Magnetised

Magnetised is a romantic, supernatural, fantasy epic, set in the world that we know well. Or do we.

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2. Clocking On

 

As my alarm rang too loudly on Monday morning, the nerves hit me like a freight train, giving me less than a second of waking peace. I never, not even for a nanosecond, thought I would be this nervous. The ease with which I’d secured the job never really allowed for any nerves to blossom, there was no nail biting patience needed to find out if they wanted me. It was almost like I was doing them a favour, not the other way around. They needed me; and yet all day yesterday I felt nothing except escalating worry. It didn’t help that I realised I didn’t have a white shirt until Sunday evening either. Sarah had knocked on my door, curious about the string of expletives coming from my room.

     “You ok?”

     “I haven’t got a fucking white shirt! I didn’t think! I was sure I had one, but I must’ve left it at home,” I replied, panicking.

     “You don’t start until 6 though.”

     “Five thirty.”

     “Oh yeah. Well you’ll still have time tomorrow to run into town and buy one.” 

I was being obstructive, but all I could think about was rows and rows of white shirts and not a single one in my size.

     “I don’t finish Uni till 3. What if they don’t have my size? And I’d have to change at work. That would make such a bad first impression,” I said, the words rushing out as I got more and more agitated.

     “Hmmm, yeah, they never have my size actually.” Sarah really wasn’t helping. “And yeah, it would look crap if you turned up and had to change.”

     “Alright, alright, I get the message.”

     “Oh sorry. I’ll see if I’ve got one you can borrow.” She skipped off to her room. The gesture was a kind one, but I didn’t hold much hope. I didn’t think Sarah was the plain white shirt type and she’d never had a job where she required one. She was bigger than me as well. Slumping back on the bed, I felt overly defeated and hopeless. 

     “Here you go.” It was Sarah, magically holding a perfectly ironed, crisp white shirt that looked as if it would fit like a glove. I had to blink a few times for it to register as reality.

     “It’s Abby’s, I don’t have any white shirts.”

     “Oh thanks. She doesn’t mind?”

     “Nah. Said you can have it, she never uses it anyway.” She left the shirt on my pillow and trotted off. Abby’s gesture had distracted me for a while, and sent me to sleep with a warm feeling. 

      

     I wished I still felt that way as I made myself some tea in the morning. I also wished I had some hot chocolate to calm me, but I could grab one from the University Café. 

     What was I getting myself into? I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was supposed to do when I got there, and worse, I’d let them think that I had some sort of clue. There was some bad karma due to me already. What if I dropped all the food? What if I went to the wrong table? What if someone asked for something obscure and I hadn’t the foggiest what they wanted? I was far too worried about the problems my lie had gotten me into to wonder if they would even like me. It wasn’t an issue compared to the actual job itself. 

     Billy said Natasha will help you, I told myself as I walked back upstairs, tea and toast in hand. But what if she doesn’t? What if it’s too busy to look after a new girl that allegedly knows what she’s doing? For all the stress it was causing I wondered whether the lie was really worth it. No. It had to be, I just had to keep thinking about how comfortable I felt when I was actually there.

     It was eleven o’clock already. My lecture started in an hour. I decided to concentrate my full attention on that and promised myself I would not think about The Folly Inn until I was on my way there and to envision Port Meadow instead. That took some effort. Approaching Poetry wasn’t the most absorbing module on the course.

     I based my degree choice purely on the fact that I read a lot. I figured I would have a head start on the other students because of the sheer volume of books I’d gotten through. Sure enough, this lecture was based on the Poetry of John Milton, someone who I admired greatly and was well versed in. As a result, this semester was shaping up to be a recap for me, and not the most enthralling learning experience. I’d found that a lot in my first few weeks at Brookes. The University you see on TV, the nurturing learning environment you have at school, just doesn’t exist. I couldn’t help feeling let down, but I’d been trying not to think about it, and concentrated on getting the best out of it. It wasn’t like I had any other plans right now and as Sharon was always saying to me; a degree is a degree at the end of the day. Not that I had the slightest idea how I was going to apply an English degree in the world of work. But that problem wasn’t of the biggest urgency at that moment in time and I was hoping semester one wouldn’t be as tedious now that I had a job to focus on. The lecture made it seem like slowing time really was possible. I was good at putting on an absorbed face, but my eyes frequently wandered to my watch. Others weren’t quite as good at showing feigned interest. I noticed a few students had their heads on their desks, the heavy, slow movements of their chests giving away their idle occupation. Yawns circulated the lecture theatre like a Mexican wave, those not even sleepy catching the contagious gesture. I was better at holding mine in, but as Dr Kenneth become more and more monotonous as the hours passed, it became harder to resist. 

