Sweet Dreams, p.1Kristen Ashley
Published by Kristen Ashley at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Kristen Ashley
Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:
Rock Chick Series:
Rock Chick Rescue
Rock Chick Redemption
Rock Chick Renegade
Rock Chick Revenge
The ‘Burg Series:
The Colorado Mountain Series:
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A shout out to John “Dukeboy” Wynne and Gib Moutaw for assisting with this book by advising me on all things football. Thanks for not getting impatient with my constant questions, for giving such informative answers and for reading blocks of dialogue to help me make certain Tate’s voice was real. I love you both to the deepest depths of my heart and not just because you explained the NFL Draft to me.
I sat in my parked car outside the bar.
It looked like a bar. It could be any bar anywhere, small town, big city, it didn’t matter. It was just a bar. Bubba’s bar, apparently, for it said “Bubba’s” in blue lettering on a black background in a huge sign at the top.
I looked out the window to my left. There were two Harley Davidson motorcycles parked there.
I looked back at the bar which it would seem might be a bit of a biker bar.
I looked out my window to the right. There was a beat up, old, blue Chevy pickup parked at the edge of the parking lot.
I looked back at the bar which would seem was not high-class and not high-brow. They probably didn’t even have martini glasses.
I looked at the window of the bar. In it there was a sign that said “Help Wanted”. In the little white space at the bottom of the sign was written, “Waitress”.
I pulled breath in through my nose. Then I exhaled, got out of the car and walked right to the door, through the door and into the bar.
I was right. Nothing special. Nothing high-class or high-brow. It could be any bar anywhere.
There was a man sitting on a corner stool at the long bar at the back of the room. He had a ball cap on. There were two other men playing pool at one of four pool tables (two to the left, two to the right, the men were at one of the tables to the left). Evidently, bikers played pool. There was a woman behind the bar. She had a lot of platinum blonde hair. She also had a lot of flesh at her cleavage. I could see this because it was bursting out the top of her Harley tank as well as straining the material.
Her eyes came to the door the minute I walked in and didn’t leave me as I walked to the bar.
“Hi,” I started.
“Chantelle’s about twenty miles down the road. Straight on,” the blonde interrupted me. “Just turn right out the parking lot and keep goin’.”
“Sorry?” I asked and felt the man with the ball cap turn to look at me.
“You lookin’ for Chantelle?” the blonde asked.
“No, I’m –”
“Gnaw Bone?” she asked.
“Gnaw bone?” I repeated.
“Gnaw Bone. Not too far away from Chantelle,” she told me. “That what you lookin’ for?”
I didn’t know what to say. Then I asked, “You mean Gnaw Bone is the name of a town?”
She didn’t answer. She looked at the man with the ball cap. I looked too. When I did, I saw firstly that his ball cap had definitely seen better days and those days were about four hundred years ago. Secondly, I saw that he was staring at my breasts.
I looked back at the blonde.
“I’m here about the waitress position.”
For a second there was loaded silence. Then the man with the ball cap burst into a loud guffaw.
The blonde’s eyes narrowed.
“Did Bubba put you up to this?” she asked.
“Bubba?” I asked back, at this point confused.
“Bubba,” she bit out then glanced around before looking at me. “This ain’t funny. I got things to do.”
I glanced around too and saw that she actually didn’t have much to do. The two guys were playing pool and didn’t seem all that thirsty. The ball cap guy had nearly a full draft in front of him.
I looked again at the blonde.
“I’m not kidding,” I told her.
“Bullshit,” she replied irately, already at the end of her patience.
This was shocking. It wasn’t like I’d never heard a curse word before, or used them myself, just that I didn’t tend to blurt them out to strangers looking for jobs. Or strangers on the whole. And also I’d been there for about three minutes and hadn’t done anything to strain anyone’s patience, much less push them to the end of it.
“No, seriously. I’d like to apply for the position,” I explained.
She didn’t answer for awhile and took the time she was silent to study me. I decided to do the same.
She’d be pretty, if she didn’t tease her hair out so much and wear that much makeup and look clearly like she was in bad mood and anyone could set her off. Though she really pulled off that tank top. I had serious cleavage too but it didn’t come with a petite, slim but rounded body. It came with a big ass and a mini-Buddha belly and a hint of back fat. Not to mention somewhat flabby arms.
I decided to break the silence and announce, “I’m Lauren Grahame.”
I stuck out my hand. She stared at my hand and didn’t get the chance to speak because the ball cap man spoke.
“Jim-Billy,” he said and I turned to him.
His hand was out to me, he was smiling and this time looking into my eyes. On the left side he’d lost the second tooth in and hadn’t bothered to replace it. For some reason, instead of this making him look like a hillbilly with bad dental hygiene, it made him look a little goofy and a little sweet.
“Jim-Billy,” he repeated. “That’s my name.”
I took his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, Jim-Billy.”
