Tessie - The Arrow Jay leaned out the door and stared into the darkness surrounding Michael's Bridge Diner. It was getting late and no more customers would be allowed in. He reached for the neon 'open' sign and flipped the switch. The red glowing wires went black and he headed back into the diner, closing the door. He hated his job, cleaning the counters, mopping up spills, and wrapping leftovers for customers. But there was nothing he could to do about it. Sure, he could give his two weeks notice that minute, and his parents wouldn't make a big fuss about it, but there was something that kept him there. Probably the only thing. He returned to the cart piled with cleaning materials and pushed it in the direction of the back room. The tiny wheels squealed and made a funny tread on the aged carpeting. He passed long abandoned booths and smelled the freshly laid cleaner on the tabletops. A handful of customers were chatting at the bar, but even their voices were growing dim with the lateness of the night. As he nudged the cart through a swing door, he heard a voice speak behind him. It was his manager, Lori. "Jay! Will you clean up this spill?" Her voice had the usual tone of professionalism in it, but Jay knew secretly she couldn't stand him. He wasn't the best employee, maybe somewhat relaxed with his duties, but he couldn't help it. This was his second job his parents had insisted upon, and he hated it. He disliked diner work more than anything else. And it probably showed, because Lori would give him the hairy eye from time to time. "Will you take care of that, please?" Lori repeated, pointing to a puddle of orange soda. Jay took one look at it. "Nope. No way," he said, grinning. Lori cackled. "Honest to goodness, Jay, what am I going to do with you?" "Fire my ass?" "No," Lori laughed. "That's just what you want. Take care of the spill." she said as she walked away through a door. Her laugh faded into the kitchen. Jay groaned and quickly mopped up the mess a kid customer had left. Then he hurried the cart to the back room, shoving it into a cramped closet. He kicked the door closed with his shoe and then headed for the kitchen. "Hey, Tara. Almost done for the night?" a voice said as Jay entered. He peered around the corner and saw who had spoken. It was Bill, another employee. And beside him, washing dishes in the sink, was Tara. "I just have to finish these. What about you, Bill?" "Ah, I have a few more minutes. Besides, I just saw Emerson stumble in, so I guess it's gonna be longer." "Longer?" Tara said and she suddenly looked at Jay as he approached. "Damn it!" Jay kicked the side of the metal cabinet. "He does this all the time." "Who's Emerson?" Tara asked. Bill laughed. "Oh, that's right. You're the new person. Well, you see, he's this old guy who comes in every other day, and Lori always makes a point to help him. That means we stay late." Bill turned to face Jay. "Well, not everyone has to stay. Lori wouldn't miss you if you went home, Jay." Jay avoided him by picking up a stack of pots and pans. "So we stay late so Lori isn't alone?" Bill smiled, laughing again, "Exactly. Hey, you catch on pretty quickly. You're wicked smart." Tara grinned and looked down to the suds in the sink. Bill then took a towel to dry dishes beside her. Jay saw them smiling and laughing. He felt a twinge of envy. She smiled at anyone, and the girl couldn't do wrong. Since a month ago, when he had first seen her, she had acted like a goody two-shoes. She said the right thing, always did the right thing, and always took the extra effort to impress Lori. He didn't understand her sometimes. She was well on her way to becoming employee of the month for sure. A drunken cry rang out. Bill and Tara tried to contained their laughter. Then Jay heard Lori cackling through the open service window, talking to Emerson. Tara glanced out into the dining area. "I've never seen anybody that drunk before. Bill, go bring Lori some more coffee for him." "Ah, man." Bill threw up his arms and grabbed a cup. "He's so helpless all the time. I swear, he's got some weird crush on Lori, because he's hear like every day." Bill exited the kitchen, holding a full coffee pot and the steaming cup. Jay stepped up to the sink. He glancd sideways and noticed the shinning black pony tail that dropped to her waist. He felt tempted to give it a little tug. Tara suddenly looked at him and he glanced away. She handed him a plate and then a pan, and silently he put them in the cabinets. She was looking stunning as usual, wearing everyday jeans and a sweatshirt. But she didn't need something flashy anyway. He liked her. Heck, everyone liked her! But something definitely separated them. He didn't know what it was, but he did know that she wasn't your typical girl. She was about his age, maybe a year younger, but that was where the similarities ended. Emerson was talking better now. Some of the sentences that flowed through the service window were not as slurred. Bill re-entered the kitchen with a wide grin. "Man, he's so stoned." Tara flashed her smile and Jay laughed. Lori was right behind Bill with the empty pot. "All right, you guys can leave now. I'll only be a couple more minutes with Mr. Emerson." she as she winked. Tara giggled and said, "No, I'll stay with you. We wouldn't want you to be alone." Lori beamed with gratitude. "Thank you, Tara, that would be wonderful." She turned to the others. "Anybody else wanna stay a little longer?" "Nah, I'm gone. I've got plans." Bill said. He moved for the back door, smiling. "Catch you guys later." "Bye, Bill." Lori said. She turned to Jay, raising her eyebrows. "Are you staying or going?" Jay shook his head. "I've got homework. Some Friday this will be." "Have a goodnight, then," Lori said and she walked out to rejoin Emerson. Jay reach for his jacket, hanging on the back wall, and pulled it on. He paused and found himself staring again. Her hair had been unfurled from the pony tail and now hung about her shoulders. She was busy with her cell phone, texting away. Slowly, he approached her. His shoes moved quietly across the tile floor. Tara glanced up at him. Her dark, consuming eyes met his with a shock. "Have a good night." she said, trying to smile, although she visibly squirmed. "Uh, thanks, I will." He turned to head for the door, but inwardly he knew he wouldn't get another chance like that. Something had to be done. He turned back and tried to speak. He hesitated and then blurted, "Would you like to go out sometime? Like to the movies or something?" Then a sinking feeling commenced. Gosh, why did this feel like such a shot in the dark? She couldn't like him. She was the perfect good-goody. She didn't like talk to him, if she could avoid it. Her eyes were dazed. She lowered her cell phone. Then a million dollar smile curled on her face. "Sure, Jay, that sounds like it would be fun." Jay smiled. His arrow had found its perfect mark.