Runner-up No. 3.
Prompt No. 8
A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy girl snorting cocaine in the restroom.
He doesn’t notice her. A transparent strip of pale-green fabric slides down her long, tan arm as she reaches for the briefcase on the floor. Smoothly, she slips the strap back into place, sits up, and places a thick leather folder on the table between them. He doesn’t notice; he’s staring at my breasts. I stifle a laugh. Divorce papers.
A few feet away, collecting half-empty glasses from an abandoned table, I lean over farther than necessary to give him a better view. I can feel the cool air from a nearby vent hit the top of my stomach as the starched white shirt gapes. I glance up and quirk my mouth at the captivated middle-aged man.
A bottle of Veuve Clicquot arrives at his table and he snaps back, startled. I laugh, but not for his sake. She’s smart. Divorce over champagne.
Back to my duties, I turn away, sloppily stacked dishes balanced on a one-handed tray, and retreat to the kitchen. I carelessly hand the tray off to the dishwasher who tries to talk to me in broken English. I ignore him and, glancing at the wall clock, return to the dining room. Four more hours. Lord, I’m bored.
Not many tables to clean in a restaurant where people come to sit for hours at a time. I lean one slim shoulder against the dark-mahogany wall panel and fold my arms to glance over tonight’s crowd. Men and women talking, drinking, laughing, their sparkling, glittering bodies gorgeously set off by the soft candlelight. And they know it.
I look down at the manicure I’m going to have to get redone and a long sigh escapes my lips. I should be sitting there, glittering and gay, perfectly coifed and expensive. I drop my hand. Four more hours. Another sigh. I’m bored and sober.
I shove away from the wall and scan the restaurant. I catch the bartender’s eye. She nods and we both head to the bathroom.
Quiet marble, dark mahogany, rich women. I make my way to our meeting place, the largest stall at the end of the row.
Portioning out a few lines on the glass-top vanity, we take turns snorting the wicked powder through a small glass tube. The bitter drip hits the back of my throat and my face goes numb. Good shit. The bartender looks at me, and I can tell she’s feeling the same. “Good shit,” she says.
Cleaning up the evidence, I slip the oft-used pouch into the tiny pocket at the hip of my tight black pants and open the stall door. I head toward the mirror and smile at the bartender through the glass. Running a finger under my nose, I examine my appearance. Clear, bright eyes and slightly flushed cheeks. I run my hand down my slim body and adjust the thin silver belt hugging my hips. Perfect.
As I turn to leave, I notice a woman in a pale-green dress. I recognize her. The divorcée with champagne. She’s looking at me. The bartender heads back out into the restaurant, but the divorcée reaches out to touch my arm, to stop me from leaving. I smile and incline my head impersonally, intending to walk by. “Do you mind?” she says.
“Mind?” I ask. A small bubble of paranoid panic wells up in me. What does she want? I try to think of something to say.
I can tell she’s trying to think of what to say, so I calm slightly. She needs something from me. “I saw you laugh at the champagne,” she says. Her eyes are humorless.
I don’t know what to tell her. A mumbled “I’m sorry” escapes my lips and I glance toward the door to leave.
“No. Don’t be.” She looks uncertain. “I know you felt the meaning. You saw the divorce papers, I mean. The champagne was meant to be ironic.” She stops and runs a hand through her short, dark hair as if trying to decide how to proceed.
“I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand.” I glance at the door again. I need to get back. “May I help you with something?”
“I need a little help,” she says. “I heard you and your friend in the stall …” The pause is pregnant. I can only stare at her. “I guess I’m asking for a favor,” she says.
Understanding dawns and I look at her quizzically. My paranoid mind hopes she’s not a cop. She looks into my eyes, embarrassed, but I can tell she needs it. I trust her. She’s bored too.
Observing her dark head bent to inhale the last line of cocaine, I feel something drug-enhanced but profound. A realization. They are all bored. Everyone is bored. Like me. Beautiful.
Rubbing her nose, she looks up at me. Beautiful. We walk out of the stall together. She smiles at me in the mirror and adjusts her pale-green dress. “Thank you,” she says, and means it. I nod, smiling, and head back to the dining room.
An empty table stands ready to be cleared, so I head back to work. Much less bored. For now.
A short time later, I notice the divorcée standing to leave. She looks in my direction, so I tip an imaginary glass to her. She smiles and inclines her head. Her husband, still seated, looks at me, betrayed. I smile and go back to cleaning.
From the corner of my eye I catch a nearby customer checking me out. Mid-50s and leering at my ass while wife talks to server. I glance at the wall clock—two more hours—and lean a little further for his benefit …