“You stood him up?” Kerri asked in surprise, her voice ending on a squeak as she continued to wipe down the diner counter.
Not looking at her friend, Carolyn Michaels nodded her head in response, “Yeah. I didn’t have a choice.”
She’d just finished wiping down all of the salt and pepper shakers, and she was more than ready for a break, as she tossed her rag into the sink.
“You want a soda?” she called out, scooping ice into a plastic glass and sticking it under the soda fountain.
Kerri smiled and wiped her hands, “Might as well. It’s not been this quiet around here all day long.” Taking the glass Carolyn handed her, she used one of the paper napkins from the metal container on the countertop to wipe the sweat from her brow.
“So, tell me all about Ryan’s soccer game.” Carolyn suggested as the two women slid into one of the booths, carefully avoiding the cracked and torn vinyl in the process.
“It was great! I can’t thank you again for covering for me yesterday morning. I haven’t made it to any of his games this season, and since there are only three games left, I really needed to make this one.”
“No problem. I can always use the extra hours you know that. How did he do?”
“He scored the only goal of the game and I managed to catch it on my cell phone. He was so excited. I took him out for pizza after to celebrate and he was telling everyone about it. When the manager offered to put it up on the big screen so he could watch it for himself, he stood there in front of the screen with his little feet moving as he dribbled the ball. When he scored, everyone in the pizza place cheered. It was adorable. I’m so proud of my little man.”
“Oh, Kerri, that’s fantastic. He’s growing up so fast.”
“Tell me about it. He’s already outgrown his school clothes.”
Carolyn took a drink and caught Ken watching them both from the kitchen service window. “Don’t look now, but eyes are a’watchin’.”
Kerri glanced towards the kitchen window and waved her fingers in Ken’s direction, “He better not say a thing. We don’t have anything else to do right now, and I’m not scrubbing those bathroom floors again. I told him last time that until he managed to fix the leaky plumbing, I wasn’t setting foot in there again.”
Carolyn made a face and then hid a yawn behind her hand, “He’s only putting off the inevitable. There’s no way the health inspector is going to sign off on things around here his next inspection.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to be here after that visit,” Kerri told her.
Carolyn agreed with a nod of her head, “I’m with you on that one. Maybe we’ll get a heads up he’s coming and we can both call in sick that day.”
“Sick? I thought we were supposed to never be sick, never need a day off, and never need a break,” Kerri joked with her. Seeing a tired smile flit across Carolyn’s face, she immediately saw an opportunity and changed the subject. “So, you took on my shift, and then pulled extra hours stocking shelves? I was hoping to live vicariously through you by hearing all about your hot date with the man who bought you.”
“He didn’t buy me,” Carolyn corrected her. “He bought two hours of my time.”
“He still paid good money to spend time with you. I wouldn’t have asked you to cover for me if I’d known you were going to blow your hot date off!”
“I didn’t stand him up because I took your shift. I needed the extra money and an opportunity arose.” Carolyn yawned behind her hand, “Besides, I might have fallen asleep while we were at dinner, and what fun would that have been?”
“Car, when was the last time you did something purely for the fun of it?” Kerri asked, giving her best friend a knowing look.
The two had been friends for almost eight years, and Kerri was always giving Carolyn a hard time about how she worked all the time and never took time to have any fun. It was true, but Carolyn was usually too tired to argue the point. Tonight was no different.
She scooped her dark hair up in one hand and held it up, allowing the lukewarm air to waft across her neck. She gave it a slight twist, wrapping it into a loose ponytail high on the top of her head. She didn’t care if it looked messy or not, she was hot and she was tired. Her muscles were sore, and she felt her eyelids’ start to droop. She hid another yawn behind her hand, but a quick glance across the table showed she hadn’t actually hidden anything.
“When was the last time you slept? And before you try to convince me otherwise, five minutes leaning up against the deep freeze in the back doesn’t count as actual sleep.” Kerri looked at her with a mothering look that had Carolyn ducking her head and trying to pretend a keen interest in the chipped sparkle tabletop.
“I sleep,” she muttered, another yawn taking over the end of her statement. What I wouldn’t give for five minutes against the deep freeze right now. But then, Ken didn’t tolerate laziness on the job and five minutes would never be enough! Oh well, I can sleep when I get old.
Changing the subject, she turned it back to Kerri’s son, Ryan. “So, was he voted MVP in the game?”
Kerri shook her finger at her, “I know what you’re doing, and the only reason I’m going to allow it is because you want to talk about my son. And yes, he was. Whichever player is MVP for that particular game gets to take the trophy home for the week. Honestly, I thought it was silly but Ryan can’t stop looking at it. I’ve even found it in his bed.”
Chuckling, “That’s awesome!” Carolyn told her. She yawned again as a wave of exhaustion swept over her body. It was only by sheer willpower that she didn’t allow herself to slip down in the booth and rest the back of her head on the seat behind her.
“Why don’t you go home?” Kerri asked her, seeing how tired her friend was and wishing there was something she could do to help make her life more bearable.
“No, Ken’s already a little upset with me because I lost my patience with a customer yesterday.”
She yawned again, this time almost falling over in the booth while Kerri chuckled. “Girl, you need to go home and sleep. You’re like a drunk!”
“No, just a tired working girl. But, I don’t have anything planned tonight so I’ll sleep then.”
Kerri looked at her and then shrugged, “So, explain to me what was so important that you stood up that guy from the Middle East.”
“He’s not just some guy. He’s Sheik Mahil Sharqi.”
“Sheik? Wow. There is no way I would have stood him up. Not for all the money in the world…well, okay, maybe for all the money in the world. But you probably made what, thirty bucks last night?”
Carolyn shook her head, “No, I made almost a hundred. We were doing inventory so they pay us time and a half.”
“I don’t care; I still don’t think I would have passed up a date with the man. That picture you showed me was extra yummy. And those eyes…a girl could get totally lost in those blue eyes. Why did you agree to do that charity auction anyways?”
Carolyn shrugged, “Extra credit. Professor. Sanders was offering enough extra credit to help offset that crummy grade I got on the research paper this term.”
“If you weren’t working so many hours, you would have had more time to do your homework and you wouldn’t need extra credit,” Kerri reminded her.
“Yes, mother! Anyway, it is what it is and with the extra credit I might actually pull a B this semester.”
“So what happens when the Sheik tells the university that you stood him up?” Kerri asked.
“Well, I’m hoping that maybe his pride will keep him from saying anything. At least for another three weeks. The semester will be over by then and I’ll already have my grade in Sanders’ class.” Carolyn sighed and rolled her neck forward, her ability to fight her exhaustion now that she was sitting down was almost gone.
“So where exactly were you supposed to meet this date of yours? I bet it was somewhere fabulous,” she said on a wistful note.
Carolyn nodded her head and named a five star restaurant connected to one of the most expensive hotels in the city. Kerri’s eyes went wide and Carolyn waved off her look, “I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the food there anyway. Too expensive for my taste. My taste buds aren’t used to such high end stuff.”
Kerri heard the door to the diner open and looked up, a slow smile spreading across her face. She leaned forward without taking her eyes off the newcomer and told Carolyn, “Well, I hope your hot date can say the same. Cheap coffee isn’t for everyone.”