Note: This is a draft.
“What did this one do,” Gina asked as she watched Selene tear up and toss a business card in the trash.
“Lawyer, I think,” Selene replied.
“Lawyer,” Gina called out.
Another waitress placed a line on a board that had a list of careers for the men who kept giving waitresses cards in attempts to get dates. There were columns for each of the women who got hit on and the marks were placed underneath each name.
“Girl, that is your third lawyer this weekend,” Tiffany exclaimed. “I keep getting these lame ass accountants.”
Gina laughed and pat Tiffany on the shoulder. “They’re still making decent money, girl,” Gina told her. “This place ain’t cheap, so clearly they’re willing to spend money.”
“Better than doctors,” Beth said as she walked by. “They’re never home!”
Selene sighed and shook her head. “They all only want one thing. Not worth the time.”
“Sometimes that’s the only part worth having,” Tiffany responded. “Some of them aren’t even worth that.”
“See, the POS system crashed. Boss called the service company, but we’ve got customers about ready to check out,” Deana, the hostess, said as she stuck her head in the break room. “Boss said he needs you at the counter.”
Everyone groaned and looked at Selene. “I’ll get Beth to help me with your tables,” Gina said, standing up to leave the room, too. “Don’t worry. We will get you your tips.”
“Thanks,” Selene said before rushing out of the room.
She made her way back to the front of the upscale restaurant. Once in the front, she made a beeline to the counter where the register was. Her boss was on the phone, looking irritated. When he saw her, he waved her to the register. Selene pulled out the calculator and a notepad and placed it on the counter before popping the register tray open so she had access to the cash. An older credit card scanner was pulled out and connected, placed there to her right. This was the third time this month that the point-of-sale system had gone down, and they’d all quickly learned Selene knew how to do everything manually from working at an old mom and pop place a few years ago. The place had no registers, so she’d learned to do it all by hand first.
“You are my lifesaver, See,” her boss said with the phone mic covered. “I will cover any tips you lose tonight. Are you ok to stay to close?”
Selene nodded and straightened her vest. “No worries, Paul. Happy to help.”
“You’re an angel,” he said right before his focus returned to the phone. He wandered off to keep the customers from hearing the conversation.
Over the next few hours, Selene was wrapped up in calculations and paper for the waitresses as they handed her their tickets to total up, then again when she was brought payment by the other waitresses or by the customers themselves. Fortunately, the vast majority of people were patient and understanding, even empathizing. However, Selene was in her element as much as she was when she moved through the tables. One of the things she was naturally good at was math and cash handling came as an extension of that.
It was toward the end of the night when a tall, dark-haired man approached the counter. The man’s eyes were chocolate brown with specks of gold in them and focused on her with an intensity that made Selene uncomfortable. The faint scent of expensive cologne drifted from him.
“Is Paul around? I need to speak with him,” the man told her in a baritone voice that flowed like honey.
“Yes, sir. He’s in the back. I can have someone get him for you,” she offered.
The man studied her a moment before nodding. “I’ll wait over there,” he told her, indicating a table that provided a full view of the entire front end.
Selene nodded and offered a professional smile. “I will make sure he knows. Can I get your name for him?”
“Nick Saber,” the man said simply, pausing as if expecting a certain reaction.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll pass the message along.”
For a moment, Selene swore the man looked either surprised or disappointed, she wasn’t sure which. His expression then returned to neutral. The man then gave her one last, lingering look before he turned and walked away. Selene scanned the dining room, waving down Gina as she started to head into the back. Gina quickly scurried over, heels tapping on the floor.
“What’s up,” Gina asked quietly. Being the dining room was only a quarter full, they had to keep their voices low to prevent them from carrying.
“There’s a man asking for Paul. He says his name is Nick Saber,” Selene explained.
Gina’s eyes about bugged out of her head. “Oh my god, really? He’s here,” she asked as she scanned the dining room before landing on the man Selene had just spoken with. “Girl, that man is the most eligible bachelor in town with money out the wazoo. He owns Saber Enterprises and has his fingers in all the big construction and real estate deals in the county.”
Selene just looked at her blankly.
