"The thing about a job," I explained to the 20-year-old kid standing in front of me, "is that you sort of have to do it. Nowhere in the definition Webster was kind enough to provide does it say the words 'if you feel like it.'" I sighed at him.
The kid stared at me, clearly not understanding what I was getting at. "But I feel sick," he moaned.
I ran a hand through my long dark brown hair and sighed. "Carlo, what did you do last night? You begged me to cut you from the floor early. I'm very curious."
He went into a long description of the killer party he'd passed out at. I bit my lip and tried to hide a smile as I listened. I decided to not lecture him about the downfalls of drinking 151 in the first place, and kept to myself the fact that I knew he was telling a little fib about how much of it he'd had to drink. If you have to lie about how much alcohol you can hold, you really shouldn't stretch it to the limit if certain death from alcohol poisoning.
"All right. So you passed out drunk last night. It's dinner time. You knew you had to work this evening, yes?"
"And you knew before you started drinking that it would be possible you'd be hung over when you woke up?"
"I'm not finished!" His mouth shut promptly at my sharp tone. "Look, kid,do, you'll learn eventually. Can you give me a logical reason why the person who has already been here for six hours with no break should work another five to close for you?"
I frowned at him. "You're not sick, you're hung over. If I cover for you every time you feel like this, I'll never have any time off and you'll never learn your lesson."
"Please?" he was begging, and it was most unattractive. He muttered some excuses while I made five gallons of margaritas.
'No." I bit my lip. I wanted to ask him whether drinking and getting laid or his job was more important. I knew I wouldn't like the answer, so I kept my lips sealed on the subject.
He'd have pleaded and begged some more if he hadn't seen the annoyed look on my face. I'd been trying out a new policy lately, and my coworkers were taking a long time to get used to it. The new policy, which I was enjoying much more than they were, was my not being a pushover anymore. "You're standing here arguing with me. I know you have tables you're neglecting," I offered.
Carlo's face said 'oh shit' for him and he practically ran away from my bar. I liked him a lot; he was a good kid. The problem with working with him all the time was that I sometimes had to baby sit more than I'd like to. When I shook my head and sighed, I heard a low chuckle coming from behind me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. Instead, I turned around with a smile. Cameron Manning sat staring straight at me. I had no idea how long he'd been there, though I assumed not long. He was the type of man who made his presence known the second he came into the room. He was a rich, pompous asshole. It was, unfortunately, my job to be nice to him.
"Sorry about that, Mr. Manning." I would never be rude to a guest, regardless of how much they frustrated me. It seemed that he enjoyed pushing my buttons to see if he could get me to snap. In a year and a half, it had never worked. "What can I get for you today?"
"That guy always like that?" he asked.
"Yeah." I sighed. "Kids will be kids."
He smirked. "Kids? You're not his mother, shorty. You're what a year older than him?"
I shrugged. "That's irrelevant." I purposely ignored his shot at my height. "What'll it be tonight?"
"Margarita, sweetie. Whatever your pretty little head thinks up for me." A few moments later, he had a purple beverage sitting in front of him. "What's in it?" he asked, looking at it as though it were poisoned.
"Corazon Reposado. It's Chambord that makes it purple. Berry liquour." I grinned at him. "Just try it, I'd never give you something that didn't taste good." The sugar dripping from my voice was starting to make me sick.
He took a sip and nodded with a smile.
I was about to ask him how his day was when I heard Carlo frantically calling my name from across the room. "Just a moment please, Mr. Manning," I said and strode over to the kid summoning me. "Yes, Carlo?"
His eyes were wide. I knew this was going to be good. "My table wants to see you."
"Okay. What did you do?"
"Nothing," he insisted.
"Right." I didn't have time to fight with him on the subject. I'd find out from the table why they were so upset with him soon enough. "What table?"
I walked over with a smile. "Hello. My name is Jane, I'm the manager on duty." The forty-something woman sitting closest to me stood. This would not be easy to fix. "What seems to be the problem over here?"
