This is a little story I was inspired to write after reading Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It." If anyone has read them, you'll get some idea of where this story might be going.
"Mina, do you have an extra scrunchie handy? I need one for work," I explained as I charged through the door of her bedroom.
She rolled her eyes from her reclined position on the bed, and took her cell phone from her ear.
"On the door--and thanks for knocking!" she said sarcastically.
I grinned at her and shrugged my shoulders. "No sweat! Listen, I won't get off until around nine-thirty, so tell Dad I won't be here for dinner. I'll see you later, okay?"
She sighed heavily and turned her eyes towards the door. Never one to miss the hint, I winked at her and left the room, pulling the door shut behind me. She had to be on the phone with Derek, the newest loser-boyfriend-of-the-month. I sighed, wishing my twin sister could meet someone nice for once.
I shut the front door and wrestled through my purse, desperate to find my keys. I sighed with relief as my fingers closed over my lucky bunny key chain, and I quickly made my way over to my car. I glanced at my watch and bit my lip in frustration. I could expect a lecture from Andrew when I got to work!
I growled low in my throat and jerked open the door of my car. Slipping in with practiced ease, I started the engine and pulled my hair into a messy bun while I waited for it to warm up. As I pulled out of the parking structure of my apartment complex, the noon-high sun blazed through my windshield and into my unadjusted corneas. I winced in pain, and tried to blink away the sunburst seared into my vision. I couldn't wait until winter. Living in a small corner of Vermont did have its advantages--but they were especially apparent during my favorite season. I loved winter, and a winter filled with snow-covered maples and beech woods was nothing short of magical. Too bad the weathermen were predicting an Indian summer this year.
Twenty minutes later I pulled into the back lot of The Comfort Café, a tiny restaurant/coffee shop I work at. I reached into my purse and pulled out my favorite necklace: a silver chain with a beautiful diamond-encrusted moon pendant. It was my mother's, and before she died, she told me to wear it everywhere so she would be with me always. I felt my eyes well up like they always do when I think of her, but I blinked back the tears and put it on.
I stepped out of the car quickly, reaching back inside for a moment to grab my apron. After slamming the door of my car shut, I headed toward the building, stopping to smell the just-blooming roses outside the café. I inhaled their scent deeply, taking in the slightly spicy sweetness of them. I was about to move on, when one of the flowers caught my eye. I inhaled sharply, taking in the quiet beauty of the rose. It was easily one of the most gorgeous things I had ever seen: lusciously red, no sign of wilting, smooth as silk. I couldn't resist leaning in to smell, reaching my hand gently under the back of the flower to pull it closer.
Then, without warning, the bud came off into my hand. I nearly dropped it, stunned. I had barely touched the thing! I leaned in close to examine the stem, but it was uncut! It was as if the flower had never been connected to the bush at all! I brought the flower to my nose and inhaled deeply. As I suspected, it was perfection, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that there was something very special about it…
Oh well, I thought as I tucked the mysterious rose into my pocket, determined to show Lita and Amy as soon as I got inside.
"Hey Serena!" Andrew called from the doorway, and I looked up, surprised. "It's four forty-five, you were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago. Last I checked, that didn't give you time to stop and smell the roses." He grinned at his own joke, but winked to let me know I wasn't in too much trouble.
I sighed. I was late, but I suddenly didn't care. Today was special, I could feel it. I guess if I would have known how special, I might have been able to prepare myself for the months ahead… but for now, I was just Serena Johnson: a happy, healthy, seventeen-year-old girl. I grinned to myself, and headed for the back door of the café, ready for the daily grind.
When I entered the backroom, Andrew was leaning against the counter waiting for me. I gave him a smile, and he grinned back. Whew! So I wasn't in THAT much trouble!
"You're late," he said anyway, tossing a towel at me. I caught it deftly with my left hand, and headed over to the count-out machine to punch in.
"I know, I couldn't find my pants or my apron. Turns out Mina washed them for me, and of course the dryer was the last place I decided to look," I answered, smiling a little. I punched in quickly, and then turned back towards him, tying my apron around my waist at the same time. "Has it been busy?" I asked, pulling my hair into a neater ponytail.
"Naw, not really. Allen's been covering the register, and Lita's got section one today. I'm putting you in section two," Andrew said quickly, turning around before he could see my nose wrinkle in annoyance.
"Allen's working today?" I whined, fully aware that I sounded both mean and immature, but I couldn't help it! He had a humongous crush on me, and sometimes he made me uncomfortable. I usually did everything in my power not to work with him. Thanks to summer vacation and Andrew's careful scheduling, I hadn't seen the guy for almost three months. I wanted to keep it that way. "I thought Amy was working," I said, pouting.
