"Now I don't hardly know her
But I think I could love her"
- Crimson And Clover
I was working at a diner part time, while trying to write a novel on my time off. The hours stunk, the seafoam green uniform was itchy and I was never without a headache by the end of the day; it wasn't the greatest gig but it helped pay the bills. The restaurant décor was simple: the white floor was flecked with dull gray and the green vinyl booths were starting to crack. The formica tables were rimmed with silver colored plastic, and there was a jukebox by the door, across from the bar counter.
The bell above the door rang, indicating a customer, or four. I quickly tossed down the rag I was wiping a table with, and in one practiced movement, grabbed my notepad and pencil from my apron, making my way over to the four boys settling in the booth. I sighed wearily, as groups of boys tended to be rowdy, and I was certainly in no mood for smart remarks and innuendo.
"Welcome to Gary's Diner, what can I get you guys to drink?"
"Beer," a dark haired boy with a cheeky smile jeered.
"We don't serve that here." I sighed, already exasperated, and gave him a pointed look.
"I'll have a soda," the tallest of the four said. The first boy murmured in agreement.
"Water for me," spoke a boy with almost blindingly white teeth and a musicality to his voice.
"Same here," the fourth quietly replied. I glanced at him briefly, and felt my breath catch as our eyes met.
The sound of my pencil hitting the floor shook me out of my reverie. The stare was only a second but felt like an eternity. I hurriedly looked away from the boy, a faint tinge of pink adorning both our cheeks. Someone cleared their throat, while others snickered behind their menus. I scrambled to pick the pencil up- the boy had the same idea and my face flushed as our hands touched. He held the pencil out and I snatched it out of his hand. I smoothed my hair back and shoved the pencil behind my ear, excusing myself to get their drinks.
"I think she likes you, Bobby," one of them- the boy with the nice voice- said. I was momentarily surprised I even recognized it was him, but I'd never heard a voice that sounded so musical. It was lovely. His comment did nothing to stop the color spreading across my face.
"Liz! You're gonna flood the place!" I jumped at the voice next to me. I had been so focused on their conversation, and the boy- Bobby's?- response, the cups were overflowing.
"What's got you in a twist?" My coworker Shanna asked.
"Shanna! Do me a huge favor, please take that table for me," I begged, hoping she'd be enticed by the prospect of shameless flirting.
"Hell no, they look like shitty tippers. But they're kind of cute… Why?" She asked suspiciously, though her features quickly turned to delight as I related the story to her, feeling more distressed than ever.
"Okay, definitely not. You're keeping the table, and getting his number."
"I'm not looking for anything! We're at work anyways."
"I do it all the time!"
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me."
"Liz. He could be The One." Shanna was very big on the concept of "The One," but she was also very picky. She had a list of qualities she did and didn't want in a man. She thought she had found "The One" two years back, but one night she came home to an empty house. He had taken his clothes, most of hers, and the pool boy.
I rolled my eyes and carried the drinks back to the table, silently praying no one would say anything. The tall one cleared his throat and the table fell silent, trying to keep straight faces; except for the loudmouth who grinned broadly.
After taking their order- four burgers with fries- without further incident, I happily went on break. Normally I would take the time to sit out back and try writing, but after a few minutes of wracking my brain to finish a scene that wouldn't come, I gave up. Shoving my notepad back into the bag, I felt around for my cigarettes and let my mind wander, back to the boy inside the diner.
I briefly let myself wonder what he did for work, where we would live, if I could quit this crummy job and write for a living. Then I thanked my lucky stars that no one could read my mind; I felt foolish, and hoped they would be gone when I got back inside. The door swung open as Shanna exited with a lit cigarette in hand.
"Break's over, kid." I sighed, stubbing my cigarette out under my white skips and pushed away all of the silly thoughts. I never believed in "The One" and I certainly wasn't going to start now. Relationships weren't unknown territory to me, but I was never invested as I could have, and maybe should have been. People talk about love at first sight, how they couldn't believe they had gone so long without this person in their life; it all sounded too good to be true.
"Lover boy's still inside," Shanna called over her shoulder. I closed my eyes and shook my head, bracing myself for the awkwardness I was sure would be waiting. Putting my apron back on, I could hear them talking about music; it seemed as if they were a group. Well, that answered the question of his career. It's not very steady, but who was I to judge? I was a writer.
"Hey baby," the dark haired boy leered as I made her way over with the check.
"My name's not 'Baby.'"
He started to say something else but the taller boy's elbow slammed into his ribs. I mentally thanked my savior.
I snuck a glance at the quiet boy, while placing the check in the middle of the table. He was looking down, determinedly picking at the cracked dark green booth seat. His neck was steadily turning red.
"Thank you, Elizabeth!" the fourth boy read off the name tag, smiling widely. He nudged the boy beside him, who somehow turned even redder.
"Thank you," he mumbled, looked at her then looked away, a small smile tugging at his lips, and my heartstrings. I chewed the inside of my cheek, berating myself.
"I'm Frankie," the fourth boy offered his hand, showing off his pearly whites. I apprehensively took his hand in hers.
"This is Bobby," he indicated the nearing-scarlet boy beside him. "That's Nick, and the loudmouth is Tommy."
Nick- the taller one- waved and Tommy winked. My skin started to crawl.
I smiled, asking them to pay when they're ready and bidding them a good afternoon. They took their time leaving, chattering on about music, an upcoming gig and how Tommy owed them money, and I took my time cleaning the already clean tables on the other side of the room.
"Goodbye, Elizabeth!" Nick yelled. As they made their way out the door, I heard someone giggling. I nodded my head towards them and breathed a sigh of relief when the busy street swallowed them up. Clearing the table, I noticed a piece of paper held in place by a plate where Frankie had been sitting. On it was an address to a small club with the message
"The Four Lovers- Come see us tomorrow night!"
My first instinct was to crumple the paper up and toss it in the garbage. Shanna snatched the paper up before it met the bin.
"You're not going?"
"Of course not."
"Why would I?"
"He invited you!"
"Frankie invited me," I corrected.
"You'd be crazy not to go, Liz."
"You go, then. I saw you eyeing Tommy."
"He's too young for me," she laughed. "Seriously, Liz. I think it's a big mistake if you don't go."
"I'm not going, Shanna. That's it."
I tried to throw that paper away in every trash can I saw on my way home, but something stopped me. A subtle curiosity, a sudden thrill at seeing Bobby again. At home, I placed it on the bedside table, shooting glances at it the rest of the night, and wondered what I was getting myself into.
I don't own The Four Seasons, their songs, or their story.
Title Credit: "Crimson And Clover" by Tommy James and The Shondells