     I already knew what metre was. I already knew how to work it out. I could define and example a synecdoche and I knew how to use chiasmus. I didn’t really need to go to this lecture, but it was costing me so much money I felt hugely guilty if I was absent. It annoyed me that I was paying to be taught stuff I already knew, but I had to suck it up and get on with it. I wondered how many people in that lecture theatre were in the same position as me. Maybe they could justify their inattention with their knowledge, but I somewhat doubted that. 

     I wasn’t sitting next to anyone. I don’t really know many people, despite having been here for four weeks. I don’t mind. It just makes group work harder. People think University work is hard, I bet they don’t realise how difficult making friends is. Especially seeing as this English degree only required my presence in Uni for nine hours a week, the rest of my time supposedly used up by reading. I chuckled to myself. 

     Well at least tonight I wouldn’t have to say no to clubbing without good reason. It was a strange contradiction; I didn’t want people to not ask me, I wanted to know I was still invited, but I was never going to go. I had some weird complex about it, my own private insecurity. Still, I knew Sarah wouldn’t stop asking, it hadn’t registered in her head that I was never there. 

     I liked Sarah. Her innocence didn’t stretch to naivety, and although lacking common sense, she was actually really quite clever. She was doing a Maths Degree and working with such ease her lecturer had already asked her to guest speak to a class. She seemed completely unaware of her talent, which made her even more likeable. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her judge anyone or anything unfairly. It bugged me at first; I thought she had no backbone or passion. I realised it was my fault for thinking that way, I was making her into what I’d judged her to be in my head, disliking her for not seeing things my way. I soon corrected that. When I think about it, I suppose she’s the person closest to me at University, although I don’t think I could ever really let her in. Knowing Sarah she’d let my secrets slip unintentionally; she probably wouldn’t even realise if we were sharing private thoughts. I could definitely listen to Sarah, but I couldn’t talk to her. 

     Dr Kenneth finally wrapped up at about quarter past three. I was starting to get twitchy when he overran, somehow thinking it would make me late for work. The nerves kicked in almost automatically, putting a rush in my step to the University Café. I bought a large hot chocolate and was leaving when I walked straight into someone.

     “Whoa there!” Came the voice. I managed to keep the entire beverage in the cup, luckily. I didn’t have enough money for another, and it was vital for my nerves.

     “Oh sorry,” said I, looking up.

     “Oh hey Beth! Didn’t recognise you, you’re in such a rush!” It was Will. I’d met him a few times in my Reading Narrative seminar. We’d become friends.

     “Will, hey, how are you? Yeah I am in a bit of a hurry really.”

     “I’m good thanks. Now now Beth, the clubs don’t open until ten, you’ve got hours to get ready,” he joked.

     “Actually I’m working tonight.”

     “I didn’t know you had a job. Whereabouts?”

     “The Folly Inn?” I doubted he knew where that was.

     “Nah don’t know it I’m afraid.” 

     I told him about its secrecy and what it looked like in case he ever walked by. I was making polite conversation, but I was still full of nervous butterflies. Some friends called at him to join them at their table and he left wishing me luck. 

     Did I need luck? Did I look that inexperienced? I worried as I strode home quickly; taking bug gulps of the hot chocolate. 

     No one was in when I got back and so I jumped in the shower. I let the hot water run over me and relax my muscles. My head was still going crazy, but I had control of my body now. I washed my hair really thoroughly, keen to make a good first impression. 

     I went to my room to get dressed and found a note taped to my door. It was from Ryan. He’d bought some instant hot chocolate and said it was in his cupboard if I needed some. He finished the note mentioning I owed him a drink. I never realised Ryan was that thoughtful. I’d been so focused on making this right for me; I suppose I’d forgotten other people could help too.     

