28. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
When Mandy mentioned that the owners of Russel-Berries was looking for a part-time bookkeeper, Tim promptly suggested that she apply.
“Bookkeeping?” She made a face. “I don’t know how to—”
“It’s not hard. You’re smart—you could learn it fast.”
“So… not be a waitress anymore?”
“No, for now, you should keep the waitressing job. But I mean… you don’t want to be a waitress forever… I mean, no one wants to be a waitress. Right?”
“Well… ” What he said was true, but it sounded vaguely insulting. “I hadn’t really thought about… ”
He reached across the table and took her hand. “You’d be learning a new skill, but you’d also be earning more money. I mean… we want to be able to buy a nice place. Right?”
She was startled and delighted. “Yes… ”
“So ask them about it. Remember, you didn’t have waitressing experience either, and they hired you. You could even tell them you’ll work the first week for free, in return for being trained. They like you, and I’m sure they’d rather hire you than have to interview a bunch of applicants.”
And that’s how Mandy became a part-time bookkeeper.
“Are you upset with me?” she asked Pauline a few days later.
“Not upset. Just… I’ve been here a lot longer than you and I should be doing that stupid job.”
“Oh, Pauline, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you—”
“No, no.” Pauline dismissed her apology with a snap of her wrist. “I didn’t even apply for it, because I know I’m too lazy and stupid. I’m just… sometimes I look at you and I just feel so jealous.”
Mandy tipped her head. “Jealous of me? Why?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Mandy, you’re one of those girls who has everything. You’re thin, gorgeous, smart, and you have the nicest boyfriend in the whole friggin’ world.”
Mandy couldn’t help smiling as she recalled Tim’s comment about them buying a house together. “I’m really lucky,” she agreed.
“So that’s why I hate you.” Pauline winked. “Please try to understand.”
But Mandy sensed a seriousness in her, and said, “You know, I don’t, I mean, I don’t know much about you, and we see each other five days a week… I don’t know if you’re married, or… ”
“Divorced,” Pauline answered shortly.
Mandy spotted new customers by the door, and instinctively smoothed out her uniform. “I’m so sorry, Pauline, I didn’t mean to be nosey.”
“You’re not nosey, honey. It’s sweet, you asking. I don’t talk about… well, go take care of those people, and we’ll talk later.”
“And she just seemed so sad,” Mandy told Tim that night. “Lonely. I was wondering if Stan— ”
Tim held up his hand. “Do not try to fix her up with my roommate unless you hate her. He’s a disgusting human being.”
“Okay. Well, maybe if you know anyone… at school?”
“Um… one of my colleagues, you mean?”
“Yes. There must be some nice single teachers there.”
They were parked in his car on a dark, secluded street; not making out, but it was understood that they would. He had his arm around her, but pulled away to look at her. “You want me to fix up one of my colleagues with a waitress?”
She pulled away too. “What’s wrong with that? She’s great. She’s sexy and funny. The customers love her.”
“Yeah, but… my colleague are like… they have their masters in education… and Pauline is just a waitress.”
She glared. “Newsflash—you’re dating a waitress.”
“Mandy, stop. That’s different.”
“Because you’re not always going to be a waitress.”
“Oh, I’m glad you’re able to see into my future!”
“Come on. You’re taking this all the wrong way. I have nothing against waitresses.”
“Sure sounds like you do.” She retreated to her side of the car, pouting. “God, you sound so insensitive right now. I bet Pauline is a lot nicer than most of the people you work with. Oh, I beg your pardon, your colleagues.”
“Why are you acting like this?”
“Because when you insult Pauline for being just a waitress, you’re insulting me, too!”
“Jesus, Mandy, I am not! Pauline is … she’s what we call a career waitress. It’s all she going to be. You have your whole life to do something better.”
“Well… yeah. Like bookkeeping. That’s a great job. Better than waitressing, you have to admit. I mean, anyone can walk around taking orders and then bringing plates of food.”
“Oh my God. Are you serious?”
“Well, um… yeah.”
“For your information, we have to memorize all the prices, all the day’s specials, we have to make suggestions for customers who don’t know what they want, and we have to know how to deal with customers who are nasty.”
“No, I know. I never said it was easy… ”
“Yes you did—you said that anyone could do it.”
He sat back and stared. “I can’t believe we’re having a fight about this. I could understand if your dream growing up was to become a waitress… but you just… I mean, you just took the job because you didn’t know what else you wanted to do.”
When she looked away, he realized he’d hit a nerve. Many times she’d told him her sisters were creative and fascinating and knew when they were kids what they wanted to be—I’m so dull, all I ever wanted was to get married and have kids. She’d said it so many times.
