a/n: Hey ;) Here's a new Brittana for everyone. I have a feeling you're going to like this. I'm already writing chapter 4, so it all depends on your reaction and what you think, and I'll give you updates :) And I'm working on my other updates too. Going to finish Summer Surgery and starting a new chapter for Stranded with Dinosaurs. All right, well enjoy :)
Chapter 1 : What Makes You
I'm not really sure what makes people who they are. Or what makes people say the things they say. Or what makes people love the people they love.
I love my sister. She's younger than me. That's not why I love her though. My mom told me once that because I was older than my sister she looks up to me, and I need to be careful with what I do and what I say, so she doesn't pick up on bad habits. So if I ever have another bug picnic in the backyard I need to tell her specifically not to eat the bugs. The worms are only pretend pasta and the rollie-pollies are not black beans for the tortillas. Then again, I think ten years of growth and experience might have taught her that.
So age has to be involved when it comes to feelings for people and reasoning for things. But what happens if I don't admire all of the people that are older than me? Or what happens if I admire some of the people that are older than me, but I don't want to be like them? That'd be totally weird if I did. You go girl Kim Kardashian, but I'm confident in saying I won't be making a video like that anytime soon. Let's just say the Charter bundle my parents bought was a little…shocking. Channel surfing is now scratched off of my list of hobbies. Maybe it cost extra for parental control. And whose idea was it to name a movie 'The Hills Have Thighs'. Totally not what I was expecting it to be. I probably would have watched it if I wasn't worried someone would have walked in the room and caught me. That would have been stressful. I'm sure my sister would have been too oblivious to notice at first and I probably could have gotten away with it and changed the channel quickly. But my dad. Oh God. He would have pretended not to see anything, I would have quickly changed the channel, and then he would have sat on the opposite couch and pretended like nothing happened by striking up a pointless and random conversation. But if my mom would have walked in. Terrifying. I don't even want to think about it…
There's no way I want to grow up to be like my parents. They're good parents, but my mom smokes like a chimney and my dad laughs at things that aren't even funny. And it's not a normal laugh that makes others want to laugh along with him. It's completely opposite of contagious. One second it's dead silent and the only thing you can hear is your ears trying to find something to listen to, and then the next second he's laughing like I imagine an elephant would laugh. It's kind of scary. Don't get me wrong though, because that's probably the only semi-negative quality he has.
Anyway, my sister admires me yes, but she's nothing like me. So admiring someone doesn't mean that you do what they do and say what they say. I can watch the same movie every night, but she can't watch a movie more than once. Her room looks like it exploded and I have to keep my room clean or I'll lose things. I have a dresser with three small drawers in the middle. At first I thought about just using each drawer for a different type of underwear, but then I only ended up having two types of underwear. So then I just organized my undergarments by color. Light. Medium. Dark. My sister keeps her underwear and bras on her floor. She also has two super good friends and I have a whole bunch of people I know. I think it'd be weird to have a best friend. How would a best friend be any different from the other friends I already have? Do I have to tell them secrets?
I don't have secrets.
I'm pretty sure I would just tell people whatever they asked, if they asked.
As for other family that I could admire, there really isn't any. They live out of town and I haven't seen my grandparents, aunts, and uncles in over ten years. My aunt invited me to visit during the summer in a birthday card, but I couldn't bring myself to show my mom the invitation. It'd be awkward. My aunt is like a complete stranger to me. What would we have even talked about? Instead I stayed in town, hung out with friends and worked.
"Hey." Someone tapped my shoulder.
The interruption scared the shit out of me. I whipped around so quickly that the gallon of milk I had been clutching to my chest slipped out from my arms like a bar of soap.
When it hit the ground, it looked like the milk was vomiting. The cap shot off and nearly half of the gallon exploded onto my boots and onto the bare toes and flip-flops of someone standing near me.
"Oh my God." I gasped and dropped to my knees. I reached for the milk, but when I tried to stand it up, it sloshed and more milk slipped through a crack near the handle.
My knees started to get cold. The milk was already soaking through my sweats. For a second I considered sitting on the milk with my butt and letting my pants soak up the rest of the puddle, but I don't think my sweats could hold that much liquid. And then I'd get milk in my car and it would rot my seat. It would rot just like it had done when I left a bowl of milk under my bed for Lord Tubbington and he spilt it. And then my room had started to smell like tuna, because I had never gotten the chance to sneak the bowl out of my room without someone noticing.
I blamed it on my sister, because milk gives Lord Tubbington the runs and my mom told me to stop feeding it to him. How else am I supposed to get him in the room when I want to watch a different TV show then my mom, and they're all out in the living room eating spaghetti? But I lie bad. And my sister is lactose intolerant. So it couldn't have been her bowl of cereal in my room, under my bed.
As I stood up I craned my neck to see whose feet I had covered in milk. A girl was staring at me. Her eyebrows were cocked just like Tina's get when I say something without first explaining myself. Except this girl wasn't Asian. I glanced back down at the girl's feet…They were drenched. She needed a towel. I looked around for a second, then remembered grocery stores don't usually hang spare towels in random places. I'd have offered to sit on her feet and let my sweats soak up the milk, but I didn't do that for obvious reasons.
But now that I was standing, the milk that had already soaked into my sweats was starting to drip down my shins and pool at the part of my sweats where they had been stuffed into my boots.
Stupid rain boots are useless.
"I'm so sorry." I looked up from my milk-stained sweats and made eye contact with the girl. I couldn't tell if she was annoyed, sad, or angry. Now both of her eyebrows were lifted and wrinkling her forehead.
I glanced back down at her feet just to gawk at how much milk she was standing in, and as my eyes ran back up her body, they dragged across a cheerleading uniform. "You're a cheerleader?" I asked once I made eye contact again. Her eyes were so pretty. Bright and dark at the same time. People have told me that I have pretty eyes, but she has me beat by a long shot.
"Yeah." Finally she smiled. Or maybe it was a smirk. "Sort of." Was that sarcasm?I can never tell.
I was a little startled when she answered. I had wanted to only think the question, but I guess I actually had said it.
