“You’re late,” Mitch grunts as I slip under the counter
and hand my cloak up
“I know, I know,” I apologize.
“I thought I had the later shift.” A complete and utter lie, but it's a better excuse than daydreaming.
“This week’s a busy one for us.”
He peers out to the sea of customers. All of the tables and bar space are filled. There’s a good number of people standing, which rarely happens. “But I’m glad you’re here now.”
I grin. “I know.”
Even though Mitch will never admit it, I’m his favorite employee. I’ve worked with him for over two years.
Unlike the other waitresses,
Mitch never yells at me if I drop a tray or argue with a customer.
Sadly, he doesn’t have a family of his own.
Once or twice, he’s told me if he had a daughter he’d want her to be tough like me; that’s probably his way of saying I’m like a daughter to him.
“Sorry you can’t work the counter today,” he says,
moving his cigarette to the corner of his mouth. “Normally I’d have no problem with it, but we’re swamped.” He growls under his breath. “Damn hunters.”
I laugh. That’s what Mitch calls anyone in the military.
I have no idea why though. He won’t tell me anything about what they do or why he regards them in the way he does.
He points to a table with two men holding their mugs up.
I head over to their table with a tray in hand.
“Another round for you, boys?”
Both are red in the face and drooling.
“Yeah, sweetheart,” the one with the beard and long wavy black hair responds. “Keep ‘em coming.” He winks. “Unless you’d rather instead.”
I roll my eyes as I take their mugs to refill.
I don’t understand why all these guys have been hitting on me recently. After only a couple of months living on my own, white hair started to grow from the burned black hair.
Now, after two years,
the top half of my hair is black and the bottom half is white. I’ve debated cutting it so only the black remains, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.
The strange thing is, however,
nobody in this town regards me in the same fashion the other town did. Here, nobody minds that my hair is partially white.
Hell, guys drool over it, some say it makes me look sexy.
For the first time in a long time, I’m no longer ashamed of my looks. I’ve missed my white hair, my unique treasure; and now that it’s back I’m not giving it up for anyone.
Even though I get to wear pants,
I’m hit on just as much as the other bar maids here.
Most regulars know me for my hot temper and fierce attitude,
something the other girls don’t have.
Do guys like girls with spunk?
Either that or everyone around here is crazy; I’ve never turned a head a day before in my life. Maybe it’s because now I’m older, almost nineteen years old, they see me as more feminine.
Granted, I’m not as curvy and feminine as the other girls, but I’m no board. I don’t feel inferior to their looks, something that dwelled on my mind when I was younger.
All I care about it myself;
that’s all I have, and I can’t be worrying about trivial things concerning others.
The day seems to drag on.
Normally, time flies by when we’re busy. But we’re never this busy. I don’t recall it ever having so many people in the years I’ve worked here.
Why is the military in our town all of a sudden?
I’m relieved when Mitch finally locks the front door. The others girls and I sigh and plop down at one of the empty tables.
“Man,” I groan. “That was rough.”
The other girls agree, complaining about how their feet and backs are killing them. Mitch brings us each a slice of cake and other leftovers that weren't sold today.
There’s not much; those guys pretty much cleaned us out.
“Great job today, ladies,” he says, pulling up a chair next to me. “I never want to work another day in my life,” I mutter, taking a sip from my cup of water (of course it’s not beer, gosh!).
Mitch chuckles. “You say that now. But I know you, Rose."
"You love this place too much."
Not that I ever aspired to be tavern girl, but I make decent wages, including tips. The staff is great. The other girls are locals too.
Some live in town because their parents are shopkeepers,
and some live on the outskirts, like me, and trade with tourists. We’re like our own little family. After the Kaiser’s, I thought I’d never have another family, I thought two would be my max.
But I was wrong.
In the three places I’ve lived, I’ve had a family in each and every one of them. I may not have any blood relatives, but I wouldn’t trade these girls for the world.
Goes to show you how you can have a family anywhere.
I should know; I’m practically the queen of starting over.
I hug everyone and say goodnight before throwing my cloak on
“Be careful,” Mitch advises. “There’s a lot more people out than usual tonight.”
I decide not to put my hood on to walk home.
I’m in a fairly good mood for working over an eight-hour shift. All those compliments and catcalls have my confidence up enough to where I’m not wanting to hide my looks.
The lanterns light up the streets
as the girls and I go our separate ways. Many people are still out chatting and laughing. Most of the shops and restaurants are closed, but that doesn’t stop any of them from having a good time.
