- Text Size +
The smell of fresh Thai food filled the restaurant and Rachel stared blankly at the training video in the training room. She let out a long yawn at the tedious repetition of the company’s waitressing etiquette. Most of what she was viewing seemed like common sense. After all her years of working in the food industry, she had pretty much encountered every possible scenario. She didn’t see the purpose of having to watch this video. Rachel frowned as she leaned back in her chair, tapping her foot on the floor as she partially paid attention to the video while the other half of her brain became fixated with the random bump of melted plastic on the table. She nonchalantly slid her finger over the bump, tilting her head back to the TV as the training spokeswoman began to explain the importance of smiling while serving.

“No shit, Sherlock,” she mumbled as she drew her attention back on the bump on the table, scratching at it a little harder.

Chuckling at the bad acting on the video, Rachel looked over her shoulder as the sound of the door opening grabbed her attention away from the TV screen. She shyly smiled as a tall, slender, brunette woman walked into the room. The woman returned the smile and placed her hands on her hips, chuckling at the video.

“Aren’t these fun?” she joked.

“A blast,” Rachel replied with a sarcastic snort. “How old are these things anyway? They’re so corny.”

“Judging by the random black lines flashing across the screen, I’m gonna say they’re from the 70’s.”

“They need to create new ones,” Rachel said with a laugh.

The woman nodded in agreement, smiling warmly at Rachel. “I’m Sarah,” she said as she extended her hand out to her.

“Rachel,” she replied as shook her hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Sarah said sweetly. “As much fun are these things are, I’m sure you’ve seen enough of this crap,” she said as she turned it off. “Ready for some real training?”

“Definitely,” Rachel said as she stood up, smoothing the wrinkles out of her black slacks.

“Follow me. I’ll show you around,” Sarah said as she led her out of the room and into the kitchen. “This is the kitchen area. You’ll very rarely be back here but once in a while you’ll need to grab something for the dining area or a customer with a special request. You’ll learn your way around here as time goes on,” she stated as she waved her arms in the area. “Let’s move to the dining area.”

Rachel followed behind Sarah and tugged on her white shirt, assuring that it was on straight. Sarah stopped to pick up a big, gray, plastic container. She turned around and placed it on top of a table. Rachel glanced inside the container and saw that it had four compartments. One for forks, knives, and spoons. The last compartment was filled with napkins.

“Every day when you clock on, you’ll come over here and grab this container. You’ll start your shift by setting up silverware,” she said as she laid out some silverware and napkins. “It’s really simple. You just put the knife, fork, and spoon together and wrap the napkin tightly around them. You’ll put one of these paper napkin rings around it and set it aside,” she said as she demonstrated on the bundle in her hand, securing the paper napkin ring in place.

“Sounds easy enough,” Rachel nodded confiendely.

“It’s pretty simple,” Sarah said with a smile. “Sometimes it’s tedious work, but it sure makes the time go by faster when you’re here before 9:00, which is when we open. We do this three times a day. Before opening, after lunch, and again before we close. The best time to do this at night is around 7:00, after the dinner rush,” Sarah said as she set the silverware down. “We can finish this later. I have a whole container already prepared for the dinner rush,” she continued as she turned around in the direction of the tables. “Okay, so let me show you your training zone before we continue with the silverware.

“Alright,” Rachel said as she followed Sarah over to a table.

“For this week, you’ll be on just one table. You’ll pick up two more tables every other week and once you’re fully trained, you’ll be assigned an entire zone.”

“Fair enough,” Rachel replied with a nod.

“I’ll be in your zone tonight, so you shouldn’t have too much stress while in training. Given your experience, I would assume that you already know that we ask for their drinks first and then take their orders. That’s pretty much standard procedure at most food places”

“Of course,” Rachel said with a smile.

“Awesome,” Sarah said with a laugh. “Now, they have two options after that. They can take the buffet or they can order from the specialty menu. If they order from the specialty menu, you’ll take it over to the chef and he’ll ring the bell when it’s finished. Tonight, you’ll only have to mark table twelve. We’ll worry about table numbers as we go along in training. Any questions so far?”

“No, it’s pretty set in stone,” Rachel said as she put her hands in her in her pocket.

“Great, now we can continue on the silverware,” Sarah said as she headed over to their original table.

“So, does it get very busy here?” Rachel asked as she gathered a pile of silverware.

