Summer Job By Carolyn Nicholson

by Mar 22, 2021Past Writers in Residence

‘I can’t believe you got a job.  Jemima moans, as she swipes through her Instagram feed whilst lounging, lazily on Lizzie’s bed. ‘You’re gonna miss most of summer.’

‘I need the money.’ Lizzie replies, pulling a crisp, white shirt over her head. ‘You know how hard the pandemic hit my parents’ business. If I don’t save enough to help them with uni fees, I’m going to have to defer a year.’

‘Ouch!’ Lizzie cries out, as the buttons of her shirt catch on her bun. ‘A little help here?’

‘You’re such a dork.’ Jemima laughs.

‘Only dorks say dork anymore.’ Lizzie, free from the shirt, hugs her best friend since prep, before pushing her back on to the bed. ‘Ya dork.

I feel a bit sick to be honest. Don’t know what I was thinking. What do I know about fine dining?’

‘You were thinking about being around gorgeous Jamie Green. You’ve been crushing on him since year ten.’

Lizzie sighs. ‘He is gorgeous, isn’t he? If only he wasn’t dating Mel.’

‘You’d what? Stop being such a chicken and finally tell him how you feel? Well, now you have your chance, he broke up with Mel two weeks ago. She’s dating Ben Collins now.’

‘What?! How do I not know this?’

‘Because you’re always studying. If you took your head out of your books once in a while, you’d see the way Jamie looked at you during Math class.’

‘He did not!’

‘Lizzie! Time to go.’ Lizzie’s mum calls out.

‘Oh no. I think I’m gonna puke.’ Lizzie places a hand over her mouth.

‘Stop being overly dramatic. I’ll come with you, your Mum can drop me at the corner on her way back.’ Jemima places a comforting arm over Lizzie’s shoulders. ‘We can plan what you’re going to say to Jamie.’

 

***

 

‘Got all that?’ The restaurant manager asks Lizzie.

‘Sure. Yeah. Not really. No.’ Lizzie replies. Her head swimming with rules.

Spoons before forks.

Forks before knives.

Knives face inwards.

Serve dishes from the left.

Take dishes from the right.

Or was it the other way round? Lizzie had no idea it would be this complicated.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll be here to help and you know Jamie, right? Didn’t you go to the same school?’

‘Um, yeah.’ Lizzie tucks a loose strand of hair behind her left ear. ‘I mean, yes. We went to Padua and had some classes together.’

‘Great. Jamie’s brilliant. The customers love him.’

‘I bet they do.’ Lizzie replies, risking a glance at Jamie who is currently taking drinks orders from a group of ten on table three.

‘Excuse me!’ A customer calls out.

‘Okay, that’s your signal. Go over and see what he needs.’ The manager nods towards table eight.

‘Sure.’ Shit. I hope it’s nothing too hard, Lizzie mutters to herself.

 

***

 

No. I ordered the lamb, my wife ordered the fish and the wine we chose was the Pinot Noir not the Pinot Grigio.’

‘Right. I’m sorry, sir. I’ve got it all now. Your meals won’t be long.’

‘You okay?’ Jamie asks Lizzie, as they stand by the bar monitoring their tables.

‘Fine. Misheard his order. It’s so busy tonight. I thought last week was crazy, this one’s even worse. There are lots of great restaurants on the Peninsula, why does it feel like every summer tourist is here tonight?’

‘Don’t complain. If more families ate at home, we’d be out of a job.’ Jamie’s grin soothes Lizzie’s frazzled nerves. ‘This is the second time the family on table five have been in this week, and its only Thursday.’

 ‘Be nice though.’ Lizzie leans against the bar.

‘What would?’

‘Being able to afford to eat out every week, especially as a family. I can’t remember the last time my family went out for dinner and I don’t think we’ve ever been to a place as nice as this.’

‘From what I hear, you don’t have to go out ‘cause your dad’s an awesome cook. Trained as a chef did he?’

‘No. But he does watch a lot of cooking shows and he’s always making up new dishes. You should come over for dinner some time. He loves showing off for my friends.’ Lizzie immediately wishes she could suck the words back in.

‘I didn’t …’ Lizzie starts.

‘So, we’re friends now.’ Jamie gives her a shoulder bump. ‘Cool. Let’s check the roster and see when we’re both off next.’

The service bell dings and they are back at it.

The rest of the shift is a blur to Lizzie. When her mum picks her up, she’s grateful she made it through the night without spilling anyone’s meal in their lap.

 

***

 

‘Chris! Table six needs their drinks order asap, a big announcement coming apparently. And the Morris’ have arrived, can you get their special reserve bottle ready.’ Lizzie calls out to the bartender as she rushes past.

‘When did you get so bossy? Think I liked you better when you were all nervous and mousy.’

‘I was never mousy.’ Lizzie harrumphs.

‘Here you go. This will keep her busy.’ Lizzie hands the mother on table seven a paper bag. Lizzie can’t help but judge the parental decision to bring, what she guesses is a five or six-year-old, to a fine dining restaurant and expect her to sit quietly.

