I never knew what true exhaustion felt like until I started working at the bar. It made complete sense now why teenagers and bars were not a good combination if you were working on getting an education, but of course I continued to show up to every shift and struggle to keep my eyes open at school. It was obvious that my friends were noticing the lack of energy since they constantly suggested that I quit my “grocery store” job and go back to freeloading off of my parents, but it wasn’t an option for me.
After my conversation in the storage room with Cameron I felt the need to prove him wrong even stronger than before. Damn him for underestimating me, he would see how wrong he is.
Maybe I’m a competitive person, or maybe I just hate being judged when someone doesn’t even know me. Either way, it was a means to an end, Cameron was an impossible person to deal with, let alone impress.
Prom was approaching, leaving every girl in the school frantically planning even though they had over two months to prepare, but apparently this is planning season and there was a rush to rent limos before anyone else. Thea was one of those girls who already had her planned out and ideas written through and through. I, on the other hand, could only think about sleep.
“What color dress are you wearing?” She asked me while we sat in the courtyard at a picnic table during free period.
I hadn’t even thought about it so I simply shrugged, “Whatever color the dress I choose happens to be.”
“You are such a procrastinator,” She mumbled under her breath, scribbling something in her book before continuing to talk, “So, I’m thinking you, me, and Carter share the limo. That way when we have our dates, six people will be a decent fill.”
Sometimes I felt like Carter knew when we mentioned his name because the moment Thea spoke, he approached us and sat next to me, “You’re already planning that? Do you even have a date yet?”
“No, but it’s prom-posal season... I have a few suitors,” Thea smiled proudly, setting her pen down.
“What about you, Liv?” He asked me next.
I shook my head, not really caring about the entire thing at this point in time, “No. It isn’t a big deal to me, I may just make it a friend affair instead of turning prom into one huge group date.”
Thea giggled in response, flipping her hair dramatically over her shoulder and looking at me with a disappointed look on her face, “Prom night, honey. It’s the most memorable night of your life. Partying it up with your friends all night and then going to a romantic hotel room and making love.”
She gave a dreamy sigh, having thought this out too far but it was her dream and who was I to crush it?
“I’m sticking with friends, you do you, Thea.”
Carter cleared his throat and sat up a little straighter than he had been. He looked at me while tapping his fingers on that table, “I agree with you. Maybe, since Thea plans on having a date, we can do the whole friend, prom thing together.”
“That sounds like a date, Carter,” I narrowed my eyes at him with a smile, “I think it’s best if the whole friend thing is a group, not just the two of us. It would just be less suggestive that way.”
I felt bad any time I had to let Carter down, but he knew that I wasn’t interested in him that way. He was determined, I’ll give him that, but it always put me in a terrible position of having to turn him down when I never wanted to hurt him.
“Is it because of Luke?” He asked suddenly, surprising me with the question, “I know he hurt you and you were together for a while, but you know that I would never--”
“Carter... Boundaries,” I told him before he could continue.
Luke was in fact my boyfriend of two years who cheated on me and broke my heart more than I knew was even possible. The events took place nearly four months ago and to say I was broken would be an understatement, but it had nothing to do with not wanting to go out with Carter. I looked at Carter as a best friend, brother even, there’s just lines you can’t cross and feelings that aren’t there.
Carter sighed softly before standing from the picnic table, “This is why you get hurt, Livy. You choose the bad boys that don’t care about you instead of seeing the one that is right in front of you. The guy that would never hurt you. What is it with girls and bad boys, anyway?”
“Carter...” I frowned, attempting to grab his arm before he walked away but he was too quick. Again, I felt like a horrible friend because he twisted everything and made it seem like I was hung up on Luke when it was nothing to do with that. He didn’t understand that there were no feelings there for him and I can’t say anything else without hurting him more.
“Let him go,” Thea commented as she glanced up from her prom planner, “We both know he’s crazy about you and you’ve tried telling him the nice way. If he’s so needy for a date, let him ask Ratty Roxy.”