“No, not really,” Sarah admitted. “Our busiest days are on the weekends, but the weekdays are fairly slow, aside from an hour lunch or dinner rush. After that, we stick to one or two servers per shift. It has its advantages though.”

“Yeah?” Rachel said as she began wrapping the silverware.

“Yeah, you get to keep all the tips when you work the non peak hours. You’ll usually be working a zone alone and the other person is working the opposite zone. It’s great money and our regulars leave awesome tips,” she said with a smile.

“Perfect,” Rachel replied as she continued wrapping silverware into napkins.

“So, what’s your story?” Sarah asked as she sat in a chair. “You can have a seat while we do this, by the way.”

Rachel pulled out a chair and sat down as she set one silverware bundle on the table and started a new one. Rachel hated questions like this. It always made her feel like she was being put on the spot. She apprehensively bit her lip and carefully chose her next words.

“Well, I’m originally from Missouri and decided to come here for college.”


“Yeah,” Rachel said as she nervously licked her lips.

“What’s your major? Or do you not know yet?” Sarah asked as she put three bundles off to the side and gathered a pile of napkins and silverware, setting them closer to her side of the table.

“Well, I’m thinking about a English degree. I’m not sure which direction I want to take with it just yet. I’ll figure that out later.”

“Ah, first two years is all general stuff anyway,” Sarah said with a laugh. “I wish I was still in college.”

“Oh, did you graduate?” Rachel asked curiously, relieved that the focus was off her for a moment.

Sarah shook her head. “No, I always wanted to. But life just sort of got in the way, you know?”

“Yeah,” Rachel grimaced with empathy. She was all too familiar with unfinished goals due to a chaotic life.

“So, why Florida?” Sarah asked as she stood up and grabbed an empty utensil container and began placing the wrapped bundles into the bin.

“It was what my best friend and I decided together,” Rachel said with a shrug, not wanting to share too much of her past.

“Sounds fun,” Sarah admitted. “You’re young. Live it up.”

“I plan on it,” Rachel said with a giggle, looking up from her silverware bundle.. “What do you mean I’m young? You don’t seem too much older than me.”

Sarah laughed and shook her head. “Don’t let these youthful looks fool you. I’m almost twenty five, actually.”

“I would’ve never guessed,” Rachel admitted. “I would’ve pegged you for maybe twenty one but definitely not twenty five.”

“Thanks,” Sarah said as she sat back in her seat, looking around at the empty restaurant. “I think it’s going to be one of those long and dragging nights.”

“Lame,” Rachel said as she wrapped the last of the silverware and placed them in the other bin.. “Now what?”

“Well, we can bristle the carpet. I’ll go grab the bristles and that’ll pass some time,” Sarah said as she stood up and pushed her chair back under the table.

Rachel nodded as she crossed her legs and sat back in her chair. She looked down at her nails and took notice at the rough edges. She decided that her first good tip was going to a manicure. It had been a while since she treated herself to day of pampering. Rachel let out a sigh and looked over at the door as a group of customers came in. She looked over toward the kitchen for Sarah to emerge through the swinging door but she had not returned. Her eyes diverted over to the group of customers being seated at the table in her zone. Rachel quickly stood up and grabbed a pen from her apron. Almost like second nature, she stepped over to the table like she’d been working there for years. Too nervous to look at them, she fumbled for her notepad in her apron.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen. How’s it going?” Rachel said as she laid the silverware in front of them. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Yeah, I’ll have a Pepsi, said the first guy.

“Alright,” Rachel replied as she jotted it down. “And you?” she said as she looked up.

Rachel caught sight of the faces of the three men front of her and nearly dropped her pen. She swallowed as her heart jumped in her throat. There was no mistaking that her first three customers were Kevin Richardson, A.J McLean, and Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys. She quickly realized she was almost staring so she went back to her notepad, swallowing a giant lump of excitement in her throat.

“I’ll have an Iced Tea,” Howie said. “With lemon, please.”

“Got it,” Rachel said as she nervously jotted it down. She gripped her shaking hand over the pen and forced herself to look up again. “And for you?” she asked AJ.

“Just water for me,” AJ said with a smile.

“Okay, um”“ Rachel said as her mind went blank.

“Well, if it isn’t the three amigos,” Sarah called from behind her.

Rachel turned around and saw Sarah put down the two bristles and walked over in their direction. She smiled widely at the boys and stood beside Rachel.

“Guys, this is Rachel, our new waitress.”