Gina rolled her eyes. “See, I love you, but you are so clueless sometimes.”
Selene shrugged. “I have more important things to worry about than focusing on the local rich folks. Now, go tell Paul,” she told the older girl with a shooing motion behind the counter.
“On my way,” Gina said in a sing-song voice before she hurried off to the back area.
Selene busied herself with bundling the money to make it easier for Paul to count it later. When she looked up, her eyes met those of the man. He seemed to be watching her, but Selene put her attention back to taking care of the money, then several more customers. She began sorting the credit card receipts and giving a total she would add to after the last payments came. She totaled up the small stack of tickets that were waiting, slipping them each in the cases that were used to hold the tickets, then straightened all the tickets and receipts in neat piles, wrapping a rubber band around each.
She was so wrapped up in her tasks, when Paul appeared in front of her, she nearly jumped out of her skin.
“You startled me,” she told him breathlessly.
Paul chuckled. “So I saw. Everyone’s gone. Would you bring everything over to the table and help me with the paperwork?”
“The table,” Selene asked dumbly, having forgotten about the intense man.
“Yes, over there with Nicholas,” Paul explained, motioning to the table.
“Oh. Uh, yeah, sure,” Selene answered with a quick glance in the direction of the table. “It’s all safe?”
Paul chuckled and patted her on the shoulder. “Nick’s a very old friend and he’s not out to steal from me. It’s safe.”
Selene nodded and glanced around before she pulled out the drawer and collected the bundles of receipts before she made her way over to the round booth. She placed everything out neatly, easily accessible. The calculator was the last item she put down. Selene began to walk off, but her boss had other ideas.
“You can count and bundle the money and I’ll start on the receipts,” he instructed.
“Ok,” she answered, glancing nervously at Mr. Saber before she sat next to Paul.
Soon, she was absorbed in her task. While Selene was careful, she was also quick and it didn’t take her too long to finish counting and bundling the money, making her notes on the form her boss used to write up the nightly reports. Then, she took the other stack of tickets and began counting them before she began to count out the tickets from before the system went down.
While she was working, Paul and Nick spoke with each other. She wasn’t paying any attention, outside of noting the voices were there.
“Don’t worry about Selene, Nick,” Paul assured him. “She won’t notice anything until she is finished.
Nick chuckled, watching her. “She seems rather intent.”
“She’s got good focus,” Paul agreed.
“Is this the newer girl you were bragging about,” Nick inquired before taking a drink from the clear glass tumbler.
“Yes,” Paul told him. “I was lucky she came in when she did. She has a fair bit of experience and the customers like her. She’s developed her own fan base. The waitresses are keeping count to find out how many men proposition them in the break room. It appears Selene was winning last time I looked.”
Nick began laughing at that. “Are they really?”
Paul nodded, pushing the calculator toward Selene. She immediately took it and began adding up tickets, seeming oblivious to the men.
“Yes, even keeping track by profession,” Paul added with a grin. “I’d tell them to stop, but I find it rather amusing myself.”
“I take it they aren’t dating these men?”
Paul glanced at Selene before answering. “I think a few have a time or two, though I discourage such things. It tends to make things complicated.”
Nick nodded in agreement. “Yes. Things tend to be uncomfortable if it doesn’t work out.”
“Yes, exactly. Selene’s a good one, though. She stays professional,” Paul told him. “You can always count on her to do her job and some.”
Nick chuckled. “And seems to be quite intent on doing her work right,” he said, watching Selene for a few moments. “How’s Angie?”
Paul smiled broadly. Always lighting up at the mention of his wife. “She’s doing great. She started growing roses this summer and seems to be doing quite good at it. Either way, she’s happy and that’s all that’s important.”
Nick nodded with a wry smile. “You’re a really lucky man, Paul. You found the love of your life – not all of us get that.”
“You’ll find someone eventually,” Paul assured him. “You’ve just got to stop dating those shallow, spoiled women. Find a more ordinary woman. Someone who appreciates what you do for her and doesn’t expect you to buy her things.”
“Do you have someone in mind?”
Paul shook his head. “No, my friend. I don’t know of anyone off the top of my head. I could ask Angie, though, if you would like. You know that woman is good at reading people.”