"Shit Fabray." A guy walked up next to us. He worked here. He had an apron on and one of those silly green poloshirts that make all the employees look like they belong to some sort of golf-worshipping clan. Then they stock shelves and purposely stand in front of the ketchup when you need to grab it, or put their cart of yogurt in front of the yogurt cooler so you're not sure whether to grab the yogurt from the cart or from the fridge behind it.
Except this guy had a mohawk, so maybe he wasn't as weird as the rest of the clan. He looked like he would at least step back from the ketchup so there wasn't an awkward pause and an awkward 'excuse me'. "What'd you do?" His attention and eyes remained on the blonde cheerleader. Was she going to get in trouble? Was he going to kick her out? Make her pay for the milk?
I looked down at the puddle.
"I'm so sorry. I dropped it on accident. It was slippery." I immediately jumped in and spoke up. I didn't want him thinking she dropped it. She was probably already mad enough that I got milk all over her.
I could feel my face heating up. From embarrassment. From the thought of getting in trouble. From him calling me stupid or clumsy or something like that. At least the store wasn't busy, and at least the only people in sight were right in front of me and had already seen what I had done.
The guy with the mohawk shot his fist up to his mouth and laughed.
"Knock it off Puck." The girl slapped his shoulder.
He stopped laughing right away, but pinched his lips and crossed his arms. "Well you break it you buy it." His eyes trailed over my body.
I could feel my cheeks burn even brighter. In any other circumstance it would have looked as if he were checking me out, but I highly doubt that that's the case since I'm wearing milk covered sweats and rain boots. My sister told me I looked like I was going to smash cranberries as I was walking out the front door. And to make things even worse I neglected to fix my hair so I at least had a normal ponytail.
My mom had asked me to run to the store right when I had finished getting ready for bed. Now I could feel the weight of the bun bobbing at the top of my head. Sumo-hair. It drives me insane when my hair touches my neck when I'm trying to go to sleep.
"Uhm. Okay." I looked down at the magazine in my hands. I had planned on buying three things, and now that I had to pay for two milks, I wouldn't be able to afford the magazine. That's okay though. I get paid soon so I could get the magazine after my paycheck. Except I'm going to be super bored on break at work tomorrow.
I stepped toward the magazine rack I had grabbed the magazine from and set it back into its spot.
When I turned back to the spilled milk, the guy (Puck?) was setting up a wet floor sign and the girl was taking a step back from the slowly growing puddle. Had he called her Fabray? That's a weird name. Puck's a weird name too.
She looked up at me. "It's your turn." She gestured to the open check out counter with a nod of her head. That's when I noticed her hands were full. Alcohol? She was buying beer? But she's a cheerleader.
I turned toward the check out counter before she caught me trying to analyze her and her ability to buy beer. But it was my turn. The cashier had been staring at me, but when I looked at him he pretended to be looking at a crossword in front of him.
They were so lucky their boss let them do crosswords during work. But I guess it's almost midnight, and kind of slow right now. At my job we can't read anything or even have our phones out around customers. But it's a little busier at Shuester's than it is here and I doubt I would even have time to do a crossword at work.
"You can go." I stepped back. "I need to get another milk."
I glanced again at the puddle. That mohawk guy was still standing by it. My face started to burn again. I could feel my cheeks begin to flush and heat lick behind my ears. Nineteen-year old girls aren't supposed to drop milk at the grocery store. Five year olds are. And old ladies who open the cooler door when the milk is leaning against the glass and not sitting in its spot properly. I hate when I do stupid things. If Tina were here at least she'd laugh at me or something. Then maybe I wouldn't be standing here like a complete moron.
"Puck," the girl snapped her head toward the guy. "Grab her another milk." She turned to me. "And don't listen to him. You don't have to pay for it. He's just being stupid."
I wasn't sure how to respond. I just stared at her, waiting to see if she was serious.
"Hey Finn." Puck looked up at the boy behind the register. I looked up at the cashier and he set down his crossword. "Ring her up for a gallon of milk. I'll be right back."
The cashier nodded, gave a dorky smile towards me, and pushed a few buttons on the register. He pushed the buttons almost like he was expecting a gumball to roll out after he finished.
I stepped towards him. It kind of felt like I was walking up in front of a classroom full of students and the teacher was going to pants me in front of everyone. Except I was just walking up to a check-out counter and the only person looking at me, and the only person who I'd seen in the store besides the employees, was the Fabray girl.
The cashier was tall. I'm a little taller for a girl, but he's definitely a lot taller for a boy. Cute though. In a shy kind of dorky way.
I glanced back at the girl just as she stepped over the puddle and moved closer to me. She set her six-pack of beer on the counter and I snapped my attention away again, before she noticed me staring. My face was still burning and I wanted to say thanks to her, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to or if I'd look stupid for saying thank you.
"Finn hand me a paper towel." She mumbled.
I peeked to my left and saw her tapping and shaking her feet against the linoleum floor.
"Yeah. Of course." He ducked under and into the weird little cashier cove he was in and popped back up with a roll of paper towels. He extended the roll in front of my face and she snatched it from him.
Again from the corner of my eye I watched her tear a few sheets of the towel off, set the roll next to her beer, and lift her feet to wipe them off.
"You're not allergic to milk are you?" The thought triggered faster than I could wake up from a bad nightmare.
She took a second to answer and I started to think she hadn't heard me. But she answered as stood straight up and finished drying off her feet. "No." She hushed her answer and I swear I could almost hear a subtle laugh behind her answer.
I snapped my attention back to the cashier when I saw a smirk start to form on her lips.
"Oh wait," she spoke again. She grabbed for the magazine I had set back on the rack and handed it to me. "Don't forget this."
"Thanks." I took it and handed it to the cashier. "This and…" I held up my palm and read the words scribbled across my hand, "Basic Menthol Light 100's."
He looked up from the magazine I'd handed him like I'd said something I wasn't supposed to. "You smoke?"
I held my palm back in front of me. "Basic Menthol Light 100's." I read the purple gel ink for a second time.
"Are you even old enough to buy cigarettes." The cashier questioned me. His eyebrow rose with the corner of his mouth.
I dug into my sweatpants pocket. My fingers brushed damp, milk coated, fabric at the bottom of my pocket before I pulled out my I.D. and handed it to him.
He started to read over my I.D. It looked like he didn't even know what he was looking for or how to tell how old I was. Finally he handed it back. "All right, Brittany." He smiled. "You know you kind of look like you're buying it for a friend."