I repeated his name because I learned a long time ago at a training seminar to do that when you met someone. It solidified their name in your mind so you wouldn’t forget it. I was terrible with names and I found this worked and I figured a waitress in a small town needed to remember the names of the regulars at the bar. And Jim-Billy definitely looked like a regular.
It also worked that I chanted, Jim-Billy, Jim-Billy, Jim-Billy in my head.
Then again, who’d forget the name “Jim-Billy”?
He gave me a squeeze, released my hand and his gaze swung to the blonde.
“Tate’ll like her. Big time,” he declared. “Bubba’ll like her even better.”
“Shut up, Jim-Billy,” the blonde muttered.
“About the job…” I stated, bringing the matter back to hand and the blonde looked at me.
Then she leaned into me. “Girl, take this as me doin’ you a favor. Boys around here…” she threw out a hand, “they’d eat you alive. Go to Chantelle. Gnaw Bone. Woman like you has got no business in Carnal.”
That was one of the reasons I picked that town. Its name was “Carnal”. I thought that was funny and interesting but that was as interesting as I wanted to get.
I wanted to live in a Nowheresville town called Carnal. I wanted to work in an anywhere bar called Bubba’s. There was nothing to either, except the names. Nothing memorable. Nothing special. Nothing.
“You don’t understand,” I told her, “I –”
She leaned back and stated, “Oh girl, I understand.” Her eyes moved from the top of my head to my midriff (which was all she could see with the bar in her way) then they came back to mine. “You’re lookin’ for a thrill. You’re lookin’ for adventure.”
“I’m not. I’m –”
She threw her hands up. “You think I don’t know it when I see it? Do I look like a woman who ain’t been around? Do I look like a woman who feels like hirin’ and trainin’ and learnin’ to put up with the new shit a new waitress is gonna feed me and then when she realizes that she wants her old life back she ups and leaves and then I have to hire and train and learn to put up with new shit again?”
“I wouldn’t give you… um…”
“Everyone shovels shit and I don’t like the taste of it from my kind. I already know I really don’t like the taste of it from yours.”
I again didn’t know what to say because it was dawning that she was discriminating against me.
“Not to be rude or anything,” I said softly, “but you don’t really know me. You don’t know what kind I am.”
“Right,” she replied and there was derision heavy in her word.
“You don’t,” I asserted.
“Girl –” she started but I leaned forward and I did it for a reason.
I leaned forward because I needed her to hear me. I leaned forward because I’d been searching for Carnal a long time. I’d been searching for Bubba’s a long time. I needed to be there and to be there I needed that job.
“Right,” I repeated. “You think I’m some kind of lost woman like out of a book, travelling the globe on some idiot journey to find myself?” I asked and before she could answer, I continued, “Thinking I can go out there and find good food and experience interesting places while soul searching, wearing fabulous clothes and being gorgeous and making everyone I run into love me and, in the end, find a fantastic man who’s really good at sex and adores me beyond reason?” I shook my head. “Well, I’m not. I know who I am and I know what I want and I know that isn’t it because that doesn’t exist. I also know what I’m looking for and I know I found it right here.”
“Listen –” she began.
“No, you listen to me,” I interrupted her. “All my life, or as long as I can remember, I thought something special was going to happen to me. I just had this feeling, deep in my bones. I didn’t know what it was but it was going to be beautiful, spectacular, huge.” I leaned in further. “All… my… life.” I shook my head again and put my hand on the bar. “It didn’t. I waited and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it still didn’t happen. I tried to make it happen and it still didn’t happen. Now I know it isn’t going to. It’s never going to happen because there isn’t anything special out there to happen.”
I sucked in breath, she opened her mouth but I kept talking.
“I had a husband. I had a home. I had a job. I had friends. Then I found out my husband was sleeping with my best friend. Not an affair, they’d been doing it for five years. When the cat was out of the bag, they decided to be together for real. He divorced me and I couldn’t afford the house on my own so we sold it. Then, all of a sudden, after ten years of being with someone, I was alone. They got the friends who always thought behind my back they were perfect together. They all knew. For five years. And no one told me.”
“Fuckin’ shit, woman,” Jim-Billy muttered.
“Yeah,” I said to Jim-Billy and looked back at the blonde. “But, you know, after the shock of it wore off, I didn’t care. I swear. I didn’t. Because all of a sudden I realized that I had a shit marriage to a shit guy and I had a shit best friend and all sorts of other shit friends besides. And all that time I was living in a house I didn’t want, it was too darned big and it was too darned everything. A house should be a home, not a house. And that house was in a town I didn’t like because every house looked the same and every woman dressed the same and every man played around the same and every car was shiny and new and there was no personality anywhere. And in that town I had a job I didn’t much care about even though it paid me good money.” My voice dropped and I told her, “I realized I didn’t have anything special. All of a sudden I realized that life didn’t have anything special in store for me.” I took in a breath and finished, “And I’m okay with that. I don’t want special anymore. I waited and I tried to make it happen and it didn’t. So be it. Now, I want to live someplace that is just a place. I want a job where I can do a good job while I’m doing it and then I can go home to a place that’s a home and just be home. I don’t want anything. I’m done wanting. I’ve been wanting and yearning for forty-two years. The only thing I want is peace.”
