Today is the day I have been looking forward to for a long time. I spent my full eight days of summer vacation left after summer school ended dreaming about what today signified; I was almost done.
I’m what they call a “super senior” because I took a few years off between community college and university. I was from the socioeconomic bracket of the lower middle class. My parents made to much for me to have aid and too little to pay for my tuition. I’ve spent years mopping up greasy floors, wiping down dirty tables, and waiting on rich frat boys for a lousy 10% tip, and yet, this was the year I knew all that would change. I was so close to the finish line I could taste it and nothing was going to stop me.
I came out of my room and found my roommate Claudia at our kitchen table with enough makeup to slap war pain on an army.
“Look at you back at home, what have I done to deserve this honor?”
Claudia has been MIA all summer since she started dating Adonis Brooks from the football team. They went on an honor society trip at the beginning of summer and the rest was history.
She looked up and me and frowned, “Shut up! You know we always have breakfast together on the first day of the semester. It’s tradition.”
I looked on the island and there was fresh coffee and pastries from our favorite cafe down the street. “When did have time to go to Margot’s?”
“When I snuck out of Adonis’s dorm room this morning.”
I clutched my invisible pearls, “You got up early just for me?” I ran over and hugged her neck careful not to smudge her makeup.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she laughed, “Don’t feel too special, 50% of my makeup is over here.”
She wasn’t kidding. The spent the majority of her paychecks on makeup and lattes. If it wasn’t for her step-dad owning a car dealership she would be in worse shape than me.
I gave her a loud kiss on the head before I gravitated to the dark roast she picked up for me. “I don’t care what any of the bathroom stalls say about you, you’re the best!”
“Fuckin’ A.” she mumbled begrudgingly under her breath.
I brought the loot she bought for breakfast to the table and divided up the plunder.
“Senior year, huh?” She asked as she applied more mascara. Her mouth was shaped like she was sucking on a lemon to get the angle just right for optimum gloopiness. “Are you going to let me do your makeup this time or do you want to look like one of those intellectual girls with no self-esteem?”
“I take offense to that statement,” I responded between bites of my blueberry muffin, “I am an intellectual girl with no self-esteem.”
Even though she was the one that said it first, she still kicked me under the table. I rubbed my shin but didn’t say anything. We sat in silence for a few minutes eating before either of us tried to start another conversation.
“How is lover-boy doing?”
I called Adonis lover-boy because he was completely consumed with her every time I saw them together. I was happy for them, I really was, I just wish they didn’t insist on spending all of their free time together. It left very little room for our traditional margs and carbs nights after class.
“Adonis,” she annunciated, “is doing good. Their first game against South East is next week. The coach thinks he could have a shot at pro if he works hard this year.”
“That’s cool. You could be a trophy wife if you play your cards right.”
“Excuse me, I was always going to be a trophy wife.” She moved on to apply eyeliner, “He knows a lot of single guys on the team.” she hinted. “Guys with muscles, and limited college debt.”
“Look at the time,” I sprung up from my chair, “I better get going if I want a chance at a decent parking spot.”
I jogged to my bedroom before she could say anything and put my tablet in my bag. Claudia was still talking to me from the other room but I wasn’t in the mood to hear it. That’s the unfortunate thing about happy people, they feel the need to spread their joy as if it was a cosmic pyramid scheme. I looked in the mirror and immediately regretted it because it triggers my anxiety to skyrocket.
I was pretty. I wasn’t blind to the fact that guys stared at me or would flirt with me at work. During my time at FSU, I had more than a few guys give me their number or ask me out on a date. Sometimes I would take them up on it but it never worked out, because school and work have consumed my life for the past three years that I have had no time or energy to put into a relationship. The last guy I dated, Ben, cheated on me with a girl in my economic class then tried to blame it on me because I wasn’t, “catering to his needs,” meaning, I didn’t sleep with him. Men suck.
That’s why I’ve been seeing a guy from the MBA program that I met at work. He is busy and I am busy so it works out perfectly. We don’t put labels on things, although I’m sure saying that it’s a booty call wouldn’t be out of the realm of accurate. Our only rule is that no one knows about us. We act like perfect strangers on the seldom chance we see each other on campus, we don’t friend each other on social media, and we have a system for when we want to meet. Claudia doesn’t know and I intend on keeping it that way.
