“Kid, you’re late.” Bart’s half smile let Amber know that she wasn’t fired, at least not yet anyway.
“I’m only a few seconds late, besides, in a lot of locations it would be called fashionably late.”
“Not at the Oasis. Tables six and seven haven’t been helped yet. Beware, they look like potential muffins.”
“Aren’t they all?” She said over her shoulder as she tied her apron around her slim waist. ‘Muffin’ meant player, and to Amber a player was the exact type of man that left her at the altar over a year ago. She still felt the embarrassment, the humiliation, the degradation, and most of all, the shame for not realizing her fiancé was cheating. Soon after the horrible nuptial nightmare, Amber applied for the waitress position at the Oasis night club where she could be constantly reminded of the kind of guy she never wanted to become involved with again – Muffins.
Bart and Amber had become fast friends right from the start. Bart was married to a nice girl and they had a newborn. He had a lot of insightful wisdom that Amber soaked up like a sponge. Together, they had a lot of fun coming up with the many different types of muffins to suit the types of men that frequented the night club. There were the fruit muffins, kind of sweet but still only after one thing. The corn muffins, who told corny jokes as come-on’s, the nut muffins, just plain nuts, and the bran muffins, who were simply too old to be trolling for young women.
Occasionally, she’d run into an actual fruitcake.
She made her way over to the first table where two men sat in their casual suit jackets with crew neck tee shirts underneath. Miami Vice was years ago yet this look never seemed to go out of style. They were staring out in the crowd of dancers as if they were looking for someone in particular.
“Hi there, what can I get you?” She asked in her usual polite voice raised enough to be heard over the music.
Both of their heads turned at the same time and smiles lit up their faces. Amber knew immediately that these were typical male customers. They would no doubt try to pick up on her, and when she ‘gracefully’ let them down they would move on to other potential conquests. They would eventually find a girl who was willing to dance, and if they were lucky, they’d get lucky. It made Amber sick, and that sick feeling was exactly what she thought she needed to avoid getting into another relationship disaster.
“Well, aren’t you just the prettiest thing.” The one on the left said, letting his eyes wander her body.
“Man, she’s hotter than any girl here.” The other one said to his friend, but with his eyes on Amber.
Yep, muffins. “I can hear you, you know. You two should be careful, you might dehydrate from all that drooling. Say, I have an idea, why don’t I get you something to drink?” She kept her casual smile as she issued the sarcasm.
“House draft for me, honey.”
“Same here, baby.”
She walked away with their order and gave it to Bart.
“Was I right?” He asked.
“On the nose. We need a new kind of muffin that describes idiots, Bart.” Amber’s eyes drifted to the other table she was about to serve. Yep, that’s right, two more good looking men, and undoubtedly muffins. She picked up the tray with the beers and took it over to the first two idiots.
“Baby, you look good enough to eat!” The ‘baby’ man said. His friend followed up with, “What time do you get off, honey?”
Never with you, buddy, she thought to herself. She set the two drinks down and said, “First of all, I’m not on the menu, and secondly, here’s a little advice: You can’t both try to pick up on me at the same time, and more importantly, neither of you should try to pick up on me at all.”
She turned away from them and walked to the next table. Hopefully these two muffins wouldn’t be as blatantly stupid. “Hi, what can I get for you?” She said in her usual tone.
“How about your number?” The one on the right asked.
Amber had heard that line so many times it wasn’t even funny. She did notice that the guy on the left shook his head and looked down at the table as if he might be embarrassed with the behavior of his friend. She replied with her best Valley Girl impression, “Um, I think you might have missed the free brochure available at the door, right next to our bouncer. It lists the lame pick up lines that died with the dinosaurs.” She leaned in closer to the guy and added in her regular voice, “By the way, I’ve heard ‘how about your number’ over a thousand times and so has every other girl. You might want to spice it up a bit.” She stood up straight and smoothed her apron. “What can I get you boys tonight?”
The other guy looked up into her eyes and said in a calm smooth voice, “We’ll just have two regular beers, thanks.”
Amber felt caught off guard at the easiness of this one’s voice and the way his dark eyes pierced hers with an electrical jolt. Her guard was always up because it had to be, but with this guy, she immediately felt that she didn’t need to be processing a come-back. She turned and walked to the bar.
“Two regulars.” She told Bart.
Bart was wiping out a glass and looking beyond her head. “More muffins?”
“Yeah, well, one of them is. The other one may not be.”
“Would that be the one who hasn’t taken his eyes off you since you left the table?”
