Read The boys of summer Online

Authors: C.J Duggan

The boys of summer (page 4)

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“You look hot, Tess!”

I chewed on my lower lip, trying not to getupset.

“Can you please go ask Chris if there isanother size? Something bigger?”

Ellie had to shake herself from her daze asher gaze looked over me. “Ah, Tess, I don’t think–”

“Ellie, please!”

I paced the toilets, waiting for Ellie toreturn waving a XXXL top in her hand. Unfortunately, it was not tobe.

“Tess, seriously, you look fine. In fact, youlook smoking-hot fine!”

I didn’t want to be ‘smoking-hot fine’; Iwanted to be blend-into-the-wall fine.

Ellie grabbed my hand. “Come on, we can’tstay in here forever. Chris said we were going to be flat outtonight so we better get to it.”


“Oh, wait.” Ellie pulled me up, and all butyanked my arm out of my socket.


Without a word Ellie yanked the elastic frommy hair and ruffled it up.


“Just trust me,” she said.

I took a deep breath and stood still. She ranher fingers through my hair and folded up the top half with theband, for a messy half-up half-down look, before fixing my fringeto frame my face.

“Much better!” She smiled.

We came out just in time for a staff meeting.Chris’s words were cut off abruptly when he saw us join the group.His eyebrows raised in surprise as he took in my apparel. Not indisgust or mockery, but the way a guy checks out a girl. The wayboys usually looked over Ellie. He coughed, cleared his throat andrefocused on his clipboard. I felt the heat flood my cheeks as Iquickly sat down in an attempt to hide myself behind a table. I satnext to Melba who didn’t give me the same look of appreciation. Shewas looking at me in more of a ‘You look like a whore’way.

We were given our battle stations speech;what our roles were to be, and what was expected of us for thenight. The Irish band would be setting up in the beer garden, andthe restaurant was fully booked. My heart beat faster as Irecounted my disastrous first shift. It hadn’t exactly boosted myconfidence (especially now that I looked like a ninja). Ellie wasjigging her leg like she always did when she was excited.

For what time remained before the expectedarrival of our first booking, I took it upon myself to memorise thedinner specials, taking note of any vegetarian selections. I testedmy pen for ink, dated the order pad accordingly and, before I knewit, the six o’clock rush had begun.

I fumbled and stuttered at my first table,but luckily they were a family of locals. Ken and Wendy Martin andtheir three adorable kids. They were patient and kind, and helpedease my nerves. I took their order without drama and spiked itproudly on the kitchen spike.

“Order up!”

“Well, look at you,” crooned the usuallyfoul-tempered cook, Rosanna. She smiled at me, her demeanourdisturbingly friendly. But I knew this was the calm before thestorm.

“Twirl for me.” She circled her finger in theair in a spinning motion, giving a wolf whistle ofappreciation.

“You’ll be breaking all the boys’ hearts,Tess.”

I cringed. “I don’t know about that,” I said,and quickly retreated from the kitchen, running straight intoEllie.

She pulled me into the alcove where the highchairs were kept.

“Oh my God, Tess! You should see who justcame through the front door.”

Before I could ask, she let out a squeal.“I’m going to take their order,” she said, and disappeared.

Okey dokey, there was either a celebrity inthe bar (inOnslow?), or a hot boy. My money was on thelatter and my suspicions were confirmed by the distant hum of thejukebox, which meant that the poolroom was in use.

My friendly family table continued to beeverything true and lovely, which almost made up for my next table… almost.

Chapter Six

My burden to bear for the night was to servetwo posh tourists, who spoke in clipped sentences and looked at meas if they had stepped in something nasty.

The full-figured lady sported a grey bob thatwas immaculately kept in place. No, really, it didn’t move; theremust have been a full can of hairspray on there. She was clearlyhighly flammable. I clasped my notepad tightly, glancing aroundwith unease; trust Claire Henderson to think candles would make forgreat ambience in the dining room. The place was a giant death trapfor this woman.

