Sarah huffed to herself as she pushed the pile of clothes off to the side and lifted her blankets. She brushed back the strands of hair that lightly tickled her cheeks and sighed of relief as the keys were revealed underneath her soft throw blanket. Curling her fingers around the keyring, she glanced at the clock beside her bed and scowled. It was almost 5pm...she was over an hour late for work.
She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply as she ran her fingers through her tangled black hair. Scooping her hair up into her hands, she scurried across the room to grab a blue scrunchie and curled it into a loose bun on top of her head. Grabbing her purse and sliding on her sneakers, she quickly went down the hallway, passing by her boyfriend, Keith, who was passed out on the couch with a beer can still in his hand. Sarah sighed to herself as she turned the doorknob and carefully crept out the door, careful not to wake him. She didn’t feel like dealing with his drunken rage.
Her day had already taken a rough turn when she woke up late for work. Her first mistake was taking a nap in the middle of the day, but it was the only way she could get away from Keith for a few hours. It was his day off and he was picking fights with her over the smallest things. Today was the day she had planned to be productive before going to her short evening shift, but as usual, Keith ruined her plans.
As she quietly shut the door behind her, she rushed down the driveway to her car and unlocked the door. Sliding into the driver’s seat, she tossed her purse into the passenger seat and slammed the door as she pressed her foot on the brake pedal. Sarah slid on her seatbelt and shoved her key into the ignition, turning it quickly and frowning as it didn’t turn over.
“Ugh! Come on!” she exclaimed as she gave the ignition another try. The car whirred slowly as she continued to mess with the ignition, pressing harder on the brake pedal. “Dammit, Keith...you said you were going to fix this!” Sarah grunted to herself and tried one more time and the car started effortlessly. “Thank God,” she muttered as she put the car in reverse and backed out the driveway before shifting into drive and speeding in the direction of her work.
When she arrived at the restaurant, she let out a loud sigh as she saw the parking lot was full. It was nearing the end of the dinner rush, but there were still lots of customers in the lobby. Frowning to herself, she quickly got out of the car and rushed inside. She hastily walked into the break room and threw her purse into her locker. Sarah muttered to herself as slammed the locker shut, tying on her apron as she made her way behind the service bar. She caught sight of a judgmental glance from Kyle, the shift manager. Sarah scowled as she tightened the straps of her apron around her waist.
“You’re almost two hours late. It’s about time you showed up,” Kyle stated sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, okay!” Sarah replied with a loud sigh.
“If you expect me to give that recommendation of a promotion, your chances aren’t looking good at the moment.
Sarah held up her hand in dismissal and shook her head. “Spare me the lecture, Kyle. It was a one time thing and it won’t happen again,” she stated as she pulled on the bottom of her shirt to make it line up with the hemline of her apron.
Kyle shook his head in disbelief and muttered under his breath as he grabbed a bucket full of dirty dishes. Sarah ignored his grumbling as he tucked the bucket under his arm and handed her an order pad. Snatching it from his hand, she shoved it into the pocket of her apron and walked away from him before he could say another word. Running a hand over her face, she stepped over to the drink station and began preparing pitchers of sweet and unsweet tea. As she filled up the first pitcher, she looked up to see Rachel approaching her with a cart full of empty dish bins. She set the cart against the wall and smiled at Sarah.
“There you are! Everything okay?” she asked as she leaned against the counter, facing Sarah’s direction.
“Day from hell,” Sarah muttered as she set the pitcher of sweet tea on the counter and began filling the next pitcher with ice.
“Wanna talk about it?” Rachel asked as she grabbed the pitcher from her and began filling it with sweet tea.
“Not particularly,” she muttered as she picked up two more pitchers and filled them with ice. “Have we been busy?”
“Not since dinner started. The busiest part of the rush ended about 30 minutes before you got here.”
“At least it’s my short day,” Sarah stated as she forced a smile to mask her weariness.
