I’m not naive. I know I don’t get the happily ever after. My knight in shining armor took the highway detour around this god forsaken shit hole. I’ve made peace with that. That doesn’t mean I’m going to lay down like a doormat and let every cocky prick in the trailer park have his way with me.
“I’ll be right there,” I snarled at Larry, the cook here at Aggie’s Diner. His hair was long and greasy, hanging in thick grey clumps around his weathered face. He was a mean and nasty old man.
I turned back to my heavyset, middle-aged customer with a quick smile as I slid the milk for his coffee across the table, making sure it tipped into his lap.
“I’m a waitress not a whore,” I warned through gritted teeth. I tucked a strand of dirty blonde hair behind my ear that had fallen loose from my ponytail with a loud sigh.
It was all the same. Some guy pulls off the main highway and decides to try out a little local joint, maybe try their chances at getting lucky with a waitress. Some took them up on it. I wasn’t that kind of girl. Besides, I had me a man of my own. My blonde hair and blue eyes were nothing but a curse.
I made a beeline to the back, my empty tray held tightly between my fingers as I talked myself out of hitting Larry upside his damn head.
“I hit the bell five minutes ago, Cass.” He began to scold me as I slipped the hot plates onto my tray, burning my fingers in the process. I rolled my eyes and walked back out onto the floor as he continued on, getting louder as I walked away.
“Don’t act like you the only one in the trailer park who can carry a plate of food. You ain’t nothin’ special!”
I slapped my tray down on table four with a little more force than I intended, biting back my tears. I didn’t need some low-rent cook in a run-down diner telling me I wasn’t worth a damn. I knew that. I forced a smile at the elderly lady in front of me. Her hand lay on top of mine as I placed her dish in front of her. It startled me and I had to force myself not to pull back.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not special.” She said in a hushed tone. I smiled as a single tear escaped my eye and trailed down my cheek. I pulled my hand free and wiped it away quickly.
“Enjoy your meal.” My voice cracked under my words. I turned on my heel and made my way across the dining room and out the back entrance marked ‘employees only’. I pulled my pack of cigarettes from my apron and stared at the box. I hadn’t had one for four days but I couldn’t force myself to throw the pack away.
I stared off at the trailers that on the other side of the parking lot. A tattered fence lined the area with an array of signs that read ‘keep out’. I snorted. No one went in there unless they had no choice. The fence just kept us in and away from the people who mattered. I held the lighter to the end of my cigarette and closed my eyes as I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with the delicious smoke.
“That’ll kill ya, you know.” A deep voice called from in front of me. My eyes shot open. A man in worn out dark wash jeans and a form fitting dark grey t-shirt that said ‘I’m with the band’ stood in front of me, motorcycle helmet in hand. His head was cocked to the side with a half grin playing across his lips. His hair was dark and unruly, but something told me he took time to make it look so effortless. His arms had elaborate tattoos to the wrists.
“Not fast enough.” I rolled my eyes and took another drag. He laughed as he ran over his hair from back to front and nodded his head, turning to enter the diner through the front door. He stopped for a moment, his back to me like he had something to say, but didn’t. He disappeared inside without a backward glance. At least my shitty life was entertainment for someone else. I held my cigarette sideways, glaring down at it before flicking it off into the dirt of the parking lot. I stood and straightened my apron, wiping the now dry tears from my face and went back to work.
Mister dark and dangerous was sitting in a booth in my section and I cursed myself under my breath.
“Welcome to Aggie’s Diner. My name is Cass and I’ll be your waitress. Can I start you off with something to drink?” I asked, slapping a menu down in front of him. I did my best to smile but it never reached my eyes. It never did. My eyes danced over the tattoos that crawled out from under his t-shirt sleeves.
“Tucker White,” he grinned. My eyes snapped back to his.
“Do you want something to drink, Tucker White?” I tried not to sound impatient. I didn’t want to exchange witty banter with some hot guy fresh off the highway. I wanted to go home and take a hot shower, if we even had hot water. This job barely paid the bills and with my mom’s mouth to feed, we could hardly afford luxuries like basic necessities or three course meals.
“I’ll have a beer. Whatever you recommend.” He smiled. I bet that smile got him whatever he wanted.