I put on gold earrings that looked like roses and headed towards the back door. Claudia was there with her hands draped dramatically on her hips. “Listen, I know I haven’t been here very much this summer and I’m sorry. I have been so wrapped up in Adonis that I have let my duties of being your best friend.”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” I gave her a hug, “I’m just glad that you are happy.” I pulled back so she couldn’t see the water that was beginning to pool in my eyes.
“I know that you are hella busy learning how to rule the world but could we please go out like we use too?”
“Ah, yeah, margs and carbs! I’m off work tomorrow night. Could I pull you away from lover-boy?”
She moved away from the door and went back to our disaster of a kitchen table. “Yeah, it’s always good for your man to know that you are in demand.”
Parking was a nightmare and the Florida sun did nothing to help my mood. Sweat was dripping down ever surface of my skin and I said a silent prayer of thanks for deciding not to wear makeup.
I was able to work my schedule to only have to come in the mornings so that was I could work a full dinner shift at the restaurant. Most of my classmates were able to schedule classes on all of their days off I knew my paycheck would suffer if I had to miss too many nights. That was where the real money was, even on weekdays the Blue Steak Haus was packed with people ranging from business dinners, family celebrations, to elaborate dates.
The first class of the day was taught by a senior professor at the University. He was loud and dull and like most senior staff talked more about himself than on the material we would be starting on. I made a note to read all the material he required because he didn’t seem like the type that would put a lot of content into his lecturing.
“Hey Gwen,” Katie called from across the room of my next class. This room was significantly smaller than the lecture hall of the last one and was in more of a traditional style with rows of desks lined in rows.
A group of other business majors I have had previous classes with were in a cluster around Katie. “Hi guys,” I announced. “What’s up?”
I passed an unfamiliar face as I walked down the aisle and had to stop myself from staring. This guy looked nothing like the other guys in the class, he didn’t just pull off the traditional business student look, he owned it. He wore grey slacks with a form-fitting white collared shirt tucked into his trousers. His dress shoes were polished and sat expectantly next to a black briefcase. I must have studied him a moment too long because gray eyes looked up at me and my knees slightly buckled.
“Hating my life,” Tran replied from behind his laptop screen and drew my attention back to my friends behind him.
I shook my head and offered a half smile as I walked past him.
“Ignore him,” Katie said, “He has Leffingwell for the third time in a row this semester.”
“Yikes,” Leffingwell was a good professor but he was a beast when it came to assigning work. I survived by only having to suffer through one semester of his but it was the longest one of my life. At one point Claudia had to drug me with her mother’s Ambien just so that I would stop pacing my room and going off on quarterly rants for my hypothetical business. It was bad.
I took the seat in front of Katie, the only one left which happened to be behind the sexy guy and began to unload my tablet. “Rumor has it that this professor is a new MBA grad that just moved here from NYU,” Eli whispered. He was sitting next to Katie and has had a crush on her since my second semester here. Then again almost all the guys in our classes had a crush on her. We were part of the twenty percent female population in this major. Resources were limited if you had a thing for a business-minded- partner.
She ignored him completely, “Did you read the syllabus? We have to read almost 150 pages and write a 6-8 page summary every week, not including everything else he has already assigned.”
Tran made a whimpering noise across from me as he began to type more furiously than before. “Relax guys, I don’t think it will be that serious.”
“Didn’t you read the updated roster this morning, his last name is Volkov. He’s Russian.”
“Eli, the cold war was over in the ’90s,” Katie interjected, “I think we can back off of the stereotyping and focus on this insane syllabus.”
“It’s insane because he’s Russian,” Eli mumbled.
A girl wearing a sundress came into the classroom and started writing information on the board without saying anything. I looked at my phone and saw that class would start in two minutes, just enough time for me to look over the syllabus. Katie was right, this agenda was intense.
“What shitty human being assigns this much homework?”
The guy in front of me stood up and turned around to face us. “The same shitty human being that expects their students to actually work in their class.”
My face paled and I could feel the tension surrounding me.
The room was so silent that I certain everyone could hear my heart pounding outside of my chest.
“What is your name?” he commanded.
I didn’t answer, I couldn’t.
“I know you aren’t deaf, that was evident when you and your classmates decided to make judgments before hearing my proposal.”
He moved to the front of the class and stood behind the podium, “Take this as the first lesson students, always assume the client is listening when you are in mixed company.”
Whatever attraction I had towards this man was filtering out and being replaced with contempt.
