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Sweet Little Thing ~ Abbi Glines, Page 2

Abbi Glines

  Jasper, Sterling, Tate, and Winston? Did these people not have any Henry, Chad, Jack, or Tim’s? I’d never heard names like theirs. However, my senior class had three Chad’s, three Hanks, three David’s, and two Jacks.

  Then again, my name was Beulah, so who was I to talk. My sister got the better name. Which fit because out of the two of us she was the best. Heidi was perfect. If the world could love like her, find joy the way she did, and smile her smile, we’d all be so much happier.

  “Yes, ma’am,” Jasper’s ginger-haired friend said. I wasn’t sure what his name was. “Mother said the two of you won your tennis match last week. Congratulations on that.”

  Portia played tennis daily. It was one of many activities she did with her friends. She beamed at his recognition. I noticed Jasper rolling his eyes. Then his eyes locked with mine and he winked. I jerked my gaze away, and sat the food down in front of the ginger and the dark-haired elitist guy, who was still quiet and seemed to be looking down his nose at everyone. As if no one were on his level, or could ever hope to be.

  “Thank you, Tate. We deserved it of course. Camille and I have worked so hard.”

  I left the room for the other two plates of food. The small talk continued as Portia went on and on about her tennis game. When I returned with the last of the food, Portia had taken a seat at the end of the table opposite Jasper.

  “I’ll need a fresh cup of coffee,” she informed me.

  “About that. What happened to Ms. Charlotte? And who is she?” I didn’t look his way although my entire body went taut. He wasn’t pleased I was here. I’d done everything he’d asked of me so far but that didn’t seem to matter.

  “Charlotte retired. She moved to be near her grandchildren. She was getting up there in age, Jasper. I needed more help than she was able to provide.”

  “You didn’t think to ask me before replacing her?” The tone of his voice wasn’t what I’d expect from a son talking to his to a mother. It was more of a threat. Or correction. As if he were the boss and she was an employee.

  “Don’t be so damn rude to your mom,” Tate said, dressing Jasper down. I had to agree. Portia wasn’t the nicest woman I knew, but she’d taken Heidi and me in without a question or any explanation. She just did it. I owed her so much for that.

  Jasper, however, ignored the comment and continued to glare in his mother’s direction. Then he turned his attention to me. “We’ll need drinks if we don’t want to choke on our food.”

  I felt my face heat from the nasty tone in his voice. “I’m sorry. I was waiting on your conversation to end before I interrupted to ask what I could get you.”

  “It’s okay, love. He’s just testy because his girlfriend Maisie ended things with him while she’s off gallivanting in Europe for the summer. He’ll recover his broken heart soon enough and be as charming as ever. And I’m Sterling by the way.” Sterling had a nice smile that displayed perfect white teeth. His brown hair had golden sun streaks in it. Like the others, he looked like he belonged to this set. But he was nice.

  “Maisie broke things off? Do her parents know?” Portia sounded horrified.

  “She’s a twenty-one-year old woman, Mother. I don’t think it matters if her parents know or not. Now let’s drop the subject.”

  “I’ll take a coffee. Black,” Sterling told me with a kind smile.

  “Same,” Tate said from across the table.

  “Milk,” Jasper added, turning his gaze my way, a small apologetic smile touched his lips. He was odd. His attitude went from angry to nice so easily.

  I turned to look at the quiet guy. The one who had to be named Winston since the other names had been taken. He made me nervous. His boredom made it feel as if he judged everything quietly. “Water,” he said without making eye contact with me. His nonchalance made me feel as if I didn’t exist. I was beneath him. He was making sure that message was delivered loud and clear.

  I hurried from the room with their drink orders. When I started waiting tables at Pizza Pit four years ago, I’d been thrilled to get that job. Now I was thankful I had the experience. Because never once in those years of daydreaming had I thought I’d be waiting on people like this. I was supposed to be in college getting my nursing degree. And my mother was supposed to live a long time. She was supposed to be there to watch me grow up and make my way in the world. And to always be there for Heidi. Mom and Heidi were supposed to be my home. I’d never imagined this would be our future.