I managed a smile at her attempt to ease my mind, but that didn’t change the fact that one of my best friends was frustrated with me and went to a low of mentioning my ex-boyfriend. Carter had never talked about the Luke situation like that, but today he threw the topic out there with full intentions on reopening old wounds.
He was right about Luke being a bad boy, but that isn’t why I dated him. I fell in love and he may have been a bad boy to everyone else, but to me he was different. A sweet guy who had only wanted to make me happy, until I wasn’t enough for him.
After everything that happened with Carter earlier at school, my entire day went to shit. My mood was down and for the first time in months I felt down. After my horrible break up with Luke, I was down in the dumps for weeks before I pulled myself out of it. Having it thrown in my face today just reminded me of everything and gave me flashbacks of how horrible I felt during that time.
“You’re late,” Cameron said, blocking access to the back of the bar as I rushed through the already full crowd of partiers.
I looked at him and sighed softly, “I know. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t tolerate tardiness,” He responded, motioning back to Zoey, “What if she had called in sick and I happened to be counting on you to run the bar tonight?”
“But she didn’t, so please cut me some slack,” My voice came out sounding more irritated than desperate, but I wasn’t in the mood for Cameron’s constantly lecturing tonight. I knew that I should have been on time, I admitted that, but I couldn’t change it now.
After staring at me for a moment, Cameron stepped away from the bar and motioned towards it with his head, “Get to work, Zoey needs to leave early tonight so take your break early.”
Frantically, I turned to Zoey, “You’re leaving me here?”
I wasn’t ready to run the bar on my own, even thought it was Wednesday and Wednesdays were the slowest day of the week, I wasn’t prepared to handle everything on my own.
“Sorry, hun. Duty calls...”
My day just went from bad to worse. If Cameron could find any time to judge me, tonight would be it. My stomach twisted at the thought of getting yelled at by drunk men for not getting their drinks right and I threw my head back, “Oh god...”
I had a few hours to watch Zoey before she left and I planned to make the most of it, monitoring her moves and seeing how she worked so quickly. She was used to this atmosphere, taking three or four drink orders at the same time and making them at once. It only made my head spin more.
Zoey had amazing charisma, too. Some of the customers knew her by name and I was known as the girl that works with Zoey.
Luckily for me Zoey took the time to try to reassure me that I could handle things on my own, she showed me the best way to handle a crowd and encouraged me to try and be more optimistic.
“If there’s a lot of people, get a few orders at once. Remember them and make them, then you have multiple customers served at the same time,” She told me as she removed her waist apron later in the night, “Don’t freak out if things are taking too long. Just breathe and take your time, okay?”
I nodded my head, still unsure about the whole thing, “By the time you return I may already be in my grave.”
She laughed softly, “So dramatic. Have a good night, Liv. Don’t sweat it, you’ll do fine.”
And then that was it, the bar was mine for the night. I was satisfied with the lack of crowd by the time she left, but still dreading the moment anyone asked for a drink that I wasn’t sure on making.
“Well, aren’t you just the sexiest little bartender I’ve seen.”
I looked at the end of the bar to see Vincent with a dirty smirk on his face as his eyes scanned my body. This guy was such a pervert and I already hated my life in the moment while his disgusting eyes peered at me.
“What can I get for you?” I asked, ignoring his obvious pass at me.
“Maybe I can get something for you,” He responded which left me even more confused, “You look stressed and I can help with that.”
“Pass,” I answered before turning to another customer and taking their drink order. I tried to be efficient and prepare their drink before anyone else came to the bar and requested something.
Vincent continued to talk which was making my attempt to focus all the more difficult, “You know, my boy Cam thought you’d be out after the first week, I actually thought you would pull through. And look at you, owning the bar like you’ve done this for years.”
I sighed heavily and rolled my eyes before turning back to Vincent, “Please don’t flatter me. I already know that Cam doesn’t think that I’ll last, and I couldn’t care less what you think.”