Her head whirled around to see those sexy dark eyes on her. She looked back at Bart and said with a sigh, “Maybe he is a muffin.”
“You like him.” He said with an accusatory tone.
“I think you like him.”
“That’s ridiculous. I don’t even know him. He’s probably just like all the other men in this joint.”
“Hey, that’s not nice.”
“Except you, Bart.” She smiled and took the drinks over to the table.
After she set the drinks down, she looked at the one on the left and asked, “Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thanks.” His eyes twinkled momentarily then he looked down at his beer.
Amber left the table and headed to another one that had just filled with several girls.
“Damn, she’s hot!” Stewie said to Cole.
“What was with that idiotic line, ‘how ‘bout your number’? What are you, twelve?” Cole always knew Stewie was a bit forward, but he had to agree with the waitress, Stewie needed to spice it up a bit.
“I don’t know, but it was worth a try. Check out the girls at that table. I think I’ll try the blond with the short hair.” Stewie drank a few swallows from his mug and got up and left.
Cole sat there for the next hour and watched the beautiful waitress while he nursed his beer. At one point, the music lulled at the same time the bartender called out her name. Amber – a very fitting name. Amber had a natural beauty about her that screamed of Greek Goddess. Her legs went on forever and the clingy see through top left very little to the imagination. Her golden hair bounced and shimmered under the many different colored lights as she walked and Cole couldn’t see any other girl in the entire club even half as pretty as her. He overheard her quick-witted comebacks to other male customers which told him she was intelligent and clever and not to mention funny. So why was a girl like her working in a place like this?
It was clear to Cole that most of the men who came to this night club held a certain assumption of the women they expected to come in contact with. Yet, Amber held her own and refused any and all advances, including Stewie’s. She was the most interesting person he’d ever met and was absolutely gorgeous. He was glad Stewie convinced him to come here.
“Amber,” Bart said looking over Amber’s shoulder at Cole, “you have an admirer. He looks like a nice guy.”
“I’m sure he’s planning his pickup lines and will ask me what time I get off work or some other run-of-the-mill idiom designed to tempt me into his bed. He’s probably just like all the others.” She tried to sound convincing.
“A little stuck on yourself much?”
“Come on Bart, you know every guy comes here willing to walk out with anyone willing. I’m not the only one they use those stupid lines on, I’m just usually the first. It’s my duty to all humanity to put them down quickly and harshly.”
“Well, your admirer doesn’t fit the bill. He looks very out of place and uncomfortable and certainly doesn’t act like a muffin. You should give him a chance, Amber.”
“I don’t give chances anymore, not since—”
“How long has it been, Amber?”
She looked away from Bart’s concerned glare. She knew what he was trying to do, what he was suggesting, and she also knew he had an amazing sense of intuition about guys in general. He wouldn’t push her toward a loser.
“I only want you to be happy, Amber. Give this guy a chance.”
Give this guy a chance to stomp on my heart, yeah right. Still, she’d been watching the guy in question out of the corner of her eye for the last hour. She watched as he turned down several girls that had approached him only to have his attentions return to her. There was an interesting look in his sexy eyes, one that she couldn’t quite decipher, but it certainly was not like the other men in the club who all seemed to want to eat her up with chocolate sauce. No, this guy was definitely different, respectful almost. Maybe Bart could sense that too.
“Bart, the fact that he’s here at the female flesh market says a lot. Don’t forget that. But if it will get you off my back, I’ll give him the opportunity to make a pass at me, of which I will promptly turn down, and I’ll bet you it will take less than two minutes.”
“I’ll take that bet. Loser has to close and lock up tonight.”
“Sweet! I’ll be going home early.” She winked.
She walked over to his table determined to play fair. This would be a fun experiment and no doubt he would fail just like every other guy that ever came to the Oasis. But what if he wasn’t like every other guy? Don’t get your hopes up, Amber. She thought. This is just to shut Bart up, nothing else. Now, if she could just get her heart to stop racing.
“Can I get you anything else?” She asked as she wiped the moisture rings off Cole’s table top.
“No, I’m good.” He looked at her quickly and then back down at his drink.
“Where’s your friend?”
Cole motioned in Stewie’s direction with his chin.
Amber turned her head to look. Then she looked back at him. “Why aren’t you out there enjoying the evening?”
“There isn’t anyone that interests me out there.”
Her brows scrunched together in heavy contemplation. Was that a come-on? Could be. It was obvious that he liked her but that wasn’t a true pick-up line, it was more like bait. She’d have to step it up a notch if she was going to win the bet.
