“Two servers didn’t show! These college kids…” Zena mutters as she ties her apron around her waist. “Serena, take these salads out.” She points at a tray of food.
Romy pops up next to me. “I’ll do it, Zena.”
She frowns. “No, you’re on the floor filling glasses. Don’t forget the lemons. Serena has more experience. She’ll take the salads.”
Romy gives me a sympathetic glance. “Don’t let that red-haired bitch get to you,” she says when Zena walks off.
I give her a wan smirk. “Don’t use that word.”
“Okay.” She rolls her eyes. “Hussy. Better?”
No. With a sigh, I pick up the tray of eight salads, put them on my shoulder, and push through the swinging doors of the banquet hall. The centerpiece of the room is a wall decorated with black and gold balloons formed into an arch. A backdrop of the campus with the Theta Greek letters is plastered on the wall. They’re taking couple photos, and Dillon and Ashley pose for the photographer. Wearing a strapless red dress that should clash with her upswept hair but doesn’t, she looks like she belongs in a magazine. He’s wearing a gray suit that has to be tailored, the fit tight as it clings to his broad shoulders. Her hand is hooked in his elbow, her face tilted up to his.
The image of them slams into me.
His worried eyes find mine.
Dandelion, they say.
Sucking in a breath, I turn away and drop salads off at an eight-top table then head back in for another tray.
When I come out, the only table that doesn’t have salads is theirs. You got this. Chantal sits next to Troy and Bambi is next to Sawyer, their heads tilted together in conversation. Dillon looks up as I approach, and I feel the weight of his gaze. My spine straightens, and I give myself a pep talk. A hundred bucks for this job. Plus, with Romy’s part, we’ve got her competition fees covered this month.
Bambi and Chantal give me cautious looks, and I force a smile. “Your salads,” I say, placing them around the table.
“Yummy!” Bambi says. She’s wearing a slinky gold dress and her hair is in beach waves.
Moving to Ashley’s left, I ease her plate down. Her green eyes narrow as she sniffs. “Blue cheese? I thought we decided on raspberry vinaigrette when we made the menu. Girls? Am I right?” Her gaze sweeps to the others.
Her mouth twisting, Chantal replies, “It’s a wedge salad. Traditionally, it calls for blue cheese.”
I give her a mental high-five.
“Oh, it does, but I find blue cheese so…unsavory,” Ashley insists as she looks at me. Her lashes flutter. “Would you run back and check, Serena? I’m sure the catering team must have forgotten to offer us a selection.”
How about I just dump it in your lap? I smile tightly. “Of course. Anyone else?”
They say no. My hands shake as I set down Dillon’s salad, starting at the scent of his cologne. It’s new and foreign and rattles me. Where’s his signature smell? Did he put on something different for her?
He says my name and tries to take my hand, but I tug it away, flip around and leave.
“What’s wrong?” Romy hisses as I fumble around in the fridge then check the counters in the small kitchen.
“Nothing,” I mutter. “You see any other salad dressings?”
“Let me take their table. Zena has me on the floor with food now.”
I shake my head. “No.”
“Why are you torturing yourself?” She puts her hands on her hips.
Maybe I need to see them together. I pause. I didn’t have to accept this job tonight. I could have skipped it and picked one up in a week or so.
I wanted to see them together.
Do I want him to screw up? Am I self-sabotaging? Maybe. My throat tightens.
By the time I return, Ashley’s tapping her fingers on the table.
“No raspberry vinaigrette, sorry. I brought what we had: French and oil and vinegar.” I plunk them down.
“Get over it, Ashley,” Chantal grouses.
Ashley’s fork falls to the carpet, and her stiletto knocks it under the table. “Oops. I can’t reach it. Can you get that for me, Serena?” She looks up and smiles at me.
“I’ve got it,” Dillon says as he bends down and snatches it. He stands from his chair and gives the fork to me. He clenches my hand. “Look at me, Serena—”
I push away from him, my voice cool. “Excuse me, let me get a new one.”
“And extra lemons for my tea,” Ashley calls to my back.
I hear Dillon arguing with her as I march off.
Romy waits at the door in the kitchen. She’s been working the other side of the room, delivering the entrees. She pulls the tray out of my hands. “Your face is red, sis. I’m taking over before you jump on the table and pull her hair out. You work my tables and I’ll get yours.”