"Oh, I'm not." I shook my head.
He pinched his lips and held them to one side of his mouth. "Well, I'll be right back. The cigarettes are up at customer service." He stepped away from the check out counter and headed in the opposite direction that Puck guy had gone.
He left me alone. With her. With the cheerleader and her ruined flip-flops. I had been a cheerleader in high school. I know how they are. I know how they think, what they say when their friends aren't around, and worse, what they say when their friends are around. And seeing as how there's only one high school within a few hundred miles of here I don't want her somehow finding out she goes to school with my sister.
I turned toward her before she had a chance to say something to me. "I can get you a new pair of flip flops. My boss owns a shoe store across from where I work. He usually gives me a discount on stuff." And I had a gift card, but she doesn't need to know that. It doesn't count as buying something for someone if you get it for them with a gift card.
"Does he?" She responded. That smirk returned.
"Ye-ah…" I spoke in between a gulp so the word broke as I said it. "I really am sorry. If you want to meet me on my break tomorrow. Or whenever."
"You work at Shuester's?" Her smirk grew.
"Yeah." I was a little taken aback, but thankful I hadn't stuttered when I had said yeah this time. How'd she know that I worked there? Maybe she'd seen me before. "On Larson Street. You know where it is?"
"Definitely. I've been there a few times." She said. Her smirk was starting to unnerve me. I probably had milk on my face. Or worse, on my shirt and it was now see-through. I stole a glance at my shirt…no milk. Good. "When's you're break?"
"One." I answered quickly.
The cashier returned. "Here's your smokes. Better tuck those in your pockets before Puck returns with your milk or he'll make a comment about smoking menthols," he said and cringed his teeth in a way that said he was completely serious, but trying to play it off as teasing me.
I took the cigarettes and did as he said. I stuffed them into my pocket, and for the second time brushed my fingers against the bottom of my milk soaked pocket.
"Oh come on." The blonde scoffed. I turned to her and saw her roll her eyes. "You guys are ridiculous. Especially Puck. At least they smell good." She pointed to my pocket when she said they. "Better than those trashcan things he smokes."
Was she standing up for me? I barely know her. Who knew all you had to do was spill milk all over someone and they'd support cigarettes. It was weird. Being in the middle of their conversation. Or argument. Or random statements. Whatever they were. Did they forget I had a sumo bun and rain boots?
"Who smokes what?" Puck returned. He nearly dropped the carton of milk on the counter and looked to the girl. He was now standing inches from me. I could smell his cologne trying to cover up the cigarettes she must have been talking about. They didn't stink that bad…I guess.
"You and your nasty little cigarettes."
"Hey babe. I'm not picky." He defended himself. Suddenly I felt less like a part of the conversation and more like they were talking about things only a group of friends could understand. Not things a weird ass girl in the grocery store could understand. "If it's cheap then I'm whatever about it. Besides I'm not the only one who smokes. You have no problem hanging with Santana."
I turned back to the cashier and watched as he dragged the gallon of milk over the scanner. Now that they were talking about someone else, I felt even more like a creepy eavesdropper.
"First of all, she's not a chain smoker like you are." The girl behind me continued. I handed the cashier a ten-dollar bill. He kept smiling at me, tight lipped and cheeks lifted. It was kind of cute. He was kind of cute. "And she smokes things that smell good." The cashier handed me a few coins as my change. I held my hand like a bowl as he poured the pennies and nickels into my palms. "And second, no, you're not picky. I think you're right when you use the words cheap and whatever."
"Here's your receipt." I glanced at his nametag as Finn handed me the receipt. That girl had called him that before like she had known him. So had that Puck mohawk guy. At least Finn wasn't involved in their conversation, and as awkward as his staring is, it's better than him ignoring me and talking about cigarettes.
"Did you just defend and talk shit about Santana at the same time?" Puck questioned.
I glanced back at the two. At the girl. I was right. All cheerleaders were the same. "So I'll see you tomorrow at one?" I confirmed with her and interrupted their argument.
Her eyes drifted toward me. She looked a little dazed, as if she had forgotten I was there. My cheeks started to heat up again.
"Oh," she nodded her head. "Yes." Her smile returned. This time it was less of a smirk. "What'd you say her name was again Finn?" The girl peeked over my shoulder at the lanky cashier.
"Brittany." He and I had said in unison.
Her chest rose with a short laugh as her eyes moved between the cashier and me. Her smile grew. "I'll see you tomorrow Brittany. Should be fun."
"Okie do…" I stopped myself. "Okay." I grabbed the milk and magazine, hugged them to my chest, smiled, and then scurried away.
We were all sitting in a booth. The four of us. In one of those horseshoe shaped booths. The ones where everyone had to scoot in and around into their spot and nobody could get out to go to the bathroom without making literally everyone get out before them.
We were folding napkins for the evening dinner service. It was one of those rare times when all four of us girls were actually working at the same time. Usually someone was on break, or came in late, but seeing as how this was the first weekend of the summer, Will wanted everything to be perfect. Tonight was going to be busy.
Shuester's is hard to describe. People ask where I work. That's the easy question. Then they ask what I do, and that's a little more difficult to answer. I kind of do a little of everything. Fold napkins. Serve food. Sometimes I hostess. I have only been the hostess twice. I'm not really sure I like doing that. I have to stand by myself and it gets a little lonely and I get fidgety. And then Will has to tells me to stop wandering back to the kitchen to sneak fries or back to the bar to chat with the other girls, and to stay at my podium. If I'm not at my podium nobody will know where to sit.
Oh, and sometimes I work at the bar. Actually, I usually work at the bar. That's fun. Confusing and overwhelming when it's busy, but I like it. People leave huge tips and pouring draft is easy as long the glass is tilted the right way. And the mixed drinks are kind of fun to learn and if I mess them up it's not like the customer will really say anything the majority of the time. How do they know how a kamikaze is supposed to taste?
And I don't mind folding napkins either. We're opening at eleven for lunch, even though I've been here since eight, and there has to be a perfectly folded cloth napkin at each place setting.
The employees get here at eight to clean and prep. We open for lunch, and then set up for dinner during the slow hours. Then at about nine when dinner slows down, the bar picks up and on the weekends we stay open and insanely busy until around three in the morning.