“Do you mind if I sit down for a minute? I’m Amber, by the way.”
Cole lost his breath somewhere between his toes and nose as he nodded his approval. He took a sip of his beer and inhaled slowly trying to get a hold of his excitement. Her musky floral scent hit his nose stealing his breath once again.
“I’m Cole.” He didn’t know what else to add, so he said nothing.
His silence made Amber feel uneasy, and as if she was intruding. Normally, she would have excused herself but she wanted to go home early so she pressed on. “Cole, you don’t seem like the kind of guy I see here on a regular basis.”
“I don’t do the club thing. Stewie, my friend, pulled me along tonight.”
“Well, if you don’t frequent clubs, what do you usually do with your weekends?”
Cole took another sip and looked down at the table, “My mother has had poor health for a long time, so on evenings and weekends I help her out.”
“Oh, what’s she sick with?” A sick mother? Was this a lame ‘feel sorry for me’ line?
“This and that, basically everything that comes down the pipeline. Ever since my father died two years ago she’s never been the same.” He cleared his throat and attempted at a subject change. “What about you, Amber? Do you like working in a place like this?”
“A place like this?” Her eyes narrowed slightly.
He realized how offensive his question could be taken so he reiterated with, “What I mean to say is, you seem like a very intelligent girl and from what I’m seeing, there seems to be a shortage of brainwaves flowing through this place, both male and female. Anyway, you kind of stand out, as if you don’t belong here.”
Should she tell him about her past? What did she have to lose, really? If he was telling the truth about his mother and deceased father, then that was very personal information he’d shared with her, besides, he still hadn’t made a pass at her or asked her out, so the bet was undecided, as of yet, and time was running out.
“About a year ago, I was engaged to be married. I was high on life and love, but low on IQ, otherwise I would have realized my fiancé was cheating on me. In a really messed up way, working here helps me deal with that, if that makes any sense.” She hadn’t ever openly admitted that before and was shocked at the amount of inner peace and hope of closure it brought her.
“It does make sense, actually. Every man here probably reminds you of your ex and his scumbag ways. He wasn’t thinking about you when he cheated, he was only thinking about one thing; the same one thing all of these guys are after. By insulting every guy that comes on to you, you protect your heart from being broken further. So, by working here, surrounded by one-tracked minds and sex-crazed bimbos, you feel in control of your emotions and your life.”
“Wow! You’re good, Dr. Cole. What’s your day job?”
“I’m in advertising. It’s my job to psycho-analyze. Unfortunately, it tends to scare away the ladies, kind of like right now.”
“I’m not scared that easily.”
“Have you ever faced your ex and told him how much he hurt you?”
“No.” She said quietly.
Cole reached across the table and laid his hand over hers. “It wasn’t your fault, Amber. He made the error, he turned his back on you. His loss. The guy is a fool and probably kicks himself every day. I know I would.”
She looked at him with her mouth half-way open not knowing what to say or how to react. She hadn’t been in a situation like this where the guy was sensitive, caring and understanding. Then again, she was constantly surrounded by morons who viewed her as a piece of meat.
Their silent staring match was interrupted by Stewie.
“Hey, Cole, I’m heading out. See you later.” Stewie winked and pulled the short blonde girl closer to his side. Neither Cole nor Amber acknowledged him. “Hey,” He snapped his fingers in front of Cole’s face, “Get a room, you two.” With that, he left with his companion.
Cole cleared his throat and looked down at their clasped hands on the table. He looked up at Amber who had closed her mouth and was now smiling beautifully at him.
“I’m sorry, Amber. I should go.” He stood up, pulling out his wallet to pay for the beers. He was so close to being able to ask her out, so close, but Stewie had to kill the moment. Cole decided right there he wasn’t going to let her slip away without a fight. He would come again some other night and see her again.
She stood up next to him straightening her apron and looked up his lean body to his dark eyes and then to his lips. It really had been a long time since she felt the unmistakable jolt of exhilaration and expectation. It felt very good. She watched him open his mouth as if he was about to say something.
“Would you want to go out with me sometime?” The question loomed in the air.
Bart watched Amber as she stood talking to the mystery man. The man handed Amber a card from his wallet and she accepted it with a smile. Then she turned and headed toward Bart almost skipping with delight. Bart really hoped his instincts were accurate on this one because Amber deserved a good guy for once.
“Looks like I’m closing tonight.” She said with a smile.
“What? Didn’t he just ask you out?”
“Nope, I asked him.”
BY; Lorena Angell.
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