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Of Bites and Barmaids

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The night had been going as well as it usually did on a Thursday night. Tips were good and all of the stools surrounding the bar were full. Ashley, the newest bartender was working with me and despite her lack of experience, she had just finished bartending training and she was a good communicator. I enjoyed working with her.
“What can I get you hun?” I asked, smiling at a young man in a dress shirt and suspenders.
He smiled politely back at me and thought for a moment “A rum and coke and a tom Collins.”
“Sure thing!” I nodded, grabbing the ingredients to mix the two drinks. When I was finished I slid the glasses across the bar top and gave him the total. He passed me a couple bills, leaving me with a decent amount left for a tip and walked off with his drinks. I made change and slid the tip into my back pocket with the others.
“Hey sweetie, can I get a drink or what?” a man called down the bar, his tone snarky.
I glanced over and noticed Ashley was only a couple seats down, her face flushed red as she fumbled with the drink she was making. I glanced around at my end of the bar and decided that the customers around me were pretty well taken care of and made my way over to him. I was pretty well used to customers like him but I could see how much he was bothering Ashley.
“What can I get you hun?” I asked, offering him a smile.
He sneered at me, dark eyes squinting down his long nose angrily. He was fairly attractive, if you didn’t take into account his rotten personality. Which I did. “Service! Finally. I was beginning to think I would have to throw money to get some attention” He laughed without humor.
“Sorry ‘bout the wait, we’re doing the best we can. What would you like to drink?” I asked again, hoping to get his drink order done with.
“Well it’s the worst service I’ve had at this place. It’s really gone downhill. Seems like they’re just letting any passably pretty girl behind the bar nowadays” He huffed.
I bit my tongue to keep from saying something rude to him and forced a pleasant smile back onto my face. “Well I’ll take that as almost a compliment. Can I get you something?” I prompted, raising my eyebrows.
The man rolled his eyes and puffed his cheeks out. “I’ll just get a beer. A Guinness.”
“Coming right up!” I nodded and grabbed a glass from under the counter and moved down to the beer well. Drink poured, I placed the glass down on a coaster in front of him and told him the cost.
He scowled as if he thought it was too much and fussed around in his pockets for a moment before handing me exact change and walking off. Just glad to be rid of him I shrugged and put the money in the till before slipping past Ashley to the other side of the bar.

I finally called last call and sped through the last of the drink orders. As the last of the customers finally filed out, Ashley leaned back against the bar with a sigh and scrubbed her hand down her face.
“What a night. I am absolutely beat” she groaned.
I nodded in agreement “but at least tonight was a decent tip night. How did you do?”
We went about our usual routine of balancing the tills, totaling our tips and tidying up the bar. As it was, it was nearly four by the time I walked out the back door.
“Do you want a ride home Alyssa?” Ashley hesitated by the door to her boyfriend’s car.
I shook my head and waved her off “I’m only a couple blocks down. I don’t mind the walk” I assured her.
Ashley pursed her lips, she really didn’t like the thought of me walking home alone in the middle of the night. But I had walked home almost every night since I had started at the bar two years ago. As it was, I wasn’t too concerned. We were in a relatively good neighborhood and I was careful anyway. I could see from the look on his face through the windshield that Ashley’s boyfriend didn’t like the idea either and it made me like him even more. He treated Ashley well and she was such a sweet girl so I was glad she had someone looking after her.

The night air was chilly even though it was late June and we had been having beautiful weather the past couple days. I pulled my coat around me a bit tighter and crossed my arms. My feet ached, I would be glad to get home and go to sleep.
My apartment was small but I thought it was fairly well decorated. We had put lots of effort since we had moved in into making it look like a home for my sister and me.
We had been on our own for the past several years. Long before I started working at the bar. Long before we should have been on our own. But we had made it work and although we didn’t always get along I knew there wasn’t much of anything we wouldn’t do for each other. It had been shortly after I had gotten this job that we had moved to this neighborhood. It was much closer to Evan’s school and my work and in a better neighborhood so we didn’t have to worry so much about being in the streets late at night.
Our combined efforts had resulted in a slightly eclectic but comfortable living room, a well-furnished kitchen since we both loved to cook though we seldom had the money to buy the types of food we really wanted to, and a cute dining room set we had found at a yard sale. They had been using it as a garden table but some spray paint and a couple of cushions had done a lot to brighten it and our apartment.
I stumbled into my bedroom, at the far end of the apartment and stripped out of my work clothes like a zombie. Minutes later I was curled up under the thick sheets and fast asleep.

