Authors: Mia Caldwell
Published By Mia Caldwell, 2015
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2015 Mia Caldwell
All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locations is purely coincidental. The characters are all productions of the author’s imagination.
Please note that this work is intended only for adults over the age of 18 and all characters represented as 18 or over.
Table of Contents
(This book is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. Part 2 is also currently available to read for FREE from Kindle Unlimited.)
You can find Part 2 HERE on
Mia’s Amazon Page.
“If that guy at table four touches my ass one more time, I swear I'll bring a tray down on his goddamned head!” Jessie dropped the empty plates she was carrying onto the table by the kitchen sink. Burt Stiller, the aging owner of the diner and head cook, looked over at her with a raised eyebrow.
“And if you break anything, you pay for it.” he commented as he casually flipped burgers, shaking his head at his temperamental waitress.
Jessie made a face, wiped her forehead with her sleeve, and backed out of the kitchen's swinging door with a plate of hot food in each hand. The hungry guests were waiting, and she always worked hard to make sure they didn't stay waiting long. Her commitment to prompt, courteous service meant better tips, and at twenty-six she needed every dime she could get.
“Problem with that girl is she thinks she's too good for the men in here. Just because she goes to college she thinks she's better than the rest of us,” her coworker sneered as soon as Jesse had left the kitchen. Burt ignored her catty remark and continued manning the grill.
Melanie, a simple yet outspoken woman, was a full-time waitress at Burt's Diner. She watched the kitchen door swing closed, rolled her eyes towards the greasy kitchen ceiling, and followed Jessie out onto the diner floor. They were the only two waitresses on duty that evening, and thanks to its prime location the small diner was busy as usual.
It was an exhausting dinner rush, but Jessie preferred it when the diner was busy. Not only did the time pass quicker, she also brought home more money which was of utmost importance since this job was helping to pay her tuition. A packed restaurant also meant she didn't have to listen to Melanie's inane banter and the constant bitching about her supposed friend, Lorelle. Jessie didn't know and had never even met this Lorelle woman, but that didn't stop Melanie from going on about her.
When Jessie first took the part-time waitress gig a little over one year earlier, Melanie was the first person she'd spoken to. She thought they'd hit it off, what with them being two black girls from the same rough part of town and knowing a few of the same people. They were also close in age, but like so many people from their neighborhood, Melanie had dropped out of school which explained why Jessie had no recollection of her. She tried to connect with the girl, but the more she got to know Melanie the more she withdrew from her. Melanie had a big mouth, had zero interest in bettering herself, and Jessie knew for a fact that she wasn't honest when it came to taking payments. If the till was ever short, Jessie knew exactly who was to blame.
She never pointed a finger at her coworker, but the fact that she had purposely distanced herself from her made Melanie grow bitter towards her in a hurry. She constantly aimed smarmy comments at Jessie, referring to her as stuck up, and delighted in telling the rest of the staff how Jessie looked down her nose at them because she was the only waitress there getting a college education. Despite Melanie and her catty smear campaign, Jessie got along just fine with everyone. She had a love-hate relationship with her boss, Burt, who was as short-tempered as she was, and she tried her hardest to stay on his good side.
Even with all the friction between them, there was only one time when Jessie truly got upset with Melanie, and it had taken place a few months earlier. She took her schooling quite seriously, and it bothered her that Melanie had no respect for it.
“So what if I want to do well for myself?” Jessie had argued.
“It's a waste of time, girl. Ain't no way you're ever gonna' get a better job than this. Even after you finish college. You come from the ghetto, just like me. An employer's gonna' look at your address on the application and toss it straight in the trash,” Melanie had said with a wave of her finger.
Jessie had tried not to get into a debate with her simple-minded coworker over this. The only way she was going to shut Melanie up would be to do well in college, and so far her grades were stellar. She'd prove to this fool that a person like her could use her brain to get a good job one day and move up in the world. She'd escape her poverty-stricken neighborhood and climb the social ladder to success or die trying, she vowed.