  My dream of someday working in the pediatric ward of a hospital would never come true now. I had more to worry about than lost dreams. When mother died, she left Heidi to me. And I wouldn’t let anything happen to take that smile off Heidi’s face. A face that should have looked like mine. Although our eyes were the same color, not much else was the same. Heidi was different, but beautifully so.

  I didn’t use the French press for the coffees because they didn’t ask. I used the fancy machine that normally sat on the kitchen counter collecting dust to make them each a cup of coffee while I made Portia’s the way she always insisted. I took one of the frozen mugs from the freezer that Portia had told me were for Jasper’s milk two days ago when she asked me to freeze them. I thought the icy mugs sounded nice. Ice cold milk. I almost used one for the water that Mr. I’m-Too-Good-For-Others had asked for, but decided against it. He didn’t deserve any special treatment.

  Wheeling a cart from the pantry, I used it as a drink tray, placing each of their drinks on it. I was kicking myself because I should have used this contraption for their meals. I could have taken all four plates at one time, but I hadn’t thought of the cart until I went into the pantry to get the coffee cups and saw it there.

  Walking back into the dining room I heard Portia say. “All summer? But why? You normally travel in the summer.”

  My stomach dropped. Surely she didn’t mean Jasper was planning to stay here all summer. A few days of this I could take, but an entire summer?

  I briefly closed my eyes and pictured Heidi’s sweet smile. I could do this. I could do anything.

  I WAS GIVEN ONE DAY OFF every week to visit Heidi. The place that Portia paid for her to stay had family day on Sunday, and I visited rain or shine. We ate picnics I had prepared outside under the oak trees at the home. We played kickball, and I pushed Heidi on one of the many swings in the large backyard there.

  The facility was always full of families and visitors. Heidi had one friend, however, that didn’t ever have family visit. She also had Down syndrome. Her name was May.

  It bothered Heidi when May was left alone, so we made her a part of our family. I gave her the same special cookie treats I gave Heidi, and she played with us every Sunday. It was what I looked forward to every week. It was all I looked forward to.

  But today, I wouldn’t be able to see my sister. Today, I would miss my visit. When I called Heidi to explain, she was sad. She didn’t say so, but her voice was quieter. It hurt my heart so much. I hated this. I also hated the people outside at the pool keeping me from visiting my sister. They were all spoiled, wealthy, rude, and full of themselves. All of them.

  To add to the mayhem, the four boys had multiplied. As the music had gotten louder, the pool area and pool house got busier. The back of the house was alive and overrun with the guests Jasper had over.

  I had been running in and out of the main house, keeping ice buckets filled with fresh ice, making sure beer was available, and that the bar was stocked with supplies for mixed drinks. When some blonde who looked like she could use a cheeseburger asked me to fetch her a glass of sparkling water and make sure the bubbles were tiny, I almost shoved her into the pool.

  How was one supposed to make bubbles tiny? Did I blow on it a specific way? Or possibly spit in it? Because I liked the idea of spitting in it.

  Hurrying back inside, I almost ran into Portia who once again had a glass of whiskey in her hand. It was just after two o’clock in the afternoon. I wasn’t judging, but I wondered if this visit was going to drive her to

  “You can go tomorrow. Not all day of course. But for a few hours,” Portia said to me apologetically.

  I paused. Then I looked at her and nodded my understanding. “Thank you.” She knew I was upset and she knew why. Another reason I felt Portia wasn’t all bad.

  She grimaced. “Don’t. I’m just saying you can go for a few hours. They’ll call if you don’t visit. I would rather not deal with the drama.” With a flounce of her skirt, she walked away. The way her blonde hair floated as she moved reminded me of my mother. I missed my mother. She was nothing like Portia, but that one movement made me remember a happier time. Even if it was Portia that reminded me.

