Last Week’s FFF: The Job
(I apologize that this one is more of a scene than a whole story. I took it from my NaNoWriMo project, which will probably never be finished. But I’ve got a cold, and not feeling especially creative today. Sorry, and I hope that you still enjoy.)
The Yorba Linda Diner was an average greasy spoon. It offered a fairly priced breakfast, and was mostly frequented by those who worked in the area, rather than those who lived there. This suited Kalynn just fine. The less locals that would see her here, the better. Beyond that, she was glad to have any job. She wasn’t old enough to serve alcohol yet, which meant that most places wouldn’t hire her. But it wasn’t an issue here, and she could earn minimum wage plus tips.
Today, however, she wouldn’t be making many. The diner was scarcely populated with a few patrons. They had been camping, spending hours in the booths, drinking the unlimited coffee and using the wifi. A few had eaten breakfast, but now lingered. She found herself getting impatient. Classes would start soon, and she’d be late if she didn’t get going.
She sipped her coffee and tapped her pen impatiently as she stared down her customers. They paid her no attention, but Grace, the other server on, did.
Grace was a career waitress. She had started in the business to supplement here dreams of making it to the big screen. The best she could manage was a few free gigs and a number of student films. Sure, she had a few IMDB credits, but her shot at fame and fortune were a few decades past, and the industry had made it clear that it wasn’t for her.
“Staring won’t make them finish faster,” Grace said.
“I know. I just have to go. Why can’t I just tell them that? Ask them to close out?”
“Because it’d be rude and you’d lose your job.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Get out of here. Transfer them to me, and I’ll leave the tips for you.”
“Are you sure? Do you want to split them?”
“Don’t worry about it. These folks aren’t going to need anything complicated. And it’s not like we’re hurting for open tables.”
Kalynn went to the computer and transferred the tables to Grace. She was running out of time, so she didn’t bother to tell her tables about the exchange. She sat on one of the barstools at the long, white counter and began her count out.
“You getting out of here, beautiful?” Jose asked from behind the counter.
He ran the grill and enjoyed making her uncomfortable with his flattery.
“Uh huh,” she said without looking up.
She scribbled through her count out, separated her cash, and left what she owed the restaurant in a black book with a record of her sales. She placed it behind the bar. While back there, she grabbed her bookbag out of a underside cabinet. She counted the money that was left for her. Barely thirty dollars. She released a frustrated grunt and stuffed it into her bag. At least there’d be more coming, though not likely much. She slung the pack over one shoulder and hastily untied her apron.
“Okay, Grace, I’m out of here. Thanks so much for taking those tables for me.”
She balled up the white apron and stuffed it into her bag. She took off her yellow, button up shirt, revealing a form fitting gray sleeveless shirt with a bleeding heart that turned to dust on the front. She sprayed a quick spritz of perfume across her body, hoping to cover up any lingering diner smell.
“Alright dear, have a good first day. Have some fun.”
“There’s no time for fun. I’m back here this afternoon.”
“All you ever do is work. You need to focus on studying. Get a scholarship and get out of this city. Now, I love my job. Really, I do. But there’s no reason for you to become a career waitress when you have so many options. You hear me? Do good in school. And maybe get a social life while you’re at it.”
Kalynn went to the outside of the counter. There was a boy at the far end leaning on it with headphones in his ears. She went over to him and found his eyes closed. She smacked on the shoulder and he sat up with a start. She gave him an annoyed look as he stared groggily at her, trying to figure out where she was. She motioned for him to take out the ear buds. He removed one.
“Time to go, Troy.”
He sluggishly got up.
“Trust me, Grace, I do plenty of studying. Everything that you just said is my plan. I’m not afraid of a little hard work. Or a lot. Someday I’ll have a career. I’m going to be a therapist and help people. Teens, in particular, I hope.”
She thought of herself and her brother and their situation and how she hoped to someday have the ability to help others out of it.
“But college, and graduate school, is expensive. Even if I do my best, I doubt that I’ll be getting a free ride anywhere. I’ve never gotten anything free out of life, so why should I assume college will be any different? I want all of that. I want my dream. But for now, I have to do what I can to feed and house me and Troy.”
“Mr. Troy there could get a job, too, you know. He’s old enough now. I could try to talk to the GM, see if he’d hire him on as a busser.”
Troy rolled his eyes and put his headphones back on.
“That’s sweet. But I want him to enjoy what little he has left of being care free. One of us might as well.”
Troy tapped her impatiently.
“Didn’t we have to get going?” he asked.
Kalynn took her cell phone from her pocket. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the time.
“I get it. You want to do right by your brother. Just don’t lose track of that pretty little dream of yours.”
“Thanks. I won’t.”
Kalynn turned to leave and grabbed her brother by arm as she went. She walked fast with her brother lagging behind.
“Hurry up, Troy,” she said.
“It’s the first day of school. We aren’t going to miss anything important if we’re late.”
“We want to make a good impression, don’t we?”
“What’s it matter? It’s not like everyone doesn’t know that we don’t belong here.”
She stopped and turned to her brother.
“Whoa. Who says that we don’t belong here?”
“The school district, for one.”
Kalynn had arranged for them to enroll at this school by using the diner address. It was close to work, and it was a much nicer school than the one that they should have been going to.
“Did someone say something to you?”
“No. But it’s obvious, don’t you think? They strut around in their hundred dollar jeans, while I’ve got your hand-me-downs. Lucky for me skinny jeans are in. But I don’t like wearing your clothes. We’re going to stick out, in a bad way.”
“We’ll be fine. Just try not to get specific about where you live. If someone asks, change the conversation. As far as they know, we’re as well off as they are.”
“Until they smell you.”
Kalynn sniffed herself. The scent of fried foods had seeped into the fabric. She pulled out the perfume once more and gave another spray. It would have to do.
They walked uphill for three more blocks, before coming to their school.
“Is this it?” Troy asked.
“I think so,” Kalynn said.
They stared in awe. The building was pristine. Every inch of it screamed that it was a school for children of the wealthy. A solid, stone wall surrounded the perimeter, parting only at the drive. After they walked into the courtyard, they found two fenced parking lots to their left, one for faculty, one for students with passes. The rest of the school was fenced as well, with the only way in through the administration building.
“Think you’ll be able to find your way around?” Kaylnn asked.
She turned to find that her brother had already gone.
Guess I’m going in there alone she thought.
She summoned her courage and walked into the massive halls of her new school. A diploma from here would set her up for her pick of colleges. Hopefully her grades would pay for it. Once she got in, no one would care that she was going to school out of district. Until then, she just had to try to blend in so that no one would find out.