The sun was shining brightly against Rachel’s back as she walked across the campus to find a spot to sit down for a while. The distant chatter of fellow students was heard in the distance as she flung her backpack over her shoulder and gripped the strap to secure it in place. Rachel scowled for a moment as she stopped to look around, hoping to find a semi private location to unwind from her biology class. After an hour of listening to the monotone voice of her professor, Rachel was looking forward to sitting alone and relaxing for the next two hours. Normally, she would go back to the apartment to rest, but today she decided that staying on campus was the better option. Especially since she and Kristin hadn’t spoken much in the past week. Ever since her panic attack, Kristin seemed a little distant towards her. With the exception of Backstreet Boys, they’d barely said a word to each other. Rachel couldn’t decide if Kristin was annoyed or uncomfortable with her having a panic attack. Either way, it was frustrating to live in the same apartment with someone giving the cold shoulder.
Rachel sighed as she shook the thoughts of her head and settled on a spot beneath a shady tree located outside the cafeteria. The smell of burgers and fries wafted through the air as she sat down, placing her backpack in front of her. Her mouth watered a little as she realized she was hungry. The thought of french fries dipped in a ketchup and mayo mix seemed like heaven but she knew she couldn’t afford to blow any of her money until she found a job. Rachel observed a group of girls who were giggling as they walked by, feeling a twinge of anxiety as she forced herself to offer a polite smile as they ignored her presence and kept walking. Rachel grimaced as she reached into her bag and pulled out a PB&J sandwich and a newspaper. Folding the paper in half, she stared intently at the job listings as she opened the sandwich bag and took a bite of her sandwich. She sighed as she chewed slowly and circled a possible job working the front desk at a hotel. The jelly from her sandwich began to drip down her finger as she read through a couple more ads. Licking the jelly off her finger, she shifted her position on the grass and creased her brow as she set the sandwich down on her backpack. Rachel slid her purple srunchie off her wrist and pulled her hair back into a bun and went back to reading the paper. As she picked up her sandwich and took another bite, a warm breeze blew past her, causing the paper to slip away from her grasp. Rachel rolled her eyes with a groan of frustration as she walked over to the bench where the paper had come to a stop. She noticed a slender figured girl sitting at the bench, talking loudly on her cell phone, obviously in a heated argument with the person on the other line. Trying to avoid being nosy, Rachel awkwardly bent down to pick up her paper, but the girl moved her foot and pressed it over the paper. Rachel glanced up at her with pleading eyes, hoping she would remove her foot from the paper without any conversation. The girl raised her voice and stomped on the paper, making Rachel jump a little and stepped away before she ended up with smashed fingers.
“Alex, I swear to God if you yell at me one more time, I’m hanging up on you!” she exclaimed. “Fuck you! If you can’t talk to me in a decent tone, I’m so done with this conversation!” she continued then hung up the phone.
The girl sighed loudly and looked over at Rachel with a scowl. Her forehead wrinkled as the breeze blew her shoulder length brown hair across her face. Rachel looked at her and shifted her glance down at the paper still under the girl's foot as her stomach twisted in knots with apprehension.
“I swear that man has more issues than Times Magazine,” the girl said while shaking her head. “You got a boyfriend?”
“No,” Rachel said, not taking her eyes off the now wrinkled newspaper.
“Smart girl,” she said with a more relaxed tone as she dug through her purse, pulling out a cigarette. “You got a light?”
Rachel looked up and watched her as she pulled random items out of her purse. “Uh...no, sorry, I don’t smoke.”
“You must be a genius, don’t ever start,” the girl joked with a friendly smile. “I’m sorry, I’m Amanda,” she stated.
Rachel gave her a short nod. “I’m Rachel.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amanda said as she continued to dig through her purse. “Found it!” she said as she pulled out a pink lighter.
Amanda lit her cigarette and took in a deep breath, pausing for a moment before slowly exhaling a puff of smoke. Rachel crossed her arms and awkwardly stood beside her as she took a few more drags off her cigarette before glancing back up at her. Rachel bit her bottom lip and shyly smiled at Amanda.
“Does this bother you?” she asked as she shielded the smoke with her hand.
“No, you’re fine,” Rachel replied with a shy chuckle. “But...um...you’re standing on my paper though,” she said with a smirk.
Amanda looked down at her feet. “Oh...sorry,” she said as she took her foot off the paper.
“It’s okay,” Rachel said as she quickly bent down to pick it back up and smoothed out a few of the wrinkles.
“Looks like I tore it a little,” Amanda said as she took another puff. “Job hunting?”
“Yeah,” Rachel said as she folded the paper in half.
