Her mother had nagged at her repeatedly to get a part time job. Declared loudly and at great length that she wasn’t putting her through college if she wasn’t going to try to help out financially. Over the last three months she had applied for plenty- the skate shop, the taffy shop, the food store, the t-shirt shop on the boardwalk. It was while she was searching the town for “Help Wanted” signs that she had first seen “him”.
He had been rushing round the corner and collided with her almost knocking her off her feet. As she staggered he had put out a steadying hand to stop her from falling off the pavement. Initially annoyed that he had barged straight into her, she had been about to yell at him to watch where he was going but those twinkling hazel eyes of his had stopped her.
“Sorry, lil lady,” he apologised. “You ok?”
“Fine,” she spluttered in embarrassment.
“I’m late for work, “he added with a smile as he let go of her arm.
“It’s OK,” she heard herself say. “No harm done.”
“Sorry again. Have a great day!”
And in a split second he was gone.
“Who was he?” she wondered as she turned along the boardwalk searching for signs. As she walked, she kept smiling to herself. The place where he had grabbed her arm tingled at the memory of his touch. That smile! Those eyes! So he was a bit older than her but he was hot!
Turning to head home a couple of hours later, disheartened by the lack of employment opportunities available, she decided to treat herself to a slice of pizza. When she reached the main avenue she headed straight for the pizza parlour’s takeaway window. The guy behind the counter had his back to her as she stepped up to place her order. Immediately, even from behind, he looked familiar. Was it him? She guessed he must be six three and took note of the sun bleached blonde ponytail at the nape of his neck. When he turned round to serve her, she realised it was indeed the same guy from earlier.
“Hi, what can I get you?” he asked warmly then added ”You again? You still ok?”
“Still fine,” she replied feeling her skin begin to flush red. “Can I get a slice of pepperoni and a diet coke, please?”
“Coming right up. Large coke?”
“Regular, no ice”
While he fetched her order, she studied him across the counter. There were two tattoos just visible below the edges of the sleeves of his t-shirt. He had the longest slender hands she had seen. Trying not to smile too much, she took note of his slender hips and tight cute butt. When he passed over her meal, she handed him a ten dollar bill. Briefly their fingers touched and she felt a surge of electricity spark through her.
He really was gorgeous!
During the following week at school she asked about among her friends to see if anyone knew who he was or knew anything about him. Eventually she learned from one of her brother’s friends that his name was Jake and that he fronted Silver Lake, the local rock band that their school music teacher Mr Santiago played with. She also discovered from a poster in the music department that they were scheduled to play at the Surfside Park Music Festival the next weekend. She had to be there. Had to be in the front row.
After much begging and pleading and ultimately bribery, her older brother agreed to take her along to Surfside. As she handed him the twenty dollar bribe he said, “You better behave in front of my friends, Jenny.”
“I will,” she promised.
By Saturday night she was bursting with excitement at the prospect of seeing Jake on stage. Her brother had repeatedly told her that she would hate Silver Lake; that it wasn’t her “pretty boy band crap”. As she stood a few rows from the barrier between her brother and his friend she was having second thoughts about the music. A female singer had just played a set of largely Cher and Tina Turner numbers and her ears were already ringing. The stage lights dimmed while a couple of stage hands scurried round plugging things in and changing the microphones over. Around her the crowd were all chanting, “Silver Lake. Silver Lake. Silver Lake Lake Lake!” Her brother and his friend were practically screaming in her ears.
A powerful bass riff rang out over the park and with an explosion of light and drums Jake was centre stage right in front of her. His long blonde hair hung freely over his shoulders. In skin tight ripped jeans and a black vest t-shirt, guitar slung over his back, he stepped up to the mic and began to sing. Hard rock might not be her music of choice but she was instantly lost in Jake’s performance. Soon she was screaming and chanting with the rest of the crowd, much to her brother’s amusement. All too soon the band finished and the fireworks display signalling the end of the event exploded above them.
“Come on,” shouted her brother, grabbing her roughly by the shoulder. “Let’s get some pizza and then get you home before mom skins me.”
When they reached the pizza parlour Jenny waited on the boardwalk at the front of the restaurant while her brother and his friend went round to the takeaway counter. It was then that she spotted the sign. Taped to the window it read “Help Wanted. Apply within.”
Without hesitation she went inside and asked to speak to the manager about the job. Her heart was pounding as she waited by the cash point. A few moments later the waitress returned and explained that the manager was busy but asked if she could come back at four thirty on Tuesday afternoon for an interview.
Her afternoon classes dragged in as she watched the clock tick slowly round. The second the bell rang, she was out of her seat and rushing down the corridors to catch the bus into town. It was almost four thirty when the bus finally stopped at the end of Rehoboth Avenue. Jumping down, she ran the last few yards to the restaurant. She had to get this job!