"You're folding them the wrong way Brittany." Rachel spoke. I looked up and across the table at her. Her hair was in a lose braid and she was wearing the exact red flannel shirt I was wearing.
Friday and Saturday nights we do themes. It's the best job ever. Not only do I get to dress up, but Will pays for all of it. It's awesome.
I inspected my napkin. I didn't think there was a wrong way to fold it. Couldn't you just turn it the other direction if it was folded wrong?
"When it points to the left the flap needs to go over the clasp, not under." She tried to explain, but I still didn't see how I could possibly have done it wrong. It's just a napkin…
"Oh hush Rachel." Mercedes tossed her folded napkin into the middle of the table. "There's not a wrong way."
I looked up at her. She had already put her cowboy hat on. I still hadn't even braided my hair. I didn't even know how to braid my hair. I'm sure if I tried and tried and tried I could kind of make it look like a braid, but it's way easier to just have a bun or a ponytail or wear it down. My mom used to braid my hair every night when I was in grade school before I went to bed and I'd wear it to school like that, or she'd braid it before my motocross races, but I feel kind of weird and childish asking her to braid it when I'm not even in high school anymore. But that's why I never learned. She just used to do it for me.
"There is a wrong way. Will specifically asked us to do it this way. We might as well just clump them up and toss them on the tables like they're already dirty." Rachel scoffed and continued to play with her own napkin. "I've shown you how to do it countless times Brittany…" She trailed off.
"Anyways," Mercedes looked away from Rachel and to me. "Just tuck the left side before the right side after you fold it the first time." She spoke only to me.
I nodded in understanding and slowly slid my wrongly folded napkin to the middle.
"You're not going to refold it?" Rachel stopped mid fold.
"It'll be like a special napkin. I've only folded two so it'll be like getting a golden ticket in Willy Wonka, except I'm pretty sure nobody will notice since the napkin looks exactly like the other ones and isn't gold."
Mercedes snorted her laugh and scooted an unfolded napkin towards me.
"Did you guys hear who's coming back?" Tina questioned as I started my third napkin. She was sitting next to me. The other two were across from us and on the other side of the horseshoe booth.
Fold in half. Tuck the right side. Now tuck the left.
"Oh my gosh, yes!" Mercedes gushed. "I can't believe it either. I thought those girls were gone for good. Does anybody even know why they left?"
"I thought they had been fired." Tina looked around the table at all of us. Then she lowered her voice. "Something about sleeping with a customer after he left a pretty large tip."
"Ha!" Mercedes' laugh filled the empty bar. "No. Well, I wouldn't put it past Hoe-Pez but that's unlikely."
What the hell were they talking about? I slowed my napkin folding, just so I didn't miss something.
"Mercedes it's that kind of name calling that got you suspended last year." Rachel placed yet another perfectly folded napkin in the middle.
"I went on vacation." Mercedes spoke so monotonically and deadpan that it kind of freaked me out a little. How could she go from laughing and rattling the bottles behind the bar, to being so serious and straight faced.
"Oh." Rachel nodded her head trying to dismiss the conversation and grabbed another napkin.
"But both of those girls are so loaded with money I don't even know why they're working here." Mercedes continued. "If my dad had that kind of money and I lived in a house half the size of either of those girls, I'd stay indoors all day and polish every expensive thing around me. That way when I had parties you all'd be jealous." She said jealous as if she were saying gelllllll-us. "Get my glam on."
"Why don't you just ask them why they left?" I asked. It seemed like a simple solution.
"No way," Tina answered. "They're all right sometimes. But it's not worth the hassle if you're not entirely sure your question won't piss them off."
"Oh I'm not scared of them." Mercedes' voice rose just a little.
"I'm not saying that." Tina responded, then looked back to me. "Just be careful. They're not exactly the nicest girls you'll ever meet."
"Can we please stop talking about them?" Mercedes made it a point to let everyone see just how annoyed she was. She shifted in the booth and dramatically flipped and folded her napkin.
"You're just mad because now you're going to lose some of your numbers." Rachel shrugged. "Didn't Will cut two of your songs this weekend?"
My eyes nearly popped out of my head. Did she really just say that? I held my breath and waited for Mercedes to go all she-hulk and flip the table.
Mercedes let out a heavy sigh. "As much as I hate to admit it, you're right." She looked to the brunette sitting right next to her. "We all lost some stage time."
I didn't really see why they cared. It's not like they got paid more money to sing. Maybe bigger tips if they caught the attention of a few of the customers and then went back to the bar to serve drinks, but that's it. It's not like they set up an empty guitar case and sang on the stage.
They only sang songs during the busy nights. It was what Shuester's was known for. The Troubletones. Lame name yes, but it's what the local newspaper started calling the girls after a few extraordinary performances and a few sketchy rumors. That and it was known for playing pretty decent music the rest of the time. At least, that's what I've heard.
There were only two other bars in town. A gay bar, and a strange little Irish pub that nobody went to because awhile back a few customers got food poisoning from something called bangers and mash. I blame the customers. They should have known better than to eat something with the word bangers in it.
"I don't really mind." Tina reached for another napkin. "I only lost one song. Then again, I only had two songs in the first place. But it'll be nice to have the extra help. It was a little too busy for just us girls. And they're quick."
Maybe they all accepted me right away, because I didn't steal any of their stage time. I'm pretty sure I'd barf and faint at the same time if I were to sing on stage. Especially if it were in front of people.
"Tina has a point." Rachel added. "I worked with both girls last night. Aside from one of them slipping out to the store in the middle of our costume fitting, everything seemed to run smoothly."
Will walked up. Sweater-vest. Macaroni hair. Those words always came to mind whenever I saw him, right when I saw him. It's the only thing I could think about during my interview with him. I was just thankful that I had to ask him to repeat only one of the questions. After the first time I asked him I made it a point to pay attention.
"Girls." He clapped his hands together and rubbed them. "You excited for tonight?"
Rachel smiled and nodded vigorously. "Yes we are. In fact I've altered a few chords in the number I'm singing tonight. I need to run through it with you as soon as you're available."
