Cerise Adams stood in front of the worn mirror that was leaning against the wall of her room, staring at the clothes that she wore. It was a pair of black shorts and a bright red tee shirt that boasted the name of her uncle's bar in Portland, and it was her new job. Frank's. It was simple and the name of his father, who had run it before her uncle Mike. Mike had turned it into more of a club, featuring music and dancing on most nights as well as pool tables in the back. He had bands come in once a week to perform as well, drawing the fans in and hopefully some of their friends that would come back. It was supposed to be a very popular place as far as she knew, but….it was so new.
She had moved here from the coast of California a couple of weeks ago. Her apartment that was located above his garage was her new home, and there was still a random box or two that needed to be unpacked. Cerise had been quite overwhelmed with the move and his family that included his bubbly wife Kelly and their three kids. Jilli was eight, Ryan was five, and Lissa was just six months. Cerise had been helping out as best she could, but she was not used to kids. The family that she had seen frequently only had older kids, and it was her mom who had suggested that she stay with Mike and his family. It provided the distance that she needed, and he had always had a soft spot for his sister's only child from the moment that he saw her.
Cerise sighed and pulled up her thick and straight pale blonde hair with a black ponytail holder, and checked her face. Her hazel eyes showed her exhaustion, and her pale skin needed some colour. The make up that she had attempted to use had not helped much, so she gave up and glossed her full lips with just a coat of clear. That and her black mascara would have to do. Cerise had never thought she was anything special anyway, and she felt that way more at that moment. She grabbed her purse as she looked at the clock, knowing that she could not put off her first day as a waitress at the bar any longer. She had been an employee at a popular book store prior to now, and she knew that she would miss her lunches curled up reading whatever caught her eyes. Life changed so quickly. "Cerise?" She heard her uncle's voice at her door, and she sighed as she went to leave. She locked her door and looked at him, and he smiled reassuringly at her.
"Hi, Mikey." Cerise tried to sound positive, but she knew she didn't pull it off well. She was terrified or ruining her first night.
"Hey, kiddo." Mike greeted her, looking at her with warm brown eyes. He ran a hand through his messy sandy blonde hair and smiled a little. Mike was forty and Cerise's mom was his slightly younger sister at thirty eight, and he loved both her and Cerise a lot. Despite distance, they had remained close over the twenty two years that he had known his niece. "You know you will do fine tonight. Just the normal weeknight crowd that you'll get to know in no time at all. I am just going to have you follow Jessica around to shadow her."
"OK. I can handle that…I think." Her voice sounded so subdued and not like her, and he sighed inwardly. "I just have to get used to it." They reached his car in the driveway, and she climbed into the passenger side of the worn Tacoma as she looked at the sky. It was overcast, and she frowned. It had not been sunny much since she arrived at the beginning of September. Her home town was the same way, but she had seen a little more sun there. She missed it as she thought about it. Her favourite beach had been a very short distance from her little apartment, and she had spent hours there. Cerise vowed to see the Oregon coast very soon. Her phone rang in her purse, and she smiled as she reached in to get it. "Hi, Mom." They talked for awhile on the way to the bar, and Belinda wished her daughter good luck with tears in her eyes. She knew how hard it was to start over herself.
"This is it." Mike said, as he parked around the back of the nondescript brown structure. She had seen the front windows with their neon signs and the familiar name that it up the door in bright red letters, but it looked like the outside of any bar. They got out and she followed him in quietly, and he glanced back at her. He walked into his office and she stared down the hallway to the main room with wide eyes. She stepped forward hesitantly and looked around, taking in the single room that was nicely spread out. She saw the few pool tables in the back corner, along with several tables and a dance floor. The bar was long, about fifteen feet and semi circular, and a couple of bartenders were already wiping it down as two girls dressed like her cleaned the tables. One was a curvy brunette with loose curls pinned up to her head, and the other was a smaller redhead.
