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Something on the Side

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“When customers are screaming at you for their pastrami on rye, you don’t deny them. And you certainly don’t go running around like a chicken until someone helps you. But that’s exactly what I did.” – Catrina Hartwig

P R O L O G U E

“Ruby! Shake those tail feathers and come deliver these,” Marcia, a fellow waitress, pulled me over and handed me the plates.
“Yeah, yeah, thanks.” I steered myself toward my table, where a family of four was seated. I could’ve sworn the father looked up and when he saw me he whispered, “It’s about time.” I had to force myself not to dump his poached eggs on him, as I was determined to win Employee of the Month for the seventh month in a row that year.
“Here you go,” I said, dealing out the dishes like they were cards. The kids, a young girl and boy, eagerly dug into their hash browns and bacon. I left with a soft smile, but not before the mother, a middle-aged woman with kind blue eyes, tapped me on the shoulder and shrugged, silently apologizing for her husband’s behavior. I leaned against a stool next to Marcia, who was tapping her foot.
“You know,” she said from the side of her mouth, which I knew was reserved for when she was spreading the gossip. “I hear we’re getting a new girl in here. Said her name was Cat, or something.”
“Hmmm.” I knew my eyes were narrowed and my fists were clenched. Thoughts racing inside my head were like, What if this girl is better than me? What if she steals my Employee of the Month slot? What if…Marcia interrupted me before I could finish my train of thought.
“Relax, Grant. You’re guaranteed that spot and you know it.” Marcia had a knack for reading thoughts, and I had only known her since a few months ago, when she had moved here from the Bronx. She blended in just fine here, though, with her poufy brown hair and heavily made-up eyes.
If anyone didn’t fit in, it was me. My wavy black hair and big blue eyes didn’t exactly make me the face of Something on the Side, the diner we worked at. My boss, Kalvin Rivera, didn’t seem to care, as he regularly said that I was the only normal-looking girl in the joint. It was reassuring, but a tad unnerving.
I felt hot breath on my neck. I jumped and quickly turned around, only to see it was the chef, Marcus. “Oh, my gawd!” He said in falsetto, chuckling to himself. His amber eyes were ablaze with mischief.
“Ugh, what do you want, Marc?” No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t keep the grin from creeping onto my face. I had to admit it, he was hot. Not that I would ever go for him, as he wasn’t my type, but his shaggy chestnut hair and sharp cheekbones would make any girl swoon. He was more of a big brother to me, anyway.
“Hey, Marcus,” Marcia batted her lashes at him flirtatiously. She had been the one who had had a thing for Marcus, ever since he moved here from Arizona. “What’s up?”
“Nothing much. I hear you girls were talkin’ about the new girl?”
“Nope,” I replied, faking aloofness. His carefree grin said it all – he already knew. “Well,” he said. “She’s here already. In the back, actually, changing into the uniform.” He smirked at my red jeans and navy polo, the standard colors we were forced to wear. I’ll admit I did look a little 4th of July-esque, as I had paired it with white sandals.
“And how do you know?” Marcia’s tone was teasing, not accusatory like the choice of words implied.
“Oh, all the cooks are talking about it.” He batted his hand and fluttered his lashes, still in girly mode.
“You are so –” I never got to finish my sentence. The new waitress entered the room, her cheeks rosy and her hair blonde. She looked nothing like the other waitresses, only normal, like me. My mouth dropped open, and I realized Kalvin would probably like her. Maybe even more than me.





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