"Uhm." He examined the napkins and then turned towards the stage that was tucked in the back corner of the bar. It was hidden right behind the dance floor. "I'm free now. And I think Brad just pulled in."
"Wonderful." Rachel scooted out of the booth and stood up. "After running through it a few times I found the music for the verses to sound a tad uninspired." She linked her arm around Will's elbow and started to nearly drag him toward the stage. Her voice died down the farther she got away. "I didn't want opening weekend to….-"
"Finally." Mercedes sighed and tossed yet another napkin into the middle of the table. "I love the girl, but only in very tiny doses."
Tina agreed. "She's-"
But Tina was cut off by the echo of Will's voice. We all shot our attention toward the stage. He was talking to us through the microphone. "Do you three want to take a break from the folding and help the ladies out back?" He smiled. "Thanks."
Rachel took the microphone from him and then flicked her wrists and pointed for him to get off the stage and sit in a nearby table.
"Oh sweet baby Jesus." Mercedes groaned and scooted herself out of the booth. "This should be fun."
Tina crawled out of the booth after Mercedes and I followed the two of them through the bar main floor. We weaved around the bar's counter, headed back into the kitchen, and as we past our break room I told the girls to wait a second so I could grab my water. While I dug through my purse to find the bottle, they whispered and cautiously complained about the two girls that were starting up again tonight. Could they both really be that awful?
"Come on Brittany." Mercedes tried to hurry me. "The sooner we get this over with the better."
"Get what over with?" I stood up and shook the bottle of water in my hand like it was some kind of trophy. They didn't care though. It only mattered to me that I'd found my water.
"Introducing you." She stepped into the break room and linked her arm through my elbow just like Rachel had done to Will moments ago.
I switched my water into my free hand. It took a few tries to unscrew the cap with Mercedes clutching onto my other arm, but I eventually got it.
We again were weaving through the back kitchen and towards the loading room. It was a huge room with huge garage doors so the semi trucks could drop off food, beer, or whatever Will had decided to order. The room kind of reminded me of an empty warehouse. A tiny warehouse, but it was so very empty, barren, and the concrete walls and floor always made it way chillier than any other place in the bar.
"Remember when Quinn first met me. She asked why Asians were taking away all the jobs in America and bitched until Will gave back one of her plentiful solos that he had already promised me. I didn't even get to sing until a weekend she called in sick." Tina now whispered. "She wasn't even sick."
Our footsteps echoed through the loading room. The garage door was completely open and the sun was blinding. I'd almost forgotten it was the beginning of summer since we'd been cooped up inside all day.
"There you are." A female's voice snapped at us. Okay, so maybe they were right about her being a bit snappy and bitchy. She was outside and leaning into the back of a small truck. It looked like a tiny baby semi.
I lifted my water bottle to my lips so I could finish off the rest of it. My mouth was full and I was half way through a swallow when the girl leaned out of the truck.
My throat stopped working. It's because I had tried to gasp, but instead swallowed the majority of the water in my cheeks down the wrong pipe. I opened my mouth to get air, but ended up coughing and spewing the rest of the water that wasn't stuck in my throat everywhere.
I spun away from everyone so my back was to them. Hacks consumed my body. My chest trembled and shuddered as I tried to breathe. I'm going to die…Then I remembered that I'd choked on a jawbreaker before and lived, so there's no way water is more dangerous if I'm not actually in an ocean.
Tina's hand started to pat my back. How wonderful. How humiliating. Why did it have to be her and why did I decide to have water in my mouth at the exact moment I walked out? It's not bad enough that I dropped an entire gallon of milk all over her feet, but now she'll think I can't even carry liquid without dropping it, let alone drink it without choking on it.
I moved the crook of my elbow up to my mouth and coughed into it. The water was out of my throat. It'd been out of my throat quite a few deafening coughs ago. Now I was just trying to stop the irritated itch in my throat. My eyes were filling and overfilling with tears. My nose was on fire. There could possibly still be water in my nose. And every time I took in a gasp of air it felt like swallowing sandpaper.
"Geez. Do I look that bad?" The female voice teased.
I spun around quickly to deny and assure her that that wasn't the reason I was incapable of acting normal and that she didn't look bad. Tina stepped away from patting my back and I glanced to her and Mercedes. They looked half amused, half apologetic as if they knew what was about to happen, yet had no intentions of stopping it. It looked as if they were watching a train wreck. But not a normal train wreck. A train wreck where something humiliating happens at the end. Like the conductor finds out someone stuck butterfly stickers all over his back while he wasn't looking but only after he walked in front of everyone.
I shook my head no, coughed, and made eye contact. For the second time in less than twenty-four hours I was taken aback by how pretty her eyes were. She wasn't the girl they were talking about was she? How could anybody with such pretty eyes be the slightest bit mean?
She stepped toward me with a medium sized brown fabric bag in her hands. It was the bag that the cleaners used to put our clean bar towels in. "Brittany right?" She pushed the bag towards me and didn't step back until I grabbed it from her.
I nodded my head and held back another cough that was begging to slip up from my throat.
"I'm Quinn." She stepped back toward the truck.
I hugged the bag to my chest, just like I'd hugged the gallon of milk and magazine to my chest the night before, and nodded my head again. I didn't know what to say. What should you say to someone in this situation? Should I ask her how her feet are? "How are your feet?" The words slipped past my lips before I could stop them.
She didn't hesitate to answer. "Better." She pulled out another brown bag and handed it to Mercedes. Both Mercedes and Tina looked lost. Their mouths were gaping and their eyebrows were hitched. "I wore sneakers today just in case."
I looked down at her shoes. She was wearing sneakers. White ones with black-lacey shoelaces.
She knew last night. That's why she was smirking when I told her where I worked.
"I think I'm working in the bar with you right." She pulled out yet another duffle bag and walked towards Tina. "We're still getting shoes on your break right?" Her eyes shot over to me.
Green. Her eyes were so green. I just nodded again. It's best to keep quiet in these kind of situations so I don't blurt something embarrassing or bizarre.
"That's perfect actually. I need some heels for tonight." Quinn headed back to the truck. She wasn't wearing her cowboy stuff yet. She also wasn't wearing a cheerleading uniform. Not that I expected her to just wear it wherever she went, but since when can high school kids work at a bar?