“I could help you with that, if you want,” Amanda replied as she flicked her ashes onto the pavement.
“Really?” Rachel replied with relief. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Yeah, it’s the least I can do since I ripped your paper,” she continued as she placed her cigarette into the ashtray that stood beside the bench.
“What kind of job?” Rachel asked as she looked back at her backpack, still sitting in her original spot by the tree.
“It’s a waitressing job at this place called Royal Thai. I just quit there and they’re going to need someone to replace me,” she said as she glanced at Rachel who was giving her a look of hesitation. “Don’t worry, it’s a good place to work,” she assured. “I just didn’t need the job anymore.”
“Oh, okay,” Rachel replied with a slow nod, shoving her hands into her pockets. “Do you think they’ve filled the position yet?”
“Not likely,” Amanda said with a sincere smile. “Here, let me give you the address,” she continued as she dug into her purse for a pen. “Got something to write on?”
“Yeah, it’s in my bag. Let me go get it,” Rachel replied as she ran over to get her bag and quickly made her way back with the bag slung over her shoulder. Setting the bag down at her feet, Rachel unzipped it and pulled out a notepad. “Here you go,” she said as she handed it to Amanda.
Amanda clicked her pen and quickly jotted down the address and phone number of the restaurant. She smiled softly as she handed it back to Rachel.
“That’s the info. It’s not far from here. You just go down Orange Drive and take a left on Clifton,” she stated as she motioned her hands in the direction of the restaurant. “It’s right on the corner. Just go there and ask for Phil. He’s the hiring manager.”
“Thanks, I do appreciate that,” said as she put the notepad back into her backpack and zipped it shut.
“No problem” Amanda said as she put the pen back in her purse. “Forgive me, but I’m horrible with names. I’ve already forgotten yours already.”
“Rachel,” she said with a smile.
“It’s nice to see a new face,” she said with a nod. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Rachel shook her head. “No, how did you know?”
“Your accent,” she said with a smirk. “You’ve got a little bit of a southern drawl.”
Rachel laughed and looked up at the sky. “Is it that noticeable?”
“Just a tad,” Amanda said with a chuckle.
“Great,” Rachel replied flatly as she pushed a strand of loose hair away from her face.
“Don’t worry about it. It gives you character,” she said as her phone began to ring. “Ugh, it’s probably Alex again. Excuse me,” she said as she opened her phone. “Yes?”
Rachel smiled as she glanced at her watch and contemplated on waiting for Kristin or heading over to the restaurant. Amanda glanced over at her and pointed her finger up to motion for her to stay put.
“Baby, hold on for one second,” she said as she covered her phone. “I’m sorry, he’s being persistent. Listen, I’m sure I’ll see you around campus. Can we talk another time?”
“Yeah, not a problem,” Rachel replied with a smile. “I should go check out that job position anyway.”
“Okay, see you around,” Amanda said with a smile.
Rachel returned the smile and waved goodbye as she walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot. The sun blared down on her back as she slid on her blue tinted sunglasses. In the distance, she noticed Kristin standing by her car, waving Rachel over with an excited grin on her face. Rachel raised her eyebrows in curiosity as she picked up the pace in her stride and made her way over to her car. Kristin was bouncing around like an excited child on Christmas morning.
“What’s up?” Rachel asked as she unlocked the driver’s side door.
“Girl, I just heard the best news! I just had to share it with you!”
Rachel laughed as she opened the door and dropped her backpack in the passenger seat. “And just what is this fabulous news?”
“I just heard on the radio that Backstreet Boys are performing at the Hard Rock Cafe tomorrow night! We can totally get VIP for only a hundred bucks!”
Rachel tilted her head to the side and stared at Kristin from her position by the car. “Um, did you forget that I don’t have a job yet? I can’t afford to be spending all kinds of money right now.”
“Rachel, it’s only a hundred bucks. Come on! We’d get the chance to be up close and meet them! Are you insane?!”
“Not all of us have the privilege to spend money when they want,” Rachel pointed out.
“Never mind,” Kristin muttered. “I’ll fucking go by myself then.”
Rachel rolled her eyes and sighed. “Kristin, please don’t start.”
“Well, you call yourself a fan, but you aren’t willing to cough up a few bucks to see them live.”
“It’s not a few bucks to me, Kris! I have to actually watch what I spend. I’m sorry that I don’t come from a rich family like you do!”
“Why are you fucking yelling at me?”
“Because you’re being a pain in my ass!” Rachel said as she got into the car and rolled down the passenger window, glaring at Kristin as she stuck her head inside the window. “Move so I can go check on a job offer.”