“Take it as a blessing,” Rachel said with a sweet smile and glanced over at her section of the lobby. “I’m gonna go clean some tables.”
“Go for it,” Sarah said as she continued filing pitchers.
For the next two hours, Sarah felt as if she was moving in slow motion. The faces of the customers became a blur as she forced a fake smile through their orders and rushed around to keep the lobby clean. She wasn’t feeling particularly sociable so she kept herself busy with cleaning and refilling drinks. Every now and again, she would glance at her watch and frown as time was moving painfully slow. By the time 8:00 rolled around, she was relieved to see that the evening was drawing near the end. Sarah cleaned all her tables and carried a load of dishes to the dish bin behind the drink station. Letting out a sigh, she leaned against the counter and dug into her apron to organize the crumbled up tip money that she had collected from the last five tables. As she straightened out the bills, she glanced up at Rachel who was entering the drink station with her own load of dishes and dumped them into the bin.
“Hey, you’re off tomorrow, right?” Rachel asked as she wiped her hands on her apron and stepped over to Sarah.
“Supposed to be,” Sarah said with a shrug as she shoved her tips back into her apron. “Why do you ask?”
“I’m off tomorrow as well and I thought maybe you’d like to go to the beach with Kristin and I.”
“Could be fun,” Sarah said with a slow nod.
“I know it’s a little bit of a drive, but I thought it would be a fun day trip with the girls,” Rachel said as she picked up a set of silverware bundles and glanced at the door as a group of guys walked into the restaurant. Rachel raised her brow shoved the bundles into Sarah’s hands. “You have to take this one,” she said quickly.
Sarah grabbed the bundles and looked at the door to see Kevin, AJ, and Brian waiting to be seated. She chuckled and looked at Rachel, who was red in the face.
“You’re still not over that? Girl, you need to chill out,” she said while laughing. “I told you they come here often. They’re regular customers.”
“I know, but this time....they brought Brian. How am I supposed to do my job when his blue eyes will be the death of me?”
Sarah smirked as she handed Rachel the bundles. “They’re in your zone.”
Rachel shook her head and took in a deep breath. She glanced over at them as they were being seated at a table. “I can’t do this,” she said as she gulped.
“Yes, you can. You waited on them just fine last week.”
Rachel’s eyes widened as she shook her head hastily. “Sarah, I spilled the drinks all over AJ. That’s not ‘just fine’,” she said with her hands in the air, crooking her fingers into quotation marks.
Sarah snorted with a laugh. “Okay, so you weren’t graceful but did you die?”
“No, but I might today,” she said as she observed the boys settling into their seats. She let out a low squeal and placed her hand over her heart. “God, he’s so cute.”
Sarah rolled her eyes as she snatched the bundles from her. “Go clean the tables in my zone. I’ll take your zone, you big baby,” she teased.
Rachel grinned as she gave Sarah a hug. “Thank you,” she said as she grabbed a wet cloth and a bottle of cleaning spray from off the nearby cart.
Sarah snickered to herself as she carried the silverware bundles to the table where the boys were sitting.Forcing a smile on her face, she pulled out her order pad and clicked her pen. “The usual, boys?” she asked as she looked at them.
“Is the buffet still open?” Kevin asked.
“For about another 45 minutes,” Sarah said with a nod. “There’s still plenty of food left.”
“Then we’ll take the buffet,” Kevin said with a smile.
“Perfect,” Sarah said as she scribbled on her pad. “Drinks?” she asked, looking each of them in the eyes.
“Water for me,” Kevin said.
“Sweet tea,” said AJ.
“Water for me, also,” Brian said as he adjusted his Kentucky ballcap.
Sarah nodded as she jotted it down. A frown formed across her face as the ink from her pen faded. She scowled as she hastily tried to scribble on the order pad but the pen remained dry. Sighing to herself, she shoved the order pad back into the pocket of her apron.
“Help yourself to the buffet and I’ll be back with your drinks,” she said as she turned on the heels of her feet and headed back toward the drink station.