She smiled at me but it didn’t quite reachher eyes. Her husband complained about the lighting, the airconditioning, and the sound of the music filtering through thepaper-thin walls of the poolroom. Their rudeness frazzled me, whichwas bad, as the last thing I needed was to make more mistakes asthe night picked up in pace. More patrons poured through therestaurant’s French doors, all sun-kissed and starving from theirday in the sun. The restaurant was at full capacity, a buzzingcauldron of chaos, so when I brought out the wrong meal (because Ihad written down the table wrong), Rosanna started to lose it, andI quickly vacated the kitchen, slamming hard into Chris’schest.

“Whoa, Tess, slow down.”

I bit my lower lip in an attempt to hide thatI was upset.

“We’re going to switch things up a bit, okay?Uncle Eric wants you to take over Adam’s place in the kitchen for abit. Thinks it might be for the best,” he said.

Meaning I wasn’t quite cutting it out front.A part of me was relieved, but another part of me was mortifiedthat I had just been demoted, if only for the night. In otherwords, they thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job. They wouldnever have sent Ellie in to wash dishes, not in a millionyears.

“Ellie’s going to take over your tables.”Chris took the notepad and pen from me; another slap in the face. Inodded and solemnly turned back to the kitchen. My summer was nowdowngraded from hell to the pits of hell, with Melba andRosanna.

Thanks, Adam!

I stood in front of the sink for what seemedlike forever, overwhelmed by the huge pile of dirty pots and pans,and ever-increasing stack of plates. I didn’t know where to begin.I tied the sodden dish apron around me, too afraid to ask if therewere any rubber gloves. At least I wouldn’t have to worry aboutbeing seen in my cat suit. As I waited for the sink to fill, I casta look at my pride and joy, my meticulously French manicured nails.I had filed, shaped and coated them in preparation for my bigworking debut. I had always prided myself on having nice nails andthought I would put an extra-special effort into them, knowing Iwas to be serving customers. If I was to be incompetent, at leastthey could say, “Well, she had nice hands.”

Nice hands that were now submerged inblisteringly hot, dirty, dishwater.

Ellie swung through the kitchen door, smilinglike a Cheshire cat; she never said anything about my new position.She was too busy humming a joyful tune and spiking her docket.

“Order up!”

I unloaded a stack of dishes near the server,peeking at the docket and wondering if the little piece of paperhad anything to do with her being in such fine form. A docket withseveral meals listed sported the heading‘The Onslow Boys’ –(Poolroom). A little smiley face had been drawn into the O, andthe penny dropped. Ha! Well, at least someone was having a goodtime.

There was much swearing and pot throwing atthe peak of service. Through desperation, they had Melba take a feworders, and with Melba’s people skills being what they were, it wasa true sign that they were under the pump. At least I was friendly.For the most part, Melba was really a kitchenhand for Rosanna andthey kind of complemented each other. What I mean by that is thatMelba refused to take Rosanna’s crap, so it worked.

I had created a clean space in my soddenlittle corner of the world; I even felt good about my achievementuntil I looked down at my destroyed nails, the once immaculatepolish melted from the heat of the water. As I took a moment tosurvey the damage, the background was filled with more swearing andclattering, accompanied by the frantic dinging of the service bell,all of which I was sadly getting used to as the night wore on.

“Order up,” Rosanna screamed.

Ellie was noticeably absent, which causedRosanna to lose it big time. Before all hell broke loose, Chrisburst through the kitchen door and spotted my nearly clearsink.

“You. Meals. Go. Now!” He held the door ajar,pointing to the restaurant.

“But Uncle Eric said I was to–”

“Uncle Eric is upstairs watchingTouchedby an Angel, so what I say goes; we need you to take the meals,now!”

I frantically untied my dish apron andsmoothed down fly-away strands of hair that had curled from thesteam. Before Rosanna hurled the meals across the kitchen, Igrabbed them and headed through the door Chris still held open.

“Get them out of here! Get them out of here!”she screamed.