"She called and told me she'd be a little late, so I asked Allen to stay longer." Andrew explained, then sighed. "Look Serena, I know you don't like Allen, but he's only here until Amy shows up, and I think you need to be a little more patient. He really likes you, and if I didn't see you as my surrogate sister, I would too. Cut him some slack, he's just a guy."
I sighed and nodded, knowing Andrew was the only person who could make me feel guilty about not wanting to run into a geek like Allen. I loved Andrew, and he was pretty much my older brother, but sometimes he was too nice for his own good. I shook my head and took off towards the plastic double-doors that lead into the restaurant. I had just passed through them when I almost collided with the subject of our previous conversation.
Be nice, I told myself, and I put on my best smile. "Hey Allen, how's it going?" I asked, trying to ignore the huge piece of vegetation jutting out of his braces.
"Oh, fine, I'm really good," he answered, giggling nervously. "I'm almost off though, I have an appointment with my orthodontist."
There was a brief silence, and in it's duration I smiled and tried to escape, but he quickly blocked my way. "So how about you?" He inquired. "Long time no see, you know?" He laughed a little bit, and I forced a smile onto my face.
"Okay, mostly working and getting ready for school. Senior year's coming up and it's never too early to start looking for colleges." I answered, keeping the conversation light.
"Yeah, college is definitely something to prepare for," Allen agreed.
A painfully uncomfortable silence ensued, and desperate to end it, I smiled and gently pushed past him. "Well," I said quickly, "I've got to get to work. Nice catching up with you!" I called over my shoulder. He nodded, and retreated to the backroom.
I bit my lip, hating myself for having to be so cold, but being nice to him had made the situation even worse. Allen and I used to be friends. I used to stick up for him a lot, hang out with him when no one else would, but he couldn't get it through his head that I wasn't interested. Finally I just had to stay away from him. As much as I hate being mean to someone, I couldn't let him hope for something that would never happen.
I shook my head and entered my section, grabbing the wrapped silverware from the takeout line on the way. I glanced over at Lita's section and noticed that it had begun to fill up, so I readied my tables quickly. I caught Lita's eyes from across the room, and she motioned for me to get the next party. I nodded and headed towards the front door. I opened it--totally ready to greet the party outside--when HE caught my eye.
Suddenly, I couldn't speak. My smile faded, my throat dried up, and every practiced salutation died on my lips. Before me was the most beautiful man I had ever seen! Silky black hair, deep blue eyes, chiseled features, and completely sensuous lips… He was tall--easily 6'2"--with broad shoulders and slim hips. He looked positively adorable in his white shirt and tie, and I took note of the blazer cast over one arm. He had to be from Madison, the private school upstate. My heart pounded in my chest as he smiled at me, and dimly I heard his friends laughing behind him.
"Geez Darien! We haven't been in town five minutes and already jaws are dropping!" One of his friends cracked.
I suddenly realized my mouth WAS wide open, and I promptly closed it, my cheeks heating up before I could stop them. The gorgeous guy (Darien?) flashed me an apologetic smile, and my knees turned to jelly. I had to serve this guy? I couldn't even open my mouth! I just stared at all of them, my mind completely blank. Their joking smiles quickly faded, and they began to shift around, looking very nervous.
Serena, snap out of it! My mind screamed. SAY SOMETHING! YOU LOOK LIKE A COMPLETE DORK!
Then, as if some wonderful angel had cast some merciful spell made for girls who couldn't function in the presence of completely gorgeous men, my mouth finally began to formulate words: "Hi! Welcome to the Comfort Café. My name is Serena and I'll be your server this evening!" I squeaked out. One of the boys, tall and handsome with silvery blonde hair and icy blue eyes, actually winced. Get a hold of yourself, I thought, closing my eyes.
I motioned for them to follow me and tried unsuccessfully to will my hands to stop shaking. My stomach was doing flip-flops, and my skin was literally tingling! What was the matter with me? It wasn't like I hadn't served good-looking guys before! But then again… I glanced back at the boy following me. None of them had ever looked like him before…
I managed to seat them without too much hassle, and I even managed to get their drink orders without acting like a total idiot. Still, I couldn't ignore their hushed laughter and quiet joking as I walked away. My face reddened again. Oh God, I pleaded, please just get me through this without screwing up or embarrassing myself! I'll be good, I promise.
