B is for… #AtoZChallenge (AC)

Welcome to the B Chapter of Runaway: A Choose Your Own Adventure Novel. Please be advised, there may be adult content depending on the choices you make. Please vote for your choice and I will post the next chapter tomorrow.

Your choice for B was Bartender: (Sorry it got a little long!)

With no bartending experience, she thought the bartender position might be a long shot, but at least she had experience as a restaurant server. The place she was applying to was primarily a diner, but it included a bar. Her experience working in a cafe would be useful there. The manager thought so, too, and he called her in for an interview and offered her the job on the spot.

“I know that you’ve never been a bartender before so I’m not putting you on any particularly busy shifts. And before you start, you need to memorize all these drinks and specials.” He gave her a long list. “As long as you can do this, you’re hired.”

“No problem. When can I start?”

“When can you have all these things memorized?”

She looked into his close set eyes behind dark rimmed glasses and replied. “Two days?”

“That quick?”

“Yes,” she said. She had to bite her tongue not to say, “Yes, Sir.”

“You know I’ll be quizzing you on them before you start.”

“I assumed so,” she replied quickly. “I’ll be ready.”

“Great, well I look forward to you starting. We’re really short staffed.”

“Great!” It was the first good thing that had happened to her, besides the apartment. She was relieved that he hadn’t taken the time to call her references. Aralyn didn’t want anyone in Iowa to know where she had gone.

She left the diner feeling pleased with herself. It hadn’t even been a whole week, and she had an apartment and a job. Now she just had to buckle down and study for this quiz. It was imperative that she get the job. She was so looking forward to learning something new, too.

She spent the next two days studying, and in the end, she had the whole thing memorized frontward and backward. “I’m ready,” she told herself on the morning of her quiz. She showed up to the diner fifteen minutes early. The manager greeted her with a smile.

“Hi,” the manager said.

“Hello, Mr. Jacobson,” she replied.

“Please, call me Devon.”

“Okay, Devon,” she smiled shyly. She almost felt like she was flirting, but she knew that was wrong. It would not be good for her to flirt with her soon-to-be boss.

“Let’s get this started,” he said, and he motioned for her to follow him to a corner booth away from most of the restaurant patrons. He spent the next hour quizzing her on everything on the menu. She answered every question perfectly. “Now let’s see how you do behind the bar,” he said. He introduced her to Sevy, the bartender who was working at the time. “Sevy is going to train you today. Watch everything he does, and by lunch time, I want you to start picking up some of the work from him. The best way to learn is by doing.” She nodded and smiled. She wasn’t at all disappointed to have Sevy teaching her. He was quite cute. His brown hair was just long enough that she could imagine herself running her fingers through it. His eyes were frog green, which was an odd comparison to make, but it was the first thing that came to her mind. His shoulders were broad, and she felt like she could get lost in his arms and be safe from the world.

She actually shook her head at that thought. It was ridiculous. She was living in a fantasy with that. No random bartender was going to be able to keep her safe. Not after what happened. Not with what she was running away from.

But it was time to set that aside. Right now Aralyn needed to focus on learning her new job. She wanted to make sure she was doing the best she possibly could. She watched Sevy studiously as he walked her through some of the procedures that would be different from other restaurants where she had worked. But most of the things he told her were things she knew.

Some of the bar things were different, though. She wasn’t accustomed to having each seat have its own number, as opposed to table numbers. She liked the ability to put names into the computer rather than just numbers, though. It was definitely helpful regarding getting to know her customers. She watched Sevy interact with the customers and could tell that he would get great tips. He was working hard to ensure that everyone he served had everything they needed.

Some things were easy for her to remember. Putting out drink napkins and silverware right away. Offering both a drink menu and a regular menu. Other things were harder. Remembering what soups were on special. She resolved to write them in a little book. She noticed that Sevy didn’t write anything down. She supposed it wasn’t too hard to take an order and put it directly into the computer since it was right there. But still, she didn’t want to make any mistakes.

