I made it to work.
Mike is insistent that I text him when I leave the house, when I get to work, when I leave work, and when I get home. At least he lets me drive my own car – an agreement we finally came to.
On my way, he texts back.
We agreed that either he or one of his brothers would sit in McDonald’s all the livelong days of my shift for protective purposes.
Pushing myself out of my little Saturn, I smooth down my black pants and a light grey polo shirt with the golden ‘M’ logo near my left shoulder. I straighten my black hat and think that they are all crazy and just too paranoid.
But I let it go.
Once inside the establishment, I’m greeted by a brunette, slender girl around my age behind the counter. I tell her that I’m here to start my first day and with a smile that reaches her brown eyes. She goes to the back to retrieve a taller woman with short blond hair that barely touches her ears and has wide hazel eyes. It’s the same woman I had an interview and filled out documents with a few days ago.
The manager, Irene, leads me through the red swinging door and behind the registers. She gives me a little tour of where the freezer, fridge, and pantries are located. I’m assigned to drop food in the fryer and fill orders today. She went through the safety precautions and showed me how to work the fryer.
It all sounds simple enough.
Then lunchtime madness takes over. I’m dropping fries, fish fillets, nuggets, and tenders left and right into the fryer. I fill the orders with haste, grabbing burgers made by the cook that he slides down the slots. I grab toys for kid’s meals, napkins, and sauces to fill up each bag or trey for the orders coming in from the drive-thru and the dining area. I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Bad choice of words as I drop more chicken nuggets into the fryer.
Thankfully, McDonald’s starts to calm down from the rush. In the dining room, people are eating; kids play in the indoor playground – people seem happy and are beginning to get full off the greasy fast food.
When did Mike walk in? My lips pull a frown as I press a number on the fryer for the fries I just dropped. I feel like I should have noticed his presence...was he the one that ordered just a large cup of coffee four times? If that’s the case, then the girl taking his order would have placed it and given them to him.
That familiar green monster retakes that seat on my shoulder, knowing that someone else served him, and I didn’t. It’s petty and pathetic, but I want to be able to do things like that for him.
My gaze locks on his, and he just smiles that sexy crooked smile at me. I feel a rush of heat climb up my throat. Whether I want it to or not, if warmth wants to climb its way up my neck and spread to my cheeks, it will.
A knowing smile widens, and he winks at me. With a pleasant shiver running through my veins, I take a quick deep breath. I smile back and return to work while forcing certain images out of my mind. Delicious images of him kissing me, touching me, holding me...those abs...I could just lick those smooth, chiseled-
“Isn’t he cute!” I hear a feminine voice say, slicing my daydreams easier than a chef’s knife to a sponge cake.
Over my lashes in front of me, I see the girl who’s been taking orders from the dining room – Lisa – talking with the one who’s been taking orders from the drive-thru. I think her name is Vicky.
“I think he just smiled and winked at you,” Vicky chirps.
Lisa gasps, “You think so?” Her long brown hair is in a high ponytail with a pretty baby pink bow tied neatly at her head. She’s thin and beautiful, obviously athletic, and giving a finger wave to the man of the hour.
The man is wearing an old pair of black jeans with a hole in each knee, a black t-shirt that hugs his broad, defined chest -the shirt is tight around his biceps showing off not only his ink but also the muscles underneath. He’s wearing his vest, proudly showing off his cut. He’s still looking in our direction, but there is no question who he’s admiring.
When I move, his eyes move. He’s watching me like a hawk, and it makes my insides quiver in the best way.
“Should I go and say hi? You know, see if he needs anything?” Lisa asks Vicky.
“Wouldn’t hurt. Go for it, girl!” Vicky enthuses.
I can’t help but watch. Lisa has been so kind to me today. I probably should stop her before making a fool of herself, but she’s already halfway to him. His eyes are still on me just past Lisa; when Lisa reaches his table, he turns his attention to her. I watch as she talks with her hands, introducing herself, and seeing Mike’s reaction unfold. He smiles at her and what looks like a ‘No, thanks. I’m good’ statement from Lisa most likely asking if there’s anything he needs.