I glanced around the run down diner and back to him. I’m sure he could read the ‘are you fucking kidding me’ look on my face. This wasn’t the place for exotic delicacies.
“I’ll grab you a Bud.” I turned on my heel and made my way into the back to grab him a beer out of the fridge.
“Cass, what are you doing with my beer?” Larry called from behind the cook line.
“It’s for a customer,” I called over my shoulder. “I’ll pay you back.” I pushed through the kitchen doors and got away from Larry before he could start screaming again.
I sat the bottle down in front of Tucker and wiped to condensation on my hand onto my apron.
“Thanks,” he winked and twisted the top off the bottle. He tipped it up to his lips and began to drink, his eyes still locked onto me. I grabbed a pen and paper from my apron pocket and waited for him to finish his drink.
“Have you decided on something to eat?” I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I had been on them for seven hours now and they ached.
“Burger and fries.” He sat his bottle down on the table and spun it in his fingers.
“I’ll get that right out to ya.” I smiled politely and went to place the order. Larry was fuming. He was seconds from ripping into me when the bell above the door dinged. I turned around and caught site of Jackson.
“Hey, baby.” I smiled and walked towards him to meet halfway across the room. He ran his hair through is dirty mousy brown hair. His skin was flushed and his eyes glazed over.
“I need some money.” Hi jaw was clenched and his voice barely a whisper.
“Jax, I don’t have any money.”
Jackson grabbed my arm just above the elbow, pulling me closer. His breath reeked of liquor.
“It’s fucking important, Cass. I need it now.” His jaw was clenched and I knew he had no patience. He was impossible to reason with when he was using.
Suddenly, there was space between us. Tucker stood to our right. His fingertips grazed my back, startling me.
“I have to run, won’t be able to eat but here is what I owe you and more than enough to make up for the trouble. His eyes darted to Jackson, sizing him up. Jackson didn’t care about this guy. All he saw was the stack of bills in my hand.
“Thanks. Have a good day,” I called behind him as he ran a hand through his hair and left through the front door. The bell dinged and my eyes drifted back to Jackson.
“Perfect timing,” Jax smiled and grabbed a twenty from the top stack of bills in my hand.
“Jax, wait,” I called after him but he had already turned to leave as quickly as possible.
I counted the money I had left. Just enough to cover the meal. Fucking perfect. A motorcycle revved angrily outside of the door and took off, growing quieter in the distance.
“Order up, Cass,” Larry hissed from the kitchen. I grabbed the burger and fries and sat it on the farthest table in my section. At least I would get to eat some real food today. I wanted to be selfish and eat every last bite, but my mind wondered to my mother. I grabbed a to-go box and slipped the food inside. As soon as I could take another break, I would take her the food. She was hungry, I’m sure and unable to do much for herself, let alone cook.
Another hour slipped by. I was busy but never enough to make this job worth it. Not that there were any other options.
“I’m takin’ a break!” I slipped off my apron and grabbed my box. I made my way across the dusty parking lot into the trailer park.
“Mom,” I called as I opened the trailer door. “Mom?” I made my way down the narrow hall, avoiding the bucket that sat on the ground to catch water when it rained. I pushed open the door to the master bedroom. Jax and my mother sat in a cloud of cigarette smoke, dazed and disoriented. A thin cord tied around her arm and a needle jutting out of her skin.
“I told you not to bring that shit around here no more, Jax,” I screamed. Jax’s blue eyes glowing against the bloodshot color around them. I threw the food on the floor in front of me.
“She fucking likes it. It shuts her the fuck up.” Jax motioned to my mother who was practically catatonic. My mother used to be a good person before her mind went. When daddy left us he took her sanity with him. She lost the sparkle in her eye and next went any reason or logic. She couldn’t wash or feed herself. She sat in her own filth until I did something about it.
“You promised me you wouldn’t do that anymore. You promised.” The tears formed in my eyes as I struggled to keep them from falling.
He ignored me and tightened the belt around his arm. I balled my hands into tight fists and stormed out of the trailer, slamming the flimsy door behind me. My mind flashed to all of the other girls my age heading off to college, living the perfect life. I wouldn’t allow myself to look over my shoulder. I didn’t need a reminder of what I was.