Nick chuckled and raised his hand. “I’ll pass. Angie is amazing, but I’ve been told to avoid others setting you up. It hasn’t worked out so well in the past.”
Selene suddenly looked up with a blank look, her eyes unfocused and her lips moved. She began moving her finger as if drawing out a math problem on an invisible board. Nick raised his eyebrows, looking back at Paul, who laughed quietly.
“She does that sometimes. She once told me she can visualize the numbers and ‘writes’ in the air,” Paul explained. “It’s her way of doing math in her head.”
Nick shook his head. “A quirky one, eh?”
Paul shrugged. “I don’t care how she does it; she just gets it done. A damn hard worker, this one. I let her do the paperwork some nights because I am thinking about training her to be my assistant manager for the evening shift. It would give me more time with Angie.”
Nick nodded slowly. “I hear that. She hasn’t worked here long, though. Won’t that cause issues?”
“Honestly, I don’t care. But, I can’t see it will be a problem. The staff all get along rather well and several of the waitresses look for her when there’s an issue or if they have a question,” Paul revealed. “I think people already accept that she’s got more experience and knows more about how things run.”
“Well, that’s always promising,” Nick acknowledged. “She seems young, though.”
Paul glanced at Selene and nodded. “She just turned 20 a couple months ago.”
Nick cocked his head and raised his brows. “I would have taken her for younger.”
“It’s because you are getting older, Nicholas. You’ll be 40 in a couple years,” Paul told him with amusement. He looked down to see that Selene was almost done with the tickets from this morning. He slid the pile of credit card receipts with his total toward her. She didn’t even seem to notice.
“So, what brings you in this time of night, Nicholas?”
Nick sighed and swallowed the rest of the whiskey. “You kind of hit it on the head earlier – my crappy love life. I swear I’m about to arrange a fake relationship just to get away from all the money grubbers.”
“You need a good girl like Selene here,” Paul teased him, patting Selene on the back.
She blinked and lifted her gaze, looking between them blankly. “Huh? Were you saying something to me?”
Nick chortled as he saw the confusion on the young woman’s face. Apparently Paul was right; she really didn’t notice anything going on around her when she was focused.
“No, See. Go ahead and finish up. We’re just talking,” Paul assured her.
Selene nodded, then resumed working on her task.
“See? I told you,” Paul told him, amused.
Nick nodded, then turned his attention back to Paul. “So, you think I should get someone a little less… materialistic.”
Paul grinned, nodding once. “Exactly like that. Then, you can spoil them. If then lady reacts appreciatively, you know you’ve found someone worth having around.”
“I doubt that will happen,” Nick told him with a great deal of pessimism. “I’ll probably be better off with some mutually beneficial arrangement. I doubt love is in the cards for me.”
Paul snorted. “You’re not even 40 yet, Nick. Don’t discount it just yet.”
Nick shook his head. “Easy for you to say. You married your childhood sweetheart.”
“I just believe you’re destined for a good thing,” Paul countered. “You’re too good of a man for you to not find a woman who can be that other half of you.”
Nick scoffed and glanced back at Selene before his eyes traveled to the window. “It sure doesn’t seem that way.”
“You’re a busy man. Sometimes these things take a while,” Paul reassured him.
Paul nudged Selene, who’s attention snapped to him, startled.
“Did you say something?”
“You believe in love, don’t you, Selene,” Paul asked her with a lifted brow.
Selene scoffed loudly. “No. It’s rare and the rest of us will never see it.”
Now Paul looked surprised. Nick chuckled. You’re too young to be that cynical, See.”
Selene shrugged and looked back at the papers. “It’s just how life is,” she answered before returning to her work.
Paul looked at Nick. “I think we’ve found someone more cynical than you, Nicholas. I wasn’t expecting that from her.”
Nick found himself studying the cinnamon skinned woman with her straight, black as coal hair. He’d noticed before she had green eyes which was an interesting contrast. She was a tiny thing; only reaching him at chest level and her tiny clothes looked like they were still too big for her. Her features were strong, with high cheekbones, a regal nose, and lush lips that often bore a smile when she was not concentrating. Her fingers were so thin, they reminded him of bird bones – delicate and fragile.