The sound of Evan getting ready to leave in the morning woke me up and I groaned as I buried my face in the pillow. I had only been asleep for three hours and I desperately needed more. Especially if I wanted to be able to get the last bit of editing done for a client and work at the bar again tonight.
Thankfully it didn’t take her long to leave the apartment and go to school. She was such an early bird that even as a kid she hadn’t slept in when she was on vacation. I on the other hand slept well into the afternoon when given the chance. I sighed happily as I heard her lock the door behind her and sunk back into sleep.
Several hours later I forced myself to get out of bed and made a very late breakfast. It was nearly two by the time I pulled out my laptop and tablet and started to get to work. No appointments on a Friday was a rarity that I was always thankful for. No one wanted a bleary eyed photographer stumbling around.
The alarm going off on my phone broke my concentration some time later and I started getting ready for work. My hair, an unruly black mass as usual, got pulled up into a ponytail for the night and I slipped into the familiar work clothes; a low cut t-shirt with the bar named across the chest and black booty shorts.
My long coat brushed against my knees as I walked down the stairs of the apartment building and made my way to work.
It was already busy by the time I got into work so I quickly hung my coat up and stashed my purse in a locker before clocking in for the night.
“Alyssa! Can I talk to you for a minute?” Jerry, the bar manager called from the office.
I cast a look out to where I could see the edge of the bar, crowded with people and sighed. I needed to get out there, Jerry knew how busy it was. Why couldn’t this wait until the end of the night? A heavy feeling sank into the pit of my stomach as I forced a smile onto my face and changed direction to walk into the office.
Jerry was an older man, perhaps in his late forties. His hair was thinning and turning grey and he had a weathered look about him. Despite being the bar manager he had never been overbearing or bossy with us and it meant that all of his staff loved him. He did his best for us so we did the same for him. But the guilt ridden look on his face had me biting my lip and fidgeting with the edge of my shirt.
“What’s going on Jerry?” I asked, my voice betraying how nervous I was.
Jerry sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. He motioned to the seat across from him weakly “sit down?”
I did as he asked though I felt far too fidgety and nervous to really sit still.
“I’m really sorry, Alyssa but I have to let you go. If it was my decision you’d be our head bartender but they want certified bartenders and you don’t have the training. It just came down from head office this morning” Jerry broke the news to me; his expression looked like he had been the one to be let go.
My eyes widened and filled with tears. I blink hastily and looked down. I would not cry about this. “I’ll go get the training Jerry, I promise. I’ll even pay for it if that’s the problem” I offered though I didn’t know how I was going to manage to do that.
Between Evan’s work at the grocery store, and my work here we could just pay rent. Our photography business helped with our other bills but it was the tips here that usually bought our groceries. Without this job I didn’t know what we were going to do next month for rent.
Jerry nodded sadly “I know, that’s what I told them, but they already have someone lined up. They’re coming in for training on Sunday. I am so sorry Alyssa. But look, I’m not firing you on the spot. You have two weeks and I’ll give you a reference if you need it and I’ll keep my ears open for anybody looking for a bartender ok?” Jerry offered.
I didn’t know what to do. I would need to find a new job of course. But everyone wanted a certified bartender. Or, all the nice bars like here did. But I couldn’t afford to take the training. Especially now that I didn’t have a job. I could find a job in another field, but it would mean not being able to take as many photo shoot appointments if I had to work days. “Thanks Jerry. I should…I should get to work” I mumbled, standing up. Even as I said it I was making a mental list of all the bars in the area that I could apply at, hoping one of them would be hiring.
“Alyssa, take the night off. Paid. You have a bunch of vacation days saved up so use one tonight ok?” Jerry offered, a sad smile on his face.
I didn’t want to go home but I did need to get to work on shaping up my resume and taking a look at places to apply. I was probably too out of sorts to be of much use working behind the bar anyway. So I nodded, thanked Jerry and left.
I made it home in record time and started to work on my resume.
A knock at my bedroom door made me look up from my computer screen. Evan poked her head in with a confused expression on her face.
“I thought you worked tonight?” Evan questioned, pale green eyes that were just like our mothers filled with concern.
I had been dreading having to tell Evan what had happened, hoping I could put it off until tomorrow at least. “I did. But…uhm…. I got let go. I’m gonna find another job, don’t worry! And I’ve still got two weeks at the bar. I promise we’re going to be ok and you don’t have to worry about it” I told her though I wasn’t sure at all that we would be ok, who knew how long it would take me to find another job.
Evan’s shoulder’s dropped and her mouth popped open, “how could they fire you?” she demanded “you’re the best bartender they have! I’m so sorry Ally,” Evan sat on the edge of my bed and hugged me, her chin resting on my shoulder.
I hugged her back, my arms easily wrapping around her tiny ribcage. We sat like that for a moment before she let me go and squared her shoulders. We spent the night making a list of places I could apply over the next couple of days. Then we looked over what money we had and budgeted for the next couple of weeks.
Evan suggested putting in a movie so I popped popcorn and we spend the night curled up together on the couch.