I entered the kitchen quickly, and with trembling hands I gathered the mugs for the drinks. Lita entered the room not long after, and leaned against the counter next to me, looking extremely excited.
"Nice table, Serena!" She exclaimed, winking. "Man, I've never seen so many hotties in one spot! I especially like the one with the brown hair and killer smile."
"Yeah, they are really cute," I commented, trying unsuccessfully to hold the glass steady as I poured coke into it. Lita watched me spill once, twice, three times, and then she stopped me.
"What's up with you? Are you okay?" She asked, looking concerned.
I covered my face with my hands, and shook my head. "I don't know what's wrong with me! I was fine, totally in my routine, when those guys walk in! Suddenly I can't even function! I made a complete idiot of myself out there, and I'm dreading going back to that table." I moaned, my voice muffled through my fingers.
Lita was silent for a few minutes, pondering my predicament, then said: "It's the tall one, isn't it? That black hair, those blue eyes, and those buff muscles just barely visible through his--"
"Yes! That one!" I interrupted, tearing my hands from my face. "He's totally perfect! I've never seen anyone like him, and because of him I've turned into a stuttering dork!" I exploded.
To my surprise, instead of looking sympathetic, Lita began to laugh, her brown ponytail bobbing and her forest-green eyes flashing with genuine mirth. My face warmed again, and I knew I was resembling a very ripe tomato. "What's so funny?" I demanded.
"It's nothing!" She managed through her giggles. "I mean, I've heard of love-at-first-sight, but I never thought I'd actually witness it! But," she clucked her tongue, "he is a great catch! I must say I do support your choice."
"I haven't caught anything!" I huffed, snatching a towel from behind her to wipe up my mess. "And if you don't give me a break, you're going to catch a big slap in the face!" I snapped.
Lita roared with laughter, and shook her head. "Man girl, you do got it bad! Now get out there and give them their drinks before I go over there and start flirting with your mystery man!"
"He is not--" I began, but Lita shook her head and gently pushed me out the door. I turned back, but then slumped, knowing it was useless. Lita was right, I did have it bad, and I could barely even speak to the guy.
I made my way over to their table quickly, and tried to keep my body in some state of normalcy. There were five of them, all handsome, and all obviously good friends. I handed out their drinks with practiced ease, and finally began to feel a little less jittery.
"So what'll it be today, guys?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from trembling.
The cute guy Lita had noticed put down his menu first. "I'll have a burger, no onions, with extra ketchup," He said, offering me a flirtatious smile. I grinned back, and wrote his order down.
The guy with the silvery blonde hair that I had noticed from before piped in next. "I'll have a grilled chicken sandwich with everything on it, and I'd like to switch the fries for a salad, no dressing."
The boy sitting next to him with golden blonde hair and a devilishly cute grin laughed. "What's the matter Mal? Watching your figure?" He cracked, doing a horrible job of imitating an English accent. When the other boy shot him an icy look, he sobered up a bit, but not much. "I'll have a burger, extra onions, extra ketchup, and how about a little of you on the side?" He asked, shooting me a look that probably worked on quite a few girls. All the guys groaned and rolled their eyes, but I laughed and shook my head, a blush creeping into my cheeks.
"Can it, Jarod." A cute, but very intellectual-looking boy with sandy hair said, throwing me an apologetic look. "I'll just have a salad."
"Geez Zach, I was just kidding with her!" Jarod said, grinning at me again.
"Sometimes you kid too much." Came a voice from my right side, and finally I came face to face with HIM.
Suddenly it was hard to breathe again. He was even more beautiful up close, and he was smiling at me. I managed to smile back and glanced back down at my notepad, making a huge effort not to stare. "And what can I get for you?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from wavering.
"I'll take a double cheeseburger--extra cheese-- with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and no onions… Oh yeah! I'll also have a chocolate shake." He finished, handing me the menu.
I couldn't believe it! He had just ordered my favorite meal, right down to the extra cheese and chocolate shake! This guy really was perfect!
I guess he was so perfect, I didn't remember that I was still standing there, smiling at him. He looked at me quizzically, and finally I snapped out of it.
"Well, I'll get these orders to the kitchen! Let me know if you need anything!" I said, turning around quickly so they wouldn't see me turn red for the umpteenth time!
"Wait a second!" A voice called to my back. I closed my eyes, already knowing who it was.
"Yes? Is there something else I can get you?" I asked.
"No. I just wanted to tell you that's a really nice pendant," He said, pointing at my necklace.
