Friday Reads: The Hostess
Every other Friday, I'll showcase a snippet from either a work in progress or an old manuscript, a new short story, or random poem or scene from a never-finished book. If you like what you read, be sure to leave a comment below! This snippet comes from a story I began back in 2011. Enjoy!
Because it was Friday, the restaurant was crowded. The bar was tight with sports enthusiasts who alternately cheered and jeered as their teams scored and lost ground. On the peripheral, all of the tables were taken, most packed to the limit and everyone seemed in a boisterous and jovial mood. The wait staff hustled and the sounds of furious activity emanated from the kitchen each time the doors swung open.
The line of waiting patrons was stretched from the anxious hostess’ desk and into the tiny waiting area where it looped around and went out the door into the foyer and then onto the well-lit sidewalk. It was much quieter out here. People stood in little groups, hands in pockets, shuffling their feet, checking cell phones, and looking with envy at those who had the luxury of waiting inside.
Had it been Nicole Carson’s choice tonight, she would have seen the line and driven right on past. She did not relish in the happy noise and over-warm friendly atmosphere. She much preferred the quiet of, say, her favorite Chinese food restaurant, or the River-Side Catch during the off hours. These places she could be sure of clean, healthy food, a quiet atmosphere, and a menu with which she was already familiar. And standing outside on a chilly March night in the New England weather was not her idea of a fun time, as healthful an activity as some may argue it was.
But, as it was not her choice and as her sister, Kat, had faithfully promised to her that she would call ahead for seating, Nicole found herself pushing her way through the crowded waiting space to the hostess station. She heard snatches of conversation as she wound her way through the little groups.
“… so then I said, ‘What the h--- do you mean, additional fees?’ And he was, like, ‘When you signed….”
“…My feet are sooo tired. I worked 14 hours in the store today and that witch, Hazel…”
“…and just when you thought the movie was over, right, bam! There was this explosion. I nearly died…”
“…I mean, I’m more than due for the raise. I work harder than any one else and when that Deutsch thing was going down, I was the one who…”
“We should have just gone across the street.”
“But you hate Indian food.”
“True, but I hate starving to death more…”
The harassed hostess with the deteriorating makeup pulled herself away from a lively discussion of table assignments with three disgruntled waitresses to face Nicole. She spoke the words with the lifeless intonation of a woman who had nothing left to live for, a living martyr who rather resented being plagued as she was. She took a clip-board with a frighteningly long list of names on it and waited.
“Carson. We called ahead.”
The hostess stopped writing and checked her list. “Katherine Carson?”
The hostess suppressed a grimace and viciously scribbled out the CARS that she had scrawled at the bottom of the list. She looked about and said, “I’m sorry, it’ll still be another few minutes.”
The hostess turned away and Nicole had to say, “A buzzer?”
Annoyed, the hostess found one and thrust it into her hands, then turned to play peacemaker.
Nicole found herself being sucked back into the crowd. Hemmed in on all sides by bodies, voices, and odors, claustrophobia was not long in coming. She fought her way through and found herself outside again. This time, the crisp air was a blessing and she took a few, deep breaths to steady herself. Her lungs felt revived and her whole outlook brightened. After all, it wasn’t that cold out. The table wouldn’t be too long in coming, this restaurant chain had a very good reputation, and she would have a good conversation with her sister, Kat, whom she hadn’t seen in a week. Things would be good.
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