“You’re just like every other woman in the world, thriving for compliments from men and just wanting approval,” A smirk formed on his lips and he reached out to touch my hand, “I can make you feel good about yourself. Maybe if you ask nicely I can get Cam to cut you some slack, too.”
Quickly, I pulled my hand away and shot Vincent a glare, “Don’t touch me. I’m not interested in anything you have to offer, so please just back off.”
He held his hands up in defense, his entire persona changing in an instant, “Hey, I didn’t mean anything. Just trying to make some friendly chit chat.”
“Are you delusi--”
“Olivia,” Cameron’s voice caught my attention and I quickly turned around to see him standing behind me, which explained perfectly why Vincent’s behavior just changed out of nowhere.
“Hi... I didn’t know you were there,” I told him, taking a deep breath in attempt to get the frustration that Vincent caused out of my system.
His eyes flicked towards Vincent before looking back at me, “Everything okay here?”
“Yeah... Fine,” I muttered under my breath.
Cameron focused his attention on Vincent and shooed him away, “What did I tell you about harassing my employees? Back off, man. Get a drink and leave the bar, it’s simple.”
Vincent stood up and rolled his eyes, “I was just offering the lady some good conversation, no harm intended.”
As he walked away from the bar he had a victorious smirk on his face that caused me to shudder. How could anyone even be interested in a pig like him?
“Thank you for getting rid of him,” I spoke softly as I tried to focus on anything other than Cameron, taking a towel and wiping over the counter.
“If you have any problems with him, you need to tell me, okay?” His voice was serious but not in his usual intimidating way, but in a more concerned tone, “I’ve had issues with him before and he knows that he’s on a tight leash.”
I set the towel down and turned to face Cameron. He was much taller than me so in order to meet his gaze I was forced to look up, “I don’t need another reason for you to assume that I can’t handle this job or myself. I’m a big girl, I can hold my own. So if I have to put up with a little harassment to prove myself, then so be it.”
Cameron seemed taken off guard by my statement, I myself was taken off guard by my quick response, but it was the truth. Maybe if Cameron wasn’t so hard on me then I would feel more comfortable telling him about things that were happening around here that made me uncomfortable.
“You don’t put up with harassment to prove yourself, Olivia.” He furrowed his dark eyebrows in disbelief, “You work hard and that’s proving yourself, if someone approaches you making inappropriate comments, you tell your boss. It’s that simple, I don’t know why you have to make it seem like it’s difficult.”
“Because of you! Are you that oblivious t the fact that you’ve been on my case so much that even the thought of mentioning a problem to you makes me feel like I’m not doing my job right?” I flailed my arms at him, completely over his attitude at this point, “You’re an asshole, Cameron. And that makes you a shitty boss.”
“Wow... You have a lot of feelings that you’ve been obviously holding in. Should we hold a staff meeting to discuss your issues with me?” His tone was sarcastic which only irritated me more. He took nothing seriously or didn’t give a damn about how his attitude affected people. Maybe it was okay for people with thick skin, but I didn’t have that.
“You arrogant asshole,” I scoffed, resting my hands on my hips and giving him a look of clear displeasure.
“Olivia, go to my room.”
“Excuse me? Don’t send me to the room like a child just because I’m telling you how you act.” I could see a few eyes on us and people were obviously paying attention to our little disagreement.
Maybe it made me look bad but today was not my day and I could only handle so much before I cracked.
Cameron took a step closer to me, his dark eyes staying on mine as he spoke in a more demanding tone, “You have issues that we need to discuss. Go to the room and we will talk in private.”
I stayed silent but kept the same sour expression on my face as I walked past Cameron and headed towards his room reluctantly. I didn’t want to talk to him about this because I knew it would lead with me being unemployed by the end of the night.
Cameron met me at his door a few minutes later after he got a buddy of his to watch the bar temporarily. Once he pulled out a key from his pocket, he unlocked the door and pushed it open for me to walk in first.
My eyes looked around the room briefly before I made my way to the couch and sat down, keeping my eyes on the floor. In the few minutes that Cameron was gone, my anger had faded and now I just felt embarrassed. I know my lash out came from a place of truth but it only happened because my day was bad and eventually I couldn’t hold in any anger anymore.
I heard the door close and Cameron spoke, “First of all, I know I’m an asshole. I also know that I’ve been hard on you which has been my intention so I’m not going to apologize for that.”
“Wow. How mature of you.”
“Because if I haven’t been hard on you the words that get thrown at you while you’re working the bar would hurt twice as bad as they do now,” He continued, “People are assholes, and I’m one of them. The biggest assholes are the drunks that have no filter or respect. If you can handle me breathing down your neck constantly, you can handle them.”
A soft laugh escaped my lips, unable to believe his pathetic reasoning, “That’s a terrible excuse.”
He only shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, “Maybe, but its worked until now. I mean you’ve hand Vinny throwing sexual comments at you and most women would have screamed harassment by now, in tears, might I add.”
“If you’re going to compliment my strength as a women, you can go ahead.” I managed a small smile, still not happy about this entire situation but willing to listen to Cameron’s lame apology.
Cameron walked over to the couch and sat next to me. He rested his elbows on his knees, looking over at me quietly, “You have been a decent employee up to this point. I have been hard on you because I did expect you to crack... Long before now. Don’t take it personally, I just don’t feel like this is the kind of place where a girl like you would work.”
I turned completely to face him, deciding to get to the bottom of that stupid assumption once and for all, “What do you mean by that? A girl like me?”
“You’re different from the people who usually come here,” He answered me simply, “A good girl. It’s clear by the way you dress and act. No tattoos or piercings, you don’t drink at the bar or flirt with the customers. You’re quiet and well behaved... The complete opposite of anyone who steps foot into a bar. So tell me, Olivia. Why are you sticking around a place that is completely out of your element? You’re a bottle of wine in a case of whiskey.”
I found myself laughing, unable to help but express laughter at his example. In an odd way he managed to explain his reason in a really good way, I could understand what he meant now but I had never been referred to as a bottle of wine, “That’s a new one.”
“Wine is fancier than whiskey,” He responded.
“You’re saying I’m fancy?” I raised an eyebrow, shaking my head as I looked away from him, “I don’t even like wine.”
Cameron leaned back on the couch while I was leaning forward with my hands on my knees, “Neither do I. Usually, I throw wine away but I keep letting you stick around...”
I turned my head to look at him, unsure whether his words were a compliment or not. I didn’t know why he let me stick around for as long as he did. He hired me on a whim and for reasons I could no explain even if I wanted to.
“Since we’re being honest... Why did you really hire me? A girl with absolutely no experience or charisma...”
Cameron slid his tongue over his lips slowly, contemplating his answer. I could see the confliction on his face but to my surprise he actually answered, “Because you’re hot. A hot girl walks into my bar and asks for a job, I take it as a possibly of a hook up. So to keep it simple, let’s just say your body got you the job here.”
Most girls would take it as a compliment, but Cameron’s answer defeated me in so many ways. I was hired based on looks and if he kept me around for nearly three weeks he obviously had intentions on getting in my pants which felt degrading in the worst way.
“I’m not going to have sex with you,” I told him as I stood up from the couch, “It’s disgusting that you would even assume that you could schmooze your way into any girl’s pants but have some respect for me. You’re my boss, not my pimp.”
“There you go again, being dramatic,” He seemed un-phased by my response, “You’re hot. That’s a compliment. The thought may have crossed my mind about getting into your pants, but that was when you showed up here three weeks ago. Not now. You asked why I hired you and that was my honest thought process at the time, it doesn’t mean that I want to rip your clothes off... If anything, these past few weeks have made me less attracted to you.”
There was no response in the world that could make that hit any less hard, but it’s what I asked for. I told him straight up that it was disgusting that he would assume that I would hook up with him and he shut the idea down. Easily. It was what I wanted but somehow I wondered why he was less attracted to me now than before.
This is the problem with us women, we’re never satisfied with the answers men give us. I knew that feeling now more than ever.