“Order for table four!” Burt's voice sounded loudly from the kitchen. He dropped the plate holding a double cheeseburger with extra fries on the kitchen's small counter and clanged the bell signaling a meal was ready.
The order was for Earle Jackson. A portly, filthy man in his early forties, he was Jessie's worst customer yet he sauntered in almost every day seemingly to bring on a coronary with his double cheeseburger meals. He also made it his mission to drive Jessie crazy with his inappropriate behavior.
“You're up,” Melanie grinned at her, knowing full well that Jessie was beyond sick of the rude slob. He always sat at table four, ordering the same meal and futilely attempting to hit on the waitresses. Since Jessie typically covered table four on her shifts, she'd be stuck putting up with his blatant passes that were just as disgusting as the stains on the armpits of his shirts.
Jessie picked up the plate and walked with trepidation to the salivating Earle Jackson. Earle had no front teeth, worked in the local car parts factory, and lived on his own just up the street. Jessie set the plate down in front of him and he tried, yet again, to make a swipe for her backside. She had scurried off to take an order at the next table, and he had hit his hand on her small notepad instead of his intended target. He let out a loud wail as if he'd been mortally wounded, and everyone turned to see what the disturbance was about.
“Okay, relax everyone!” Jessie shouted. “That's just another happy customer who can't wait to eat his meal,” she joked with a smile.
At the next table, she stood with her pen poised on the pad. “What can I get you?” she asked with a polite grin, allowing herself to be distracted for a second by the television mounted in a corner of the diner's ceiling. The news channel rolled as usual, but there was no sound since Burt preferred to keep the set muted. The featured story appeared to be about billionaire John Harwood and his wife, the former supermodel who made a name for herself simply as “Kimberly” in the runway fashion world. They were climbing into a black limousine, and Jessie couldn't help but wonder what all the fuss was about this time.
The couple had been in the news a lot recently thanks to John Harwood, a respected tycoon banker, being seen having dinner with an up-and-coming actress. It was a sad day in age, Jessie lamented silently to herself, when celebrity gossip took a front seat to the world's larger problems. Everyone seemed to obsess over the rich and famous, especially Melanie, who bored Jessie senseless on a regular basis by repeating the latest garbage gossip. Jessie had a busy life of her own to worry about between work and school, and couldn't be bothered by these meaningless reports. She had jokingly reminded Melanie countless times that billionaires don't walk into diners and sweep waitresses off their feet, and that real life wasn't like the movies. Still, that didn't dissuade Melanie from fantasizing about the day when some wealthy stud would waltz into the diner and walk out carrying her.
After taking table five's order and placing it in the kitchen, she came out to find Melanie still staring at the television, her eyes locked onto the screen as the celebrity gossip continued to flash.
“You planning on doing any work here or what?” Jessie asked her indignantly.
“Chill out, chick. You're not the boss. What's wrong with me wanting to bag myself a rich man like that?” Melanie quipped with a slight nod towards the television.
“Snap out of it,” Jessie said as she glanced at the screen and saw John Harwood’s image displayed on it still. “Guys like that only go for actresses. Models. Girls with size zero waist lines. Blonde hair. Fake tans.”
“Oh, be quiet, girl. Don't spoil it for me. Like you'd turn down some hot loaded dude taking you out to show you a good time,” Melanie fired back.
“I'd rather make my own money than rely on some rich socialite. I'm not one of those airhead girls with no ambition who wants to take the easy way out by marrying into money,” Jessie scoffed.
“You calling me an airhead?” Melanie turned her buxom five-foot frame towards Jessie, who wasn't much taller but was certainly slimmer. Jessie had always understood the importance of healthy living and steered clear of the diner's greasy food, ordering salads on her breaks instead of throwing back fries and burgers. She had neither the time nor the money to frequent a gym, but she still managed to do light aerobics and yoga on a daily basis from the comfort of her small apartment.