     Pulling on my black jeans and buckling the belt I caught myself in the mirror. Anxiety was written all over my face; even under my fringe you could see the lines of fear. What was making me so uptight? I wasn’t even there yet. I put Abby’s shirt on as I looked at myself, almost comfortingly holding my own gaze, telling me I believed in me. A confident calm washed over me as I finished knotting my tie and looked a bit more like I knew what I was doing. Keeping my make up natural I winked at my own reflection and was ready to grab the bull by the horns.

 

     The car park only had four other cars in it. I hoped they were staff cars; an empty restaurant was exactly what I needed to remember and mimic other waitresses actions. I looked in my rear view mirror one last time, told myself to be positive and cheerful. There was no more time to worry about if my first impression would be a good one. It was time to make it count. 

     Stepping out of my car, a soft but cold autumnal wind ruffled my hair and I took a long, deep breath of the fresh air. I’ve never understood or had much time for intuition but I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. It was an odd sense of familiarity and comfort that I welcomed as I walked bravely into The Folly Inn.

     There were no customers and, as far as I could immediately see, no Billy. Two girls stood behind the bar chatting, one with a red tie on and the other a blue one. Two political opposites working together. A smile drifted across my face, I was glad to be here.  They stopped talking as I walked in, probably expecting me to be a customer to give them something to do. 

     “Erm hi.” I said, my calm being replaced by nerves, but those of the excitement kind. It was going to be fine.

     “Oh you must be the new girl. Bill said he’d put someone on to start today.” said the girl with the red tie.

     “Not that there’ll be much to do this evening by the looks of it,” said the other.

     “Yeah, three on a Monday evening, it’s a lot isn’t it?” She replied. “I’m Natasha, Bill asked me to train you up a bit tonight.”

     “Oh yeah, he mentioned you. I’m Bethany.”

     “Rachael,” said the other girl, shaking my hand, “Nice to meet ya.”

     “Bill said you’ve been a waitress before…?” Should I admit my white lie? Would she help me or think less of me? Did I want to be seen as a liar? Would they sack me already? I spent so long deliberating in my head whether or not to come clean, Natasha had already guessed. She smirked at Rachael. “That’s ok, really not rocket science to be honest,” said Natasha.

     “Especially if Natasha shows you the ropes, Miss Perfectionist right there. You’ll be better than the others that Bill trained,” said Rachael. 

     “Perfection is good,” I said, thrilled that they seemed to have taken to me. Less than five minutes had passed, but it felt very comfortable, far more so than I had at University.

     “I can see we’re going to get along Beth! I’ll just grab you an apron…” Said Natasha walking off.

     “You’re at Brookes?” Said Rachael as Natasha disappeared.

     “Yeah.”

     “What are you studying?” She said looking genuinely interested.

     “English Literature. It’s my first year.”

     “Really? You look older.”

     “Oh thanks. I’ve only just turned eighteen actually,” I replied.

     “I would’ve had you down for at least twenty. I’m rubbish with telling age. I once ID-ed this boy who turned out to be twenty six. He didn’t take it well.”

     “Awkward! I guess you have to though. Are you at University?” I questioned. She looked about my age.

     “Oh no no no. I’m not a student. I’m local. Got a little girl, Jenny, so I just work here some evenings to get some extra money.” I couldn’t disguise the look of surprise on my face quick enough. “I know, I’m only a year older than you. I’d be lying if I said I was ready for it. But I wouldn’t change my little girl.”

     “Yeah I guess, as long as you’re happy.” I liked the way she was being so open with me, so immediately, even though I’d hastily judged her. I hadn’t come across many people like that at University.

     “Well yeah I am now. Father buggered off so it was a bit touch and go. But my boyfriend now is really good with her. So y’ know, can’t ask for much more. Definitely don’t get knocked up though. Or married…” I tuned out of what she was saying. I wasn’t being rude, but it seemed she only needed gentle nudging to reveal everything. I gathered that conversation with Rachael didn’t involve much attention. And I was busier watching intently what she was doing. The glass wash was under the bar. It must’ve just finished a cycle because as Rachael spoke she was putting glasses away. I tried to memorise where each different glass went, but I knew that wasn’t a big deal. Pubs aren’t identical. I’d be forgiven for taking a while to get used to where everything went. “….hang on a sec.”

