Ellie arrived for her night shift at the bar-and-grill to notice a sign on the window. Her eyes slowly peeled over the words ‘Help Wanted’ and felt a pang of pity toward Sandy. She was already so tired and stressed having to cover other shifts for the less-reliable employees as it was. “Oh great...” she thought and unbuckled her seatbelt, hopping out of the rover. She tied her apron as she walked through the front door. She went straight to the back and made a break toward Sandy, “Who quit!?”
Sandy gave a smirk and said, “Tyler. So, now we’re short a cook. I’ll be back here helping them stay caught up this evening.” Sandy looked exhausted. Her hair was falling out of its clip and her apron was sporting bits of flour, dough, and meat.
“Bless her heart,” thought Ellie as she clocked in.
She walked on out to the front to find a newer server standing near the front register. “Hey Penny. Has it been busy at all?” Penny was a bit older than Ellie, maybe in her early thirties. She had black hair pulled back into a ponytail and her makeup lay on a little thick. She shook her head in response to Ellie.
“We got a slight rush around four, but it’s just been a little steady after that. Do you want to pick up this next one?” She nodded toward the door that was now opening up, a couple making their way in.
“Sure! I’m going to go to the restroom and I’ll be right out.”
Penny nodded and said, “Okay. I’ll have the host seat them in your section.”
Ellie went to the bathroom and pulled her favorite shade of lip-gloss from her apron and quickly applied it before twisting her hair into a simple, but stylish, bun. She checked her appearance in the mirror before heading out to her first table for the night. She hadn’t even looked up at the couple yet and was pulling her notepad and pen out. “Hello! My name is Ellie and I’ll be your server this evening. What can I get started for—“ she looked up and felt her heart drop to the pit of her stomach.
“Oh. Wow! Hey, Ellie! How are you doing? I didn’t know you were still working here.”
Of course it would happen now. There sat the man who had broken her heart. Of all people, Ross Saunders was her first customer. She looked across from him and almost became sick. He hadn’t changed much. His sleek honey-blonde hair was combed neatly to the side, his blue eyes pierced through her as they always had. He was dressed in a nice blazer with a tie as he’d always had fashion sense. Handsome as always..But what stung worse was the view sitting in front of him. A stunning, young brunette woman, around Ellie’s age, was sitting across him, her hand in his. She had perfect white teeth that shone beneath her cherry red lipstick. He hair was in an elegant up-do that fared well with her denim knee-length dress.
“Oh..uh..hey. Yep. Still here. What can I get you all to…drink?” She looked back down and avoided eye contact at all costs as she took their orders.
She rushed to the back, trying to keep her composure, as she put the order in. As soon as she finished, she ran to the bathroom and locked herself into the first open stall. She pulled her phone out and contemplated calling Conrad for a moment. She hadn’t even noticed she was crying until a tear drop landed on the screen of her phone. She then pushed away the tears and dialed Jenna’s number instead. It rang once and Jenna was on the line. This was one of the things Ellie loved and respected her for. She’d always have her there whenever she needed. “Hey El! I thought you were at work? Everything—“
“Hey Jenna. Um, no. I’m not really okay. Meet me at the house at ten, okay? Bring wine. No, bring Jack.”
“I’ll be there,” Jenna replied with a serious tone. She also loved that Jenna took orders without question when in a crisis. Ellie ended the call and wiped her face off before heading back out.
She corresponded with her first and least favorite table as little as possible, and tried to busy herself with the four other tables the hostess had assigned to her. Penny had been sent home since her day shift had ended; Ellie was her relief. She wished that the few people sitting at the bar would have decided to dine in to give her more of a distraction. She needed to distance herself from Ross as much as possible. Every time she had to associate with them, the deeper her heart sank. Of course they decided to stay for desserts and didn’t vacate their table for another hour.
The restaurant was starting to clear out and Ellie took the chance to clean off her recently emptied tables. On Ross’s table, there lay twenty simoleans. Of course he’d have to show off his fortune in front of his new date, well , new to Ellie, anyways. Of course he’d have to make Ellie feel even lower than she already had. She placed the money in her apron and took the dirty dishes to the dish-tank station, a deep feeling of loathing within her.
‘How dare he sit there and act oblivious to the fact that that he screwed me,’ she thought to herself. ‘What an asshole. That stupid son of a—‘
“Hey, Ellie! You can clock out, dear.”
She hadn’t even noticed that it was half-past nine. She was deep in thought, distracted while she was counting her tips beside the register.
“Oh. I didn’t realize. Okay, Sandy,” she walked to the back to clock out and heard Sandy follow her.
“Hey, are you okay? You’ve been unusually quiet this evening.”