The woman didn't say anything. She punched me in the face. I let out a shocked yelp and stumbled back. She stepped toward me and I threw my arms up to defend my face. She slugged me in the stomach and I bent over gasping for air.
One of the men from her table pulled her off of me before she could strike again. "I'm so sorry," he was babbling. "Please don't call the cops."
Once I could breathe again, I stood. I stared at the man in disbelief. "She just assaulted me completely unprompted, and you expect me to just forget about it?"
"Well, I, uh…" He was stuttering. "Please don't."
"I already put the call through," an older man sitting at a nearby table said. The man I assumed to be her husband sighed, defeated. The woman began cussing and screaming at the gentleman who had called the police.
Jameson, a very large black man, came over to diffuse the situation. I smiled gratefully at the cook and went to find Carlo. I was seething.
I found him at the bar talking to Cameron. He saw me and his eyes widened. "Oh my god! What happened?"
"What did you do to that table?"
"Nothing, the lady tried to kiss me and I told her that my girlfriend wouldn't like that. She said my girlfriend wasn't here and I said she was the bartender."
I groaned. "And?"
"She said she wanted to see you, and she was talking like she was gunna kick your ass. But she was really drunk, I thought she was just talking shit. I'm so sorry, Jane."
"Yeah, whatever. Go control the damage to your other guests." He nearly ran away. I rubbed my forehead with my hand. "I'm sorry about that, Mr. Manning."
"You're bleeding," he said bluntly.
I touched my cheek where the woman had hit me. My hand was bloody. I sighed and wiped it with a bar napkin. It hurt quite badly, so I winced.
I was still a bit dizzy. It seemed like Cameron was moving inhumanly fast when he leapt from his chair and came behind the bar to look more closely at my face. "I went to med school when I was bored," he said when I protested. "Looks like she was married. Her ring cut up your face pretty bad, Janey."
I groaned. "I'll be fine. Just give me a sec to go clean this and get a bandage."
The man was much larger than me. There wasn't really much I could do when he shook his head and pushed me over to the sink. I was quite shocked by how gently he cleaned my face. "I can't believe you just let her hit you, Jane. What was that?"
I glared at him. "I didn't expect it! That's a little harsh, Manning," I snapped in annoyance.
He grinned at me and touched my good cheek gently. "Cameron, Jane. Call me Cameron."
I was blushing and staring at him. I'd never really paid attention to how attractive the man towering over me was. His jet black hair was slicked back neatly. His eyes were an odd shade of hazel that turned bright green when the light hit them the right way. "Cameron," I breathed. My own voice snapped me out of my daze. "You lair, you're secretly a nice guy." I grinned at him. It was a real grin, not the fake smile all of my customers received.
"Maybe," he muttered, smiling at me.
"Med school because you were bored? You're what, thirty?"
"Something like that. I didn't know what else to do with my time, and I certainly had the money to put myself through school."
"Yeah, yeah. No amount of pushing and shoving on my part would have gotten you to lose it with me, huh?"
"Sounds about right." I couldn't stop grinning.
He tangled his fingers in the mess my hair had become. "Your hair is just as soft as I imagined it."
"Imagined it? Why were you thinking about my hair?"
"I think about you a lot."
I was blushing again. "Oh," was all I could say. My face felt hot and the right side of my face ached. He leaned down and kissed my injured cheek. It took all the will power in the world for me to not either jump on him or run away.
His fingers were massaging the back of my neck. I couldn't think straight. "So, Jane, I need a date to some boring estate party my father is making me attend."
"That's actually why I came in tonight. I thought you'd be the perfect person to bring along. You're so good with people." He leaned closer.
"I guess I could do that, Dr. Manning," I said with a smile. I could hear the sirens in the distance.
"Cameron," he insisted before he kissed me senseless.
Despite it being while I was at work, the whole thing seemed romantic enough for me. Even Carlo screaming "What the fuck?" when he saw didn't bother me. We didn't separate until the cop cars stopped outside and I needed to get back to work. I couldn't stop smiling, even though I'd had a pretty terrible night.