“You better watch yourself, girl. One of these days...” Melanie trailed off as she walked away to clear an empty table. Jessie could hear her muttering to herself but couldn't make out the words.
“Melanie, focus on work instead of running that mouth of yours,” Burt shouted from the kitchen. “What am I paying you for?” For a man approaching seventy, he still had remarkably good hearing.
Melanie used her hand to mockingly gesture that Burt was talking too much as she finished clearing the table, wiped it down, and shuffled off to take an order for a party of three that had just seated themselves. Melanie could fool herself all she wanted, but Jessie was not under any illusions. Money comes with hard work, and as soon as she got home she had a paper to complete. She would ace her business class, but she need a few shots of caffeine to keep her going tonight.
She couldn't wait until the day she could say goodbye to Burt's Diner.
It was two o'clock in the morning. Jessie's eyelids were growing heavy and, bit by bit, her brain was shutting down. After coming straight home from a hectic double shift at the diner, she had stayed up late working on an assignment that was due the next day. The diner had been extremely busy, and she'd spent the majority of the day running around like a mad woman taking orders and carrying plates of greasy food in and out of the kitchen. She was exhausted, to say the least, and caffeine had stopped helping hours ago.
Jessie slouched over her desk, mentally and physically drained, and replayed the events of her shift in her mind. The television in the diner had its sound maxed thanks to the ball game. Burt was usually quite strict when it came to volume, with the exception being his beloved Cubs. Whenever a game was on, he'd crank the set so he could hear it clearly from the kitchen. Baseball, however, meant that people hung around for hours on end, and since the diner sold alcohol many of them would get too drunk for their own good.
“I hate this,” Jessie had commented to Melanie.
Melanie had laughed it off, saying, “You better get used to it, girl. Until Prince Charming sweeps you off your feet, this is your life.”
Jessie lost her temper with her snide coworker and shouted back. “Look, can fantasize about some billionaire taking you away from all of this, but I'm smarter than that and I'm going to get out of here on my own, got it?”
“Oh, really?” Melanie had placed her pudgy fists onto her large hips and was winding her neck around in an effort to relieve the stress and strain of carrying heavy plates of food all day.
“Yes, really,” Jessie had continued. “It's about time you took your nose out of the celebrity gossip rags. For Christ's sake, stop relying on your precious Twitter in your pathetic attempt get superstars to notice you. Just get a life of your own, already, you dumb bit—”
Burt burst through the swinging door and dragged Jessie back into the kitchen to chew her out. As always, she was the one on the receiving end of his reprimand and Melanie would be lucky to get off with a slap on the wrist, if that.
“Listen, I didn't employ you to be a side show for my customers. Take orders, serve the food, and clear the tables. That's all you have to do. Consider this a warning, Jessie. I've got a business to run, and this isn't a boxing ring for you and Melanie.”
She had no choice but to bite her tongue. She needed the diner. A part-time job with decent tips was hard to come by, and she needed some way of paying her way through college.
Jessie's eyes sprang open and she realized she had briefly fallen asleep at her desk. With a yawn, she got back to work and somehow managed to finish her assignment. “Thank God,” she whispered to herself before climbing into bed and falling into a deep sleep within seconds.
Unfortunately, with her mind saddled with fatigue, Jessie had forgotten to set her alarm for the morning. Before her classes she was scheduled to work the breakfast shift at Burt's Diner bright and early, but she had overslept by an hour and woke in a panic.
Burt was not impressed when she came bursting through the doors at seven thirty in the morning when she should have been there at six. He stared at his watch and scowled at Jessie, who quickly put on her apron and did the best she could to catch up on the orders that had been piling up. Melanie was the only other waitress on staff that morning, and the breakfast rush was chaotic as always.