I can’t help but smile as I walk past.
It’s kind of exciting having this many people in town. Nothing ever happens here. It’s the same routine day in and day out.
My heart can’t but hope that adventure is in the future;
as long as it’s nothing like being kidnapped or tortured by demons in nightmares, I’m fine with whatever.
“Hey, cutie, where ya going?”
I turn to see two guys in green robes heading towards me. They both look at least in their late twenties, even early thirties. Way older than me. My heart races. What do I do?
Mitch told me to be wary of all these people.
Especially the military. But not all of them are bad, right? They probably mean no harm. You wanted excitement, remember. Don’t chicken out now.
“Hi.” I smile back and wave. “How are you guys doing?”
“We’re doing good now that you’re here.” The one with a square jaw and buzz-cut hair interjects, grinning.
“What’s a cute girl like you doing wandering the streets?"
The other one comments, grinning too. “It’s dangerous, you know.”
I wave their comments away.
“I’ve lived in this town for a couple of years. I can handle myself, boys.” They chuckle. I roll my eyes and groan. They’re probably drunk. It’s too dark to see their reddened cheeks,
But I know a drunk when I see one.
“We don’ want’cha walking home all by yourself in the dark,” the bald one says taking a step toward me. “Stay with us, we’ll protect you.”
“Yeah,” the other interjects. “Why don’t ya join us?"
I take a step back. Crap, this isn’t good. Mitch never lets us go home this late. He knows the drunks wander the streets. And on an ordinary day, there’s not this many to keep track up.
I can’t slip past a whole crowd going unnoticed.
My nerves are tingling. This is NOT the kind of excitement I was talking about. “N-no thanks,” I stammer, trying to distance myself from them as much as I can.
But the more I back up,
the more they swarm like bees to honey. My back’s almost against the storefront behind me; I’m trapped. There’s no way I can squeeze past these two. I hope these guys are stupid drunk.
Maybe then I can outsmart them.
“Why not, sweetie?” I can smell the alcohol. They’re close now. I can practically feel their hot breath on my neck. “We don’t bite."
“I-I have to get home to my mother,” I lie.
“She’ll be worried if I’m late.”
“She’ll be fine.”
One presses their hand on the building behind me while the other stands to the side, boxing me in.
Shit… I really don’t want to start a fight with these goons.
But it looks like I have no choice. If they’re not going to let me go, I’ll push my way through. “No,” I argue back, placing my hand on his the man’s arm blocking my path. “She needs me.”
In one swift motion, I twist the man’s hand towards me.
He screams in pain and pulls his hand away. I make a run for it. But suddenly I’m jerked back by the hood of my cloak. The other guy has a hold of me now while his friend is moaning in pain.
“You didn’t think you could escape that easily, did ya?”
I growl under my breath. “You have good reflexes for a drunk.” He chuckles. “Like we’d let a doll such as yourself slip away that easily?” His voice is filled with sin and lust.
“Girls like you are hard to come by. "
He licks his lips. It’s too bad those other tavern girls aren’t with ya. I’d take any of them too.”
This isn’t good. This sleaze bag has a tight hold on me.
There’s the possibility of trying to slip out of my cloak and make a run for it, but he’d know what I was doing as soon as I moved.
Neither of them are going to let me off the hook.
I need to think of something, and fast. I’ve heard horror stories from the other girls about what guys like these do to girls like us. I have to fight this. I can’t succumb to their desires.
“Excuse me, but shouldn’t you two be in like everyone else.”
“Watch your mouth,” the one with the broken wrist yells at the stranger, whom I can’t see. “This is one of your business.” The man groans again as I hear him fall to the ground.
This new guy knocked him out cold.
I had better hope he's on my side. The one holding me suddenly lets go. I turn to see him being thrown to the side by the stranger. He’s wearing a hooded cloak, so all of his features are covered
Both men lay groaning in front of the store together.
“Now, SCRAM,” the stranger demands. They scramble to their feet, taking off down the road toward one of the inns. The new man faces me now.
My heart is still beating faster than a locomotive.
What does he want with me?
“I’m glad to see you’re ok.” He sounds relieved.
He takes a step toward me. “Can’t seem to get rid of creeps like that, ya know?”
I nod “Y-yeah.” My voice is shaking.
I’m safe from those two now, but am I safe from this guy? He may have saved me and all, but who’s to say he doesn’t want to hurt me in the same way.
I’ve learned to not trust people,
even if they do you a favor; they could want one in return.