Warning: Contains sexual references
It’s a truth universally acknowledged a woman in want of a job is going to go looking for one. That might not be all she finds…
Three Years Ago
It was Nan who told me about the vacancy at Take a Bite Café.
I was lying on the settee streaming B-movies, eating soya ice cream, and feeling sorry for myself when she came home and thrust a little notecard at me. They were looking for a fulltime waitress, minimum wage but there was free food available. I’d been drifting since my career and relationship had crashed like the spaceship in the movie I was watching and it was worth a try. As they knew Nan so they might actually reply, unlike most of the jobs I’d applied to.
The café had half curtains on the windows and paper dollies under the condiments. The cream paint on the walls had faded and the white paint had on the chairs had cracked with age but it was nice, it looked loved rather than worn.
Instead of going to the counter I sat down at a little two-seater table in the corner with my legs spread and one foot on the crossbar of the spare chair. I pulled a laminated menu towards me and perused it, there was a distinct lack of soya ice cream.
Nan was in the opposite corner with her friend Sally and some of the Am Dram society. She gave me a thumbs up and I frowned, wondering why she wasn’t wafting me towards the counter. The larger of two old men sitting at the table next to hers leaned across and started whispering to her.
‘Can I get you something?’
I jumped and knocked over the ketchup, it bounced against the linoleum and leaked red sauce like it was mortally wounded. I flushed and looked up at the waiter.
‘Don’t worry about it.’ He picked it up and wiped away the sauce with a napkin.
I sank down in my chair and raised the menu to hide my red face. ‘I’ll have a… coffee, I suppose.’ I peeked over the top of the menu. ‘And apply for the waitressing job.’ I tugged my, slightly crumpled, CV out my back pocket, unfolded it and pushed it across the table with my fingertips.
‘Oh, we were starting to think no-one would.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Not that… I didn’t mean it like… I’ll just…’ He picked up the CV, and peered at it through his black framed glasses.
I pushed the big, red frames of mine up my nose.
He looked at the paper, back at me, then back to the paper. ‘You’re Megan?’
‘Your gran talks about you all the time, you’re not how I imagined you.’
I lowered the menu and smiled. ‘How did you imagine me?’
He glanced away, his half-smile showing a dimple in one cheek. ‘I didn’t mean anything by it. You just look… nicer than I expected.’
I arched my eyebrows. ‘Nicer?’
He took his glasses off and tucked them inside his jumper. ‘She made you sound scary.’
I put down the menu and rested my chin on my fist. ‘I can be.’
He glanced towards the kitchen where an older woman was cooking then sat down. I didn’t move my foot, he didn’t ask me to.
It felt like the other patrons were watching us but every time I glanced their way they were talking amongst themselves.
I straightened slightly. ‘From what Nan said I expected a hot stud, not a dude in a dad jumper.’ It seemed better not to mention his receding hairline, some men were touchy about that.
He plucked his patterned knitwear. ‘Dad jumper?’
‘Oh, it’s nothing bad,’ I said. ‘It’s reliable, steadfast.’
He grinned and his brown eyes sparkled. ‘Oh, so I’m dull?’
I bit the tip of my thumb, thoughtfully. ‘It would take further acquaintance to say.’
‘In my day I was what they called a goer,’ Nan muttered loudly to someone at her table. ‘And I’d’ve had a go on him.’
‘Nan!’ I shot back. ‘Away with you.’
The old ladies sniggered and the men at the next table were shaking with laughter.
He rolled his eyes. ‘It’s alright, they know the limits.’
‘How very gallant of you.’
‘They’re trying to persuade me to give them free drinks to shut them up. Keeps them off the street.’ He smiled his sweet, lopsided smile and offered me his hand. ‘Jimmy Levine.’
‘Megan Donovan.’ I shook his hand while mentally slapping my forehead, he knew my name. ‘Unlike my nan I won’t shout rude comments at you.’
He sucked in his lower lip and considered me as if the thought wasn’t unappealing. For a fleeting moment I thought he might ask me out, that rarely ended well without knowing each other better first and would bugger up the prospect of a job. The moment past and he glanced around the room, probably looking for an escape.
He cleared his throat. ‘Mama owns the café I’ll have to run your CV passed her but I think you’re a shoe in.’
‘You might say I have no competition.’ I got the little sign out of the front pocket of my bag. ‘You might want this back, Nan pinched it.’
‘James Levine, am I paying you to work or flirt with pretty girls?’ The woman on the other side of the kitchen hatch shouted.
‘Megan is showing me her CV, Mama,’ he called.
‘Come get this food before it gets cold,’ she said. ‘Megan can show her CV when you’re not working.’ She turned away from the hatch.
‘That’s my Megan,’ Nan shouted.
Mrs Levine, I assumed, swung back round to look. She glanced between Nan and I, similar brown hair but Nan’s had grey in, same wonky nose, and same dark eyes. ‘Oh, so it wasn’t a euphemism.’
Jimmy spread his arms. ‘Why would CV be a euphemism?’
‘I don’t know. You millennials don’t speak in full words anymore: LOL, FFS, BDSM.’ She waved a spatula. ‘Who knows what you’re saying.’
‘What could CV even mean?’ he asked.
‘V could definitely be vagina,’ Nan said. ‘Cute vagina.’
‘Cock in vagina,’ Sally offered.
‘Cunnilingus vagina,’ suggested one of the old men.
Nan turned to look at him. ‘That’s basically the same thing.’
‘Sounds fancy though,’ he shot back.
I put my head in my hands, traffic light blushes were the unfortunate side-effect of having the melanin content of a deep-sea fish.
‘See? Everyone agrees with me,’ said Mrs Levine. ‘I’m right.’
‘I regret asking,’ Jimmy whispered. ‘And I’m definitely never telling her what that last one means.’
I snorted and giggled which started him giggling.
‘Stop giggling and start working,’ Mrs Levine said, waggling her spatula.
He cleared his throat and caught his breath. ‘Yes, Mama.’ He got to his feet and tucked the notecard and my CV in his back pocket. ‘Um… Do you want milk with your coffee?’
Lips pressed together to stifle more laughter I shook my head.
He grinned at me. ‘I’ll just get that.’
He never put the sign back up.
For more episodes of Take a Bite Cafe click here.