     A couple had come in and Rachael went to serve them. I watched her again, pulling a pint and using the till. Despite my comfort I still felt a bit like a rabbit in headlights. There was so much to learn. It must just be the atmosphere of the pub calming me down. Natasha walked past the couple on her way back to us as they sat down at a window table.

     “Oooh some work to do!” She said to Rachael smiling widely.

     “Finally. You can stop doing pointless cleaning now Tash,” Rachael joked and the girls laughed. I liked this. I was just nice. There was no pretension or egos. It wasn’t like any experience I’d had so far in Oxford, but it was the type of interaction I’d expected when I came.

     “OK, here’s an apron Beth. Sorry it’s a bit dirty; Bill never has any new ones.”

     The stained white apron went to my ankles and almost wrapped completely around me. Somehow I thought my white shirt would be in more need of protecting than my jeans. Abby’s white shirt. The words ‘Stella Artois’ were stitched in the bottom right corner.   

     “OK so the basics. There are four sections to this pub. They’re coloured; Lilac at the front, caramel to the side of the bar here. Pretty much this whole space in front of the window. Then there’s magenta and sage round the back. So there are no table numbers, as you can see, instead when they come up to the bar to order food we give them a coloured spoon with a number on it, to correspond to where they are sitting. You keeping up?”

     “Yeah I think. We don’t take orders at the tables?” 

     “Nope, they order food at the bar; all the menus, cutlery, all the rest of it, are on the tables. When you clear their mains you tell them about desserts and usually take their order from the table unless they beat you to the bar. But we’ll get to that. It’s really not too hard.” I was on top of it. So far. “If we don’t log you onto the till today I can show you how it works as we go yeah? Right so, Rach?” She called. “Have you put any food through yet?”

     “Yeah,” came her reply.

     “Ok. Follow me to the kitchen,” continued Natasha. I noticed she had a cloth hanging from her apron strings as I walked. I hoped there were some spares. We got to the kitchen and Pablo was there dishing up some food.

     “Ah, new blood!” He said smiling at me, “I’m surprised Billy didn’t scare you off love! Although you’ll have to go through the initiation you know.”

     “Aw don’t tease her Pab. Don’t worry, we don’t socialise with these kitchen monkeys,” Natasha jokingly said to me. Pablo feigned hurt. “By yourself tonight?” Natasha asked.

     “Aye. Alex’s gone down with laziness I think,” replied Pablo tutting.

     “Doesn’t surprise me. Ok, this computer here shows all the orders put through from the bar. See? Number 34. That must be them. Two starters, so it’s this line,” she pointed to a worktop down the kitchen where two dishes were waiting. Under them was a ticket. “The ticket says 34 see? Two chicken skewers. So if you want to grab those…. And clear the ticket off the computer,” she touched the screen and the order disappeared, replaced by another. “See so now their mains have come up. And just take it out to them.”

      She didn’t move. In fact she casually leaned against the work surface Pablo was working at, his lips curving up into a smile at the gauntlet she’d thrown down. 

     “Chicken skewers?” I double checked. She nodded.

      And off I went. My first serving and I hadn’t even witnessed one. Just walk over to them, announce the food, then put it down. There were only two of them. This didn’t have to be a challenge. I started to feel nervous, but as soon as I’d walked out of the kitchen, and I knew Natasha wasn’t watching me, I was fine. Better than fine. I felt great. I felt in control, and not just of my job. I noticed the couple had a magenta spoon with 34 on their table, even though it could only possibly be them. It was all falling into place.

     “Two chicken skewers?” I said, my ‘waitress’ smile already painted on my face. I put down the food in front of them and walked back to the bar, thoroughly pleased with myself. Natasha was still in the kitchen and Rachael was serving some older men at the other end of the bar. I had a chance to look around the pub from a working waitress perspective.

     Around the corner from the bar there was a dresser, lined with cups, saucers and teapots. The coffee machine and kettle sat at one end, while the till took up the other. The cupboard underneath the coffee machine was a fridge with milk, cream and a tray of sauces. The other cupboard had cutlery and napkins in it. 