"Wait." Mercedes finally shook herself out of her trance. "You two know each other. How come you didn't say anything earlier Brittany?"
I just shrugged.
"We met last night." Quinn answered for me. She grunted and leaned further into the back of the truck. "At the grocery store." Her voice echoed inside the trailer.
"I got my milk on her." I was finally able to speak. Or the words forced themselves out. I'm not sure which.
Everyone snapped their eyes in my direction. Everyone that wasn't Quinn, because she was still straining to reach another bag from the towel truck. Tina raised her eyebrows and I immediately knew that I needed further explanation.
I shifted the brown bag that was in my arms and got ready to explain, but Mercedes spoke before I had a chance. "So where's Satan's spawn?"
"Yes, where is Santana?" Rachel marched outside and bumped into my shoulder. "She needs to figure out what song she's singing tonight so I can prepare properly."
"Please tell me that's not who I think it is…?" Quinn groaned from inside the truck's trailer. I could feel the disappointment in the way she spoke. She used a tone that only someone who had met Rachel before would use.
I grew up with Rachel. It was awful. Well, it was sometimes awful. Sometimes she's okay to be around, but she usually makes me feel stupid and she doesn't even have to call me stupid to do so. But sometimes she's nice.
"Quinn." Rachel greeted and folded her arms across her chest. I could swear she even lifted her nose in the air.
"Rachel." Quinn matched her exact tone and way of speaking. It wasn't to assert her dominance or anything like that. It was more a way of mocking her.
"Is Santana out here with you?" Rachel repeated the question. "Will said both of you were back here. So where is she?" Rachel looked around for a second before she continued. "I have this fear of her just somehow appearing and then shanking me with a shiv, because she was waiting for me to imply something bad about her."
"Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice." I couldn't help but smile as the name came out loud and disjointed. I looked first to Rachel who I had visibly startled. She had her palm pressed to her chest. "Clearly she's not out here, or she would have been forced to show herself." I continued with the joke, seeing as how nobody seemed to catch on.
I thought it was funny.
Finally I saw Tina and Mercedes exchange a soft smile.
"Bathroom." Quinn stepped towards us with the final laundry bag clutched to her own chest.
Instead of pausing in front of us and talking, she brushed right by us and straight towards the open garage door. We all skittered to follow her back into the loading room. Me, Rachel, Mercedes, and then Tina.
"Come on little duckies." I turned back to steal a glance at Rachel and smiled as our line weaved through the kitchen. I didn't turn and look forward until she returned the smile.
Rachel may be a total prude, entirely controlling, bossy, and high maintenance, but she still needs someone to cheer her up. She needs someone to acknowledge her. To let her know she's there, and that at least someone (even if that someone is just me) notices when she's stressed out. It's weird that a person as smart and as demanding as Rachel can't even see herself. She's forceful with her personality, because she thinks people don't see her, when if fact she's usually the first one people notice when they walk in a room.
I told her she was an ox and a moron once. I thought I understood the meaning, but she still got offended I think, because she just stormed off. But I only meant that she makes her personality so big and so noticeable that people are overwhelmed by it and don't even notice her at all. All they see is this huge annoying pink screaming cat. Or maybe that's just her being ironic. I'll have to ask someone what the difference is.
But I can't even imagine her nerves right now. Rachel's a perfectionist. When I forgot my shoes one night she begged me to wear her spare boots, because she wanted our shoes to match since we were both serving on the floor. So I suffered three hours of horrible foot cramping and pretended to be a Chinese foot binding woman, just so she would stop freaking out. But I'd rather just go along with what she asks, than cause a problem, because watching her sing that night and watching the audience give her a standing ovation that night was well worth a night's worth of foot pain.
It must drive her insane how laid back and careless we are sometimes. She thinks thatother people singing before her, or the way the napkins are folded, or the clothes she and everyone else are wearing have something to do with the way she sings. It is completely silly. There's no way I can hear Tina's song she already finished singing when Rachel is on stage. And there's no way I am upset about finding a backwards napkin when all I can think about is how amazing her voice sounds. I'm not even sure what makes her think that she needs to be that in control of her life. Thinking about it gives me a headache.
We passed the break room. Quinn spoke again. "Santana got a phone call and just went inside." I could sense a bit of annoyance in her voice. That annoyance was confirmed with her next statement. "She left me to do all the work. It was probably just a confirmation for a nail appointment or something stupid."
"If she left this bar I vote we all ostracize her. I,…-we, can't afford to all work around her schedule and wait for her to be ready." Rachel spoke from behind me.
Nobody answered her. I thought about answering, but all I could think about was Beetlejuice apparating like Harry Potter and poking me in the belly with a razor he'd taped on the end of his wand.
"So Brittany…" Quinn spoke from the front of our line. She pushed open the door that led into the bar, but only held it open with her foot until I had kicked it further open for Rachel to catch. Quinn set her bag on the bar counter. "How long have you worked here? You must have started right after I left?"
I hefted my laundry bag next to hers. "Will hired me for seasonal work, and then just ended up keeping me."
"Yeah because the customers are like in love with you." Mercedes laughed as she set her bag next to me. "That homeless guy who sleeps outside the library comes in every night she works and insists she always brings him his drinks. He'll bark if someone else talks to him."
"Patches?" Quinn laughed. "Is that what he spends his panhandling money on?"
"What does he even talk to you about?" Tina rounded the bar and took a seat in one of the stools.
"I don't know." I tried to remember our last conversation. "Usually I can't hear him over the music. I just nod and smile. Sometimes I say something random if it looks like he's waiting for a response. It depends on the night I guess. Oh!" I remembered something he had said. "He asked me my name once, but then insisted that I let him call me Mine. Then we talked about Finding Nemoand seagulls." I reached for my scrunched water bottle I had set next to the laundry bag. "He hasn't seen it though and I told him that he'd totally fall in love with it and that fish don't have homes either, because their home is the ocean. He related and then reminisced."
"Oh my wow." Quinn laughed. "You are perfect. This place could have used you a long time ago."
"Thanks." I clasped my hands and twisted my hips back and forth. She's definitely nice. The other girls must be confused. "I thought you were a cheerleader?" I finally had the chance to figure out what the hell was going on, and how she could possibly be in high school and working here at the same time?
