“You want me to darken it?”
He shrugged. “I don’t give a fuck. You can make it rainbow color for all I care.” He frowned. “Second thought, might not be a bad idea. The guys wouldn’t recognize you for sure then.” He clapped his hands together, grinning. He leaned forward in his chair, about to get up. “It’s decided. Rainbow hair. You won’t get harassed every night you work, and I got a server who can do her job without being harassed every night she works. Win-win.”
Except I didn’t want rainbow hair.
“Um. Okay. I’ll see what I can do.”
Rainbow hair. I could do it. I was trying to convince myself as I followed him through the rest of the Quail. We were between lunch and before the afternoon early-dinner rush would start in, but I was getting looks. I was getting a lot of looks. Joe was showing me the ropes, where to check in, where to grab my apron and ordering pad. He gave me a menu to take home and memorize, and after my brief orientation, two guys were waiting for me at the door.
Joe saw them, sighing. “It’s already starting.” He hollered, waving, “Mikey.” He motioned at them.
Mikey must’ve been appraised because he was there and moving them along by the time Joe walked me out the back door. “You ready for this?”
I had no option. I had to be ready for it.
He stared at me, another shake of his head that I was starting to learn was just a ‘Joe’ thing. “Okay. I’ll have you train with one of my girls tomorrow night, Cammie, but after that, you’re on your own. Sink or swim. If you don’t swim, you gotta get cut by this weekend.”
“I won’t sink. I promise.” Again. I couldn’t. He was underestimating how dire my bank account was. Stone and his dad helped pay for a few things, but they didn’t put money in my account. They just took what would’ve been added debt spread out over the years, which I was now super grateful for, but my present situation was dire.
“Okay. Tomorrow. Be here by six sharp.”
I almost saluted him.
I told Nicole about the hair, and the entire house got involved. I have no idea how it even started, but she didn’t like rainbow. Dent overheard, asked what was happening, and he wanted pink hair. Wyatt said purple. Noel had no comment. Nacho wanted fire red hair. Mia and Lisa didn’t say anything at first, then commented if I had to change my hair, jet black would be the way to go.
I hated all the suggestions.
I didn’t even want to change my hair, but Nicole brought a friend to my room that night. She was a hair stylist and she had a light blue in her hair. I fell in love, or I fell in love with it to be a temporary solution because eventually people would move on about Stone and me. So the next day, Joe didn’t recognize me. I took that as being successful.
Cammie trained me the first night, but the Quail liked to keep their menu simple. It was relatively easy, just had to make sure to remember all the rules, but no one recognized me. My blue hair had been pulled up in a braid, and by the end of the first night a couple ‘regulars’ as Cammie told me, were already calling me Blue.
From the job standpoint, the Quail only had a few key drink options for people to order, and the bartenders did the drinks. We could grab a beer or do the tap, but mixed drinks were all the bartenders.
I was ready to go with doing my own thing my second night, and the tips were nice.
The main challenge was walking home after the shift, but I’d walked it the day before and found a shortcut that cut through two blocks. It was a middle alley, so I really only had to walk two blocks, and that alley connected to ours, so it was almost two-and-a-half blocks that I shaved off.
My housemates knew I’d taken a job at the Quail, but none thought about how I got there and back. They knew I didn’t have a car. I didn’t want to rely on anyone for a ride because that wasn’t feasible long-term, but I knew they wouldn’t want me walking that late at night. During the day was a different story, but waiting until after closing, after cleaning after closing, and I knew it’d be around two thirty or maybe some mornings it would inch closer to three in the morning when I’d be walking home.
I’d worry about that more later. The first night was fine. The second night was fine.
Because I was working almost every night. I’d asked for the most shifts as possible, and Joe said I was a good worker. See. Hard working and I didn’t complain, I knew he’d be happy that he’d hired me back.
My big snag happened the following Saturday.
Joe had called me into his office and he didn’t look up. He pointed to the door. “Jer’s waiting for you out back. We’re doing concessions for the game today or doing one of the concessions. I gotta figure out if I want you in the box or the beer stands.”
“But why? We don’t do concessions there.”
He looked up, dropping his pen. His eyebrows were pinched together. “Not that it’s your business, but yeah. I actually run some of the booths over there. But it’s Homecoming today and they asked for us to man a second booth. You and a few of the other girls are going over with Jer. It’s easy work. Go. Have fun. Be a part of the festivities.” He frowned. “Don’t you room with half the football team?”
I flushed. The group had started to drop in after practices for a burger. Joe took notice, especially when other people came with them. The Quail did fine already, but they’d gotten busier since Wyatt, Noel, Nacho, Dent, and a few of the other guys were becoming regulars.
“I room with their girlfriends.”
He snorted, tossing some papers onto his desk and standing up. “Same difference. Think of it this way, now you can say you were there to support them.”
That wasn’t that bad of an idea.
“But it also doesn’t matter because I’m the boss. As long as you work here, you’re doing what I say.” He started walking toward me around his desk, shooing me in front of him. “Go, my employee. Go and do my bidding.” He leaned close behind me since I’d turned for the door, and whispered, “Go and do your job!”
He reached over me, swinging the door wide for me, and he followed me down the hallway.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but like he said, I didn’t have much choice.
Cammie saw me coming and flashed me a smile. “Heya. You and me, we’re doing the concession thing together.”
I relaxed slightly then.
I liked Cammie. She was one of those types of girls who’s beautiful in a natural way, but not flashy. Mia was flashy. She could’ve been on a runway for Victoria’s Secret, but Cammie was just as beautiful, just in a more understated way. She was also one of the lead workers for the Quail. Most of the regulars had a crush on her with her caramel-colored curls, freckles, and bright sapphire blue eyes. And I didn’t think they were alone. She had a boyfriend at another college, but I had a feeling the moment she was single, Joe himself would be throwing his hat in the ring. He tended to blush when she was around, and get all grrr if a regular was too touchy-feely with her. The bouncers were protective of her, too. They were protective of all the girls, but it was more with Cammie. She was kinda the Quail’s sweetheart, and when she worked, all eyes were on her, or most eyes, and I liked that. I really liked that. Helped me stay under the radar even with the guys coming to eat here now that I was working here, too.
“I’m hoping to talk Joe into letting us work the boxes. They tip way better than the beer stand.”
“That’s where we’d be going?”
She nodded, helping carry out a few bags to the van. I took one and followed behind.
She said over her shoulder, “Yeah. All the hoity-toity people are up in the boxes. They give a twenty-dollar tip for us refilling a beer. Such easy money. We’d be lucky to get twenty for the whole night in the beer stand.”
See. Smart and nice. Not many others would bring me along for that type of job.
“Thanks, Cammie.” I handed off my bag to Jer, who was waiting by the van.
He tossed it in, then said to me, “You’re in your blacks tonight.”
Blacks meant we were wearing the Quail’s more formal uniform. Black skirt. White button-down shirt. They resembled a private school uniform, something I’m sure was the point.
Cammie heard. “Serious?”
He nodded. “You ain’t working the beer stands. Joe’s already ahead of you.”