     “Getting yourself familiar?” Said Rachael.

     “Yeah. It’s not as bad as I thought.”

     “Well you haven’t met everyone yet,” she laughed. “Nah, they’re ok. Not many of us at the moment. Billy might take the piss a little bit.” 

     “I need all the shifts I can get to be honest,” I admitted. Although ‘want’ was probably more fitting. 

     “Don’t let him hear you say that!” she said. 

     But I didn’t mind. Maybe it was naïve to think that this feeling would last, but I was enjoying being here. I thought about, even though I hated to admit it, how much of a disappointment my University experiences had been so far. Through my constant analysis, I thought the problem must be me; I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I didn’t fit in or I was letting the insecurities and sadness of my past shine through and that put people off befriending me. But here in The Folly Inn, I could feel the old me creeping out of her hiding place, like something had clicked and I was on the right track again. 

     “Bethany,” it was Natasha, “So you see now they’ve finished their starters…if you go and grab those plates and take them to the kitchen, then call the table number away to Pablo,” she instructed.

     I had no idea what ‘call the table number away’ meant and I didn‘t want to ask. I took the dishes and put them next to the huge metallic pot wash, throwing the cutlery in the box. I assumed this was where they went. Pablo looked at me expectantly.

     “34 away?” I said timidly.

     “Hurrah! She speaks! Finally someone who has been trained properly! Thanking you my lovely,” he said happily and threw a piece of steak onto the grill. “The amount of times people don’t tell me when to start cooking mains, and then I get it in the neck….” he carried on as I smiled widely at him and walked back to the dresser. I went through the other door this time, crossing in front of the bar, and saw the two older men Beth had been serving earlier, sitting in some big armchairs in Lilac drinking pints of Guinness.

     “Evening,” one said nodding to me.

     I smiled back at them. It was like I was part of the furniture already! Customers were being civil to me, like I’d been here years. I’d start to recognise regulars soon and they’d recognise me! Now I know why pubs are so pivotal in many works of great literature, they’re an excuse to commune and integrate. And now it was my turn.  

 

     The rest of my shift didn’t disappoint. No one else came into the Folly to eat, although there were quite a few drinkers. Natasha said that wasn’t unusual for a Monday. She’d been working there for about a year full time since leaving University and had seen the peak and trough in customers depending on the seasons and the weather. It made sense. I would think twice about hiking out to a pub for dinner if it was pouring down with rain. She explained that she was having trouble finding a job, so was waitressing until she had some luck, but she seemed to enjoy it. Rachael hadn’t been working long, but had worked at a pub before, making it easier for her to learn everything. She had a great manner with people, really direct and almost witty. I thought Rach would be one to bar people if needed rather than Billy. She wouldn’t suffer a fool. Natasha showed me how to work the till, where all the drinks and meals were while Rachael showed me a bit behind the bar. It was all a bit confusing, nothing seemed logically placed on the till, but then I’d always been the type to learn from watching rather than telling, so I was fascinated just watching Rachael and Natasha do all their jobs. 

     The best part was that it didn’t feel like I was working. I was cleaning tables and collecting glasses but with Natasha and Rach it was fun. Conversation flowed freely, and although we all had hugely different personalities, that didn’t seem to be a problem, each person having the floor when they wanted. The girls gossiped about their colleagues and I picked up on some names and characteristics to look out for in the coming weeks. I wasn’t usually the gossiping type, but the girls were humorous and honest in their opinions, it seemed essentially harmless to me. The drinkers played a part in our chatter as well, making the evening feel as social as a night out. Was that strange?

     Previously, and especially with people at Brookes, I’d become shy at expressing myself, not wanting to be judged. It was different at work. You knew you had to cooperate; spending hours working together as a team, it was necessary you got along and so it just seemed to happen. I could feel my confidence building, as they grew to like me, but I didn’t want to get overly so. It wasn’t hard to remember this was just my first shift, the amount of errors I made on the till bringing my excited mind back to reality. 

     Billy remained elusive for most of the evening, but this made me feel even more relaxed, not having a member of management around, especially as Rachael was teaching me to bend the rules. Staff were allowed soda water from the bar, but Rachael regularly pulled pints of coke and orange juice for herself, encouraging me to do so too. The way she saw it, we weren’t being paid enough or got enough breaks to do with just soda water. I decided to leave the rules alone, at least for the duration of my first shift. 