Ellie sighed before answering, “Is it that obvious? Yeah. I’ve just been in my own head a little too much tonight. Plus, you’ve had a lot on your plate as it is. I didn’t want to interrupt you with my petty drama.”
Sandy gave her a pat on the shoulder. “You’ve become more than just an employee, Ellie. You’re like family to me. I’ll always make time for you. You can talk if you need to, if not, I completely understand.”
Ellie blinked back fresh tears and shook her head. “You’re too good to me, Sandy. I’m just not ready yet. I’m sorry.”
Sandy smiled, “Take a beer or two home with you. On me. Have a good night, kiddo.”
Ellie retrieved her bag, pulled out her hair tie to let her down, and headed to the bar to pick up two cold beers she’d been offered before heading out.
She pulled into the driveway to see Jenna sitting on the porch with a bottle of wine and, of course, a big bottle of Jack. She felt a rush of affection for her best friend. At least there was someone who cared. She was sure that Conrad would have happily kicked some ass for her, but she never involved him to save his well-known reputation; she could never ask him to jeopardize that. She walked over to meet Jenna and sat down beside her in silence—it stayed that way for a few minutes but not for the chirping of nightly crickets. Jenna looked up and finally said one word, “Ross?”
Ellie nodded and before she could stop it, the tears came. Jenna put her arm around Ellie. Ellie leaned in and cried harder than she had in a while. Jenna patted her on the head. “You can’t be strong all the time, El. Let it out.”
Ellie poured out her heart to Jenna.
A couple of hours later, they found themselves on the couch in front of Ellie’s TV with some raunchy comedy playing. They were in much better moods now. Ellie had told Jenna about the situation and about the new girl he was with. It was childish, but every time Jenna referred to her as “slut” or “whore”, it made Ellie feel slightly better—the thought of no respectable woman ever wanting to touch Ross again. Jenna didn’t know this woman from Eve, but was determined to lift Ellie’s spirits anyway she could.
They had talked some more about music, Jenna’s son's latest grounding, Ellie’s co-worker quitting, and much more. In the middle of idle chit-chat, Jenna looked as if a light bulb lit above her head, as if she remembered something.
“OH! I went to meet the new neighbors today. I took them a coffee pot an ex gave to me a while back. It was still in the box. I didn’t really know what else to take to them. I was NOT about to take them food because I totally SUCK at cooking and whatnot. But, man. They were eye candy for sure. I think their names were Castello and Nathan?”
Ellie laughed and corrected her, “You mean Castiel and Nathaniel?”
Jenna took another sip of Jack from the bottle and said, “Oh, yeah. Them. Anyways, I’m pretty sure they’re the first gay neighbors we’ve had in Pleasantview.”
Ellie’s suspicions heightened and asked, “So you got that vibe too, then? I wondered. I thought Castiel was pretty damn fine until I saw his boy toy walk up shirtless.”
Jenna spoke after another sip, “Man. They must get pretty busy. Castiel was shirtless when I went, too.”
Ellie just shrugged, “They’re getting more than we are.”
Jenna looked offended for a moment. “Hey, now! I get plenty…” but she burst out laughing after seeing the smile breaking through on Ellie’s face. “Who am I kidding? It’s been awhile”. She sighed, but almost immediately sported another grin, “We should go out!”
Ellie sputtered her drink out, nearly choking, “Oh God, Jenna. I love you, but not like that. I’m flattered, but—“
“NOT like that, dipshit. I meant, we need a night out. ASAP!”
Ellie was on board immediately. “For sure! When and where?”
They excitedly discussed their plans, talking of which clubs to visit and what they should wear, and also decided that they needed to go shopping.
By two o’clock, the coffee table was littered with two empty beers, an empty wine bottle with glasses, and a near-empty fifth of the Jack. Both Jenna and Ellie were passed out on the couch at awkward angles. The TV was still on and Fozz was fast asleep on the floor. Jenna’s phone rang loudly and awoke the two of them. Ellie refused to open her eyes and felt slightly dizzy. She had definitely overdone it. She heard Jenna answer the call.
“Hello..?” She sounded like Ellie felt; rough. And all of a sudden her volume and tone dramatically changed. “What!? I will kick his ass when I get there. Where’d they find him? Are you kiddin' me!? I’m on my way over now. Yeah, I’m fine. Be there in a sec. Keep him down stairs, Mom.”
Jenna ended the call and turned to her best friend, “El, I’m gunna have to go. The cops just brought Tobias home.” Her words were slightly slurred and Ellie opened her eyes to see Jenna staggering as she tried to get up. She finally steadied herself before making her way to the door. “I’ll get ahold of you tomorrow. Love ya.”
Ellie slurred back, “Call me an' lemme know what happened.” She heard the door shut and slumped back over, still in uniform, all the lights on, the TV on, and a mess in front of her. She remained asleep on the couch.