The first part of her shift was slow. There weren’t a lot of people and very few at the bar. The ones who sat at the bar at that early hour tended not to be drinkers. Moreso they were lonely people who wanted to talk to someone. Aralyn was nervous about having conversations with strangers. She resolved to study Sevy carefully. The conversations seemed to come easily to him. “How are you?” “Nice to see you again.” “What’s going on?” Some of the people he obviously knew better than that. Those he asked personal questions about the person’s family or significant other. Aralyn imagined these weren’t people he saw often, but he remembered a surprising amount about them.

She got up the courage to ask Sevy about the conversations he was having by the time the lunch hour was picking up. “How do you remember all that about these people?”

“Well, some of them come in here a lot. It’s not too hard to remember details about those people.”

“And the other ones?”

“Just let them talk,” he advised. “People usually just want to talk about themselves. They don’t actually care what you have to say. Hell, they don’t even really care if you’re listening. They are just here to talk. So let them talk. Nod, smile, if they come around again, try to remember something they said the previous time. There’s no need to remember every detail of what they told you. Just one specific thing. They’re always impressed when you can remember something specific, even if there’s only one thing. The older ones tend to tell me the same stories over and over again. I could practically tell some of the stories myself. But I let them talk. What’s the harm in it really? I’m here to see that they are happy. The happier they are, the bigger the tips are. It’s a win-win situation.”

Aralyn nodded. That made a lot of sense, but she knew she wasn’t going to be entirely comfortable talking to complete strangers. It was not in her personality, especially since she was now hiding a huge secret from all of these people. All she could think about as she looked at them was her secret. It was stupid, really. None of them would know her. None of them would know anything about her. Not where she was from, not what she had done, and not why she had run away. But somehow, having such a public job made her nervous. She had always thought it would be fun to tend bar, but now she wasn’t so sure.

In the end, she had no choice, though. She needed the job, and it had come to her with ease. She had to give it a chance. At least it would be a point of experience for her on her resume if she decided she wanted to stick with restaurant work. She would have to stay at least long enough to make it worth that.

But she wasn’t sure how long she could stay. She might have to move on sooner than she intended. Things were just very up in the air and that, more than anything else, made her uncomfortable. She wanted nothing more than to be her relaxed, normal self, but she was anything but that right now. She liked the surety of her life before. Life Before. That sounded like the title of her memoir. Maybe someday she would write it. Maybe someday it would be a hit. She doubted it, but maybe. But in order to write that, she would have to write about her secret, and she wasn’t sure she could ever do that. It affected too many people if she did. She would more than likely have to keep her mouth shut about it. And her pen, in that case.

She shook her head, realizing that Sevy had been talking to her and she hadn’t been paying any attention. Whoops. She tuned in.

“I’d like you to take the next customer who comes to the bar,” Sevy said. “I’ll be right here with you.”

Aralyn liked the sound of that, but she didn’t react to the statement other than to say, “Okay.” She gulped down her nerves. She could do it!

She waited nervously. A man came in and sat down at the other end of the bar from where the two of them were standing.

“You’re on,” Sevy told her with an encouraging smile.

“Hi!” she said brightly to the new customer. Too brightly, she felt.

“Hey,” the gentleman said. He was clearly a businessman on a lunch break. She was on top of his order, and made a note to the kitchen that he was in a hurry. She put his order in the computer and then made his unsweetened iced tea.

“Good job,” Sevy told her. “Most new bartenders go for the drink first. Normally, I would, but with this clearly being someone on a lunch break from work, getting the order in as soon as possible was a good choice.”

Aralyn smiled. “Thank you. I’m learning from the best.”

He grinned back at her. “Well, I don’t know about that…” he let his voice trail off and nudged her as a new customer came into the bar and sat down. “Want to take on another one?”

Her eyes went wide, but she decided it was worth trying. It wasn’t so different than her past experience as a waitress. “Okay,” she whispered, and she swallowed down her nerves again and off she went to greet the customer. Sevy hung a little further back this time than the last. This person didn’t seem to be on a lunch break, but Aralyn went with the idea that she wanted fast service and did the same thing as before.

“Are you new?” the girl asked when Aralyn brought her drink over a minute later.

“Yes, it’s my first day,” she told the girl.

“Oh, well that’s exciting. I hope it goes well,” the customer said.