Grabbing the cups for their beverages, she grimaced as she poured scoops of ice into them. Filling the water glasses first, she set them aside and began to pour a sweet tea for AJ. She lifted her head as the sound of rustling was heard from behind her. Sarah glanced over her shoulder to see Rachel grinning as she peeked over at the boys who just sat back down at their table. Sarah snorted and shook her head.
“You’re pathetic,” she said with a chuckle.
“What?” Rachel said innocently. “I cannot believe they brought him.”
“Don’t you remember what they said last week? They said they were going to bring him,” Sarah said with a laugh.
“I know, but I was kinda hoping they were joking,” Rachel admitted.
Sarah let out another snicker and handed Rachel one of the water cups. Rachel tilted her head and stared at the cup in confusion then drew her attention back to Sarah.
“Why am I holding a water cup?”
“Because you’re going to give Brian his water while I give AJ and Kevin their drinks,” Sarah explained with a grin.
Rachel shook her head with her eyes open wide. “No, way. Uh uh!”
“Oh, ho ho ho, yes you are!,” Sarah urged.
Rachel shook her head again and clenched her jaw. “Nope! I’m not doing it,” she said as she set the water cup back on the counter.
“Don’t be such a wimp,” Sarah said as she put the cup back in Rachel’s hand. “You’re doing it.”
Rachel sucked in a breath and glared at her. “You can’t make me.”
“Do it or I bring Brian to you,” Sarah challenged. “The choice is yours,” she said as she tilted her head and blinked playfully while smiling.
Rachel sighed and gripped the cup in her hand. “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t. You love me,” Sarah joked as she picked up the other two cups. “Come on, let’s go.”
Rachel grunted to herself as she followed Sarah back to the table. Sarah placed the drinks in front of AJ and Kevin, smiling as she wiped her hands on her apron. “There you go, boys,” she said as she glanced over at Rachel who shyly set the water cup in front of Brian.
“Thanks,” Brian said with a sweet smile.
“You’re welcome,” Rachel mumbled as she quickly diverted her eyes back to Sarah.
“Well, if it isn’t the newbie,” AJ quipped.
“Yeah, she survived the training process,” Sarah said with a smirk.
“I’m sure she caught on quickly,” Kevin said with a smile. “What was your name again?”
Rachel jumped at the sound of her name and shyly giggled. “Rachel,” she said softly, pulling her gaze away from Brian long enough to offer Kevin a polite smile.
“She’s doing a great job,” Sarah assured.
Rachel chuckled awkwardly as she gave Sarah a nod of gratitude. “I, uh, should get back to cleaning tables. Enjoy your meal, guys,” she said as she quickly turned around and made her way over to the other side of the dining room.
“Not much of a talker, is she?” Kevin joked as he stirred up his lo mein noodles.
“She’s a little on the shy side,” Sarah admitted. “But I’m sure she’ll come out of her shell eventually.”
“Kinda cute though,” AJ piped in as he bit into his egg roll and collected his bite into his cheek, glancing over at Brian who was chewing on his own food while obviously observing Rachel from across the dining room.
“Did you forget that you already have a girlfriend, Alex?” Kevin said as he grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it to the table. He tapped on the cushion, inviting Sarah to sit down.
“There’s no rule that says I can’t look,” AJ replied as he jabbed Brian on his bicep with his elbow. “What do you think, Rok? Is the new girl cute?”
Brian jumped at the light impact of AJ’s elbow on his arm. “Yeah, she’s cute,” Brian cooly admitted as he continued eating his food.
“You should get her number,” AJ said with a smirk.
Brian rolled his eyes as he bit into a piece of sesame chicken. “Dude, I don’t even know her.”
“So? Strike up a conversation, get her number, call her up, and take her out. Take her to Howie’s club. Do a little dancin’, a little grindin’, and maybe a little smoochin’,” AJ said while making over exaggerated motions with his arms.
“That ladies man junk may work for you, Bone, but some guys like it the old fashioned way,” Brian said with a sigh of annoyance.
