Lizi pushed her hair out of her face. Between the humidity and her hair being wet half the time anyway, it wasn't worth spending the money on a haircut until the end of summer.
Monica's voice came across Lizi's headphone's "We'll have a table for two ready in a few minutes."
"You know the party of eight is still waiting right?"
"Yea, we should have something soon, but this table isn't in a spot where we can push it together with others."
"OK, looks like the Allens are up next then." She activated the pager she had given to the Allens.
Lizi was on the door tonight. She preferred waitressing, but everyone had to take their turn on the door. It was easy work, you just had to get people's names, give them pagers, send them upstairs when their table was ready, and let the hostess know if you had a group larger than six waiting, but it meant a night without tips, and tonight it was hot and crowded. You got a little extra for it, but Lizi generally did better with tips, especially on a Friday. Friday nights were always busy, but usually, some of the people waited on the benches outside or even took a walk. Tonight it was pouring, and everyone was squeezed into the bar or the small foyer. She was really hoping Monica would be able to get the party of eight seated soon. They were taking up a lot of room.
With its large windows overlooking Island Beach State Park and excellent food, Fitzgigi's was a popular place to eat. It was also the best place to work on the Island. They paid more than anyone else, and the customers tipped well. She and her sister Jane were lucky to get jobs there. They had to come down three weeks ahead of the rest of their family and open the shore-house themselves, but from Lizi's point of view, that wasn't exactly a disadvantage.
The Allens hadn't shown up yet. Maybe their pager didn't go off, or they'd lost it, it happened sometimes, and they were an older couple.
"Allen?" Lizi called out, party of two?" When no one answered, she checked the bar but didn't find them in there either. Could they be waiting in their car? If so they could be anywhere, but she didn't want them to miss out on their table if she could help it. She borrowed an umbrella from one of the guests, stepped outside and looked around for a couple sitting in their car. They could be anywhere. She would never find them..no wait… there was a couple in a car across the street not too far down. Lizi was going to feel pretty silly if they didn't turn out to be the Allens but she ran across the street to ask them anyway. As she darted out from between the parked cars, the driver of a Volvo SUV slammed on the brakes and blared the horn. She jumped and ran the rest of the way across with her heart racing. Jeese impatient much? She wasn't even that close! All he had to do was slow down.
As she knocked on the window of the couple she hoped were the Allens the
SUV pulled up and double parked in front of the restaurant, two guys and two women jumped out and ran to the door. A fifth guy moved into the driver's seat and drove off. Well, she would be with them in a minute they had a wait ahead of them anyway.
Mr. Allen rolled down the window.
"Are you the Allens, party of two?"
"Yes, that's us."
"Your table is ready, didn't your pager go off?"
"Oh!" Mrs. Allen opened her purse and pulled out the lobster-shaped pager. It was flashing. "You mean this, dear?"
"Yes, when it flashes, that means your table is ready." Lizi didn't bother to point out that she had already explained this.
"Oh dear, I thought it would say something."
Mr. Allen shook his head, "You put that in your purse? How were we suppose to see it go off?"
"I expected it to say something. She said it would say something."
"No, she said it would flash." He turned back to Lizi, "Sorry about that, thank you for coming to find us."
"No problem, I'll see you inside."
She ran back in to attend to the party that had just arrived; they were heading upstairs. She returned the umbrella with a quick thanks and rushed to call after the new arrivals. "Excuse me? I need your name."
The tall guy at the front of the group held up one of the pagers. "It's on your list."
"Well, I'm sorry, but you can't go up to the restaurant until your table is ready." What did he think all these people were doing down here?
"We aren't going to the restaurant."
The girl just behind him looked back at the others, rolled her eyes and said in a stage whisper, "She must be new."
The other girl gave a tittering laugh, and the four of them disappeared up the steps. Should she go after them? And do what; drag them back down the steps? Monica would just have to send them back down or get Lucas, the manager, to deal with them. She hoped she wouldn't get in trouble for letting them past her. Should she call Monica and warn her? By that time they would probably be up there already. She put her headset back on and checked her list, "Darcy –party of 5-pager #25" was written in at the end of the list." Who does that? Maybe he had worked here once? He did seem to be familiar with the system, but if he had worked here, he should know better than to go upstairs.
By now the Allens had made their way inside. Mrs. Allen handed her the pager saying, "I'm sorry dear, I thought you said it would say something, but Mr. Allen tells me you said it would flash. I put it in my purse, so we didn't see it flashing."
Lizi took a deep breath to calm herself. She didn't want to take her annoyance at the tall jerk out on other customers, and Mrs. Allen seemed sweet even if she was a bit confused …and repetitive.
"It's fine. You can go ahead up. There's an elevator if you need it."
"Thank you." said Mr. Allen, "We can do the steps."
As they disappeared up the steps she could hear them talking, "It must have been Libby's where the pager spoke to us."
"No, that one flashed, they all flash…"
Darcy looked in vain for a parking spot. "We should have gone to the house first; given time for the crowds to thin out."
Chad glanced at him from the passenger seat. "We don't have any food at the house yet, besides we still have to turn the water on and everything."
"That takes like five minutes. It would have been faster than coming here."
"I told you not to drink that ice tea."