  The ache in my chest eased knowing I would see Heidi tomorrow. I could take cupcakes—she loved them. That wouldn’t make up for today, but at least it would make her happy and she’d feel special and loved. I never wanted her to feel forgotten. Momma had never made her feel any different than other kids. I knew the home she lived in made her feel different now. But there was no other choice. Portia didn’t want her at her house.

  “Do you know the difference in sparkling waters?” a deep voice asked me. Startled, I turned to see Winston standing there shirtless. He was wearing a pair of shorts that hung on his hips showing off a muscular build that was hard not to stare at. But I disliked him enough to ignore it.

  “Why?” I asked him as I walked away.

  He didn’t respond and I kept walking. He wasn’t my boss. He was the rude friend. I didn’t feel the need to listen to him make fun of my lack of sparkling water knowledge.

  I could feel him following behind me. I wished he wouldn’t, but other than turning to tell him to go the hell away I was stuck with him. And Jasper didn’t care for me. At least, that was my guess. He wanted Ms. Charlotte and I wasn’t her. Making his friends angry wouldn’t help me keep this job. I needed to make this guy like me or at least approve of me.

  Opening the fridge that contained ridiculous amounts of different waters—sparkling, mineral, and spring—I reached for the Perrier because differentiating bubble size made no sense.

  “La Croix, not the Perrier,” Winston said from where he was watching behind me. “Smaller bubbles. It’s a fresher taste. Not that I think Isla knows the difference.”

  I wanted to ignore him, but I didn’t want to deal with this Isla if I got her the wrong water, so I put the Perrier back and grabbed the La Croix. “Thanks,” I said begrudgingly, and then turned to head back outside.

  “You’ll need a glass of ice to give her with that.”

  He was right. I should have thought of that, but his presence was annoying me so it escaped me. Without looking at him, I went back into the kitchen and got the glass and ice while he stood there. Was he waiting to see if there was something else he could correct for me?

  Before I exited the kitchen again, he spoke up. “He’ll start to flirt with you. He won’t mean it. It’s Jasper. But when you flirt back, you’ll be gone. You’re the help.”

  I wanted to say a lot of things at that moment. I wanted to throw the glass of ice I was holding in his face. I wanted to tell him to kiss my ass. I wanted to tell him I didn’t flirt with guys like them. But I bit my tongue because tomorrow I had plans. I had someone in my life and that was more important than all the harsh words I could say to him.

  I started to walk away again. I hoped to scuttle off without hearing his deep southern drawl speaking more demeaning words that were delivered with what would be an attractive sound.

  “I didn’t mean to offend you. But girls like you get that look in your eyes. You see a fairy tale. One this life doesn’t have for you. I thought I’d stop it before you made a mistake.”

  It seemed each time he opened his mouth his words were more offensive. But he claims he doesn’t mean to offend me? Seriously?

  Walking away was what I should have done. But it wasn’t what I chose to do.

  “You don’t know me.” I stopped myself from saying any more. He didn’t know me nor did he deserve to. I held back the other words that lingered, threatening to spill out and tell him exactly what I thought of him.

  He let me go when I walked away without spouting additional rude, offensive, meaningless garbage from his overly attractive mouth.

  Outside, the music was almost deafening and I had no idea how anyone was capable of hearing the person next to them talk. Two girls had decided to go topless and were sitting on the edge of the pool splashing water with a new guy that had arrived, Tate. I scanned the crowd to find Isla had moved from her previous spot and was now wrapped around Jasper. She was still in the tiny bikini she was wearing, but I figured she’d drop her top soon. Especially if Jasper’s attention stayed on the topless blonde flirting with Tate.

  “Your sparkling water,” I said not wanting Jasper to see me and think I was there to ask him anything.

  “Oh,” she said turning to take the water from me. She didn’t look thrilled about having to stop touching Jasper. I felt his gaze on me but didn’t make eye contact.

  “Thank you, Beulah,” he said, surprising me.

  I did glance up at him then and gave him a small nod before turning to walk away. He wasn’t flirting—he was only being nice. But Winston’s demeaning words still roamed through my head. I’d be careful in case there was any truth to them. I didn’t want to be accused of flirting. That was the last thing I wanted or needed.