 ‘Wow!’ The mother exclaims, after extracting the bag’s contents. ‘This is great. Usually it’s a printed picture and a few blunt pencils. We may even get to enjoy dessert tonight.

Have you seen this, Luke?’ She asks her husband, who is hastily trying to remove cutlery out of their daughter’s reach.

‘Thanks, Mrs Kennedy. They’re proving to be popular.’

Lizzie cheeks feel hot. The entertainment packs were her idea, after having to manoeuvre around free-ranging children for the last three weeks, she decided she needed to do something.

Using her burgeoning graphic art skills, Lizzie created entertainment packs for children of all ages. Tonight is the first night the packs are on offer and three have been handed out already.

‘I’ll take five of them.’

‘Five? Of the packs? They’re not for sale. They’re for our diners.’

‘When it comes business, Lizzie, everything’s for sale. Speak to your boss.’

 

***

 

‘Gosh. That was full-on. My feet are killing me.’ Lizzie is sitting by the bar, sipping mineral water whilst willing the feeling to return to her feet.

‘Private functions can be hectic. You did great though.’ Jamie places a hand on her back. ‘You were rocking it by the end of shift.’

 ‘I don’t know how the chefs do it. The dishes never stopped coming out. But it’s quite a rush trying to keep up with it all.’ Despite the ache in her feet, Lizzie feels energised.

Jamie takes a seat at the bar beside her. ‘I hear your packs are selling well. That’s pretty cool.’

‘I know, right? After Mrs Kennedy bought some, Sandra began selling them for ten dollars. She’s ordered another twenty this week.’

‘Hope she offered you a cut.’

‘No, but she has paid for some supplies.’ Lizzie turns to face Jamie. ‘I didn’t think to ask about a cut. Should I?’

‘Hell yeah. You’ve got to stop being shy, Lizzie. Your graphic skills are awesome. And so are you.’ Jamie quickly takes a sip of his drink but fails to hide the blush on his cheeks.

‘What’s that?’ Lizzie’s head is spinning. Did he say I’m awesome?

‘We’re closing up.’ Sandra calls out.

Jamie steps down from the bar stool. ‘Come on. I’ll give you a lift home. We can make a date for me to come for dinner again. I’m dying to try more of your dad’s cooking.’

Jamie holds his hand out for Lizzie.

Taking it, Lizzie feels a warm glow spread from her hand and travel up her arm.

‘Good night you two, you did great.’ Sandra pats Jamie on the back as he walks past. Noting the entwined hands, Sandra grabs the back of Jamie’s tee shirt and pulls him back towards her.

‘Be careful there Jamie, she’s great and I don’t want to lose her.’ Sandra whispers in Jamie’s ear.

 

***

 

‘No thanks, Mr Keenan, I need to leave room for Lizzie’s mud cake. It was delicious though, my mum would’ve loved it.’ Jamie starts collecting plates from the table.

‘Does your mum enjoy cooking?’ Lizzie’s mum asks, as she too starts clearing the table.

‘When she has the time for it. Curries are her favourite, the hotter the better. She can spend all day making a curry from scratch.’ Jamie starts stacking the dinner dishes in the dishwasher.

‘You don’t have to do that.’ Lizzie remarks, as she gets the cake and its accompaniments ready to serve.

‘I don’t mind.’ Jamie replies good naturedly.

‘Hot curries sound great. Have you tried one of Jamie’s mum’s curries, Lizzie?’ Her dad asks.

‘No.’ Lizzie replies.

‘Not yet.’ Says Jamie. ‘She’ll be making one this Sunday, our neighbours are coming for lunch. You should come over, hang out with us for the day. The Tuckers are awesome. They’re here every summer. Our two families hang out all the time.

My sister, Charlie, has been dating their son, Nathan, for two years. Mum’s already making wedding plans with Nathan’s mum.’

‘Sure, sounds fun.’ Lizzie lowers her head to hide her blush, missing the knowing look exchanged between her parents.

 

***

 

‘Thanks Mrs Kennedy. Sounds amazing. I’m sure I can make it all work. I’ll see you next week.’

‘Who was that?’ Jamie asks.

‘A customer from the restaurant. The one who first bought the entertainment packs. Remember? I’ve been flat out trying to keep up with demand the last couple of weeks.’

‘Yeah, I remember. You were so excited when they started selling.’ Jamie places a hand on Lizzie’s thigh.  

‘Well, Mrs Kennedy owns a marketing business and has offered me a part-time job, as a graphic artist. Said I can work from home or at their office in Mornington, and that I can work around my uni classes.’

‘That’s amazing. Congrats. Look at you go.’

‘I remember being scared and stressed at the end of the school year. Not knowing if I could afford to go to uni and starting at the restaurant. Thought I was in way over my head. Now I have two jobs and won’t have to defer.’ Lizzie is buzzing with excitement.

‘And a boyfriend.’

‘Oh yeah. And a boyfriend.’ Lizzie presses her lips to Jamie’s.

‘Best.

Summer.

Ever.’

 

 

 

 

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