"That has nothing to do with it. I just don't like crowds."
"Especially when you…"
Chad was interrupted by Darcy slamming the brakes and laying on the horn as a girl ran out into the street practically right in front of him. She didn't even acknowledge her mistake as she continued across. "What the hell? People don't even look around here! They just step right out into the street!"
"She was cute, looks like one of yours."
"I hope Lucas would not have hired someone who doesn't have the sense to look both ways."
"Why don't you four get out up here, and I'll find a parking spot."
Darcy's heart was still racing from the near miss, "Yea, all right, are you sure you don't mind?"
"I'm the only one who didn't hydrate."
Darcy pulled up as close as he could get to the door, he was double parked, but it would only be for a minute. "You remember how to work the wipers? …and remember the break is more sensitive than you are used to."
"It's fine I've driven your car dozens of times."
"Very well, be careful."
Some people would have been insulted by this, but Chad answered genially, "I will, just get inside and catch your breath, I'll join you soon."
He followed Chad's advice and ran in followed by the rest of his friends, Chad's sister's Karo and Lois and Lois's boyfriend Herb. When they got inside, there was no one on the door, and he had to sign them in himself. Chad must have been right about the girl. She came back just as they were heading upstairs. Darcy gave her a brief reply, hurried up the steps and ducked quickly into the men's room at the top. He wasn't in a hurry because of the ice tea. He just wanted to gather his wits before anyone tried to make conversation with him.
Herb followed him into the restroom and used the urinal next to his. He wished he hadn't, but it wouldn't have been reasonable to ask him to wait outside or to expect him to use the child-size urinal just to leave a free one between them.
Darcy washed his hands, splashed cold water on his face and took several deep breaths.
"You alright, Darcy?"
"I'm fine. I'm just tired from the drive."
When he came out of the men's room, Lucas spotted him and came toward him smiling. "Darcy, I didn't know you were getting in tonight."
After a brief hesitation, he shook Lucas's outstretched hand, "We just got in. Is the canopy up?"
"Yes, but it will be pretty wet up there."
"That's fine. We'll talk later alright?"
Without waiting for an answer, he pushed through the "Employees Only" door, out to the deck and dashed up the steps to the roof. Herb must have stayed behind to wait for the girls. Good, it would give him a few minutes alone. He dropped into a chair, not caring that it was a little damp, and briefly rested his head in his hands. Most of the roof was wet, but there were a few semi-dry chairs under the center of the Canopy.
After a few minutes, Herb joined him, followed by Karo and Lois. Herb glanced at the wet chairs. "Not exactly the best night to be up here."
"You all can wait at the bar if you want to."
Karo pulled a tissue out of her purse and attempted to dry the chair next to Darcy. Then she pulled it closer and sat down. "Oh, no, it's so much nicer to be up here all by ourselves."
"So true." Added Lois, as she did the same with the chair on Darcy's other side. They both sat closer to him than was necessary to stay out of the rain. Herb took a seat looking unhappy. Herb and Lois were "pre-engaged" whatever that meant. As far as Darcy could tell it meant Lois having Herb on her arm while still paying almost as much attention to Darcy as ever. He supposed to Herb it meant a job in her father's company one day.
An attractive man wearing a Princeton t-shirt entered and approached Lizi with a friendly grin. "I think the rest of my party is already here. Have you seen a tall man walking around as if he owns the place?"
Lizi smiled, "You must be the fifth member of the Darcy party."
"That's me. I was the designated parker."
"I'm afraid I can't tell you where they've gone. Mr. Darcy spat out something about not going to the restaurant, but they went upstairs and haven't come down. They couldn't have been seated."
"Oh, they probably went to the roof."
"The roof? Customers aren't allowed up there."
"Darcy is, he keeps some chairs up there. The thing is, he actually does own the place. He's the 'Darcy' in Darcy enterprises; the company that owns Fitzgigi's."
"Seriously?" Now that she thought about it Lucas had said something the restaurant being owned by Darcy enterprises. Somehow she had never associated that with a real person.
"Cross my heart. Don't look so worried. I know Darcy makes a bad first impression, but he grows on you. He's a good guy. The only man I know who would rather be on a wet roof than in a crowded bar but a good guy." He smiled again and stuck out his hand, "My name is Chad Bartley."
She shook it. "Lizi Bennet."
Chad spoke with her a bit more asking her how long she'd been working at Fitzgigi's and how she liked it. Then he said, "I better get up there Darcy will worry what happened to me. Is Steve bartending tonight?"
"Great I'll see if I can charm a bottle of wine out of him before I go up. I'm sure Darcy didn't think of it. See you later Lizi."
Chad seemed nice, but Lizi was too distracted wondering how that Darcy jerk could be the owner and how she could be so unlucky as to get on his bad side already, to give him much thought.
Darcy didn't look much older than she was. Chad must have meant that this Darcy's parents owned Darcy enterprises. He was just some spoiled rich kid who thought he didn't have to wait his turn and was allowed to hang out on the roof instead of mingling with ordinary people. She supposed she was lucky he put his name at the end of the list instead of the beginning. Satisfied with her own explanation Lizi set aside any worries about having made a less than favorable first impression herself.
Her headphones buzzed. "The table for eight is ready."