Happy to escape the mayhem and relieved Ihadn’t been knifed in the process, I looked at the docket that layhaphazardly on top of the chip pile on the dinner plate. It readthe ‘Onslow Boys’. With immense concentration, I walked two platesthrough the restaurant en route to the poolroom. The mystery ofEllie’s disappearance was solved when I saw her taking orders for atable of twelve. She managed to glance at me as I walked by, andputting two and two together she pouted at the fact I wasdelivering ‘her’ meals.

I pressed my back against the swingingrestaurant door and pushed my way through to the front bar. I hadnever been in the bar in peak hour on a Saturday night. Actually, Ihad never been in hereat alluntil I worked here, so Iwasn’t entirely sure what would greet me as I walked steadilythrough my final barrier, a flimsy concertina partition, and intothe bar. The smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer hit me first,followed by the loud music that flooded from the poolroom. Thefront bar was dominated mainly by an older clientele, enjoying theblessed happy hour. The bar aligned with an array of men in attireranging from flannelette-covered work overalls, to stubby shortsand Blundstone boots. Foreigner’s ‘Urgent’ blared from the speakersas I made my way gingerly through the mass of bodies. Men partedfor me with lingering gazes. I smiled politely, excusing myself asI brushed by strangers, dodging and weaving with great care,holding onto the dinner with a white-knuckled intensity. I headedto the poolroom to deliver the Chicken Parma’s to the smiley-facedOnslow Boys. I paused under the archway, taking in the packed,smoky poolroom. The music was twice as loud in here. Just as Isummoned enough courage to yell out my order, I was drowned out bya blast of laughter and shouts as someone missed a shot on the pooltable.

“That’s two shots to us!” yelled a tall,muscular boy. Sean Murphy. I knew him mainly by his all-star statusas the ruck-man for the Onslow Tigers. He was now looking at mewith piercing baby blue eyes, a colour I had never seen before.

He flashed a smile that made my stomach flip,and as if sensing my predicament, he shouted out for me, “Grub’sup! Tobias, it’s your shot.”

A lone figure leaning over the jukeboxflipped through the song archives; he pushed his final selectionbefore turning to grab the pool cue from Sean. I threatened to dropmy plates when I noticed Tobias was Toby.TheToby!MyToby!

Our eyes locked, his brows raised insurprise, and then I realised he wasn’t the only one looking at me.All of the Onslow Boys were looking at me like I was some kind ofcreature that had emerged from the lake. But when I caught theireyes roaming over me much like Chris’s had, it made me suddenlysuper aware and self-conscious of my bodysuit attire.

I coughed and stammered, “Where do you wantit?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realised how suggestiveit had sounded and mentally slapped myself.

There was a pause and a line of bemusedsmirks as I watched the same thought flick through their minds,before Toby broke off and headed to the pool table.

“Two shots, was it?” Toby asked.

Sean scratched his jawline and nodded. Tryingnot to smile.

“Just sit them down there, Tess,”

I flinched at the unexpected voice of Chris,from behind me where he stood manning the bar, his arms crossed. Hewas all business, no nonsense. I latched onto the clarity and putthe meals quickly on the bar.

“Thanks, Tess.” Sean smiled at me as he slida meal down the bar.

I made my exit, stressed that I had at leasttwo more meals to deliver to them without embarrassing myself.Again.

I took the shortcut through the opposite doorto head towards the kitchen; I passed Ellie who was still busy withher mammoth table. When she saw me coming from the bar, she winkedand gave me the thumbs up, and I couldn’t help but smile and returnthe gesture.

I carried the meals back the same way andavoided the front bar all together. When I reached the Onslow Boys,I didn’t need to ask whose meals I was holding. Toby and anotherboy, Stan, I think his name was, had pulled their bar stools nextto Sean and a boy they’d nicknamed Ringer. I placed the mealscarefully before Toby and Stan who both said, “Thanks.” My heartdid a little flip.

“Hey, Tess, is there any salt and pepper?”Sean asked.

“Oh … uh, I’ll get some.” I made a silentprayer that I wasn’t blushing at such a simple question. I snuckback to the restaurant and grabbed a set. Quickstepping back intothe poolroom, I passed them to Sean’s outstretched hand upon myreturn.

He watched me intently. “What’s your lastname, Tess?”

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