"Oh! You must be Cerise." The redhead looked up to see her, and walked over with a warm smile. "Mikey talks about you all of the time! It is good to finally meet you." Cerise stared at her and the girl rolled her cinnamon coloured eyes and laughed. "I'm Jessica. That is Kylee over there." The other girl came over, and took Cerise in with her sparkling emerald green eyes.
"Hi." Cerise greeted them, smiling hesitantly.
"So are you nervous?" Kylee asked her, and smiled at the nod she got as a response. "Don't be. A couple of nights tagging along with us and you'll be fine. These are the easy night, but band nights can get hectic."
"And when is that?" Cerise asked, and Kylee frowned in thought.
"Thursday." Today was Tuesday, so she had two nights to learn anything that she could. Mike stepped into the main room, and smiled at the girls appreciatively. He took Cerise over to meet the bartenders, Nick and Ben, and kind of went over her duties. She soon found herself following Jessica as she took orders, but it seemed like there were so many people and things to remember. She dropped a tray of drinks, much to her embarrassment, and slipped later on a wet part of the floor. Mike took her home in tears that night, and she told him that she never wanted to go back. She was terrible and she could never possibly learn everything.
"It was your first night, Cerise. You will get better as time goes on." Mike told her, trying not to laugh at her fretting over the night. He didn't want to hurt her feelings, but most waitresses struggled at first. "Sweetie, you wanted to work so you could earn some money and get out on your own. This is a good job that will put some tips in your pocket."
"If I don't keep embarrassing myself." Cerise muttered, and he smiled. "Fine. I will try it through this coming weekend." She did not want to be at her uncle's forever.
"Deal." Mike agreed, knowing that she would be fine by then. He didn't want her working elsewhere, since he was protective and felt like he should keep an eye on her. Her father had passed away five years ago in an accident, and he felt like she needed someone to do it. All of the employees had noticed it as well, and Jessica had teased him. They pulled into the driveway and she took a long shower as she cried bitter tears over her failure of a night. Her hip hurt from her fall and she heard the sound of the tray dropping over and over in her head. Cerise called her mother to wail to her, and Belinda soothed her daughter over the phone. She hated that they were apart, but it was best for now. Belinda had every intention of joining her family in Portland soon. Cerise curled up in her full size bed and closed her burning eyes wearily, falling into a restless sleep. She dreamed off and on, waking up a few times as she gasped, only to force herself to go to sleep once more.
On Thursday night, Cerise did two ponytails in her hair and applied a little more make up. She had a better night last night with no major mishaps, and was feeling slightly positive about tonight. She slid her feet into the back one stars that she had decided on for work, and glossed her lips quickly before going down to meet her uncle. She could see going in that the crowd was a little different, and she joined the girls in taking drink orders as the people drifted through the doors. She was feeling more confident, but she focused hard on keeping track of orders. At some point, the crowd parted as a group of four people walked in, and Cerise glanced over. A girl led them, and three guys followed as they laughed and greeted the crowd. "That is Linger. The house band." Jessica told her, glancing over and smiling at them.
"They good?" Cerise asked shyly, looking over curiously.
"I like them a lot. The singer can be a handful sometimes. Riley. You will definitely meet her." Jessica said, and Cerise looked closer at the girl with the crimson hair and leather pants. A tight fitting green shirt completed her outfit, and Cerise tilted her head as she felt inferior to her. "The guys are great. The drummer is Eli, the bass is Matt, and the other one is Drake." Cerise heard the tone in her voice and glanced over to see Jessica blush. "I have been seeing Drake for a little bit."
"Oh." Cerise said, looking at them again. The guys were all cute, with the drummer having longer dark hair and the other two with shorter chestnut hair. The drummer was lean while the others were a bit stockier in build. "Are they brothers?"