"Costume for here." She smiled with her admission.
Duh…That was a dumb question.
All five of us talked for a while. It was fun. I was surprised Will let us chat for so long, but we had an hour before we opened and there wasn't really anything left to do. Even Rachel talked and didn't repel us with the mere sound of her voice. Of course she talked about her song, but she also asked Quinn what she had planned on singing. You Keep Me Hangin' On.
Mercedes asked Quinn where she had been. They all acted shocked when she said she hadn't moved somewhere with that Santana chick and that she had just spent a few months in Paris with her parents. I guess it was just a coincidence they had both been gone the same amount of time. That made sense.
I tried to stay as long as possible. I wanted to sit and gossip. I liked how they all smiled at me. I especially liked how they all looked at me, because Quinn knew me and was being nice after they had all talked about how awful she was. But I had to pee.
"Be right back." I interrupted Tina's question to Quinn and darted towards the bathroom.
Instead of heading into the back and towards the employee bathroom, I headed for the customer bathroom. It always smelled good in there, and since there wasn't any customers yet it didn't really matter.
I power walked up and past Will's chair near the stage.
"Brittany!" He called toward me.
I stopped, spun, and clenched ever muscle in my lower body. "Yeah?"
"When you head back to the bar I need to take inventory of the alcohol. And I'll need you to bring out some of the bottles from the back. Southern Comfort. They need to be chilled for tonight."
"Cowboy night." I responded. "Can do." I spun back towards the bathroom and raced off before he could ask me something else. I can always talk to him when I come back out.
Instead of pushing the door with my hands, I just ran into it with my shoulder. The door opened and froze for a second just before it started to ease back shut.
"No Papa." Someone's voice filled the bathroom. But it was soft and swelling. Like a whisper that refused to keep quiet.
"Are you sure I can't just-," The voice stopped mid sentence. I thought she had noticed me and I'd been caught, until she continued to speak. "When do you have the day off? Can you fly me up there?"
The tone in her words was hypnotizing. I think that's what kept me from sneaking back out of the bathroom and away from the possibility of being caught listening in on her conversation. Her obviously private conversation, since she was hidden away in the farthest stall in the bathroom and talking so very softly.
How she spoke wasn't quite raspy. It was warm. Warm like a duvet that you fold up next to the fire and then snuggle up in bed with. And kind of warm like peppermint, even though peppermint makes your mouth cool after you eat it. Things like voices are so incredible and sometimes when I find someone's voice that I like I ask them to tell stories and things like that just so I can see and watch them talk. Without even being able to see her, because she was in the farthest handicap stall, I already knew she was one of those people I'd want to watch talk.
"Sorry papa." She paused. Her words husked, kissed, and filled the bathroom. "I'm not begging no." She laughed.
I didn't like the way she had laughed though. It was forced. Rehearsed. Embarrassed.
I needed to leave before she walked out.
And then she walked out. She walked up to the mirror, but didn't look in my direction. She just looked at her reflection.
The first thing I noticed was her outfit. Red flannel shirt, just like me. And then I saw a black cowboy hat on the sink. I reached for the string around my neck and adjusted it. My own cowboy hat shifted and ruffled my hair as I played with the string.
I looked at her reflection in the farthest mirror. She was darker. Not Mercedes dark though. Hispanic. Her hair, like mine, wasn't braided yet either, but it was wavy and looked like she had had it braided and it had busted loose.
A sob broke through her small body. She really wasn't that small, but the way she cried made her look so tiny and fragile. She was able to catch her crying and swallow it. "S-sorry." She didn't bother being delicate and careful as she shoved her palm into her eye and smeared a few tears away. Her hand shook as it caught the tears on her cheeks. "No, I know I'm overreacting Papa."
When she had seen me in the mirror it felt like my stomach had switched places with my throat. The worst part was her reaction. I knew what it felt like to be caught. Vulnerable. It was awful. I was so stupid for not leaving sooner.
But she turned away from the mirror and towards the opposite wall so her back was to me. "Lo siento. Voy ir a trabajar ahora." She hung up her phone without saying bye.
The next few seconds were awkward. I was waiting for her to yell at me. Maybe punch me. This had to be Santana. The other girl. I really didn't think some customer just happened to sneak into the bar before we opened and just happened to be wearing a cowgirl outfit.
Then she did something I never ever ever ever expected to happen. She started crying again, but didn't stop. It was silent and smothered. She crossed her arms, hugged her body, and turned and stepped into the corner of the bathroom.
She was crying her heart out.
What could possibly make someone so sad?
Maybe I was imagining this. Aren't mean girls supposed to be mean?
Maybe I should have left.
Crying alone was sad and it hurt.
I wasn't sure what to say. I didn't have anything to say. I didn't know her. But even if I had known her it wouldn't have changed the situation and what I should have done about it.
I took a few steps towards her. My footsteps were deafening inside the bathroom. They sounded so out of place above her muffled cries.
I could tell she was trying to stop. It hurt me even more to watch that, but not like it was hurting her, I was sure. It was just hard to look at, because I could feel her humiliation. But it'd be worse if I left. We worked together. She'd see me later. I couldn't just abandon her, and let her walk up to me later after all of this. I couldn't let her make the decision of walking up to me later and pretending it hadn't happened or forcing an explanation. Of course I would wait for her to stop crying and walk out with her.
I perched myself on the sink next to her cowboy hat. I set it on my lap and started to fiddle with the brim. It looked way more expensive than mine. My hat was totally lame compared to this. Hers was all suede like and had a cool string.
I'm not sure how long I sat there. It couldn't have been as long as I thought. I'm pretty positive that people can't cry for hours on end without becoming dehydrated.
She was wiping her eyes again and her body wasn't shaking as much. That was a good sign.
I thought about saying something, but decided against it. Again, I didn't know her. I couldn't say something. I had no room or right to say something.
She cleared her throat and turned toward me. Her eyes immediately locked on the cowboy hat in my lap. Her eyes were puffy, bloodshot, and her makeup was a complete chaos.
I watched her approach the sink next to the one I was sitting on and lean into the mirror. "God…" She whispered and started to rub her thumb over her smeared mascara. "Just perfect."