“Thank you,” Aralyn replied. She saw that the order light was on from the kitchen, so she excused herself and brought out her first customer’s food. She gave him a minute to tuck into it and then came back to ask if everything was okay. He said that it was and she backed off.

The rest of the afternoon went much like the first two customers. She found that she was able to keep up with even two or three different people at a time. She was still struggling a bit with the computer system for checks, but she was learning quickly.

Sevy was patient with her and helped her out when she got stuck on things. He guided her through new things, helped her find specific food items in the computer system, and was generally kind to her throughout the shift. He even took over some of the customers when it was evident Aralyn was starting to feel overwhelmed.

At the end of the shift, he split all the bar tips with her. “I don’t deserve that,” she insisted.

“Of course you do. You did at least half the work.”

“No I didn’t,” she argued back.

He pressed the money into her hand and said, “Don’t argue, it’s not going to work.” He winked at her, and she smiled.

“Are you,” she started to ask him if he wanted to go get a bite to eat when they finished their shifts, but she chickened out halfway through the sentiment and turned away. He let the comment go.

She thanked him again for all of his help, and they parted ways. She wanted to ask if he would be there when she came in the next day, but she chickened out on that question, too.

On her next shift, she was pleasantly surprised to find that Sevy was working at the bar. The manager sent her to shadow someone else for a while in the main dining room, and she learned some new things even with her mind half on Sevy.

After two hours there, she was sent to the kitchen to help garnish the plates and ensure that orders were coming out correctly. She learned how to run food for other people, rather than taking the orders herself. The manager explained that he wanted her to be able to fill in for any position throughout the waitstaff. It made sense, but she had really been hoping that she could work more closely with Sevy for her second day.

She was working later in the day this time, and the restaurant was nearing close by the time she got to work with Sevy. She felt a wave of nervous energy pass over her when the manager stopped her in the kitchen and sent her to the bar to learn how to clean it up and close for the night.

“Hey,” she said to Sevy as she slid behind the bar.

His face brightened when he saw her, “Hey,” he said, “I thought I wasn’t going to even get to talk to you today. You’ve been busy.”

“Yeah,” she gave an exhausted smile. “I’ve learned a lot, but I have certainly been busy all day.”

“Well I’m glad you’re here now,” he said.

She really felt like he was flirting with her but she wasn’t sure how, or if, she could act on it. Instead, she decided to play dumb. “So, what do I need to do to clean up around here?” she asked.

He explained the cleanup procedures and showed her the end of the shift checklist. She helped him complete all the chores. He didn’t offer her any tips this time, but she felt like she hadn’t earned them at the bar today. So she was surprised when the manager found her and handed her a wad of cash.

“What’s this for?” she asked in surprise.

“It’s a part of the tips. You worked as a runner and a plater; that earns you something.”

“Oh!” She was pleasantly surprised. “Thanks.”

“Sure,” he said.

He walked away from the bar and Aralyn turned to Sevy. “He seems like a good boss.”

“He is,” Sevy said, his voice low. “I don’t want to sound like I’m kissing up to him or anything but I do really think he’s a good boss. He’s fair and consistent. That’s about all you can really hope for in a manager.”

“Definitely,” Aralyn agreed. Though, she had never had a manager who wasn’t both of those things. She could imagine that it would be difficult if she were in a position where those things were an issue.

“Well, I’m out,” Sevy said, picking up his jacket from the hook in the back room. “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” Aralyn said, and she got as far as the front door of the restaurant before realizing that she had to go back. “Sorry, I have to go back and get my purse.”

“I can wait,” he said.

“Okay,” she said with a smile. She ran to the back and grabbed her purse. As she opened the staff door to leave, she heard a mobile phone ring. The tone didn’t seem to be coming from any of the waitstaff’s bags or coats. Then she realized the sound was coming from under one of the tables. She bent down and retrieved the phone. She looked at the number. It was just a random number. No name. She looked around, but the dining room was deserted. The rest of the waitstaff were doing kitchen cleanup. She debated. Should she answer the call or not?

Answer the Call OR Leave the phone at the Hostess stand

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3 thoughts on “B is for… #AtoZChallenge (AC)

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