“Ooh fresh meat,” Howie said with a wink.

Rachel nervously forced a smile and looked back down at her notepad. “Um...did you want the buffet or order something the special menu?”

“I think we’re all just going to be pigs and have the buffet,” AJ said with a wide grin.

Sarah laughed and shook her head. “I should’ve known,” she said as she looked at Rachel. You’ll get used to these guys. They like to give us a hard time,” she said as she grabbed onto Kevin’s shoulders. “Especially this one.”

“She’s lying, Kevin said with a gentle smile.

“I’ll be right back with your drinks,” Rachel said as she walked over to the drink station.

Rachel breathed gently against the excitement in her stomach. She couldn’t believe her first customers were members of the Backstreet Boys. Removing three cups from the stacks beside the soda machine, she whispered to herself. “Am I dreaming?”

Rachel shook her head at herself. Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking and her heart was beating hard against her chest. She had never been so nervous in her life. As she was filling up their glasses, Sarah came up behind her. Rachel was unaware that she was standing there as she filled up Howie’s glass with tea.

“Oh my god,” she mumbled to herself.

“You okay?” Sarah asked.

Rachel jumped at the sound of her voice, spilling the tea on her arm. “Dammit,” she said as she set the glass down and cleaned up her mess. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

Sarah laughed while holding her stomach, obviously trying not to be too loud. “You are totally freaking out.”

“No, I’m not,” Rachel denied as she stared at the ice filled glasses, completely clueless of where she left off.

“Yes, you are,” Sarah said while giggling.

Rachel slammed down the towel and looked at her. “Do they come here all the time?” she blurted, her eyes sparkling with curiosity as she glanced over at them.

“You’re obviously a fan,” Sarah said with an even bigger grin.

“What? No!” Rachel denied while crossing her arms. “I just”um”I recognize them from TV, that’s all.”

“Hmmm,” Sarah said with her eyebrow raised.

“You’re not buying any of this, are you?” Rachel frowned.

“No, not really,” Sarah said while laughing.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Rachel said with a nervous squeak. “I’m gonna make a complete ass out of myself.”

“Yes, you can. They don’t bite.”

“Sarah…I have their pictures on my wall. This is awkward.”

Sarah continued to laugh as she handed Rachel one of the glasses. “Fill their drinks and calm down. I’ll be with you the whole time anyway. It’ll be just like they’re complete strangers. You’ve already managed to get their drinks and orders, so”“

“Their orders!” Rachel said, almost shouting. “Dammit, I’m already messing up!” she said as she pulled out their order sheet and stared at it. “What was I supposed to do with this again?”

Sarah hid behind the soda machine and laughed even harder as Rachel pursed her lips and sighed at herself.

“This isn’t funny,” she huffed.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah said as she calmed down her laughter. “You should see yourself.”

“I’m not amused,” Rachel said as she crossed her arms, close to tears.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” Sarah said in a straight tone. “You’re doing just fine. All you have to do is give them the ticket when you hand them the drinks. They help themselves to the buffet when they’re ready. It’s perfectly fine. Just breathe and get back over there.”

“God, this is embarrassing,” Rachel muttered. “I’m acting like I’ve never seen a celebrity before. I’m from Springfield, Missouri, the home of Brad Pitt.”

Sarah patted Rachel on the back. “You’re doing just fine. Trust me.”

“I got this,” Rachel said as she placed the drinks on a tray. “I’m just going to do this and”“

Rachel screamed as she unexpectedly crashed directly into AJ The tray tilted forward, spilling all the beverages all over him. Rachel froze with her hand over her mouth as she watched the tray hit the floor with a loud clank. Her breathing hitched in her throat as she stared down at the mess of soda, tea, and water on the gray linoleum floor.

“Oh…my…god,” Rachel said as tears spelled onto her cheeks.

“Hey, babe, it’s all good,” AJ said as he flung the liquids off his arms. “Most of it got on the floor anyway.”

Rachel covered her face in embarrassment, too afraid to look at him. She turned around and looked at Sarah, who was snickering as she handed AJ a towel. Rachel began to shake as she stepped away from both of them, wiping the tears off her cheeks.

“Sorry, AJ. You know how it goes with newbies.”

“It’s cool,” he said as he dried himself. “I can change. No harm done,” offering Rachel an empathetic smile. “Seriously, it’s fine.”

“What were you doing standing there anyway?” Sarah asked.

