Chapter 22

With their first day’s training done, and back in their regular clothes, Mary, Vince, and Camille were all piled into Camille’s car and pulling onto the road when Mary spoke up.

“Oh, sorry Camille, would you mind taking a left here instead of a right?”

“I’m pretty sure campus is to the right,” Camille said.

“It is, but Vince and I aren’t going to campus,” Mary informed her.

“We aren’t?” Vince asked from the backseat.

“No, we aren’t. We’re going to Six-Shooter, which is only about five minutes from here. Camille, you are certainly welcome to join us as well. Alice and Roy both have their first shifts at their new jobs tonight, and we are going to go support them.”

“They do? Neither of them mentioned anything to me.”

Mary knew quite well that neither had told Vince, nor almost anyone else for that matter. Alice had confided in her verbally, but Mary had gotten the information about Roy’s start date from reading his mind. Both of them were nervous; they wanted to do well since this was now part of the program’s requirements. Neither had encouraged visitors out of fear that they’d find they were awful at the job and be fired sometime in the night. Mary understood that fear, just as she understood it was her duty as a friend to ignore it and go offer them support anyway.

“Trust me on this, they start tonight. That’s why I had you wear something nice today.”

Vince glanced down. He was wearing a polo and jeans along with dark shoes. Mary had, in fact, stopped him from leaving the door in shorts and t-shirt, telling him that it was inappropriate to show up for training looking so unprofessional. He’d taken her at her word, though now he was beginning to see she’d been setting him up for the after-work plans.

“Should I ask why we’re going even though they didn’t mention anything?”

“You just did, and the answer is because it’s what friends do. Take it from someone who listens to thoughts day in and day out: they will be very glad we came to see them and assure them how good a job they are doing.”

“Okay, Mary. I do trust you. Let’s go see our friends. Sorry to impose on you like this, Camille.”

“It’s only a few minutes away,” Camille replied. “Besides, you say that like I’m not going there anyway.”

“You are?”

“Now that I know Roy and Alice are starting tonight, of course I am.”

“You hate clubs,” Vince pointed out.

“You aren’t a big fan of them either,” Camille shot back. “But Mary is right: this is something friends do for one another.” Though her voice was confident, inwardly she was wilting. Camille truly did hate such overtly social gathering places, however that hate was nothing compared to feeling of disappointment she’d experience if she let her own awkwardness get in the way of helping someone she cared for.

With a firm twist of the wheel her small car took a turn to the left, and they were off.

 *              *              *

Roy hadn’t realized how much he had lost touch with his wild partying side until he saw the steadily growing line outside the club as people filtered past the bouncer and paid their cover. He’d thought it would be slow, since this was a Wednesday, after all. Almost immediately on the heels of that thought was the realization that this was a college town, and no one cared if they had a hangover in class the next day. Roy briefly contemplated why that had taken so long to dawn on him, and when he reached the answer he didn’t know how he felt about it. Roy had thought no one would come out tonight because he wouldn’t have come out tonight. He had training, he needed to be sharp for class, he just had better things to do with his time. Roy, to put a point on it, cared more about the program than about drinking and getting laid. He could not figure out when that had happened, but there was no denying that it had.

He didn’t dwell on it for long, both because Roy could really only dwell on grudges and challenges, and because business picked up too much for him to sit around contemplating his own priority changes. He slung beers easily; cocktails and shots took a little longer, though. Roy found himself thankful for the practice pouring; his own skills had gotten a little rusty and it was turning out that they needed to be in peak performance to keep up with the growing crowd’s thirst.

Though initially skeptical at how a guy like Chad would handle serving drinks, Roy found himself incredibly grateful for the partner he’d gotten at this bar. Chad’s speed, precision, and efficiency helped minimize the wait for their customers, allowing Roy a little time to chat with some of the more interested women and talk them into pairing some shots with their drinks. Despite being in the club’s smallest bar, they quickly acquired a large amount of customers, Chad’s speed and Roy’s charm creating a quick, happy turnover.

They quickly realized that the barbacks were almost useless to them; the smallest bar was low priority compared to larger ones drawing in hordes of drinkers. Roy and Chad immediately worked out a rotation system where one of them would make runs to the back during lulls. Roy took this job more frequently than Chad, if for no other reason than the fact that the blond young man’s speed and coordination meant he could more easily handle an unexpected swell of orders without letting a crowd build up.

The only real challenge Roy faced so far was limiting himself. He easily could have grabbed three times as much beer per trip as he was lugging, however doing so would raise too many question and suspicions. Though he had a bit more wiggle room than the others regarding the issues of his identity, he’d also made it obvious that he had existing friendships with Chad, Angela, and Alice already. Anyone curious about the guy lifting far more than he should with such ease could connect those dots without a whole lot of trouble. Which, strangely enough, Roy also found he now cared about.

As he lifted his last stack of beer boxes for his current restocking run, he decided that maybe he should make a point to go to the bars a little more frequently. All this hanging around the same people every day was making him soft.