“You mean the prude way!” AJ said with a laugh.
Brian frowned as he took a sip of his water. “I’m serious,” he said defensively. “I’m a gentleman. I believe in respecting a woman.”
AJ held up his hands in submission and shook his head. “Chill, dude. I was kidding.”
Kevin chuckled, holding his own hand up between them. “You both have valid points,” he said with a smile.
Sarah snickered as she took a seat on the chair and crossed her legs. She sighed of relief. It was the first time she’d sat down in hours. She wearily looked around at the almost empty lobby and grimaced as she noticed a few tables that still needed to be cleaned. She glanced at her watch and took notice that it was almost closing time.
“So how’s your day been?” Kevin asked as she he continued eating.
Sarah shrugged, not wanting to unload her issues onto Kevin. “It’s been alright, I guess.”
“Just alright?” Kevin asked curiously with a raised brow.
Sarah looked at him and shook her head. “Yeah...just alright.”
“That’s reassuring,” Kevin joked.
Sarah lightly chuckled as she ran a hand over her face, sighing as she reached up and fixed her messy bun. “It’s just been a really long day. I'm ready to go home, take a shower, and curl into bed with a movie.”
“Sounds like the perfect end of the day,” Kevin said with a warm smile.
“Y'all got here late,” Sarah stated as she stood up to begin sweeping the carpet.
“We were at the studio all day,” AJ piped in as he finished his plate.
“We finished recording a song for the new album,” Brian added.
“Didn’t you just release an album a few months ago?” Sarah asked as she began sweeping around their table.
“Yes, but we gotta put out another album next year. It’s in our contract,” said Kevin.
“So you’re recording a new album and going on tour? Sounds exhausting,” Sarah said as she straightened chairs at the nearby tables.
“Welcome to the music industry,” AJ said as he stood up. He paused and looked over at Rachel who passed by him with an armful of dirty dishes.
Brian glanced at him from his spot at the table. “Where are you going?”
“To get seconds before they close the buffet. Is that okay with you?” he said with a grin.
“Uh huh….,” Brian said in a suspicious tone.
“You better hurry,” Sarah said with a laugh. “They start breaking it down in fifteen minutes.”
“Damn,” AJ said as he quickly headed in the direction of the buffet.
“Just give the check to me,” Kevin said as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. “I'm buying tonight.”
Sarah shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s on me. You guys barely ate anything with it being so close to closing time.”
“You sure?” Kevin asked.
“Yeah, it’s fine. I’ll just use my employee discount. My boss won’t mind.”
“Well, thanks,” Kevin said appreciatively.
“No problem,” Sarah said as she offered him a fond smile.
“Man, I’m full,” Brian said as he sat back in his chair and patted his stomach.
“What did you think?” Sarah asked as she took his empty plate.
“Very good,” he stated with a smile. “I definitely enjoyed it.”
“I’m glad,” Sarah said as she collected the other two plates from their table.
“You lied!” AJ said as he came back to the table empty handed. “They already started taking back the food. All that's left is the sauce and the dried up wontons,” he said as she sat down.
Sarah laughed as she shrugged. “That happens on occasion. They must’ve decided to take everything a few minutes early.”
“It’s fine,” AJ said as he reached in his pocket and slid a piece of paper over to Brian.
“What’s that?” he asked as he took it from him.
“The new girl’s phone number.”
“Alex, really?!” Brian said as he shook his head. “You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you?”
“Well, you obviously weren’t going to do it so I did it for you.”
“I never said I wanted it to begin with,” Brian frowned as he stared at the paper in his hand.
“Oh, come on! She’s cute’ you’re single so what’s the problem?” AJ asked as he rested his hand on Brian’s shoulder. “I’m just looking out for you, man.”
“I don’t need you to hold my hand. I can get my own girls,” Brian grumbled.
“Then call her,” AJ said with a grin, slapping Brian on the shoulders before standing. “Alright, I’m going home. Amanda’s coming over later.”