The next day I had a photo shoot appointment and afterwards spent my evening dropping off resumes to restaurants and pubs around Shreveport. When it started to get dark out I made my way to the various clubs in the area. My last stop was one that made me more nervous than anywhere else I had applied. Shreveport had a fairly large vampire population and I had served quite a few at the bar over the past couple years but I hadn’t interacted much with them.
It opened as soon as it was dark enough for vampires to be awake, but like most clubs it wasn’t busy until it got much later. So now was a good time for me to go in, I figured. they wouldn’t be too busy to deal with me, hopefully, and with luck the bar manager would be milling about getting ready for the Saturday crowd.
A tall, imposing woman with long straight blond hair stood at the door, an outfit made of almost entirely black leather and lace barely covering her body. I almost turned around and left at the sight of her.
“ID?” She questioned, her tone beyond bored.
I fished it out of my pocket and handed it to her. She glanced at it quickly and handed it back to me, waving me in.
The bar looked like everything I had expected and feared it would. There was hardly anyone there, which I had also expected, only a few people milling around the bar. I made my way over and waited to catch the attention of the bartender.
“Hi there” a sweet voice greeted beside me.
I turned to see a blond woman with a friendly smile on her face looking at me. Her blond hair was lighter than the woman at the door’s and was pulled back into a high ponytail. She stood out in the dark bar and I wondered that I hadn’t noticed her the minute I walked it. The flowery sundress she wore contrasted with the reds and blacks of everyone else in the bar.
“Hi” I smiled back politely. I wondered idly if she was a vampire or human. Stereotypical as it was, I decided she was probably human, she was so full of sunshine it was hard to picture her being a vampire.
“My name is Sookie, Sookie Stackhouse. You looking’ to apply here?” She inquired, the same polite smile on her face.
I flushed, it must have been obvious that I was looking for a job for her to assume that that was why I was here. “Nice to meet you, I’m Alyssa. Is it that obvious?” I asked, biting my lip self-consciously.
Sookie looked embarrassed and her smile faltered for a moment before coming back full force “No, no. Don’t worry I just have a knack for reading people ‘s’all. You’re going to want to give your resume to Eric, he runs the bar” Sookie suggested kindly.
“Great, thank you. Is he here tonight? Could you point me in the right direction?”
Sookie nodded and slid off of her bar stool “Sure thing! So why do you want to work here, anyway?” her tone wasn’t judgmental, just curious, as I followed her through the club and down a hall at the end of the bar.
“Honestly? I got let go at my other job and I really need a new one as soon as I can. I like bartending and I know I’m good at it. Do you think Eric is hiring?” I asked her, thinking of Evan. I was just thankful that rent had just come out so I still had some time before we really needed to panic. Most of the other bars I had been to hadn’t been looking. Summer had already started and most places had picked up the extra staff they would need for the busy season. We passed the bathrooms and Sookie paused outside of a big steel door.
“Bartenders come and go here like you wouldn’t believe. Not that it’s a bad place but a lot of the vampires that work here end up getting into trouble and the humans are usually just ‘fangbangers’ I guess that just want to find a vampire to sleep with” Sookie shrugged and knocked on the door. “Eric, can I come in?” She called through the door, nearly having to shout.
“Go away Sookie. I’m busy” a deep voice came through muffled by what I assumed was a ridiculously thick door.
Sookie huffed and pounded on the door again “Eric, this is important!”
I could barely hear him cursing on the other side of the door. A moment later it swung open and was filled with a very tall man.
He was well over six feet tall, lean and muscled. He was gorgeous and he knew it if the way he smirked down at us was anything to go by. His blond hair was mussed up and I vaguely wondered if everyone around here was blond.
“Oh. You brought a friend. Well isn’t this a lovely surprise. You should have mentioned you brought me a friend” Eric purred at Sookie, eyes flicking between us like a cat’s.
Sookie huffed and cocked her hip impatiently at him “No Eric. This is Alyssa. She wants to work here” Sookie explained.
Eric looked me over, considering “I could think of a job to give her.”
“Ugh, don’t be a creep” Sookie scoffed.
I managed not to blush through sheer force of will. He certainly was attractive, I don’t think anyone could deny that. But I wasn’t here to hook up with someone. I needed a job and if there was even a slight chance that I could get one here I was determined to get it.
“Hi, like Sookie said, I’m a bartender. I have two years of experience working in a bar. I can work full time if that’s what you’re looking for and I’m a very quick learner. I can give you references, I don’t have a record at all and I live close by so I won’t ever be late for work,” I assured him.
Eric raised an eyebrow at me and pursed his lips. He didn’t look overly impressed with me and my heart sank.
“Isn’t this what you pay me to do? Help you decide who you should and shouldn’t hire Eric?” Sookie prompted.
Eric narrowed his eyes at her “Yes, when I ask. Did I ask you to find me a new bartender?” Eric challenged her.
I felt awkward standing there, watching them argue with each other. It seemed familiar to them and I decided they must have known each other for quite a while, it seemed like there was a bit of sexual tension between them. Eric leaned down slightly as he talked and Sookie staring up at him, chin jutted out defiantly but she was tilted slightly towards him.
Sookie scoffed at him “Just interview her at least. Atticus might be able to go vampire speed, but you need another bartender Eric” Sookie asserted.
Eric glowered down at her for several minutes and I started to wonder if I should just leave them to it, Eric clearly wasn’t overly interested in hiring me. But I thought Sookie was probably right. I had noticed coming in that there was only the one man behind the bar, despite it stretching half the length of the club. There was no way he could effectively cover that much space vampire or not.
“Fine. Come in Alyssa” Eric conceded, stepping back to allow us into the office.