     The diners had dessert and coffees, finishing their evening out at about half past nine. There were at least six drinkers sitting in the bottom of Lilac but Natasha decided to start closing down already, saying to Rachael that we’d stopped serving food. This wasn’t actually the case; I’d learned that the Folly’s kitchen stayed open until ten o’clock every night, but Natasha’s logic and decision making made sense. It was clear she’d been around for a while and liked things done they way she’d always done them. I liked the idea. We humble waitresses were in complete control and could be trusted to be so.  

     Folding napkins was my quarry for the remainder of the evening. Rachael closed down the bar, although I had no idea what this entailed as Natasha and I concentrated solely on the floor tasks. I’m sure I’d learn, I wanted to learn. Perched on the end of the bar, with my napkin folding job, I watched Natasha do just about everything. She refilled the dresser, put coffee in filters, and changed the sauces in the sauce tray, all while chirping out a commentary to me. It was like she was on a television program showing the viewer exactly what needed to be done in precise and accurate detail. There was a lot to remember, but for the most part, the jobs were just common sense. 

 

     Towards the end of the night, as the floor and bar were wrapping up their closing jobs, Rachael asked me to grab some crates from the cellar. She’d taken me there earlier to show me where it was and help her to bottle up. I had been disappointed by the cellar, expecting it to be a creepy, haunted place, like it’s always made out to be. Instead the clinical cellar wasn’t even underground. It was spacious and practical, although still completely alien to me, the sound of the gas pumps making me jump at first.

     As I walked through Lilac towards the front door I could see someone approaching in the dark. The porch light seemed to catch only the top of his head, obscuring his face completely from view. It didn’t help that he was looking at the floor as he walked or that he was wearing a hood with his hands in his pockets, something that struck me as strange when walking into a pub. I felt a sudden rush of fear imagining the worst scenario. My heart pumped my blood so fast around my body I could feel it racing against time, causing me to catch my breath. We were just about to pass each other, my mind leaping to all sorts of armed robbery conclusions, urging my hands to reach for my phone already, when Natasha spoke:

     “Oh hey Dylan, what are you doing here?”

     Her tone was so friendly it instantly banished my ill thought conclusions. The stranger tilted his lowered face in my direction momentarily before sweeping past me into The Folly pulling away his hood.

     I gasped at the cold air outside, filling with embarrassment, and hurried into the cellar. My cheeks were red with adrenaline. I grabbed hold of the nearest barrel, clenching my shaking hands round the cool metallic casement. I lurched forward as a stab of pain rode through my chest. What was happening? With one hand still holding the barrel, but reduced to kneeling by the intense pain, I had no time to register what had caused it before it was gone. Like a flash of smoke, the searing pain vanished. 

     I was utterly confused. I could think of no way to explain the sudden pain. I didn’t think such a violent reaction to a surprise shock of fear and thus adrenaline, had this effect on people. This Dylan had just made me jump. Or more correctly made me jump to stupid conclusions. Maybe this was my body sadistically telling me to grow up. But there had been something about him that turned my stomach in fear. Perhaps I related his approach to something that had happened before, and it had brought up old unwanted memories. But I couldn’t honestly think of anything so utterly bad and traumatic. Too many movies? I didn’t believe any of that media spin, I was far too intelligent to let violent films affect my understanding and participation with the world. 

     I just could not shift the feeling that something was amiss. Why would he make himself look so aggressive? 

     Maybe it wasn’t Dylan, maybe Natasha had mistaken the stranger for someone she knew! My heart started to pound again; until my head caught up and reminded me that I’d heard them chattering as I’d hurried away. 

     Breathe.

     There were two things I couldn’t dispute: this Dylan had scared me but Natasha knew him. Effectively they cancelled each other out, rendering my fear worthless. For the time being, I was going to put this to the back of my mind. Best to deal with the task in hand.

     Breathe. I grabbed the crates and left the cellar. 

