"Cam, you're fired!"
"What?!" I squealed from behind the counter of this hell hole café. For five years, I've come to this godforsaken wasteland of old people that think far too highly of themselves and douchebag hipsters that only come in to say we serve garbage and that they're too good for our food (only to order something anyway. I never understood them either.). I've practically sold my soul to this place since my freshman year of college and he fires me? Where's the justice in that?
"You heard me!" my ball of sunshine boss, Marc, demanded.
"What did I do?" I argued, "I've kept this place afloat since day one and you're firing me?"
"You also don't hesitate to overuse that mouth of yours," he snarled, "Do you know how many customers come to me on a daily basis to complain about you? How many say you were rude to them?"
"Maybe it was the wake-up call they needed to stop being an asshole," I fought back, "I did them a favor. Now, there are more decent human beings in the world because of me. You should be thanking me."
"Get out of here!" Marc was not screwing around today, "I can't do it anymore, Cam. Your occasional jab at the customers has lost its charm. Now, leave!"
"Whatever," I scoffed, leaving my god-awful green apron on the counter. My last straw had been drawn long ago.
I left the café behind me and slipped into the alley to blow off some steam. Don't get me wrong. I hated that place with a burning passion. The thought of waking up in the morning to go to that made me physically ill. And I know I'm destined for bigger things and all the other bullshit my guidance counselor told me. But I needed the money. I'm royally boned here. I'm too cute and delicate to be living on the streets.
"Well, well," a familiar voice gave me the warm hug I was in such desperate need of, "I know we joke about you being gutter trash, but damn, Cami."
"Thanks, Iris," I grumbled into my knees, "Asshole."
"Hey now," she slid down the brick wall and draped an arm around my shoulders. Iris has been the big sister I've never had since I graduated high school. We met when she was hungover outside a frat house when I was on a college visit. She said she liked my Kinks t-shirt. We got pie at the diner. And it's been history ever since. She's always been there when the chips were down, "What's the matter, sweetie?"
"Marc," I laid my head on her shoulder. The softness of her lilac sweater made for a nice pillow, "I got fired today."
"This sounds like a cheesecake problem," Iris pulled me onto my feet, "Come on. I'm buying."
"I'd like you more if you could make that cheesecake into whiskey," I let out a heavy sigh, "Or both. Both would be good."
"You don't drink whiskey with cheesecake," she pointed out, "That's a wine thing."
"Fine," I rolled my eyes, "Then, a big ass glass of merlot."
"No." I loved Iris, but she was about to have the shit kicked out of her, "Riesling. We're having cheesecake."
"Iris, if we're not eating or drinking my feelings in the next five minutes, I'm stabbing someone."
"Alright," she threw her arms up, "Forgive me for imparting some of my wisdom onto the bright, young minds of tomorrow."
Yeah. Bright, young minds. She flatters me. But I suppose Iris had to do something with her culinary arts degree. Girlfriend was a hell of a pastry chef. But after she got married, her husband took care of everything, so she got to live the life of a trophy wife. Maybe she has it right. Maybe I should take my liberal arts degree, set it on fire, and marry rich. At this point, it might be my only option. I'm not the worst looking woman in the world, but I'm sure hooking and stripping are off the table, too. I needed to figure something out before I really get into troubled waters.
Fortunately, in these times of crisis, the Raspberry Diner would always be here to make everything all better. The only people in here were an older couple out for date night and an early bird special (It's Thursday, so heaven forbid they miss the all you can eat shrimp.) and the staff. Good. No one can see me break down. Iris ordered us the house dessert special, a raspberry cheesecake with a dark chocolate drizzle, and opened her heart to me.
"Ok, baby," Iris began, "Start from the beginning. What happened with you and Marc?"
"Some of the customers are hella thin skinned," I blew bubbles in my soda, "So, they bitched to Marc and Marc bitched at me. I argued back and here I am. My big mouth…"
"Be proud of that big mouth, Cami," she nudged me under the table.
"Yeah," I melted onto the tabletop, "I might need it to pay my rent."
"That's not what I mean, and you know it," Iris grumbled, "You have a voice and you don't hesitate to use it. That's got Marc scared. His wife told me he's got a little man complex, if you know what I mean. That's probably what's got his diapers in a knot."
"Very nice," I cringed at the thought of my boss…my former boss…naked. Eww…No, thank you.
"Think of it this way," she took my hand, "If you need anything, you know you can come to me. I'm not going to let you be destitute, hon."
"Thanks, Iris," I finished off my cheesecake, "I think I'm going to head home. It's not like I have anything better to do today."
"You'll find something," Iris assured, "Why don't you go look at the corkboard? I'm sure someone's needing someone for something."
"Yeah," I gagged, "A midnight rendezvous isn't my idea of work."
