RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(10)

By: Emma Scott


I hurried out before he could speak a word of protest. Out on the street, headed to the subway, I found a twenty dropped into the front pocket of my apron, and promptly burst into tears.





Chapter Three


Charlotte

Lucky 7’s, thank God, was busy that Friday night. I hustled behind the Greenwich bar to a backdrop of noisy music, shouted conversations, and clinking glass with two other bartenders—Sam and Eric with whom I worked with every Friday and Saturday night. They weren’t twins or even brothers, but that didn’t stop me from forever referring to them as one entity: Samneric, like from The Lord of the Flies. I mentioned it to them when I was hired three months ago, thinking it a clever coincidence. Neither had any idea what I was talking about.

Now, Samneric hustled around me, chatting easily with the customers while I stumbled my way through small talk. I wasn’t cut out for being a bartender. I was too ‘wound up’, and ‘slightly goofy’, whatever that meant. But Janson, the owner of Lucky 7’s, had been desperately short-handed when I applied. I could remember the cocktail combinations with perfect accuracy, and he was forever encouraging me to pour one for myself now and then to loosen up.

“And for god’s sake, would it kill you to flirt a little?”

I knew what he meant, but I just didn’t have the flirting gene. I tried, but I had no filter. Words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them, and unfiltered honesty wasn't necessarily the first thing a tipsy guy at a bar looked for.

Sometimes I thought Janson only kept me because he felt sorry for me. Samneric told me it was because I looked like a pixie dream girl from some indie move.

“Guys dig that. A lot,” they told me.

“Dig what?” I’d asked.

Sam and/or Eric had clarified, “You’re cute in a sad, smart kind of way.”

I didn’t know what to do with that either, but I did my best to look the part of a bartender chick in a dark, dive-y bar. For Annabelle’s, I looked clean-cut and conservative. At Lucky 7’s, I wore black tank tops that enhanced my not-inconsequential boobs, dark eyeliner, and let my hair run wild. It was like a costume to me. I was neither clean-cut, nor a hard partying girl.

I didn’t know what I was.

At around ten, Melanie Parker shouldered up to the bar through the crowd of Greenwich Village bohemians, artists, and wealthy hipsters that were gentrifying the neighborhood at an alarming rate. Or so my best friend was fond of telling me. She gave the stink-eye to one young guy in a too-expensive sweater, and jerked her chin at me by way of greeting.

“Good night?” she commented. The blue neon lights behind me lit up her cat’s eye glasses. She looked pretty gentrified herself in a white cardigan and brown suede skirt, but that was her “work costume.” Melanie gave cello lessons to the children of Manhattan’s elite when she wasn’t playing in the pit for some off-off-Broadway experimental musical act. She brushed the fringe of dark bangs out of her eyes. “How’s rent looking?”

I poured her the usual—an Old Fashioned—and shrugged. “Ask me again tomorrow night. I need two killer shifts to make it.”

“Screw this job,” Melanie said, spearing the cherry in her drink with a tiny plastic sword. “Screw both your jobs.”

I was glad another customer demanded my attention. I had been about to reply that it was easy for Melanie to say that when she had a rent-controlled apartment she shared with her stable-as-a-rock girlfriend of two years. But I knew what she was getting at, and sure enough, she reached across the bar to touch my hand.

“You know what you should be doing,” she said in a softer tone. “When was the last time you practiced?”

“Wednesday,” I said, and that was the truth. “And it cost me thirty bucks for the practice room at the Kaufman. Thirty bucks I don’t really have.”

I thought that was pretty brave of me considering the sorry state of my finances and especially since it had been a waste of time. Most of my practice sessions were a waste of time; I made the notes but felt none of the music.

“Any thoughts about an audition?”

I wiped the bar with a rag. “Maybe.”