“There’s no sweetener at the table for Howie,” he replied, drying the rest of his clothes off with the towel.

“Okay, I’ll bring that and new drinks for you guys,” she said.

“No problem,” AJ said as he stepped away and headed over to the buffet for his first plate of food.

Sarah turned around and looked at Rachel who was mentally counting the anxiety away.. She swallowed hard and wrapped her arms around herself.

“I’m so sorry,” Rachel whispered between tears.

“Rachel, calm down. It’s okay. It’s your first day and they’re not upset,” Sarah said gently.

“I am so embarrassed.”

“Don’t be, seriously,” Sarah said with a smile. “Look, why do you go to the bathroom and get yourself together. I’ll handle their table. When you come back, we’ll work on the bristling.”

“Okay,” Rachel said as sniffled and headed in the direction of the bathroom.

She swiftly passed by their table and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Kristin coming toward the door. Kristin waved as she saw her through the window. Rachel stared at her best friend as she came in through the door with a smile.

“Hi!” Kristin said with enthusiasm.

“Hello,” Rachel said flatly.

“So, I got the tickets!” she said excitedly.

“Tickets?” Rachel said as she attempted to move Kristin in the direction of the bathroom.

“Yeah, the Backstreet Boys tickets,” she said loudly.

“Shh!” Rachel said as she pushed Kristin down the hall.

“What are you doing?”

“Bathroom, now!” Rachel ordered as she flung the bathroom door open and stepped inside.

Kristin went into the bathroom and looked at Rachel in confusion with her arms crossed. “What is your problem?” she asked as she stepped over to the mirror and began fixing her hair.

Rachel rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Kristin, did you really come all the way over here to tell me you got Backstreet Boys tickets?”

“I thought you’d be excited. They were sold out of V.I.P. passes though,” she shrugged.

“Not that it matters much,” Rachel muttered under her breath.


Rachel sighed and crossed her arms, instinctively knowing she was going to regret confessing the situation. “Kevin, Howie, and AJ are in the lobby right now.”

“You’re shitting me! Is Nick with them?” Kristin asked with excitement in her eyes.

“Kristin! Chill!” Rachel said sternly, letting out a huff of annoyance. “And, no, he’s not.”

“Damn,” Kristin said with a pout.

Rachel rolled her eyes again. “Look, I’m asking you nicely to behave yourself around them. Do not disturb them while they’re eating. I can’t afford to lose this job.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. I don’t care to meet any of them anyway. Just Nick,” she said as she waved her hand in the air. “But can I take a peek?”

“Just don’t get me fired,” Rachel begged.

“I won’t,” Kristin said as she pushed past her and went back into the lobby.

Rachel balled up her fists and followed behind her, hoping Kristin would stay true to her word. She caught sight of Sarah on the other side of the lobby, waiting with the bristles. Rachel grimaced as she quickly made her way over to where Sarah was standing.

“Are you okay?” Sarah asked as she handed her one of the bristles.

“Yeah, just as long as she keeps her mouth shut,” Rachel muttered.


“My best friend, Kristin. The brunette sitting diagonally from them,” she said as she began to bristle the floor. “There’s no telling what she’ll do.”

“Is she armed and dangerous?” Sarah joked.

“God I hope not,” Rachel frowned, ignoring the joke as she watched Kristin from afar.

Sarah chuckled and patted Rachel on the shoulder. “You take that side and I’ll take this side.”

“Got it,” Rachel said as she headed over to her side of the lobby.

Rachel took a deep breath and concentrated on cleaning the floor as perfectly as possible. She moved chairs and got underneath the tables and tried to take her mind off the guys. It was bad enough that she was internally freaking out and now she had to keep Kristin in check too. As Rachel continued to clean the floor, she finally got herself to stop thinking about the boys. However, her luck faded when Kristin wandered over to her with a smile on her face. Rachel frowned and glanced at Kristin.

“Are you going to order anything, or what?”

Kristin shook her head. “Nah, I’m bored now. It’s pointless to stick around without Nick here,” she said while observing her nails. “Ugh, I need a touch up.”

Rachel shook her head at Kristin incredulously. “So, what are doing now?” she asked as she kept working the bristle across the carpet.

“Going home, I guess,” she said with a shrug. “What time do you get off work?”

“In a couple of hours.”

“Alright, I’ll see you at home,” Kristin said with a wave. “Later gator.”

“Bye,” Rachel said with a sigh and went back to work.