“See you, AJ” Kevin said then looked over at Brian who still studying the piece of paper in his hand. “Are you going to call her?” he teased.
Brian put the piece of paper in his pocket and chuckled shyly. “I don’t know, Cuz.”
“I think you should,” Sarah piped in.
Brian looked over at her with a slight sparkle in his eye. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she said with a smile, moving closer to Brian. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure Rachel wasn’t nearby. She saw Rachel across the lobby, cleaning tables and drew her attention back to Brian. “She’s really shy but super sweet.”
Brian glanced over at Rachel from across the room and sighed. “I still don’t know about this.”
“What’s the big deal?” Kevin asked as he lifted his glass to take a drink.
Brian shrugged as he sank down in his chair. “After the harsh break up with Carla, I don’t think I can go through that again.”
“Carla, your high school girlfriend?” Kevin asked as he took a sip of water and set down the glass.
“Yeah,” Brian replied softly.
“What makes you so sure that this would be a repeat of that?”
“Because the reason we broke up was a result of my career as a Backstreet Boy.”
“So you’re going to let one bad break up ruin your love life?” Kevin asked in a gentle tone. “How long do you expect to be a Backstreet Boy?”
Brian shrugged. “For as long as possible.”
“And what if you remain a Backstreet Boy for the rest of your life?”
Brian laughed a little. “Do you really think we’ll still be dancing on stage in twenty years?”
Kevin raised his brow quizzically. “Do you really think we won’t be?”
“Kevin we’re a boy band. No boy band ever lasts more than maybe ten years, at most.”
“It’s really impossible to predict what will happen, Cuz.”
Brian rolled his eyes. “What’s your point?”
“My point is that in the same way our career is unpredictable, our lives are even more unpredictable. Seize the moment, Brian. Call her and see where it goes.”
“Why do you care about this so much?”
“Because you’ve been observing her the entire time we’ve been here. You’re obviously interested. I’m encouraging you to go for it.”
“I’ll think about it,” Brian said as he slid out of his chair and stood up. “I’m going home. I'm beat.”
“Yeah, it’s been a very long day,” Kevin said as he grabbed his glass, gulping down the last of his water. “Don’t forget that we have rehearsal at 8:00 tomorrow morning.”
“How could I forget when you’ve reminded me five times today?” Brian joked. “See you in the morning.”
“Good night, Brian,” Sarah said with a wave then looked over at Kevin. “Are you gonna let me clean your table so I can go home?” she teased.
Kevin smiled softly and leaned back in his chair, looking up at her. “What are you doing after work?” he asked as he ran his fingers through his hair. “Besides watching a movie in bed?”
“That’s the only plan I had in mind,” Sarah admitted.
“Wanna grab a coffee at the diner?”
Sarah sighed to herself as she began wiping down the table. “I don’t know…”
“Come on,” Kevin urged. “We haven’t hung out in a while. Let’s have coffee and catch up.”
“I thought you have rehearsal in the morning,” Sarah said as she pushed the empty chairs under the table.
“I do,” he replied with a coy smile.
“Then why do you want to drink coffee at this hour?” she said as she gave him a playful whack on the arm with her towel.
“I’ll drink decaf,” Kevin said as he caught the towel in his hand. He gazed up at her, pulling the towel gently. “Have coffee with me.”
Sarah paused as she found herself captivated by his sparkling green eyes. Her lips pursed into a frown as she tugged the towel away from him. “Kevin…”
His eyes softened as he looked at her. “Please?” he begged with a gentle hand on top of hers, his voice lowering an octave.
Sarah looked down at his hand on top of hers and sighed. “Alright...but I don’t want to be out too late. Maybe until midnight.”
“Will you turn into a pumpkin?”he joked.
Sarah laughed as she gave him a playful shove. “Get out of the chair so I can finish cleaning.”
Kevin laughed as he stood, sliding the chair under the table. “How long will it take you to close?”
