Monday, August 16, 2010

Harter Union: Part Six, Chapter 4

Sam was in the office talking with the new hires but was stammering over his words. “So do any of you have any questions?”

“How come I’m the only guy?” asked the only guy being hired.

“More girls apply for this job. Not my fault, that’s just how it goes,” Sam explained. “If you all could start tonight on the dinner shift that’d be great.”

Everyone accepted and Sam stood up.

“Great. We’ll see you all tonight around four,” Sam moved past the new hires and left the office. He stopped at the fryers where Nathan was putting down flattened boxes to start cleaning the fryers and Wendy and Wanda were slicing carrots for the salad bar. “Oh, man I hated that!”


“Talking to those people. Why do we need to conduct interviews when the job is pretty much in the bag?”

“Jeff used that time to make sure their IQ was higher than their shoe size,” Nathan said.

“And he still hired all of you?” joked Sam.

“Nathan and I were here long before Jeff, Sam,” Wendy said.

“Really? How long?”

“I’ve been here for ten years and Nathan has been here for eight. Aaron for seven and Alyson for six. Everybody else has been here for three years or so,” Wendy explained.

Nathan began cleaning the fryers by turning a latch and draining the old grease into a bucket. When the bucket was nearly full, Nathan closed the drain and carried the bucket outside to the grease trap. As soon as Nathan left the back door, Alyson entered not even a minute later with a smile on her face. She stopped at Sam, Wendy, and Wanda and leaned on the counter.

“Why are you smiling?” Sam asked.

“I’m not pregnant; I gave Nathan back his ring and told him to go to hell. I also put in applications at several places in Lawrence for a better job,” Alyson revealed without even flinching in her smile.

“Wow, quite an eventful 24 hours. I feel so uncaring. Anything I can do?” asked Sam.

“No, you’ve done enough. Thanks.”

I loved the Eldridge Hotel. Originally the Free State Hotel, it was burnt down by Quantrill’s raiders and completely rebuilt in 1925 and since then has had a truly up-and-down history. Currently it was the only hotel in Lawrence I would recommend since it was a beautiful hotel situated in the heart of downtown Lawrence.

I opened the door to Melissa and my room and invited her in. I laid her bags in nearby closet and held her close to me. “I love you, Pussycat,” I said as I leaned in and kissed her. “Thank you for helping me realize my dream.”

“I’m not doing anything. You’re doing this on your own,” Melissa smiled.

“My dream was to bring the girl I love to the Eldridge Hotel for a weekend stay. Without you, I never could’ve done this.”

“You’re sweet,” Melissa chuckled softly.

“Dinner’s in an hour, downstairs.”

“First dibs on the shower!” Melissa pushed away from me and bounded off to the bathroom. I smiled, went over to the couch and turned on the TV.

Melissa and I walked hand in hand into Shalor’s Restaurant and were seated next to the window. I looked at Melissa and noticed her eyes were darting around the restaurant and her hands were fidgety. “Are you okay?” I asked taking her hand.

“I am so nervous,” she laughed tensely.

I gingerly rubbed her hand and smiled at her. “Don’t worry; I have it all under control. I’ll take care of you,” I pulled her hand over to me and kissed it. Melissa blushed. The waiter came up and asked us what we wanted to drink. “What kind of wine would you recommend?”

“We have a wonderful Kendall Jackson chardonnay that’s just a little sweet,” the waiter suggested.

“That will be fine,” I agreed. The waiter marked that down and walked away. I looked at Melissa who seemed to be lost in her own world. “What are you thinking about?”

“You. I’ve known you for years but there’s still so much I don’t know.”

“Well, what do you want to know?”

“I don’t know…um, have you ever had a homosexual experience?”

I looked at Melissa very seriously and answered, “Yes.”

“What? I don’t believe you. When?”

“I was fifteen. It was with someone I considered a friend, I didn’t like it, I don’t like to talk about it and I do have nightmares about it.”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay. Any other questions?” I asked.

Before Melissa could answer, the waiter came back with our wine. “And may I take your orders?”

“Oh, my. I haven’t even been looking,” I picked up my menu and started looking.

“Do you need a couple more minutes?” asked the waiter.

“Yes, please,” I said. The waiter walked off and I resumed looking at Melissa. “You have a question?”

“Do you want kids?” she asked.

“Did you know that I offered to be the father of three kids that weren’t even my own? Sure it was only Maggie and Chrissy but during that weird period between moving to Topeka and meeting you, I met Laura. She was seven months pregnant, abandoned and working at a KFC. She was the definition of ‘dead on her feet’. She and her boyfriend moved to Topeka from Kansas City and everything was fine until she got pregnant. He ran off and left her stranded.”

“Are you ready to order now?” asked the waiter.

“I’ll take this,” Melissa pointed to something on the menu.

“The lady will have the tuna almandine and I’ll have the eight ounce steak, well done.”

“All right,” the waiter picked up our menus and left.

I took a sip of my wine and cleared my throat. “I took Laura in and treated her like a queen. She actually treated me like the father even though nothing happened between us. She continued working at KFC and as she was starting her ninth month, he came back.”

“The real daddy?”

I nodded. “I was hurt. I took in her after she was abandoned and was essentially her baby’s daddy and then he comes back, probably said ‘baby, I’m sorry’ and she welcomes him back with open arms.”

“I’m sorry but would you really want to take care of someone else’s kid especially when there is always that possibility of the real father returning?” asked Melissa.

“I’m a man of my word. Oh, well, I’m over it. All it did was help fuel my bitterness,” I smiled. Behind me, someone began playing the piano and Melissa’s eyes widened. “What?” I asked, noticing her eyes.

“They’re playing the piano.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Oh, I’m getting goose bumps,” Melissa shivered.

Part Two of Jeff and Melissa's date and Stephanie comes to a decision about her and Nathan.