I flew low and kept my nose clean for the first several months, always going directly home after my shifts. Either that, or I drove down to Murfreesboro to be with Cal. It took a while for me to wriggle out of my shell. It helped when Jolene began working there.
She was a grade beneath me in high school and, while we were by no means close, we ran in the same circles. She was a cheerleader the year I decided to quit. We'd end up at the same lame field parties or stupid school dance. It was a relief to see her show up one day at a new employee training class.
Jolene had long, chestnut hair that she spent a lot of time grooming. Sometimes she wore it in well-sprayed, hot rolled curls. Other times it would be stick straight and glossy, the effects of a vigorous blow out. She wore her makeup in thick layers, on her eyes, cheeks and her plush, wide mouth. Glitter eyeshadow and red lipstick in the daytime.
Jolene was the kind of girl who would go out for drinks with co-workers on her very first night, inviting herself if no one else did. And that's exactly what she did working that first night of training at the Cooker.
"You have to come with me," she pleaded, grabbing my wrists and bending at the knee. "I have a fake ID that works every time. I'll just order for you!"
"Okay, maybe." I mustered a doubtful reply, knowing full well I wouldn't go. I was pretty well wedged up my boyfriend's ass back then, a product of rampant insecurity. I'd never go out when I could run home to him instead.
I finished up my tables on that very slow Monday night, wiping down booths and tipping out before even 8:30. While settling up with the house the phone at the hostess stand rang. It was for me.
"Girl, you better get up here." It was Jolene. She was calling me from the pay phone at TGIFriday's on Elliston. I could barely hear her over the roar of shitty pop music. "Everybody's here, and we're outside. It's gorgeous out! Bring Lia, and I'll order a drink for you."
I looked at my watch, then down at the paltry sum I'd earned that evening. I decided to go anyway.
"I don't have anything to change into, but okay," I said. She assured me I looked hot then hung up.
By the time I arrived there was already a screwdriver, strong and tall, sitting beside Jolene in front of an empty chair. People I'd worked along side for weeks and weeks were suddenly completely changed. They were relaxed and already lubed up from the alcohol. Some of them even cheered at my arrival. These weren't the same gruff, no-nonsense assholes I worked with day in and day out. No, with a few beers and a few hours away from kissing people's asses and they became more than tolerable. They were really cool.
I drank too many screwdrivers that night. Three, I think. Jolene ended up leaving with the scruffy long-haired server who'd been bringing me cocktails all night without so much as asking for I.D. I crashed at Jeffrey's house, the curly-haired, unassuming server guy who like Tori Amos as much as I did. I called Cal and told him I was sleeping at Jolene's.
I went to class the next day with a monster headache and belly full of guilt.