"Yeah." Jessica replied, smiling as her boyfriend caught her gaze. "Let's take them some beer. You can meet them." Cerise would have preferred not to, but she followed dutifully. They got the beer at the bar as Jessica told her it was part of their deal with Mikey, and Jessica happily floated to the stage with the tray as Cerise followed with a sigh. The singer was gorgeous up close. She had perfect cheekbones and eyes that were moss green and very intent on the beer coming their way. Her skin was pale and flawless looking, and Cerise paused behind Jessica. "Hey, guys. Here is your beer."
"Thanks." Riley said, stepping down to get it as she glanced at Jessica and let her eyes settle on Cerise. They took her in with interest, and Cerise shifted uncomfortably. "You're new."
"Yeah. This is Cerise, Mikey's niece." Riley raised one eyebrow as she greeted her, and Cerise said hello. "This is Riley, Eli, Matt, and Drake." Each member waved as their name was said, and she smiled shyly at all of them. "They are really good." Drake smiled warmly at Jessica as she spoke, and stepped down to peck her lips.
"Nice meeting you." Cerise said, leaving them to it to continue working. They set up after Drake returned to the stage, and soon the lights went darker as Cerise frowned. That would really help her see what she was jotting down. The drums kicked into a solid beat for a second, and then the guitars. She looked up to see Riley step up in a red spotlight and hold onto the microphone. She tossed her red hair with the first strong note, and an upbeat tempo started as she stared over the crowd. Kind of a punky pop, with a slightly deeper undertone, and really good. Cerise watched as they played and she worked, and the area in front of the stage was soon packed and nothing but a small mass of bodies moving to the beat. Screams filled the bar after every song, and calls to the singer and other members followed as Riley worked the crowd. She did the sexy and flirtatious lead well, with a ton of energy as she continued to move her head and hair all over. It didn't hurt anything that she had a curvy body underneath her tight clothes that moved right along with her.
"Like them?" Mike asked her as she stopped at the bar to collect a drink order, and she looked at him. His look told her that he clearly remembered her love for music that had recently faded. So much had recently faded for her.
"Yeah. They are very good." Cerise replied, looking carefully at the drinks.
"Did you meet them yet?"
"Briefly. Jessica and I took them some beers before they started." Mike shook his head with a roll of his eyes, and she smiled.
"How were….they? I know she can come on a bit strong and she tends to flirt with everybody." Mike explained slowly, and she frowned. "They were nice to you right?"
"Yeah, the guys were quiet. She was more…in my face." Cerise said, and he glanced at the band.
"Tell me if anybody at all bothers you, OK? Working here can invite some behavior that isn't welcome, but you know I have your back." Mike told her, and they looked at each other. "They all do."
"I know that." Cerise said gratefully, and he smiled at her. She took the drinks as the tempo slowed with just the acoustic guitar. It was different than their other songs, and she saw Riley and Drake grin at each other. Riley faced the crowd as she started to sing, and Cerise was shocked to hear a song she had hated in it's pop form. Riley made 'Toxic' her own, and she gazed at Cerise intently as she sang the chorus. It was almost haunting and she stared for a long moment before she remembered that she was working. She hurried to check her tables and clean up a little, hearing the crowd scream and cheer as the song ended. She glanced over to see the band waving and thanking everybody for coming, and the regular music pumped over the speakers as the lights brightened a bit. They got their stuff together and then headed to the bar to get some drinks, and Drake came over to Jessica to hug and kiss her. Cerise watched quietly, observing how happy they looked. Riley chatted with this fan and flirted with that one as they separated a bit, and then she was dancing provocatively with another. Cerise watched from time to time as she worked, and wished that she was not as shy and scared as she was. The band left in a group with a few stragglers as closing time approached, and Cerise sighed and rolled her neck around to ease the kinks.
"Maybe next week I will take care of that for you." Riley murmured into her ear as the group passed her, and Cerise met her eyes. Riley winked as she locked arms with the guy she was next to, and walked out of the door. Cerise frowned and felt something react inside of her, though she could not make sense of it. It felt like a spark, and one that had died out long ago.