The heavy, wooden door creaked as she opened it. The room was pitch black, and it took a few stutters for the overhead lights to illuminate the space once she’d flipped the switch. With the room fully lit, she let the door close behind her before walking toward the bar. The smell of smoke and whiskey lingered in the air. To most people, it might be off-putting, but for Cam, it was a comforting scent. A reminder of her father.
Her flip-flops padded against the wood floor as she maneuvered her way around the tables. The seat of the chairs lay across the tabletop, just the way she’d left them the night before. She pulled a glass from one of the shelves behind the bar and poured some water. She’d done this routine so many times it was ingrained in her brain. She could open and close the bar with her eyes closed at this point. Lifting the glass to her lips, she gulped down the cool water.
She looked up at the clock hanging above the liquor shelf. Two p.m. One hour until Ernie, one of her regulars, would be walking through the door asking for a shot of whiskey and a beer to wash it down. Ernie could drink a scary combination of alcohol and still walk out of here completely fine.
She set the glass of water down and went back out to the floor to start pulling the chairs from the tables. A year ago, her father would have been sitting in the back office, starting on morning paperwork while she opened the bar. But she couldn’t let her mind go there today. Any minute now, Jen and Amire would be walking in to start their shift, and if she had a bad attitude, it would affect the entire atmosphere.
Today’s going to be a busy day. Maybe if she kept telling herself that, then the man in the sky would listen and send some customers her way. God knew she needed them. You’d think in such a small town, with a limited number of bars, she’d be packed every night. Instead, she was lucky to get a few new customers a week. At this point, Ernie was keeping the lights on.
As she set the last chair down, the front door opened, and Amire walked in.
“Fuck, it’s hot outside,” he said, repeating her steps and going behind the bar to get a glass of water.
“Said it’s supposed to be in the hundreds all week,” she said, putting on a smile and pulling herself up to sit on the bar.
Amire raised an eyebrow at her. “What do you want, Cam?”
He always knew when she was up to no good. He gulped down the water, his Adam’s apple bobbing underneath his dark skin.
“Make me some chicken fingers before we open?” she asked, batting her eyelashes. Her stomach had been rumbling since the moment she’d woken up, but the only thing in her fridge was old leftovers from Helen’s Diner.
He rolled his eyes before setting the glass down and used the rubber band around his wrist to pull his long dreads into a loose, low ponytail. “What time did you go to sleep?”
She shrugged. “I closed last night, and then I went out with Jen. Well, we stayed in, then we went back to our place.”
Amire shook his head. “I can’t keep up with you two.”
She laughed. “I know. That’s why you went home right after your shift. You could have had a couple drinks with us.”
Amire never hung out with them after work no matter how many times they invited him. He grabbed a white towel from one of the shelves underneath the counter and threw it over his shoulder.
“No, thank you. I like to be awake with the rest of the world. At least for a little while. You know, if you had a man at home, you’d have a reason to want to crawl in bed after your shift.”
She let out a short laugh. “He would be the most neglected man in the world. I have too much going on right now to worry about someone else.”
It had been too long since she had even thought about dating someone. She barely noticed the guys in town or anyone in her classes. They all looked the same to her, not interesting enough to break through her tunnel vision.
Amire scoffed. She waved a hand at him, and he turned to go towards the kitchen.
The kitchen prep was simple since they only sold typical bar food. At one point or another, she’d worked every position. When she’d moved across the country from Seattle, Washington to Goldbeach, North Carolina, she knew she’d end up working at her dad’s bar. What she hadn’t realized was that she would be running it years later.
She walked to the back office. A small space, maybe the size of a large closet at best. The only thing in the office was her desk and a coat rack for Jen and Amire to use. Four, large stacks of papers covered the small desk. She needed to get a filing cabinet to organize all the paperwork but that was going to have to wait.
She slid the first stack of paperwork towards her. Invoices. Some paid; some overdue. The bills never stopped, and sadly, there wasn’t enough coming in to take care of them all. She pulled out the five, unpaid invoices from the pile and organized them by priority. Grabbing the checkbook off the desk, she wrote a check for the electric bill, her liquor distributor, and the plumber who fixed the backed-up toilet a couple of weeks ago.
The other two would have to wait until she had more money. She didn’t even want to think about the debt that she owed beyond these small invoices. Notably, the most significant debt that her dad left to her. The money should have never been borrowed in the first place. It sent chills down her spine and made her palms sweaty just from thinking about it. Taking a deep breath, she ran her hands over her face, trying to clear her mind. Focus on one thing at a time. Her priority was always to make sure Amire and Jen got paid on time. Even though most bartenders worked solely off tips, she paid Jen an hourly, living wage to make up for the lack of tipping customers. And since she and Jen lived together, it would be an awkward conversation if Jen didn’t make enough to pay her half of the bills.
Setting the two, unpaid invoices to the side, she grabbed the next pile of paperwork.
Twenty minutes later, the sound of the front door shutting brought her attention back to the bar. She walked out of the office just as Jen walked around the counter with a cup carrier filled with big, styrofoam cups.
“You are a lifesaver,” Cam said as Jen set the cup holder down on the bar. Cam took one of the cups and stuck a straw inside. She loved the way the bubbles from the soda gave that slight burn to the back of her throat. Drinking so much soda was probably the reason her jeans were starting to get tight again, but she didn’t care about her weight anymore. She accepted the fact that her body was made different from someone like Jen. Whereas she and Jen could eat the same thing, Cam would always have a more curvy shape. Plus, she’d given up on diets a long time ago. She realized her brain power could be used in better ways other than worrying about a little extra fat.
“No problem, I figured we might need some caffeine,” Jen said.
They had soda at the bar, but the gas station down the street must have done something special because it tasted so much better. Of course, she’d never tell her customers that.
“Amire! I brought soda!” Jen yelled. She was a small person but had the voice of an opera singer.
“I can hear you, Jen, you don’t have to yell,” he complained from the kitchen that was straight to the left of the bar.
Jen winked at her and went to give the soda to Amire. Cam leaned against the counter and sipped on her drink. They had thirty minutes until the bar opened, and she prayed it would be a busy night.
Read the rest of Savage Spades here: https://www.amazon.com/Savage-Spades-K-D-Clark-ebook/dp/B083BZP9RS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=savage+spades&qid=1582593085&sr=8-1