“I'm keeping my eye on you, miss,” Burt whispered to Jessie angrily. She worked straight through her shift with no break, and after punching out she plopped down in one of the back room's metal folding chairs and nodded off for nearly an hour. When she awoke to Burt nudging her, the lunch crowd already begun bustling in. She had completely missed her bus to school, and with the next bus not scheduled for another forty-five minutes, she knew she'd never make it there in time to hand in her assignment. She was just too tired to keep on top of things and her life was beginning to suffer from the lack of sleep.
It was during the diner's afternoon rush when things went from bad to worse for Jessie. Out of nowhere a tall, elegant woman stormed into the diner, slid her dark sunglasses to the tip of her nose, and began scanning the room with cold eyes brimming with anger. She was completely out of her element in a small restaurant like Burt's, standing out among the usual patrons thanks to her expensive designer clothes and five inch-high heels. Without so much as one hair out of place, she looked as though she could be featured on the cover of a glamour magazine. Jessie recognized her right away, but couldn't place how she knew the woman. There was definitely something familiar about her flawless face.
Suddenly she remembered the television's news footage from the previous day. This was Kimberly Harwood; ex-supermodel wife of John Harwood, the billionaire banker. What the hell was she doing in a seedy little diner, and why was she glaring at Jessie as if she recognized her as well?
Kimberly, who was flanked by a man in a suit and a woman talking loudly on her cell phone, marched straight over to her. Although she had clocked out, Jessie was holding two bowls of soup that she had planned on delivering to table eight before grabbing her bag from the back room and heading home to get the sleep she so desperately needed. With everyone in the diner now aware of the celebrity's presence, a hushed silence fell across the room. Jessie stood frozen while the glamorous Kimberly marched over to her with an obvious fury in her stride.
“You!” Kimberly shouted, pointing a perfectly manicured finger in Jessie's face.
“Can I help you?” Jessie answered in shock while glancing around the diner, her eyes landing on her boss who was standing just outside of the kitchen with a growing look of agitation spreading across his face.
“The only way you can help me is to keep your skanky ass away from my husband.” Kimberly's voice was loud and shrill, and from the back of the restaurant Jessie heard the faint sound of somebody's cell phone snapping a photo.
“Your... your husband?” Jessie stuttered and looked at Burt, who had taken a few steps closer and now looked irate.
“You think I don't know about the affair you're having with him? You could have been a bit subtle.” Kimberly looked around at everyone, “Really, who brags about sleeping with a married man on Twitter? Are you so fucking stupid you didn't think I'd see it?” Jessie could smell her expensive perfume overpowering the diner's greasy food.
“I really don't know what you're talking about, lady,” Jessie replied in confusion, still holding the bowls of soup. “I think you have the wrong person.”
“Jessica Drew, right?“ Kimberly sneered, clearly still incensed.
“That's me,” Jessie answered with her face still full of confusion.
“You little slut,” Kimberly growled. “He likes actresses. Is that what you are? Some aspiring actress who wants to make it in the business but needs a sugar daddy to fund her career?”
“Is that why
married him?” Jessie shot back. The whole diner took in an audible breath at the same time, and from one of the counter's barstools a kid who appeared to be in his late teens let out an, “Oh, snap!”
“How dare you?” Kimberly advanced on Jessie who took a step back, trying hard not to spill the soup, her hands trembling from the unexpected confrontation. “You just keep out of my life! Stay away from my husband and our home, you ghetto whore. I saw the pictures you posted. You're trash, and if John had anything to do with you it was purely physical and it meant nothing.” Kimberly blasted the word “nothing” into Jessie's face.
Just like that, Kimberly Harwood blew out of the diner along with her entourage. In a testament to her work ethic, Jessie's first thought was to deliver the two bowls of soup she was holding but the unsettling incident had rattled her so badly she mistakenly set them down on the wrong table.
“We didn't order this,” the man sitting across from a woman who was presumable his wife remarked kindly, seeming to understand and forgive the mix-up.