His attention snapped to Paul and he felt slightly embarrassed at being caught staring.
“Sorry, I was just thinking,” he said quickly.
Paul studied his long time friend, then looked down at the tiny waitress sitting next to him. While there was a big age difference, Selene was a lovely young woman and he knew she wasn’t exactly living it up. He looked back at Nick, having watched the man study her for a few minutes. He might now look a little sheepish, but Paul couldn’t help notice that Nick had been looking back at her regularly while they’d say here. He had, at first, thought it was just because he was nervous about talking about things around people he didn’t know well, and perhaps it was to a degree, but that look just a few moments ago… It was clearly Nick was becoming a deeply lonely man and Paul couldn’t stand to see his friend that way.
“Maybe you should start dating outside of the social circle you run in,” Paul suggested. “Try striking up a conversation with a woman who sits in the back of the room or the woman who always seems to be alone.”
Nick frowned, looking at Paul dubiously. “You know I have particular… tastes. I haven’t met man shy subs.”
Paul looked at Nick seriously. “Have you ever tried? The answer is: No. Like I said; try a woman who doesn’t demand attention. You might find yourself a hidden gem.”
Nick considered this and refilled his glass from the bottle on the table. “Maybe you’re right. I should try to find a shy, introverted woman who appreciates gifts and doesn’t demand things from me all the time.”
“I am. You’ll see,” Paul told him.
Selene suddenly began stacking everything together neatly. “I’ve got all I can do, Paul. The rest is for the chef,”she said quietly before pushing the entire pile toward Paul. “Did you need anything else?”
Paul shook his head. “No, See. You can head home now.”
“Ok. Thanks,” she said with a genuine smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Paul nodded, before he suddenly remembered something. “Oh, See, can you come in by 9:30? I’ll need you all day if you can do it. You’ll be on the register,” he explained.
Selene shrugged, then nodded. “Sure. I’ll see you tomorrow!” She turned a bit to look at Nick and gave him a small wave. “Bye.”
With that, she turned and strode toward the employees door at a rapid pace.
“Geez, man. You’re going to overwork the poor girl,” Nick chastised him.
Paul shook his head. “That one loves extra hours. Besides, she needs the extra money.”
“Oh,” Nick queried with a brow lifting.
Paul nodded as he fidgeted with the neatly laid out cash. “She’s always offering to work extra hours and… her address is a motel in a shit part of town.”
Nick frowned at this, glancing back to where Selene disappeared. “How’s she getting home?”
Paul sighed. “She takes the bus or walks. This late? She’s probably walking.”
“That’s kind of dangerous, isn’t it,” Nick inquired, alarmed.
Paul chuckled at the concerned look on the other man’s face. “That girl is tough and street smart. I doubt anyone’s dumb enough to mess with her, and if they do, there won’t be a second time.”
Nick sighed and looked at Paul. “Sorry. She just looks so… she’s so...”
“Tiny? Dynamite comes in small packages, Nicholas. Don’t you remember that?”
Nick laughed at that and held his hands up in defeat. “Ok, you got me there.” His attention was diverted for a moment as the figure of Selene began passing the windows.
“Don’t, Nick,” Paul warned.
“Don’t what,” Nick asked, turning his attention back to his lifelong friend.
“You know what,” Paul countered.
Nick raised his hands up defensively. “I wasn’t doing anything.”
Paul eyed Nick for a moment before shaking his head. “She’s too young for you.”
Nick just stared at Paul for a moment before shaking his head. “She’s not my type.”
“But,” Paul asked, sensing there was more to what his friend was thinking.
“But,” Nick responded, pausing afterward, “she’s incredibly beautiful. A hard worker. Reliable. Clearly intelligent. Sounds like the kind of woman I should be looking to pose as my girlfriend. I’d bet she’d look stunning all decked out.”
Paul nodded before looking out the window, his brow creased in thought. After several minutes, he looked back at his lifelong friend. The man who’d been his best man at his wedding almost 20 years ago. The one who’d stood by his side when his parents had died. The once playboy, now lonely man in front of him. He knew Nick longed for the type of relationship he had with his wife for himself, but had little success.
