Chapter 1: Alice

4:55pm. Crap. I am gonna be late again. Jeremy is gonna kill me. I really should start leaving the house earlier. Oh well. At least I look good today, better for tips. No one gives tips to a girl with dirty hair and zero makeup. I made sure that I did my hair and makeup today. Not only because I have the dinner shift, but it is Saturday, aka date night, and that is tip city central.

I am speeding just enough to not get a ticket, when I hit a yellow light and I stop. I know this light well. The yellow only lasts for about five seconds. I slow the car down to a stop when I hear a slight buzz coming from my phone. I reach down to check it almost assuming it’s Jeremy, wondering where on Earth am I? That is how he talks, kinda like he is stuck in the 1950’s. But to my surprise, it is not Jeremy but Todd. My soon to be ex-boyfriend. I say soon to be ex because we don’t seem to want the same things out of life. I look down at the text and it reads:

“Hey babe! Hope things R going well. Miss U”

I really hate it when he texts me like that. Before I get the chance to text back, the light changes and I am off. I park and walk into the restaurant. Why bother run when I know that I am late. Just as I am clocking in Jeremy sees me.

“Alice! 5:05… Tardy again. If you don’t clean up your act I may have to give you the morning shift.”

“I’m so sorry. My car didn’t want to start and I ran out of gas and…” I say gasping for excuses but Jeremy cuts me off.

“Enough. I’m just teasing…sort of. Just don’t let it happen again. You are in the B section tonight. Good luck”

“Roger! Be out in a jiffy” I say, winking at his dated vocabulary.

He doesn’t hear my sassy remark as I go searching for my notepad in my locker.
As 7:00pm rolls around, I notice a couple walk into the restaurant. First date definitely. She is wearing a tight black dress, classy elegant. It fits her well. She looks like she is in her early to mid-thirties and I love that she is wearing patterned shoes with red lipstick. Her date is dressed very snappy with his dark features. He is very handsome, well for an older man.

Jamie seats them in my section on purpose. She hates me and knows that first date couples make me super uncomfortable because they are awkward with everyone they encounter. As I walk up to the table I notice the man pulls out the chair for the woman. That must be nice. I can’t remember the last time Todd did that for me.

“Welcome to the Heart and Soul Bistro. My name is Alice and I will be taking care of you tonight. Can I take your drink order?” I have this down so well, I could do it in my sleep. However, I can tell they have never been here before as they are stumbling over the vast menu. I try and help them.

“Might I suggest some wine or champagne maybe?”

The man stares at me like I am four different shades of purple.

“No alcohol for me but maybe for you? I’ll just have water.” He says as he gestures to the woman.

She nods and squeaks out the words white wine.

I comply and walk away. We are packed tonight. Saturday nights and I have a love-hate relationship. Lots of tips but hard work. I go to the bar to tell them I need a white wine.

“Anything for you, cutie!”

The men behind the bar are always flirty. I guess it is hard for them to turn it off. The flirtier they are, the better the tips. I run to get the water and grab the wine on the way back to the table, when I notice something a little odd. The first date couple are talking to one another. Normally when people are out at a restaurant, they are attached to their devices. Talk about living in Black Mirror. Eventually, we will be texting each other across the table. But this couple is different, they are talking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. It is refreshing to see people engage, especially on the first date.
I place the drinks on the table and list off the specials for the week. The woman orders the chicken lemon risotto. Bold choice. She is who I want to be on a first date. She orders a meal, not a salad. The man orders our signature New York strip with herb-butter rub that we make in house.

As I leave I see how infatuated with each other they are. I wonder how they met. He seems like a techy type, but the woman is hard to read. She is confident in herself, which makes her more attractive than she is. Not that I am saying she is ugly, but she isn’t drop dead either. I guess she is average in her looks but she doesn’t seem to mind that; at least she knows how to dress her body type.

I put in their orders in at the kitchen and work my other tables. Table by table. The night goes on. My first date couple are acting like lovesick teenagers. No one and nothing can bother them. I glance at my watch. 9:37pm. I smile and shake my head. I head over to their table to make sure everything is going alright.

“Is there anything else I could get you? More wine maybe?” I gesture at the woman.

She nods and smiles at her date. I head over to the bar and ask for another white wine. The bartender gives a rehearsed flirt and I walk away. The crowd thins with time and the only customers left are quickly finishing up to hit the bars. As time creeps up on the 10:30 mark, I think to myself, there is only about thirty minutes left of my shift and if the first date couple finishes soon, I can clean and be out of here on time. Jeremy is nice like that. If your section is clear and clean on the night shift, you are free to go. The first date couple is my last table for the night.

“Is there anything else I can get you?”

“The check please, Alice.” The man says in a low voice

I am surprised he remembered my name. I feel like a child who just got surprised by ending up at Disney instead of the dentist. As I bring the check over, the glance at my watch that reads 10:40pm. I can still make it out of here by 11. I start to wipe down my empty tables when he put a MasterCard in the black envelop. Darn it. I hate MasterCards. They always take forever to work. It’s not the customers fault. It’s the finicky system that we use here. It takes me three tries to get the card to go through. I walk back to the table and wait for them to leave as I finish cleaning my tables.

I come to the first couple table and look at the tip.
This must be wrong. This is impossible. There is no way this is right. I mean I have been tipped various ways, but not this. I sit down and try to gather myself and find a logical explanation for this.

“Alice? What’s a matter? Bad tip?” one of my fellow waitresses exclaims.

“Actually, quite the opposite. They gave me a 250-dollar tip.”

My co-worker looks at me like I just struck gold. She grabs the bill from my hand and examines it very closely like she is a detective. She starts to flip over the bill when I see some writing.

“Wait! Give me that!”
I reach for the bill and on the back is written:

“Thank you so much for the exceptional service. My wife and I had an amazing time. We have passed this restaurant several times and thought we would try something new for our anniversary. We will continue to dine with you on our anniversary, and always ask for Alice. You remind us of someone we use to know… Here is a token of our gratitude, do something fun Alice. The Suttons.”



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