“This is Negotiating Business Affairs 4342, and if you aren’t planning on working while in my class than I suggest you drop now and try to find an alternative replacement for graduation.” He motioned to the girl in the sundress with chalk on her hands, “This is Ms. Pierce and she will be my teaching assistant for this class. You will treat her with more respect than you do me,” he was looking at all of my friends this time instead of just me.
He told Ms. Pierce to take the role as he watched us like a hawk making sure to write on his notes everytime she got to one of us on her chart.
We were on the shit list, compliments of my fat mouth.
I made it a point not to look at him for the rest of the time remaining and bolted towards the exit as soon as he dismissed us. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of being able to force me to apologize.
Tuesday nights were college nights, and one of my busiest nights of the week. It only made my Wednesdays off that much sweeter when they finally came around. I tried to shake off Dr. Volkov all day but his condescending tone rang through my head. Who the hell did he think he was? Maybe Eli was right, being Russian must of meant something for him to acting like such an asshole.
Katie had been texting me all day, she couldn’t get over it either but her focus was less on him being an asshole but more on him being a gorgeous asshole. An argument that I refused to agree to even though she was right, he was gorgeous. All jerks are. It’s some unwritten rule that unless you are from a fairytale or were part of a romance novel that all hot guys were jerks. It’s a big cosmic joke that few of us have been privileged to find out before we end up pregnant, or worse, in love.
Claudia wasn’t home when I got back to our apartment to change for work but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t in the mood to be around someone happy. I put on my makeup with a vengeance and I was starting to look less and less like myself. It was something I hated doing but the more makeup I wore, the better the tips were. It kills my inner feminist wilds to believe that this statistic rang true while being a waitress, but the facts didn’t change. I needed money to pay rent, car insurance, and my phone bill. Adulting sucks.
My shift started off normal enough, I waited on tables, added new beer bottles to tables as fast I removed empty ones.
“Gwen, I got a live one for you.” Cheryl’s voice rang in my ear from my earpiece.
I pressed my button for the microphone to work, “A request? What’s the count?”
“Six top, they look like professors. Asked for you by name this time.”
Lucky me. “Copy,” I replied as I grabbed a tray of steaks for one of my tables.
The best thing about Thursdays were the crowds, and the worst thing about Thursday was the crowds. Every week I looked forward to the money but dreaded how bad my anxiety would run by the time the night was over. We have had a high turnover at the restaurant but I had worked there for a year now and have made it be a top server. It wouldn’t be long until I was promoted to work at the bar.
I brought the tray of food to my first table and made sure to smile at each individual person as I gave them their food. It was a pair of couples on a double date so I made sure to give the bulk of my attention to the women. That’s something I’ve noticed while waiting tables, the friendlier you are to females on a date, the better the tip is compared to when you flirt with the guy. No girl wants to feel intimidated while on a date.
I went to my new table and stopped in my tracks, Dr. Volkov was sitting at my table with a group of professors from the College of Business. His blond hair was still pulled back in a slick ponytail but he looked more casual in jeans and a black t-shirt. I made it a point not to look at him as I approached the table. He was with my regulars and I wasn’t about to lose a 20% tip from a six top because of this morning.
“Ah, Gwendolyn!” Professor Samson greeted loudly for all the table to hear, “I was hoping we would get your section tonight.”
“I heard I had a request, I would have thought twice if I would have known it was you guys,” The older men at the table laughed and professor Samson cackled. I hated myself.
“Hey, it’s not us!” he exclaimed, “It’s always Charlie with his garlic allergy that makes a mess of things!”
Professor Rubin, “Charlie”, pipped up, “Don’t listen to him, he got lucky on a low-level investment and hasn’t been the same since the NASDAQ opened this morning.”
“Did you?” I asked and tapped him on the shoulder with my ticket folder.
He smiled proudly, “Why yes, I did.”
“In that case where is Mrs. Samson?” I asked, “She should be celebrating here with you fellas.”
“Oh, she’s celebrating, a night without dealing with him.” Another professor at the table answered.
Howls of laughter and ramblings continued at the table and I counted the seconds until I could get their drink order and leave.
“No, my dear,” Professor Samson answered, “Her and I are set to celebrate tomorrow night. Tonight is for Shane. Gwendolyn this is Dr. Shane Volkov, he is the newest face in our department.”
I looked up and so those grey eyes studying me again like they had this morning. I did my best to force the most genuine looking smile I could pretend to make. “Nice to meet you, welcome to the University.” I didn’t acknowledge that I already knew who he was and that he, indeed, was an asshole but instead took the higher road, the one with a tip big enough to make up for the frat boys that are going to stiff me with a 3%er. “Well, since you are the guest of honor, what can I start you off to drink?”
