it up for the cook and then headed over to grab the guy's soda. It was a relatively slow afternoon. Between Helen, Tracey, and I we had the place very much under control. We had roughly two tables a piece and between running small errands for them we had absolutely nothing to do. I filled the
glass up, grabbing an extra ashtray off the counter, and headed back over to his booth. I set the soda down in front of him and then the ashtray. He grunted and I took that as a `thanks' and possibly as a `go away'. Either way I didn't comment and I went back to busying myself behind the counter doing odd jobs. I kept an eye on my other table. But since it was Rudy, a regular of mine, I knew that he
would be sitting there, not needing my assistance or presence for awhile.
Sam hit the bell to let me know that the guy's order was ready. I looked up from the other side of the line, immediately in front of him, and glared.
"Was that really necessary, sugar?" I commented and he smirked at me.
"You know it's policy," he replied and I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him.
"Whatever you say, boss," I lightly replied, but the smile was creeping onto my face even though I tried to keep it down.
"I see that smile, Marie," he teased me as he headed back to the grill. I grabbed the two plates that held the guy's hamburgers and fries and then headed over to his booth. He was silently smoking a cigar in his little corner. And he was eerily silent, saying nothing, reading nothing, just staring off into space. I slid the two plates onto the table and then spoke.
"Is there anything else that I can get for you at the moment? Or are you good?" I asked him and he looked over his food and then up at me.
"I'm good," he told me and I nodded, forcing a small smile, and then started to walk away. "Marie," he called after me. I turned back to face him and waited. "I got it from your name tag," he explained and then muttered, "which is crooked", almost too low for me to hear. But I heard it and raised an eyebrow, slightly pissed. I forced
myself not to automatically fix the nametag that hung just above my left breast.
"Yes?" I questioned and stared at him. He looked like he was about to say something but then he changed his mind.
"Thanks," he quickly got out and then reached for his food. I gave him a slight nod and then walked away from his table.
I must have had an upset look on my face when I returned to the counter because Helen immediately came over.
"Is he giving you a hard time, hon? Cause I can send Sam over there to straighten him out," she immediately informed me. I shook my head no and smiled slightly at her.
"No, Helen, he isn't bothering me at all. He is just a little strange. Gruff and grouchy. I get the feeling that he doesn't deal with people too often is all," I explained to her with a shrug and an easy smile. The truth was that there was something drawing me to the man, but I couldn't for the life of me explain it.
I waited until about five minutes after he was done with his lunch before I headed back over with a fresh soda for him. He had completely devoured both the burgers and all the fries. And there were hardly any crumbs left on his plate at all.
"You all done?" I asked him, setting the new soda down on the table, and I couldn't stop the small smile that crept to my face at my stupid question. He looked up at me and nodded. "Good. Anything else I can get ya?" I inquired as I stacked the two plates together and grabbed the near empty original soda glass.
"Check will be fine," he replied and I nodded.
"I'll be right back with that for you," I stated and headed away.
I put the dirty plates on the sink ledge and put the glass in the glass rack overhead and then headed back up front. I quickly pulled out my notepad and rung up a receipt on the register. I headed back to the booth where the guy was sitting and set it down on the table.
"I'll take that whenever you're ready. Or you can just bring it up to the register and someone will take care of it for you. Either way have a good rest of your afternoon," I explained to him and he looked up and held my gaze for a few seconds. I forced myself to break away, looking at the wall right above the spikes of his hair, and
then left him with the check.
I didn't see him leave, but when I came back out from the kitchen's pantry Tracey had the check and the money for the bill. I looked at the bill and then looked around for the guy.
"Where'd he go?" I asked as she handed it over to me. Tracey smiled at me like a cat smiles as a trapped mouse.
"He left. Just handed me the check and the money. Told me, in minimal words, to let you know the change was for you. Damn girl. What exactly kinda service did you give him that would get you that kinda tip?" She teased me and waited for an answer. Again I looked at the check and the money he left and then just blushed because it was insane.
"I didn't do anything," I told her and she looked doubtful. "I swear. I wasn't even that friendly to him," I repeated myself and then walked away.
Tucked in my apron was a $37.43 tip on a $12.57 order.