The manager invited her to take a seat at one of the booths then asked the waitress to fetch them some drinks and a snack. He began to run through his standard interview questions and Jenny answered them all clearly and confidently. All the while she was trying to look around to see if Jake was working. Just as she had given up hope of seeing him, he brought out their drinks and a basket of cheese fries. As he set the glasses down she smiled at him. Setting the fries down in the middle of the table, he gave her a wink then headed back to the kitchen. The rest of the interview was a blur. Her heart was racing. Jake had winked at her!
“Ok, Jenny,” said the manager. “You can start on Saturday. Be here for eleven and I’ll get someone lined up to show you the ropes.”
“I got the job?”
“Yes, you did. One month’s trial but, if it all goes well, the job’s yours.”
It was raining when she got up on Saturday but not even that could dampen her excitement about her first day at work. All week she had hoped and prayed that Jake would be working the same shift as her. She didn’t dare dream that he would be the one showing her the ropes.
The restaurant was almost empty when she arrived a few minutes before eleven. She was shown through to a small staff room at the back beside the kitchen and told to take a seat until the manager came in. Sitting at the small plastic table Jenny fidgeted and tapped her foot nervously. At last the door opened and the manager entered with Jake right behind him.
“Morning, Jenny. Ready for your first shift?” he called warmly.
“Morning, “she replied her voice little more than a squeak.
“I’ve asked Jake here to show you the ropes. If you follow his lead you’ll be fine. Both of you will be in the kitchen today.”
“Thank you,” squeaked Jenny. Seven hours of shadowing Jake. Seven hours of following his every command. Things couldn’t have started any better.
“Jake, be gentle with her, “joked the manager as he left them alone.
“You? Again?” commented Jake, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “I could be forgiven for thinking you’re stalking me.”
Jenny giggled nervously.
“Come on then,” he said with a smile. “Show time!”
For the next two hours she followed him like a puppy. Patiently he talked her through the rules of the kitchen, explained the processes and how to prepare a few of the basic dishes on the menu. She drank in his every word, still not believing that she was actually working alongside him. Close up, she noticed tiny laughter lines at his eyes causing her to realise he was perhaps a few years older than she had first thought. He had obviously shaved that morning- there was a nick beside his ear- and she inhaled the slightly spicy aroma of his aftershave. Everything about him was perfect.
“Take a break for fifteen, you two, “shouted the manager at one thirty.
“Come on, lil lady,” said Jake, his voice huskier than she remembered from the other day. “Time to eat and relax.”
He fixed a snack for both of them, careful not to exceed their staff meal allowance then led her through to the staff room. Now was her chance to really talk to him- to find out more about him. As she settled herself at the table, Jake declared her was stepping outside to make a few calls. Left alone Jenny ate her lunch and sipped her soda wrapped in a blanket of disappointment. Opportunity gone.
When their break was almost up, Jake came back in, stuffing his phone in his pocket.
“Sorry, that took longer than I thought,” he apologised. “Ready for round two?”
“Ready when you are,” declared Jenny as she put her trash into the bin beside the door.
The next couple of hours flew by as the restaurant grew busier. She barely had time to draw breath. A few minutes before four, the manager called Jake away and she found herself left alone with the other kitchen staff following their instructions. Without her mentor Jenny felt suddenly shy and lost. She kept glancing over at the manager’s office hoping Jake would hurry back. Four o’clock came and she went back to the staff room for a fifteen minute break with a glass of water. This job was more tiring than it looked. She was sweating. Her back was aching. Her feet were hot and throbbing. All she could smell was tomato sauce and cheese.
When the staff room door opened, she looked up, hoping it was Jake coming to join her. It was Jake but he had his denim jacket on and was holding his apron in his hand.
“Just wanted to wish you good luck, “he said tossing the apron to her. “A gift from me to you. I’m out of here. Last shift just ended.”
“Last shift?” echoed Jenny, not quite comprehending what he had said.
“Yup. I’ve made my last pizza,” declared Jake, grinning from ear to ear. “I start a new job next week.”
“Oh! Where?” she asked trying and failing to hide her disappointment.
“The local high school. I’m going to be teaching music three days a week.”
“Music?” sighed Jenny, her heart sinking. “Well, good luck. Thanks for showing me the ropes.”
“Pleasure,” he said softly. “Need to run. Don’t work too hard, lil lady”
And with that he was gone.
She sat holding his apron to her chest. It smelled of him. Smelled of his aftershave. Silently she wondered if it was too late to make changes to her school courses for the rest of the year.