I continued to wait. I watched her and was patient. Waiting is easier than people make it out to be. Most of the time you can just wait for things come. And if they don't, then that's okay because something else will probably come. So I just waited.
"How am I supposed to go out there now?" She mumbled, but I knew she was asking me and not just talking to herself.
My smile grew so big. I felt like such a dork for getting so excited about something like this. About waiting and letting her talk to me first, and letting her choose what to say. It was so much easier than forcing something.
"If it was 'raccoon night' instead of 'cowboy night' you could get away with it." I answered. I wasn't sure how loud to speak, so I spoke only loud enough for her to hear.
She laughed. Thank God. I figured she would, but still…what if she hadn't. It was usually pretty easy to judge someone's reaction, excluding this very recent incident where she had started sobbing.
"Yeah. You suggest raccoon night for next weekend and I'll make sure to call my father then." She whispered, but still didn't look at me. After she finished the sentence it looked like she was surprised she had said it. Not upset or embarrassed that she had said it. Just surprised.
"I'm Brittany." I held my hand out for her to shake. Cheesy I know, but it always felt weird just saying your name without including a handshake or a high five or something like that.
She laughed again. This laugh was so much better than the laugh I'd heard her give over the phone. It was warm just like her voice. Warmer actually. It made me laugh with her.
"Santana." She grabbed my hand and shook it. Her hand was smaller than mine. Most people's hands were. She pulled it away and leaned back towards the mirror. "Did they send you in here to get me? Bitchin to each other about me not working or some crap like that."
"No." I hopped down from the sink and set her cowboy hat down right where I had been sitting. "I came to pee."
I leapt toward a stall, squeezed myself between the door and the stall's wall, and clicked the lock shut. "So," I unbuttoned my jeans and wiggled them down. "Why'd you leave before?" The toilet was cold. "From working here. Where'd you go?" I could hear Tina's warning in the back of my mind, but it seemed completely ridiculous. Why would I need to be careful around her? I had never seen someone so broken before as I had just seen her. You don't need to be careful around broken people, because they're already being careful around you.
"I was living with my dad for awhile." She answered without hesitation. But I could feel how guarded her words were. I knew she didn't want to say them. "But I decided to move back." She did one of those awkward gulps. Kind of like the one I had done when I had been talking to Quinn the other night at the grocery store.
Quickly I changed the subject. I didn't like her feeling like she was obligated to answer me, because I had caught her crying.
I said the first thing that came to my mind, and since I was in the same area where I had seen something pretty horrific happen, it was super easy to think of something to say. "I was told not to pee in here because the customers puke sometimes. I didn't believe it until I saw some girl exorcist puking all over." I stood and the toilet flushed. Now that I thought about it, I should have used a toilet seat cover…No, the janitors cleaned the toilets. They weren't dirty yet. "Well, I didn't see her puking in this very stall since it's so tiny in here and there's no way I could've seen her with the door shut, but I saw her out there where you are. I walked in, saw a volcanic eruption from her not so volcanic mouth, and then quickly left before someone thought it was my job to clean it up."
"Yeah," She responded and even though I couldn't see her, I could hear her smile. She still sounded humiliated. Her words were on edge, begging to fall off that edge and into a very dark and hidden hole where they could never be found again.
I squeezed back out of the stall and walked toward the sink. "Worst experience of my life was when I got my hair caught in the vending machine trap door for like twenty minutes. It looked like I was trying to smuggle Cheez-Its." At the time that had definitely made me want to hide in a little dark hole until everyone had forgotten about it…
The bathroom door swung open and cracked against the wall. I jumped and Santana jumped along with me. The way I had jumped and the way my head had jerked toward the noise kind of hurt. It made my body instantly tender and sore.
Rachel was standing at the door and caught it with her palm as it swung back towards her. "Brittany there you are. And Santana." She looked at Santana and then slid her eyes to me. They way she looked between us and the way her eyes slid reminded me of how someone slides a typewriter back when they needed to write another line. Quick and frantic. "Brittany I figured since it was taking you so long that you were trying to do your braid. I can do it out here for you if you'd like." She stepped back and held the door open. "And Santana I need you to run through your song a few times."
"Stop trying to peep a look Berry. Shut the door. I'll be out when I'm done." Santana rolled her eyes and leaned back into the mirror. She had an eyeliner pencil in her hand and brought the tip of it up to her top lid.
Rachel was caught off guard. Which didn't make sense, because she and the rest of the girls made it a point to tell me just how bitchy Santana was. Why was Rachel acting all surprised when Santana said something like that to her? I guess her remark had kind of caught me off guard a little too though. I had figured the girls had been fibbing or confused when they had talked about Santana earlier. Maybe they weren't.
Rachel scoffed and stepped away from the door and back towards the bar. I didn't look back at Santana until the door had completely shut. She was still putting on her eye make up. The pencil rolled between her thumb and finger as she traced around her lashes. Her eyelashes reminded me of butterfly wings.
I liked looking at her. I could find something unique every two seconds. But I still watched her eyelashes. I didn't want to look for something else just yet. It was like opening your Christmas presents up slowly. Except she wasn't Christmas and I didn't really think I'd ever have a reason to take wrapping paper off of her.
Her eyes were starting to lighten back up. That's good. Now it just looked like she was kind of tired. Good thing Rachel didn't walk in when she had been crying. But her cheeks were kind of red still. Not red I guess, since her skin was dark and only people like me with super pale skin actually are able to turn red. Her cheeks were whatever the color was called when you mix coffee and red kool-aid. She was flushed. That was the right word.
"Is my makeup smeared or something?" She spoke into the silence. It felt like I had been staring for a century.
I blinked the dryness from my vision. We made eye contact in the mirror. I shook my head no.
I'd been staring. That's embarrassing and is something I need to stop doing because it turns out most girls think you're trying to start a fight if you stare at them and most guys think you want to have sex with them if you stare.
Then my cheeks turned that stupid red color. Crap. I lowered my eyes and flicked on the water. I kept my eyes glued to the faucet. It hit my hands and started to burn. So I turned the cold knob on.
More than anything I wanted to know what it was that made a person who they are. She fascinated me. The way she was, was so different. Never had I seen someone's wall crumble like hers had and never had I seen someone put that wall back up with such strength. And I liked it. I didn't like her crying of course, but I liked her.