     Without any thought process or real reasoning, I glanced over the car park as I walked back into The Folly. The man who had scared me so utterly was just getting into his car, an old black Fiat Punto, which was parked next to mine. I stole a look at his face quickly and immediately regretted it. His metallic grey eyes burned back at me.

 

     “Who was that?” Was the first thing I said as soon as I took one step over the threshold.

     “That’s Dylan Sawyer, he works here,” replied Natasha.

     “He works here?!” I had to work hard to keep the disbelief and shock out of my voice.

     “Yeah, just popped in to remind Billy he’s on holiday from tomorrow. Cheeky git wants to make sure he gets paid,” said Rachael. “He’s alright though, now he’s been here a while.”

     “Yeah he’s warmed up a bit hasn’t he Rach?” Said Natasha finishing her cutlery polishing, “He’s takes a bit of getting used to, but once he lets down his guard a bit he’s an alright guy. If there’s anyone I’d tell you to keep an eye on it’s Dylan.” She gestured to the seat opposite to her and I sat. “The rest of them are pushovers!” She whispered to me. 

     “Take him with a pinch of salt,” said Rachael, not hearing Natasha who winked at me.

“He soon got bored of being frosty with me!”

     “Is he a manager then?” I continued with Natasha.

     “No no. Just got a bit of a high opinion of himself. He’s older and somehow that makes him wiser.”

     “Too clever for his own good!” Said Rachael, walking back to the kitchen with the mop and dirtied water.

     “Just don’t take it personally. He’s arrogant and stern, maybe aloof is a better way to describe him. But you know. As soon as you’ve worked with him a few times, he’s fine. And really funny. Although don’t take him personally, like I said. He can be kinda sarcastic and it might come across as mean.” Natasha seemed to have some sort of respect for him. I found it difficult to understand, or even think about, his image so frightfully seared on my memory.

     “Right guys all done?” It was the invisible Billy, come to check everything was in order. I was just putting away the cutlery that Natasha had finished polishing. The metallic objects burned in my hands, which I thought was strange. “Looks good looks good. How did you find it Beth?”

     “Good thanks.” I replied, putting the fiery sensation in my hands down to adrenaline again.

     “Yeah she’s done really well Bill,” piped in Natasha, “Even had a run in with Sawyer.”

     “Oh god, he hasn’t put you off?” Joked Billy, I hoped.

     “Not really, I didn’t see him much to be honest.”

     “Ah he’s alright, chilled out a bit now. He was pretty uptight before, about having to wait tables at his age, but I think he’s got over it.”

     “Thank the lord,” Said Natasha. 

     I wanted to dig some more about Dylan to try and decipher why he had scared me so much. From what I could tell it was standard Sawyer behaviour, which put my worn out mind slightly to rest. It had been a long tense day, and I had at least the rest of the week to find out more before I had to work with him. 

     Billy gave me my shifts for the rest of the week, totalling up a tidy sum of thirty two hours. Rachael raised her eyebrows at me, but I was pleased with the amount I’d been asked to work. Especially since I was only in University nine hours a week. If there was a problem, I’d cross that bridge when I got there. 

     It was about eleven when Billy said I could go. I was on the rota to start at eleven tomorrow morning and luckily Natasha noticed.

     “Ah so it’s you who’s stolen my first hour!” She said pointing at me.

     “Oh really? Sorry, erm I could start later?”

     “Don’t worry!” She said laughing, “I was only kidding with you. I’m in at twelve anyway. Just means you need to set up everything in the morning; coffee, fridges, ice all the rest of it. I’m sure Michael will be around to help.”

     “Oh right, thanks for letting me know.”

     “No problem. Michael is the assistant manager, in case Billy hasn’t told you,” she said, although it was becoming apparent that Billy hadn’t told me anything. 

     The hairs prickled on the back of my neck at the thought of walking across the dark car park where Dylan had been, but they were forgotten the moment I stepped outside. 

     Happiness spread like a fire through me. I’d done it! They liked me and I liked them. I could do the job too which was always a bonus. It was still early days, but as I drove home I plugged in my iPod and sang out at the top of my lungs.       

 

I never thought I would come across someone like Bethany Lane. It was never something that was spoken about, because it was certain impossibility. Now it seemed everything I’d taken for truth was a lie and my whole world had been changed.

     And so had hers. 

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