“You can always offer it to her, but you shouldn’t just walk up to her and ask her. Take some time to build up a rapport. I don’t think she’ll accept it if you’re too forward,” Paul suggested. “And don’t give her your card and ask her to call you. She always tosses those.”
Nick chuckled, remembering the conversation not long ago about the waitress’ game. “Yeah, I already suspected I’d have to take a different approach. What would you suggest?”
Paul sipped on the whiskey absentmindedly. “I’d say try making friends. No romantic overtures, just friendly. I suspect she’ll be more open to someone who comes off as not wanting anything from her. Perhaps even running into her ‘accidentally’ outside of the restaurant.”
Nick considered this information at length before he began laughing at the situation. “You know, this is us in high school in reverse. I was always giving you the advice.”
Paul laughed and nodded, thoroughly amused. “Yes, it is. I suppose it’s my chance to pay you back. Just… be careful and don’t hurt her, Nick. She’s a good girl and I’d hate to see her distressed, especially over you.”
“You won’t have to worry about that,” Nick assured him. “I’ll be careful and move slowly. Hell, I might even enjoy the challenge for a change.”
“A lot different than dealing with women who throw themselves at you, that’s for sure,” Paul agreed.
Nick winced. “Yeah, and they have either been trouble or cost me a small fortune.”
Paul chuckled. “I’ve been telling you that for years.”
Nick raised a hand and shook his head. “I get it, now. So,” he continued before pausing, “will you put a good word in for me with Selene? I mean, I have a feeling that would go a long way with her.”
Paul eyed him, then chuckled. “If she asks, I’ll tell her the truth. But I’m not going to push it. If you’re wanting to make an arrangement with her, it’s got to be her own decision. Just, don’t lead her on to think it’s something it’s not.”
Nick nodded in agreement. “I hadn’t planned on it, but I will certainly assure you I’ve no intention of doing that. I need someone to come to events, photo ops, and appear now and then when I’m at work or something so it looks like I’m taken. I just need someone to give me a break and have a chance to look around.”
Paul nodded. “Alright. As long as we understand each other. I like Selene and I want to keep her around for a good while. She is certainly proving herself invaluable and she’s going to make damn good money here.”
“I don’t doubt it. Her tips are probably quite substantial,” Nick mused.
“They don’t skimp on Selene, that’s for sure. She’s just got a way with people. Even a few of our more… particular customers prefer her,” Paul revealed. “Mrs. Robinson always asks to be in her section.”
Nick’s brows rose. “The old battleaxe widow of Chuck?”
Paul nodded. “That very one. I even saw her almost smiling at her when Selene’s back was turned. I have watched them and it’s almost like a game they play that only they are privy to. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Nick tried to imagine the stern-looking older woman smiling at anyone and he just couldn’t. He shook his head. “That’s a hell of a talent. She really does sound like the perfect person to help me.”
“The more we’ve talked about it, the more I think you might be right. You’ll just have to figure out how to keep her from being overwhelmed with attention. I like you, but I’d rather not have a lobby full of reporters or paparazzi trying to get a snap of her or an interview,” Paul warned him with a serious look.
Nick nodded slowly, his expression turned thoughtful. “We’ll work something out. Assuming, of course, she’s up for the job. You said she lives in a bad part of town? How bad?”
“It’s down by Commerce Street.”
Nick looked shocked, then worried. “She can’t be safe down there.”
“No one is safe down there, but I figure it’s what she can afford or she wouldn’t be there,” Paul pointed out.
“I’ll have to see about finding something more suitable,” Nick mused.
Paul watched Nick as the wheels in his head began to turn. In business, the man was a formidable force. In romance, however, he’d been far less fortunate. He’d followed the easy path of women who threw themselves at him or he found alluring, without ever looking more than skin deep. Paul blamed it on the fact his friend was both handsome and had been well off before he started his own company. He crossed his fingers inwardly that Selene wouldn’t be pissed and could possibly help his friend. After all, she’d been a wonder here and dealing with people was something she was good at. Maybe she could even help Nick find someone.