It was two weeks later when the guy showed up again. Once again it was completely out of the blue. He went to the last booth and sat alone. I wasn't really waiting on customers that day. Sam had allowed me to come in and help him cook, while Helen and Tracey handled the floor. I helped out where I could without really dealing with the customers.
It was a little after two in the afternoon when Helen came calling for me.
"Marie," Helen called from the front counter. I leaned slightly to my left to peer out of the kitchen and locate Helen.
"What?" I asked her while keeping an eye on the food cooking in front of me.
"You've got a customer. Sam is coming back to finish that for you," she informed me. "So get your apron back on and get out here," she added.
"Helen. I told you that I'm not working the floor today unless you absolutely need me. It isn't that busy out there," I argued with her. Sam came through the kitchen door a minute later and made shooing motions to get me out of his way. Reluctantly I moved so he could take over on the grill.
"I realize that it isn't busy out here, but you have been requested. And I don't think that he is going to take no for an answer," she explained and I shook my head. I really hoped it wasn't Rudy. He was a regular of mine, but should I not be in or not working the floor he was generally fine with other people waiting on him.
"Who is it? And why couldn't you explain to them that I'm not waiting tables today?" I asked her as I came out of the kitchen. I grabbed my apron from the table next to the door and started to carefully pull it on.
"Corner booth," was all she would tell me. She kept looking at me funny, almost like she was trying to suppress a smirk or something. Something was definitely up though. I took a deep breath as I gathered my pen and paper before heading over to the end booth. I kept my head down slightly, turned just enough away from the
customers that they couldn't see my face. I had *accidentally* run into something the trailer late last night and my the right side of face was swollen and turning colors.
I walked up to the booth and my breath caught slightly in my throat when I recognized my customer as the same man that had left me a huge tip a few weeks ago. He looked up at me, a start of a smile on his face, which quickly died and was replaced with a look of anger. I flinched slightly at the look and unconsciously took a step back from him, putting a little more room in between the two of us. At my
actions he quickly schooled his features back to a mask of indifference.
"What can I get for you?" I managed to get out. The look he had just given me shook me to the core. I had seen that look of anger and hatred all too often from my oh-so-loving boyfriend's face.
"Same order as last time," he replied after a moment. I tilted my head to the side and paused a moment. The motion caused my hair to fall away from the bruise and I saw his eyes check out my face. But when I looked down at him, ready to call him on it, he looked me in the eye. I let it go with a small sigh.
"You do realize I have had other customers since you came in. And that it might be possible and highly probable that I don't remember what you got the last time you were in here," I told him, speaking to him softly. It was all a lie though. I remembered exactly what he had ordered, how it had been cooked, and everything. A customer that tipped me more than the balance of the check is one that I wouldn't
easily forget. He cocked an eyebrow at me and smirked slightly.
"Two hamburgers as rare as possible, an order of fries, and a coffee this time. Keep it full and fresh," he dictated his order to me. I nodded and jotted it all down.
"I'll go put that in and be right back with your coffee," I told him and turned away from him.
I headed back to the kitchen and rewrote my order and put it up for Sam to see. I grabbed a clean coffee cup and filled it up. I wasn't sure whether he would want cream or not, I was guessing not, but I grabbed a few creamers anyway and headed over to his table.
"Here you go. I'll be back with your food as soon as I get it cooked," I told him as I set the coffee cup and creamers down on his table.
"You're gonna cook it?" He gruffly asked. I nodded.
"I was cooking today. But Helen insisted that I had to take this customer at his request," I half-teased him.
"I didn't request you," he immediately replied and the slight smile dropped from my face. He must have realized how that sounded because he immediately spoke again. "I mean, I asked if you were here. And then she went and got you. I didn't realize that you weren't taking tables," he quickly backtracked and covered his ass. Another small smile crept onto my face. He looked embarrassed, a look I had never
imagined could be visible on that face.
"I understand. Sit tight. It'll be out shortly," I explained to him and walked back to the kitchen.
Tucked in my apron after that shift was a $40.00 tip on a $12.57 order, along with a box of cigars. I realized on the walk back to Billy's trailer that the cigars smelled just like him. I savored every one of them even though I thought they were disgusting.