He must have gotten the hint that I wasn’t in the mood to discuss that we knew each other already. “Jameson, straight please.”
“One or two fingers?” I asked.
“Two, to start,” he answered and heat started to pool in my middle. Fuck my vagina for betraying me near this douche.
The heat must have shown on my face because the corner of his mouth perked up in a smirk. I ignored him and retrieved the other orders and bolted from their table.
I went to put them into the computer system and JoNathan came up from behind me.
“Ohmigod, do you see that man? How did you not melt when you took his order?”
“Blonde pony with the black muscle shirt, you just came from their table.”
“Oh,” I didn’t look up from the screen as I printed a ticket for another one of my tables, “I must not have noticed.”
“Do you think he is a breeder or a receiver?”
That earned me to laugh out loud, “I have no idea, but if you want to take them their first round of drinks you’re more than welcome to feel him out.”
He kissed me on the cheek, “You’re the best.”
The rest of the service went the same way as before, they made jokes, I laughed, they ordered, JoNathan took them their food. My other tables were starting to take up the majority of my time as the late dinner rush was filtering in and I wasn’t able to think about anything but my tables. It was the escape I needed to relieve the tension from this morning. Replacing one ball of stress with another was my specialty.
A couple of guys sat at the only high top in my section and it was obvious that they had been pregaming.
“Hey guys, my name is Gwen and I’ll be your server today.”
“Hey baby,” the first guy said in a southern accent typical from students that grew up in the northern border of the Florida and Georgia. “What is a fine thing like you doing working in a place like this?”
I chose to pretend that he said something less infuriating.
“What can I get you started with to drink today?”
“Yeah Slick,” another guy at the table said, “A girl as pretty as you should be at home waiting for their man to come home.”
I bit my tongue so hard I thought it would bleed.
“Every Tuesday is college appreciation night so our lagers are $2’s off and we have $3 well drinks until 11 pm.”
“Three buds for us baby, and a shot of tequila for yourself.” The third guy said with a wink.
The night is almost over, I repeated to myself. You just have an hour and a half left. “Three beers coming up.” I turned to walk away and felt a swift smack on my ass. I paused not knowing what else to do.
“That’s not the only thing that’s comin’ up.” Loser number one said.
It was clear that the other tables had heard and I was undeservingly embarrassed. If it hadn’t of been for a waitress last month getting fired for slapping a customer I would have done just that. Instead, I was going to the kitchen manager to have them kicked out.
I told the table next to theirs that I would be right with them as I headed towards the back. I didn’t even make it to the kitchen door when I heard a crash.
“Damn man, what the hell is your problem?”
Dr. Volkov had slammed the guy that slapped me face first into the table. I rushed back over to the table, “What the fuck are you doing?” I asked in a whispered yell. If people weren’t looking at me before they were now.
“Apologize,” he said deeper than I had heard him speak before.
The guy with a bleeding face tried to take a sloppy swing at him but he grabbed his hand and twisted it behind the guy’s back. “Apologize,” he said again.
His other friends were about to get up but all the professors were already up and stood behind Dr. Volkov. It would have been funny seeing the motley crew of business professors surrounding the table of drunken’ losers it the situation didn’t involve me.
“Stop,” I pleaded, “They are drunk, just let them go.”
Dr. Volkov acted as if he didn’t hear me.
“Listen to the little bitch,” bloody loser number one growled.
That wasn’t what he wanted to hear so he did something to the guy’s hand and I could hear bones popping. The guy howled in pain.
“What is going on out here?” Ralph, the kitchen manager said from behind me.
The sound of smartphones shuddering made me wince more than the guy with a newly crumpled hand.
Dr. Volkov said something in Russian under his breath and the guy’s hand cracked once more.
“I’m sorry!” the guy yelled.
“And what is it that you are sorry for?” he prompted.
When the guy in his hold didn’t say anything Dr. Volkov started to move again but the guy stopped him in fear of pain, “I’m sorry for giving you trouble.”
“And for smacking you on the ass.”
“Gwen, this guy did something to you?” Ralph asked.
I didn’t speak, I couldn’t. Instead, I ran to the back of the kitchen to the back exit. I needed fresh air.
©2018 All Rights Reserved
L. R. Rutherford.