He added in a gentle voice, “It’s just that I see so much more in you than you do.”
She shrugged, fought back tears; anger faded to self pity. “My sisters are just so… colorful. I’m so, I’m like someone from the 1950s. That’s what Jules always says.”
“Jules shouldn’t tell you that, that’s mean. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a mother. That’s the problem with our generation—this bullshit about women not wanting to work outside the home are old fashioned. Our moms didn’t work, but no one questioned it.”
He spoke with a conviction he didn’t feel. Until this moment, it had never occurred to him that his girlfriend might actually really not want to have a career. Everyone he knew went to college; even Simon, who was the least academic kid he’d ever met. What a hypocrite I am… sitting here lying to her. He realized he wouldn’t be content with a wife who did nothing but work at home and not have a job.
She sensed his thoughts and just said, “Okay.”
When he dropped her off an hour later, they both knew that something was different.
“A crack in the perfect love affair,” Pauline said. “What’s this, an early birthday present for me?”
“Glad you’re happy about it,” Mandy snapped.
“Come on. It’s your first fight. It’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal! He was judging me. He disapproves of me.”
“But honey, he’s a man, and that’s what men do: they find the perfect girl, and then they find something about her they don’t like, and they tell her and she feels bad and goes crazy trying to change so she can win back his approval. That’s the system.”
Mandy sighed. “That sucks.”
“Yup. Hey, you ever want to go out, have a drink? That way we can chat without being interrupted by customers.”
Mandy hesitated. She usually worked nights, and on the nights she didn’t, she went out with Tim, or Tim came to the house and they all hung out. If she went out with Pauline, it would mean giving up an evening with Tim. Which she didn’t want to do. She loved being with him, and it didn’t even matter what they were doing. She loved going out, but even when they didn’t, even when they were just sitting around watching TV….
“Can you do it?” Pauline asked, as if reading Mandy’s mind. “Go one evening without seeing him?”
It was a challenge. Feeling trapped, she nodded. “Of course.”
“Wait,” said Tim. “What?”
“Just for a drink. Coffee, probably. She’s lonely and I—”
“Mandy… she hates men, and she’s going to fill your head with—”
“She doesn’t hate men! She loves men! That’s her problem, probably. She never seems to find the right—”
“Mandy, sweetie, listen to me. There’s a reason women don’t find ‘the right guy.’ It’s because they have issues.”
“Like… low self esteem… or they’re so sensitive you can’t say anything to them without them going insane. Drama queens. They’re so hungry for attention that they—”
“Do men have issues? Or is it always the woman?”
“Come on, that’s not where I’m going with this, and you know it. We’re just talking about Pauline.”
“No—you said women can’t find the right guy because they have issues. You said ‘women’ as in all women who can’t find the right guy.”
Tim was glad she couldn’t see his face over the phone. It felt like already Pauline was having an effect on his sweet-tempered girlfriend. “Do what you want,” he said shortly.
They chatted a little more about other stuff, but both knew they were just killing time so they could say goodbye without getting into an actual fight. When Mandy hung up a few minutes later, she had a stomach ache. I should have just told Pauline I was too busy.
Simon booked a gig, and then had to figure out how to tell Lisbeth and Kevin. He started with Lisbeth, but she said under no circumstances would she play if he Kevin was there. As much as Simon loved Kevin like a brother, his first loyalties lay with Lisbeth, so he made the decision to not even mention it to Kevin.
“Just us?” Lisbeth asked.
“Yeah. We’ll keep it simple. Folksy. You can do a drum track and the bass lines, right? Then your usual greatness on keyboards? Or we can just do stuff that doesn’t have keyboards. We can do lots of classics that feature guitar and rhythm.”
“This isn’t a ploy, right? You’re not going to tell me you’re just asking me, and tell Kevin you’re just asking him, and then have us both show up? Because if you are—”
“No. He’s out.”
Lisbeth sighed; Simon’s declaration made her feel horrible. Should she step aside so that Kevin could be in Bad Slax again? The pain of missing him wasn’t getting any less, even after three weeks. She wondered if he’d met someone new, and she was dying to ask Simon, but was afraid he’d say yes; and if he said no, she didn’t think she’d believe him. He’s probably slept with ten girls by now, she thought.
“He’s not that great a drummer anyway,” Simon joked.
“So you promise he’s not going to show up. Right?”
“I promise. It’s actually better not to have him there… it’s just a party as some fancy mansion—someone Grandfather knows— and we’re basically background music. Money’s good, though. And of course, the exposure.”
“Okay. It’ll be good to be out playing again.”