The smile he gives her isn’t the smile he gives me; he actually has four smiles. One of the smiles is the one he’s giving her right now -the polite smile where it doesn’t quite meet his eyes. The second smile is the adoring smile where his eyes twinkle, which he gives me the most often with a wink. The third smile is the wicked grin that could serve as a smirk that he gives me whenever his eyes darken with lust. The fourth smile is also one of my favorites: his amusing smile. The type of smile he rewards me with when I do something that he finds interesting. Sometimes that smile comes out to play whenever I’m being stubborn and wanting to do something myself. He knows it would be done a lot quicker if he just helps me, but enjoys watching me too much to step in, knowing I’d refuse his help anyways.
My heart blooms with so much warmth at the fact that he rewards only me with those three most desirable smiles. I haven’t seen him give away those smiles to anyone else.
Lisa turns on her heel and quickly pads her way back to behind the counter, her face is flushed red from blushing, and her hands are shaking. He has that effect on women; it’s kind of irritating that he knows it too. Can’t he dial it down a bit? It seems as though Lisa’s pour heart is going to burst out. I know the feeling from being there myself.
“How did it go?” Vicky asks Lisa, wanting all the details.
Lisa gently shakes her head and takes a couple of deep breaths. “I don’t think he’s interested,” she sounds a little sad. Maybe I should tell her...
The buzzer for the fryer is going off, pulling my attention away from the girls in front of me. I hit the button and remove the fries to put them in the warmer, so they’re ready for the next customer who wants them.
I must have a look on my face because they’re both eyeing me as if I had no right to eavesdrop - Which I don’t - but at the same time, I kind of do. He is my boyfriend, after all.
“What?” I ask innocently, trying to turn attention away from myself.
“We just saw you look at him. Do you know him?” Vicky asks. She doesn’t sound angry, more...curious.
“I do, actually.”
Crap! The dishes. I was supposed to wash the dishes, and my shift ends soon. Without another word, I rush to the back of the restaurant to the large washing station. I put my hands in the water, and it burns. It burns mostly from the speckled burns from the grease splattering on my hands from earlier.
“How do you know him?” A soft voice causes me to jump.
“Lisa! You scared me,” I gasp. She’s like a cat; she’s very light on her feet.
“I’m sorry,” she sincerely apologizes.
I place a metal sheet into the drying station. “It’s okay. What was your question?”
She leans in. “How do you know him?”
“He’s actually my boyfriend.” I turn to look at her; Lisa’s jaw drops, and she reaches for my arm.
“Oh! I’m so sorry – I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s okay,” I interrupt. “You didn’t know. It’s all good.” I give her a warm smile, so she knows I’m really not upset at all.
“I just noticed that he’s a Devil’s Henchmen. They saved my dad from a robbery...I’ve been kind of in love with that bike club ever since,” she confesses.
She enlightens me, “Uh, huh. It was late at night; I was sitting in the car waiting for my dad. He was closing shop when the burglars broke their way in. The Devil’s Henchmen club was there to save him and his business. They are like heroes in this town to a few small store owners.”
I recall the conversation with Mike - that they aren’t necessarily the bad guys, that they’re a necessary evil; they help the community in different ways. Now there seems to be proof of that. My heart goes out to Lisa for what happened to her dad. The feeling of what she must have gone through is close to home. “Oh, Lisa, I’m so sorry that happened. That must have been scary. I’m glad your dad is okay. When did that happen?”
Her eyes glance up to the ceiling as she hums in thought. “About a year and a half ago, I think.”
“A year and a half ago?” I try not to show shock.
“Yeah. They’ve been watching over dad’s store ever since,” Lisa goes on without noticing how my body is responding to heightened blood pressure.
A year and a half ago?!
Dad said he just transferred to this school district.
A year and a half ago?
Was he a transfer that long ago? Did dad misunderstand him?
Ovid. Mike apologized to Ovid for not recognizing her when he first transferred in. Has it taken him a year and a half to recognize her?
When did the club move to Ludowici? According to Rose, he’s known her for a long time...
I have so many questions. Things aren’t adding up.
He would have been around sixteen... he just got into the club. Maybe he wasn’t even involved.
“Do you think you could thank him for me?” Lisa asks, hopeful with her hands pressed together like she’s about to pray.
“Who was the president at the time?” I ask her with hopes that this web isn’t about to get even more tangled as I think it will be.
“I believe it was your boyfriend. I don’t think I could ever forget a face like that.”
Not possible. She must be mistaken.
“After work, how about I take you to him so you can thank him yourself?” I offer as I attempt to control emotions that I don’t even recognize, which are trying to convulse my body. I’m over the moon confused about what is happening right now. He couldn’t have been president at that time. There’s no way.
One thing is for certain. Mike has some explaining to do.