A strange warmth filled my belly, and suddenly I wasn't nervous anymore. "Thanks," I said softly, smiling a little. "It was my mom's. She gave it to me when I was twelve."
"It's really pretty." He said, gazing at it. Then, as if remembering himself, he shook his head. "Sorry, I just had to let you know. It looked kind of familiar to me for some reason."
I raised an eyebrow. "Really? Well, thanks."
"You're welcome," he answered.
There was a brief pause where our eyes held, and in that moment, my crush on this guy fell firmly into place. I couldn't explain it, but there was something incredibly special about him. Somehow, I knew my necklace wasn't the only thing familiar to him. I didn't say it, but I almost felt as if I had met him before…
Suddenly, I realized I was still standing there, and I laughed nervously. "Better get those orders in," I stammered, walking away.
Behind me I heard one of them say: "What's with you Darien? That's the best you can do? 'I like your pendant?' Someone's not on top of their game!"
"I dunno," he answered. "I just feel like I know her."
Hey, I thought with a grin. I guess I'm not the only one.
The next hour went normally. I got them their food, refilled their drinks, and there were no more mishaps. But I was sad somehow… He was going back to his private school soon, and who knew when I would see him next. I watched him from the kitchen doorway as he ate, and wondered what he was really like. I watched the quiet way he joked with his friends, and noted the serious expressions that adorned his face when the joke was over. He was so… composed. I had never seen someone so in control of himself before. Part of me wanted to cross the room and loosen his tie, ruffle his hair, and wrinkle his shirt. I wanted to get rid of some of that perfection so he could seem more real to me.
But there was no time. They were already finishing their dinner, and I knew that soon one of them would locate me and ask for the check. Before they could do it, however, I was there, placing the bill on the table with a somewhat sad smile on my face.
"It was a pleasure serving you guys today. You can pay up at the register. Come back anytime!" I exclaimed, putting on my best cheery smile, although I was feeling anything but.
"Thanks, Serena. Don't work too hard!" Jarod said, giving me a wink.
I laughed, shook my head, and headed back into the kitchen to get the drinks for my other table. When I came back out, I was surprised to see Darien was still there, standing by the register. I couldn't be sure, but he looked a little nervous. He suddenly noticed me standing in the doorway, and waved me over. I gestured at the drinks in my hand and he nodded in realization, and motioned for me to get the table first. I hurried and dropped off the drinks, then went back.
"Hi," I stammered.
"Hey," He said.
There was a small silence. What could he want? Was I a terrible server? "Is everything okay?" I finally asked.
"Wha-- oh, oh yeah!" He exclaimed. "Everything was great. I just wanted to ask you something…"
"Miss? Miss?" A man in my section was waving frantically to get my attention. "I ordered a lemonade, not a Sprite!"
"I'll be there in just a minute!" I called, then turned back to Darien. "What were you saying?"
"Oh! Well, um, I don't usually do this kind of thing, but I was wondering if I could have--" He began.
I don't believe it! I thought. He's going to ask me for my--!
"Miss! MISS! You messed up my drink, and I'd like to get the one that I ordered!" The man snapped from the table.
I nearly exploded! Couldn't the guy tell that the most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on was trying to get my digits?!
"Hold on," I pleaded. "I have to get his drink."
"Well, the thing is, I kinda have to--" He started.
"I'll only be a second," I interrupted, "I swear!"
I almost ran from him and into the kitchen. I yanked a mug from the shelf, flew to the soda machine, and had just filled the glass with lemonade when I heard the bells of the front door jingle open.
"Darien, we gotta go man! The bus is here right now and there isn't another one out to Madison today!"
"But--" I heard him say.
"No 'buts' dude! Let's go!"
"No!" I cried. "I'll be right there!"
But even as I ran out those plastic doors, I knew he had already left. My shoulders sagged as if someone had dropped a 20 lb sack of potatoes on them. He was gone. I'd really missed him. I headed over to the table and dropped off the drink, not entirely oblivious to the scowl the customer shot me, but I couldn't care less.
I turned back towards the door and saw nothing but an empty bus stop. He was heading back to Madison, and I'd probably never see him again. Rich boys from all over the country went to that school, and he looked like a senior. Yep, by next summer he'd be on his way to any college he wanted, and I doubt it would reside in quiet little Vermont.
As I stood there staring into the street, a head of blue-black hair entered my vision. A second later, its owner nearly crashed into me as she came huffing and puffing through the door.
"Sorry!" She cried, trying to catch her breath. "Computer class ran puff a little huff late!" She shook her head and inhaled deeply. "So! What'd I miss?"