  “We need more ice for the beer,” a male voice called out. I hurried to do that. Then I went to make some guy a grilled cheese sandwich with chips. When I delivered that, more of the guys began placing similar orders. The day went on and on. A caterer showed up at four to handle dinner. I helped the caterers serve dinner and hoped the party would end soon.

  Very few girls were wearing tops. Some were even missing bottoms.

  Three guys were also going bare. I’d never seen so many naked bodies in my life.

  “I want to see that one topless,” a drunk guy yelled out as I placed another tray of fancy shrimp on crackers near the cabana. I turned to see him pointing at me.

  “She’s the help dumbass,” a girl told him.

  “I want to know where the fuck Jasper hired help that looks like that. I’ll take five or ten.”

  “You’re cut off Auden,” Jasper’s voice came from my left. Much closer than I’d expected. He was lounging with Isla at his side and like I guessed earlier she was topless. They both had drinks and his hand was now inside her bikini, splayed across her bottom.

  “Don’t tell me you don’t want to see her naked,” he said laughing.

  “That’ll be all for tonight, Beulah. You can head to your room.” Jasper’s tone sounded as if he were talking to a child. However, I nodded and mustered my self respect as I walked back into the house with my shoulders straight and my head held high.

  I’d cry a later, but I’d do it in the shower when I washed off the day and I could be alone.

  THE NOISE FROM THE PARTYING group was muffled inside the house. The further I walked away and the closer I got to the back stairs, their chaos was quieter.

  My room was downstairs next to the laundry room, wine cellar, and storage. The bed that I slept on was full-sized and was in the corner of the same room as the washer and dryer. Their location made it convenient to doing laundry at night. Before Jasper and his friends came there had been very little laundry. Now the piles would be endless, towels mostly I suspected.

  I had opened the door that led to my room, but the clicking of heels stopped me from going any further. Portia appeared from around the corner. Another glass of the amber liquid she had been drinking all day was in her hand. She looked annoyed and concerned at the same time.

  “I saw Jasper talking to you not once, but several times. And he was looking at you. Make yourself less attractive. He’ll get rid of you and I won’t be able to do anything about it. If you want this job and to take care of your sister, then don’t draw his attention.” The last word came out in an angry hiss, then she tu
rned and walked away quickly. Her clicking heels on the marble floor were slowly drowned out by the sound of the party.

  I walked down the stairs slowly. Partly because I was tired, partly because I was frustrated, and partly because I was scared. Since coming here I’d been worried that what I had could end. That Portia would get mad at me stope everything. Just as I began to trust that I was safe, Jasper showed up and I’m told by two people that he would get rid of me.

  Why did Jasper get to make that decision? Who was he that he could tell his mother what to do? And how did she expect me to make myself less attractive?

  I had no mirror down here, but I could look down and see the knee length khaki shorts and white polo shirt that Portia had given me for my job. Nothing about this outfit was attractive. I reached up, touching my hair that was pulled back tightly in a ponytail. Some of the girls by the pool looked like a stylist had done their messy updos. The girls weren’t really clothed anymore, but when they were, their bikinis had been sexy and expensive. I couldn’t possibly stand out in a crowd like that. They saw me and knew I was the help. There wasn’t any way I could make myself less attractive.

  Sighing, I sank down on the edge of the bed and kicked off my tennis shoes. My feet hurt every night because the shoes Portia had given me were a size six and I wore an eight. After running around all day and not even getting a break for lunch, my toes were so cramped that the pain from setting them free took my breath away.

  My stomach rumbled and I looked toward the stairs knowing there was no way I could get food and go unnoticed. My feet ached more than my stomach did. I’d make sure to eat breakfast before I had to start my day tomorrow.

  It was almost midnight. I’d be up again in six hours. The shower was beside the washing machine. It was inside a claw-foot tub that had a wraparound curtain. Standing up, I winced and hobbled over on my sore feet to turn the warm water on. A good cry would make me feel better, and the hot water would feel wonderful on my feet.