After fifteen minutes of working on the floor in her area of the lobby, she made her way back to her original spot and noticed the guys laughing with Sarah who was sitting in a chair beside Kevin. Rachel pretended to be cleaning a tough spot on the floor while watching them at the corner of her eye. It seemed pretty obvious that Sarah was very comfortable with them. She wondered how long they had been coming to the restaurant to eat. Her heart skipped a beat, knowing that she’d likely see them again. The very idea of that made Rachel want to squeal with excitement.

Maintaining her composure, Rachel made her way over to their table, setting the bristle aside. “I got all the crumbs, I think,” Rachel said with a smile.

“Awesome,” Sarah said with a grin, still chuckling from Kevin’s previous joke.

“We should get back to the studio,” Kevin said as he stood up. “Everything was wonderful, as usual.”

“Thanks for coming in, guys. Will I see you later on this week?” she asked as she stood up and slid her chair under the table.

“I might come back with Brian,” Kevin replied. “We’ve been trying to get him to come here.”

Rachel jumped when she accidentally dropped the bristle at Kevin’s words. She slowly looked over at them and smiled sheepishly, hoping she didn’t look too obvious.

“Sorry, butterfingers,” she said as her face warmed with embarrassment.

Kevin chuckled and walked over to her smiling warmly. Rachel swallowed hard as he looked at her with his intense green eyes shining brightly.

“It’s just not your day, is it?” He said with a chuckle.

“I guess not,” she said softly.

“It’ll get better,” he said as he reached into his pocket and handed her a twenty. “Keep up the good work,” he said with a smile and walked away from her. “See you soon, Sarah,” he said as he joined the guys in the direction of the door.

“Bye, boys,” Sarah said with an enthusiastic wave. She sighed happily and looked over at Rachel. “See, I told you they didn’t bite.”

Rachel stared at the twenty in her hand and slowly slipped it into her pocket, shaking her head. “I’m such a loser, I swear.”

“No, I think the correct word would be teeny bopper,” she said while laughing.

“Lovely,” Rachel said with a sigh, not amused by the joke.

“If it makes you feel any better, they thought you were sweet. Now, cheer up. You got your first tip.”

“Yeah,” Rachel said with a smile. “That’s definitely a plus.”

“Good,” Sarah said with a nod. “I’ll clear the table. Start bristling this area.”

“Okay,” Rachel said as she moved to the cluttered table, pausing for a moment before she began to use the bristle. “Hey, Sarah?”

“Yeah?” Sarah said as she put dirty dishes into the plastic bin, not taking her eyes off the table in front of her.

“You think I might be working next they come in?”

Sarah giggled and tossed a wet towel at her. “Wipe the table down for me, dork.”

Rachel laughed as she began wiping down the chairs and the table. “So...what do you think?”

Sarah snorted as she began putting napkins into the dispenser. “They come in here twice a week, sometimes more. I’d say your chances are pretty good,” she said with a smirk.

“Cool,” Rachel replied with a grin and put the towel back into the sanitizer bucket and began bristling under the table. “So Kevin seems a little smitten by you,” Rachel comment.

Sarah laughed and shrugged as she put the napkin dispenser back on the table. “Yeah...he’s been flirting a lot lately.”

“Girl, if you don’t go on a date with him, you’re insane,” Rachel said with a giggle.

Sarah frowned to herself and shrugged. “I’m already in a relationship.”

“That’s a shame. Kevin’s pretty hot,” Rachel said with a giggle.

Sarah smiled with a nod. “Yeah...he’s….he’s great.”

“Lucky duck,” Rachel said as she put all the chairs under the table.

Sarah snickered and shrugged as she glanced at her watch. “We should put all this way and get ready for the rush. People should start piling in shortly.

“Okay,” Rachel said as she took the bristle and placed it behind the register, smiling to herself.

She let out a sigh of relief and for the first time in several weeks, she felt as if everything was falling into place. Florida didn’t seem like the dark and scary place that she had thought it to be. As she observed a new group of customers coming into the restaurant, she felt a sense of peace. She shoved her hand into a pocket of her slacks and felt the crisp twenty dollar bill against her fingertips. It was in that moment that she realized that everything was going to be okay. There wasn’t a reason to worry about money or making friends. Everything was turning around for the better. Rachel smiled to herself and inhaled happily. Life was perfect and she couldn’t wait to see what the future entailed.