“Well, Rachel knocked out almost the entire lobby so probably about ten minutes. I just have to finish cleaning this table and take back the last bucket of dirty dishes.”
“Great, I will go wait in the parking lot for you.”
“Don’t be getting mobbed while you wait,” she teased.
“I’ll try not to,” Kevin said with a laugh as he headed to the door.
Sarah smiled to herself as she finished cleaning the table. As she turned around, she saw Rachel walking towards her, looking red in the face.
“Oh, my God,” Rachel said as she covered her face.
Sarah laughed at Rachel’s girly reaction. “How did AJ get your number?”
“He suckered me into it,” Rachel said as she looked up at the ceiling. “I can’t believe I did that.”
“Relax, you’ll be fine,” Sarah said as she walked over to the drink station to gather the last of the serving pitchers.
Rachel followed her and dropped her wet towel onto the cart. “You don’t think he’ll call, do you?”
“He might,” Sarah replied with a smirk.
“Oh, God,” Rachel muttered as she poured a pitcher of water down the sink drain.
“He’s just a guy, Rach.”
“Yeah, a really hot guy whose face is plastered all over my bedroom wall,” Rachel said flatly.
“There goes your sex life,” Sarah joked.
Rachel playfully smacked Sarah on the arm. “Sarah!”
Sarah laughed as she poured the last two pitchers of water. “I’m just saying!”
“Let’s just hope he doesn’t call. Maybe he’ll meet some really hot girl and forget about me.”
“I’m pretty sure you were the hot girl he was into.”
Rachel rolled her eyes and took the pitchers from Sarah. “I’m not hot,” she said as she placed the pitchers into the dish bin.
“Come on, give yourself a little credit. “You’re a very pretty girl. Guys are going to find you attractive.”
“Whatever,” Rachel said as she picked up the dish bin and took it into the kitchen.
It landed on the counter with a loud clunk as Rachel huffed to herself, untying her apron as she followed Sarah to the break room. “I should’ve never given AJ my number. I’m an idiot.”
Sarah smiled as she took off her apron and pulled her purse out of her locker. “You’re not an idiot. You saw the opportunity and you took it. Anyone would’ve done it.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t answer when he calls,” Rachel said as she grabbed her purse out of her own locker.
Sarah raised her brown as she shut her locker. “Don’t you dare do that to him. Brian doesn’t deserve that. You gave out your number. You should have the decency to pick up the phone when he calls.”
Rachel sighed as she dug her keys out from the bottom of her purse. “You’re right. I should answer his call.”
“Good,” Sarah said as she flung her purse over her shoulder.
“Are we still on for tomorrow?” Rachel asked she followed Sarah towards the door.
“I think so. I don’t see any reason why not. Call me in the morning to make sure.”
“Sounds good,” Rachel replied as she opened the door, glancing over at Kevin who was leaning against his car. She raised her brow and smirked at Sarah. “And what plans do you have this evening?”
Sarah chuckled and locked the restaurant door behind them. “We’re just going to coffee,” she said as she looked at Rachel who was grinning. “We’re just friends,” Sarah said.
“Uh huh,” Rachel teased.
Sarah shook her head and gently shoved Rachel away. “Call me in the morning.”
“You sure you’ll be awake?” she asked with a giggle.
”Oh, my God, shush!” Sarah said while laughing.
“Call me in the morning.”
“I will,” Rachel said as she quieted her laughter. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Sarah echoed and walked over to Kevin.
“Ready?” he asked with a soft smile.
“Yeah, I’ll follow you out there.”
“Leave the car. We’ll come back for it afterwards.”
Sarah sighed as she stared at Kevin’s car hesitantly. She watched him open the passenger door and gestured for her to get in. She frowned as she put her keys back into her purse.
“Alright, but don’t forget that I said midnight.”
“Oh, right, the whole turning into a pumpkin thing,” Kevin joked as she got into the car.
“You’re not funny,” Sarah said.
“You’re right, I’m not. I’m hilarious,” he said with a laugh and shut the passenger door.