"Aside from whoring yourself out," she rolled her eyes, "Go look. What do you have to lose at this point?"
"I don't know," I mulled it over, "I've seen the kinds of people that go up to that board. Do I really want to lower myself to that?"
"I'd be careful about what you're poking at," Iris shut me down, "You're in those shoes now. They're just people looking for work. Same as you."
"Fine!" I got up from our booth and walked over to the corkboard on the diner's wall. Postings for various odd jobs around town. This board was sketchier than answering personal ads on Craigslist. But Iris was right. I didn't have much for options. Even the corkboard had slim pickings these days. Something for mowing. Something for maid services. That's it? Really? I'm lucky if I can clean my own house, let alone someone else's. And I've never mowed a lawn a day in my life. I've always lived in apartment buildings or my dad would take care of it. There's nothing here for me. Maybe I should pick up my life and move on to the next town. Live my new life as a nomad. No. I couldn't leave the family like that.
"So?" Iris rested her chin on top of my head. Damn her for being so tall, "Find anything?"
"Nothing," I grumbled in defeat, "Looks like I need to bust out my clear heels from Halloween."
"You're not stripping," she pulled me out the front door, pulling a cigarette out of the pack with her teeth, "You want one?"
"I don't smoke," I reminded her, "And now would not be a good time to start."
"Says you," Iris lit the end, "They may not be good for you, but damn, they're good for the soul."
"They're going to end up killing you, Iris."
"So will everything else," she brushed me off, a cloud of smoke rolling off her lips, "I'm sure you'll find something to get you out of this rut. You really are destined for bigger and better things, Cam. I can smell it."
"What you're smelling is a pack of Camels and chocolate," I chuckled under my breath.
"A combo almost better than sex," Iris took a seat on the bench and kicked her feet up, "Even better when it's after sex."
"Thank you for sharing." This was my sister. Well…Practically my sister. We had all but shared blood, "Can I go home now? I need somewhere no one can see me wallowing in my self-pity."
"Oh, shut up," she gave me a shove, "You'll be fine."
Will I? Yeah. I need to stop doing that. I need to quit getting down on myself. Another job will come my way. Soon. I hope. I can find something. That's not hooking. Or stripping. It's not my thing. Good for the lovely ladies that are comfortable enough to do something like that, but I am totally not one of them. Not that I wouldn't have a good teacher. Back in the day, Iris used to be in high demand before she settled down.
Home sweet home. Back to my little hovel on the ground floor because girlfriend can't afford that penthouse suite. I'm going to be lucky if I can afford a pack of ramen noodles in the next week, let alone the penthouse. Although, I've been in it once. It was a Christmas party a few years back and if it would've have been creepy, I would've been holed up in the closet, wondering how long it would take the owner to realize I was in there.
As I laid in bed that night, staring up at the ceiling, I couldn't sleep. My brain wouldn't turn off. What the hell am I going to do? I know Iris said she'd be more than willing to help me, but her husband and I weren't exactly on the best of terms. He's kind of a dick, but he treats Iris like a queen and she seems to like him, so who was I to break that up? I couldn't take her money like that. Even worse, she wouldn't want me to pay her back. Sometimes, that woman was less my sister and more my mom. There's only eight years between Iris and me, yet one would think it were decades.
Something's bound to come my way. Eventually. Right? I can't throw in the towel yet. It's not the first time I've lost a job. I can do this. I'm tired as hell, but there's no way I'll be able to sleep tonight. Could go down to the gym. Thank God for the gym. And given that it's a little after midnight, I can guarantee it's empty. A place to clear my head with no judgment. Or let my thoughts completely race. That's a possibility. Almost a certainty.
I jumped on my favorite treadmill and turned up the incline. With my headphones in my ears and the eye of the tiger in my heart, I could run my problems off. There's nothing better than shitty eighties jams while I'm running. I could picture myself in a montage and it'd put everything in front of me. We had Cyndi Lauper on deck this evening. Early morning? We'll call it evening. It's pitch dark outside. We'll call it nighttime.
Maybe that's what I needed. A good montage to get me through. I know that if I bat my eyelashes at Iris, she'd be thrilled to give me a montage, but she could be a bit of a handful in the right context. No. What I needed was a steady income again. And if I got that again, I could get shit back on track. Not that anything has really gone off the rails yet. I'd rather make sure that didn't happen before it actually happens, if that makes any sense.
I ran until my calves started to cramp up and brought the incline down. Working myself so hard isn't exactly the best thing for me to do, but my thick ass legs could handle it. When I worked out, I had a hard time figuring out when to stop. Whenever something starts to hurt couldn't be healthy, but I had yet to pull something or severely injure myself, so I had that going for me. Even better, it always got my head back to where it needed to be. And I could finally get some sleep tonight.