“If that's the chicken soup,” someone called across the diner, “you can take it back. I'm sure it's cold by now, and I also don't want Kimberly Harwood's spit in it – even if she
The diner burst out in laugher, the silence broken by the young man's quip, and Jessie turned to see Melanie cackling hysterically at the cash register. Burt, on the other hand, did not find the incident so funny and his face was red with anger. Beckoning with his finger for Jessie to follow him outside, he led her through the kitchen and into the alleyway out back.
“Burt, this has nothing to do with me,” Jessie said before Burt could even open his mouth. “I don't know that woman, and I've never met her husband in my life.”
“How can you say that?” Melanie's voice chimed in from behind them. Not one to miss out on drama, she had followed them both and stood with one hand leaning on doorway while holding up her cell phone.
“Back off, Melanie,” Jessie snarled on her. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“Well, it's got everything to do with the rest of the world, girl. Do you have any idea how many people saw your little messages to your boyfriend on Twitter?” Melanie waved the phone in her hand. “You know, you really gotta' be careful about what you tweet. These things have a way of getting back to wives and getting them all sorts of pissed.”
Jessie stepped towards Melanie and grabbed for her cell, but Melanie quickly pulled it out of her reach.
“What is that? Let me see,” Jessie demanded.
Melanie held her phone in front of Jessie's face, and Burt leaned in to look at it as well. There were streams of tweets, all made by Jessie, directed at the Twitter account of John Harwood. In each of them, her tweets told the story of how they met, how Jessie was madly in love with him, and how she couldn't wait for the day he'd leave his wife — just like John had promised.
“This is bullshit!” Jessie said, finally grabbing the cell phone out of Melanie's hand. “I don't even have a Twitter account!”
“Well, that's your picture, isn't it?” Burt demanded, looking even closer, his eyes squinting to make out the photo on the small screen.
“It is, but someone clearly got hold of it somehow and I'm going to find out who!” Jessie could see quite plainly that the picture was indeed of her. It was a rather salacious one of her in very scant underwear that left little to the imagination. It had been taken by an ex-boyfriend two years earlier during a weekend away, and she had no idea how anyone could have gotten hold of it.
“Stop ogling this picture, Burt,” Jessie fumed as she handed the phone back to Melanie. “This is someone's idea of a sick joke, and whoever it is better take the profile down.”
“Whoever it is?” Burt replied incredulously, still visibly upset. “Whoever it is better watch out they don't lose their job by doing crazy stuff like this and causing a commotion in my diner. I don't want anything like this happening again, Jessie. You fly off the handle in front of customers, you come in an hour late at my busiest time, and now you've got women coming in here and accusing you of adultery.”
“Burt, please. You know me. I couldn't do a thing like this,” Jessie pleaded.
“All I know is I'm trying to run a business and this doesn't look good. I'm sorry, Jessie, but you've got one last chance. Anything else and you're out of here.”
“But...” Jessie began.
“I don't want to hear another word. Melanie, you get back to work. There's still a half an hour to the end of your shift and a room full of hungry people. Jessie, you get out of here and the next time you come in, I want a new attitude,” Burt said with a stern face while pointing a finger at her.
Jessie nodded her understanding as Melanie shook her head disapprovingly at her and placed her phone back into her pocket. The two scurried back inside, and Jessie stopped by the back room to collect her things. After removing her apron off, she slipped her cardigan on over her uniform. She began to shove her apron into her bag, and that's when she noticed the assignment she'd spent the previous night slaving away over.
“Shit,” she said under her breath, scolding herself for sleeping through her bus ride into school. She'd worked so hard on it this paper, but since it would be handed in late there would be an automatic decrease in her grade. Any more delays and she was likely to receive a failing grade that would tarnish her otherwise fantastic performance.
Wearily, she got onto the bus and sat through the hour-long journey to her college. The ride gave her plenty of time to reflect on the bizarre events of the day, and she had a plethora of questions she wanted answers to. On the ride back home, she fell asleep on the bus but was lucky enough to wake in time to get off near her apartment building.