“I really hope you’re not going to be like this for the next four years,” Kristin said with a glare and stepped away from the car.
Rachel rolled her eyes and turned on the ignition. She rolled up the window and ignored Kristin as she put the car in reverse and left the parking lot, heading to the direction of the restaurant. As she pulled into the parking lot, her heart began to nervously race. She hadn’t been interviewed since she was sixteen at her first job. Rachel parked her car and double checked her hair and make up before going into the restaurant.
As soon as she walked into the building, she was almost overwhelmed with the hypnotizing scent of Thai food. The decor was all in red and black with dim lighting displayed by red and black lanterns. She looked around and saw a tall, skinny man standing behind the cash register. Rachel straightened her shirt and carefully approached him.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for Phil,” Rachel said with a confident smile.
“That would be me,” he said as he shut the register. “What can I do for you?”
“My name is Rachel Crawford and I was told there might be a job opening for a waitress.”
“Do you have any experience?”
“Four years as a waitress at Applebee’s in my hometown.”
Phil nodded and handed her a piece of paper. “Come over to this table with me. You can fill this out while we talk.”
“Works for me,” Rachel said as she took the paper and followed him to the table.
She took a seat across from him at the table. Phil clasped his hands together and looked at her as she began filling out the application.
“I can imagine that if you’ve worked for Applebee’s that you’ve been exposed to high speed service?”
“Many times,” Rachel said with a nod. “I was one of the top servers last year. I’m very good at what I do,” Rachel said with a pleasant smile.
“Well, you certainly do carry yourself well,” Phil said with a nod of agreement. “How soon could you start if I decide to hire you?”
“Would tonight sound too desperate?” she said with an uncertain glance.
Phil chuckled and shook his head. “How about tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow works too. I’m out of class by three.”
“I tell you what. I’ll start you out on a probationary period. If everything works out, I’ll hire you on a permanent basis.”
Rachel grinned widely and held out her hand. “Thank you so much, sir.”
“You’re welcome,” he replied. “Be here at five tomorrow evening. We’ll get you set up with a table and go over the training process.”
“Perfect,” Rachel replied as she handed him the filled out application. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Looking forward to it,” he said with a smile.
Rachel stood up and swung her purse over her shoulder as she stepped out of the building. She beamed with excitement as she got into her car. As she turned on the car, the radio blared with music of As Long As You Love Me. Rachel lightly danced in her seat as she pulled out of the parking lot and went into the direction of her apartment. She couldn’t wait to tell Kristin the good news.
Traffic was surprisingly light for early rush hour and getting home took less time than it usually did. Rachel whizzed through the traffic lights and made it back to the apartment in less than ten minutes. She quickly got out of the car and ran up the stairs to the apartment. Rachel unlocked the door and burst through the it, hoping Kristin would be in the living room waiting for her. Just as suspected, Kristin was lounging on the couch, watching TRL. She turned down the volume as Rachel hastily stepped over to the recliner and plopped down with a smile spread across her face.
“What’s up?” Kristin as she sat up straight.
“I think I got a job!”
“Yeah, I just back from the interview. They’re gonna hire me on a trial basis to see how I do. I start tomorrow!”
Kristin’s eyes lit up and grinned at Rachel. “So, now you can buy a VIP ticket with me!”
Rachel’s smile faded into a frown as she looked at Kristin. “Kris, I told you that I can’t afford that stuff right now.”
“But you have a job”
“Not yet, I don’t. Besides, if they do hire me on a permanent basis, I more than likely won’t get my first paycheck for another three weeks. I need to preserve my money.”
“You’re going to be getting tips,” Kristin said in a huffy tone.
“Kris, seriously, stop bugging me about the tickets. I can’t afford it. Just go by yourself. I’m not stopping you.”
“No way am I going to a BSB concert alone,” Kristin said. “What if I bought you the ticket and you pay me back later.”
Rachel waved her hand in surrender. “Do whatever you want, Kris,” she said as she stood up. “I’m going to take a bath. If anyone calls, tell them I’ll call back later.”
“Fine,” Kristin muttered as she turned the volume back up on the TV.
Rachel ignored Kristin’s childish behavior and made her way into the bedroom. She shut the door behind her and immediately clicked on the AOL icon on her computer. As it was loading, she gathered her pajamas and bathrobe. The familiar sound of the AOL announcer was heard. She glanced at the screen and saw that it was a message from her mother. Rachel stared at the message title for a moment then rolled her eyes. She wasn’t in the mood to read any drama. There was no sense in letting a good day turn sour with a note from her mother. Without a second though, she closed AOL and went for her bath. For once in her life, she wanted to pretend like everything was perfect. The drama could wait for another time.