“You think you’ll find peace in a Harley bar?” Jim-Billy asked what was possibly a pertinent question and I looked at him.
“I think I can get to work on time, do a good job, feel good about myself because I worked hard and did my best and go home and not think about a Harley bar. I can think about myself or what I have a taste to eat for dinner or what might be good on TV. Then I’ll go to sleep not thinking about anything and get up and get to work on time again.” I turned to the blonde. “That’s what I think. I’m not looking for a thrill. I’m not looking for adventure. I’m looking for nothing special because I can be content with that. That’s what I’m looking for. Can you give me that?”
The blonde said nothing just looked me in the eyes. Her face was blank and no less hard and it stayed blank and hard for a long time.
Then she said, “I’m Krystal. I’ll get you an application.”
* * * * *
I stood at the window of my hotel room holding the curtains back with a hand and staring at the pool.
Carnal Hotel wasn’t much to write home about. A long block of building, two stories, all the doors facing the front, fourteen on top, fourteen on bottom. I was on the bottom in number thirteen. The rooms were clean, mine had a king-sized bed and a TV that had to have been purchased fifteen years ago was suspended from the wall. The low four-drawer dresser and nightstands stuck out of the wall and had no legs. The closet had two extra pillows and an extra blanket. The bathtub and kitchen sink had rust stains but even so, they were clean too. The whole of it was below average but it would do.
That pool, though, that was something else. It wasn’t big but it was pristine clean. The lounge chairs around it weren’t top of the line but they were okay, in great repair and obviously taken care of.
I looked from the pool to reception. It wasn’t so much reception as a tiny house. I tiny well-kept house with a little upstairs. It also had big half barrels full of newly planted flowers out front. It wasn’t quite summer but it was the end of spring so the flowers hadn’t come close to filling out.
Carnal was in the Rocky Mountains, a small valley surrounded by hills which were surrounded by mountains. It was closing on May, there was a nip in the air and I wondered if those flowers were hopeful.
If they were, whoever planted them had the capacity for a lot of hope. There were more flowers in window boxes in the front windows of the reception-slash-house. There were also more flowers in half barrels intermittently placed by the poles on the walk in front of the hotel rooms with more window boxes on the railing of the balcony in front of the rooms upstairs. And lastly there were more half barrels dotted around the pool area.
The parking lot was tidy and well-kept and the hotel and reception-slash-house both had a good paint job.
All of this indicated that Carnal Hotel might be below average but the people who
I had checked in with a nice lady at the front desk who said anything I needed, change for the vending machines or laundry room, Wi-Fi access, menus for restaurants and takeout in town, “just holler”.
Then I’d unpacked my car. All of it. I unpacked it for the first time in four and a half months. Then I cleaned it out. All the junk food wrappers, discarded pop cans, fallen mints, lost pieces of candy, bits of paper. The flotsam and jetsam of a killer road trip. I lugged my suitcases (there were five) and boxes (there were two) into the hotel room and took a plastic bag I’d found and filled full of trash to the big outdoor bin tucked close to the side of the hotel not facing any streets.
Then I unpacked my clothes.
Over the past four and a half months, I’d been in tons of hotel rooms but I’d never unpacked. I’d never stayed beyond three days. I’d only stayed long enough to do laundry, take a breather and decide where I’d head next in my search, zigzagging across so many states I’d lost count in my search for Nowheresville.
After I unpacked, I’d walked into town which amounted to me walking by room number fourteen and turning the corner. Carnal Hotel was on the edge of town right before the road opened up to nothing again. I’d found a deli, bought a pastrami on rye and ate it on the sidewalk, chasing it with a diet pop. Then I’d walked the town up one side and down the other.
Bubba’s was in the middle, five blocks from the hotel and it was definitely a biker bar because Carnal was a biker town. There were two bike shops and one bike mechanic at the opposite end from Carnal Hotel and it had a sign that said “We take cars too”. There were also three motorcycle paraphernalia shops that I could see looking in the windows sold a lot of leather bike accessories and more leather biker clothing.
There was also the deli, a diner, an Italian restaurant, a pizza delivery place and a coffee house which was strangely called “La-La Land Coffee”. Again looking in the windows of La-La Land, I saw it was not run by bikers but hippies that were so hippie they wore tie-dyed shirts with peace signs on front and had long hair. One of the two behind the counter had on round, blue-tinted sunglasses even though he was inside and the other had a thin braided headband wrapped around her forehead. They looked in danger of dropping cross-legged on the floor and singing Kumbayah.
Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes