Lady in Waiting
The restaurant is quieter than normal, only the jukebox on the corner echoing sound through the room. It’s late--even the regulars have mostly gone--but I still have an hour on shift, an hour before I can escape to my small apartment overlooking the river and soak my tired legs. There’re three guys in the bar area, sitting in a corner booth enjoying their third pitcher of beer. They’re young enough that I had a hard look at their ID’s before serving them, and while they are clearly on their way to a hangover, at least they aren’t being obnoxiously loud.
In the distance the train rumbles across the track, shaking the pictures on the walls gently. I hear the new group of guys before I see them, turning the corner and opening the door with a jingle.
“You still open?” one of them asks, peeking his head inside.
“Twenty-four hours,” I tell him with a forced smile. “Come on in.”
There’s three of them, though they are expecting one more, and I set them at a table by the jukebox.
“What’s good?” One of them asks as he casually glances over the cheap plastic menu.
“To eat or drink?”
“The pie’s good. Just baked it today. As for the drink, how about I surprise you?”
One side of his mouth lifts in a lopsided grin. “You’re on. Five pies, and three drinks—for now. Your choice.”
I eye each of the men in turn. The one ordering seems relaxed, eager even, despite wearing a watch worth more than my kidneys and a sweater vest that makes me think he may, in fact, still be a virgin, and the other two are busy looking around the room in barely concealed disgust.
Making my way to the bar, I put in the drink order then set about plating up the cherry pie.
The door jingles again, but a quick glance over my shoulder tells it the last of the group, so I don’t rush. Finally, on one large tray, I balance all the pies and drinks and make my way over.
As I deliver the pies, I see the latecomers for the first time and I have to force myself not to stare. They’re both painfully handsome, though in vastly different ways. One has short, spikey hair with what looks to be naturally blonde highlights. His square jaw and five o’clock shadow give him a rugged look that’s exacerbated by the way his shirt sleeves are casually rolled up to the elbow exposing his forearms. He blinks up at me with green eyes and winks in a way that manages to be more friendly than creepy—no small feat.
The other is tall, even sitting down, with jet black hair and dark eyes, a long sloping nose and thin face. Probably Asian, though I couldn’t begin to guess at the region. He’s in a white shirt with a grey vest over top, the sleeves of his shirt rolled also up to the elbows.
Tall, dark, and handsome. That magical combination that’s tricked smart girls into making dumb choices since the dawn of time.
I hand off the pies, then the drinks.
“Two gin and tonic and a sex on the beach.”
The guy in the sweater takes a sip and grins appreciatively.
“She nailed it,” one of the guys says to another.
I point to the new guys, “Let me guess, bourbon, neat?”
“Witchcraft,” Bourbon guy says, but nods.
“Never doubt a waitress in Hells’ Kitchen,” I tell him, returning his earlier wink. “What about you? You feeling brave?”
The dark-haired guy looks at me for a moment, his eyes sweeping over me in a mix of curiosity and amusement as the corners of his mouth turn up in a slight grin that makes my IQ drop three points. “Why not?”
Shaking off the dumb, I make my way to the bar again, this time returning with the bourbon and a large glass of chocolate milk which I set in front of him.
The others laugh, but he gives me the oddest look before taking a long drink.
“Thanks,” he says, smiling.
I make my way back to the bar where Jerry, the middle-aged bartender slides over to me.
“If you wanna take off early I can handle these tables till June gets in.”
I glance back at the guys, then shake my head. “Nah. I’ve got a good feeling about this one. Big tippers,” I saw wagging my eyebrows.
He wrinkles his nose, “I dunno, Haven. They seem…prissy.”
“Exactly,” I offer. “I’m pretty sure their shoes alone are worth more than my entire college tuition.”
“If you say so,” he says with a reluctant grin. “Go ahead and grab the shakers for me so I can get them filled.”
I salute him, then grab a small tray and start clearing the salt and pepper off the empty tables.
This is what I’m doing when one of the young guys from the other table comes up behind me. I smell him before I see him, stale beer and cheap body spray.
“Hey, if you wanna have some fun, you can meet up with us later,” he whispers, grabbing a handful of my ass.
I move so quickly he doesn’t have a chance to respond. I’ve got his arm, twisted it behind his back, and slammed his face onto the table before Jerry even looks up from his newspaper.
“Grab me again and you’ll be eating your next meal through a straw, got it?”
“Ow, got it. Ok I get it.”
I release him and he hops away, holding his wrist. “Jesus Christ, you crazy bitch.”
“All right, get out,” Jerry says, rounding the bar with a baseball bat in hand.
They mutter and make rude gestures all the way out the door and Jerry locks it behind them.
“Sorry about that, fellas,” he tells my table.
“Perks of the job,” I say with a shrug and return to my task.
Sweater guys whistles. “Wow, you laid that guy out.”
I turn to them, and they are all staring at me with expressions of surprise.
I tilt my head to the side, apprising them again. “It’s a tough part of town, which is why I gotta ask, what brings you guys down here? No offence, this doesn’t seem like your kinda place.”
“Oh? And what is our kind of place?” Tall, dark, and handsome asks, sliding a chair out for me.
I take a seat, “The kind of place where people call you sir and they have steaks instead of burgers and crème brulee instead of pie.”
One of the gin guys leans forward, “Is there a place like that near here?”
Bourbon guy chuckles, “Where is your sense of adventure, Rory?”
He sits back pouting, “Probably somewhere that’s not going to require a tetanus shot after visiting.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. So why are you here?” I ask again.
“It’s my friend’s going away party,” the handsome one says. “Our last day in New York.”
“Oh?” I ask.
“He’s going home to…take over the family business.”
“I’ve been in school up north. My good buddy Liam here convinced me to have one last night of fun before we leave,” Bourbon guy says.
“And you decided to come here?” I laugh.
Sweater vest guy chuckles nervously, rubbing the back of his neck, “Well, we got a little turned around on the subway.”
“What Tommy means is that he got us lost. I’m Aiden, by the way.”
He holds out a hand and I shake it.
“Nice to meet you. Have any of you been to Manhattan before?”
They exchange an uncomfortable glance.
“Admittedly, we have not,” Liam says.
“Oh. No, that’s not ok. I can’t possibly let this be your lasting impression of my city. Tell you what. You guys finish your pie, I’ll cut my shift a little early, and I’ll take you somewhere you won’t forget. How about it?”
“I couldn’t possibly,” Liam begins only to be interrupted by Aiden.
“What he means is thank you.”
The group exchange another strange glance and sweater vest Tommy chuckles under his breath, fiddling with the umbrella from his drink.
“How do we know you aren’t going to take us somewhere and rob us?” one of the gin twins asks.
“Seriously?” Aiden says, shooting him a withering look. “You’re an idiot.” Then he turns back to me. “Actually,” he continues, “I have to get back to the hotel soon, but maybe you’d be willing to show Aiden around the city for a bit? At least one of us should have some fun.”
“That’s not—” one of the gin guys tries to cut in but Aiden shoots him a look and he snaps his mouth closed.
“Ignore Kato,” Tommy says. “Everyone else does.”
Kato frowns, but sits back, folding his arms across his broad chest.
“Unless you don’t want to,” Liam interjects. “I understand if you’re uncomfortable wandering the city alone with some strange man.”
“Are you?” I ask, raising one eyebrow. “A strange man that is?”
“You have no idea,” Tommy says, taking a drink just as Aiden smacks him with the back of his hand.
“Liam is a paragon of virtue,” Aiden swears, raising a hand. “I personally guarantee that he won’t try to rob you.”
I snort. As if that’s what I’m worried about.
“I can take care of myself.”
Liam grins, “So we’ve witnessed.”
“I’m Haven,” I say, reaching out to shake Liam’s hand.
“A-nd I’m Liam,” he says, nearly tripping over the words as he takes my cool hand in his.
“Welcome to New York City.”