In September of 1964 I was a mostly regular nineteen year old girl who worked as a waitress at a family owned Italian restaurant. The town I lived in? Chicago. It might seem amazing to live there, and it could be, but it wasnt. I was making under minimum wage ($1.25 at the time) plus tips. Nobody tips well at a family owned restaurant no matter how good the service is. I work every night but Sundays and Mondays, helping to close up at eleven or later depending on how late customers stay.
Id been living in Chicago for about eight months. I shared an apartment with a seldom seen, but often heard, musician. His name is Greg, but he insists on being called Liam. God knows why. Hes a simple guy who knows exactly what he wants in life; music and the occasional one night stand. Hes somewhere around the age of twenty two, is about a foot taller than me, and has dark hair and eyes. He pays half the bills by performing at local clubs. I never know which clubs he was at because hes always at a different gig. Hes friendly enough, though we hardly see each other. When we do, we scarcely talk.
I have another roommate. Her name is Flicka. Shes Gregs cat, but I still like to think shes mine. Shes got soft grey fur and a patch of white on her forehead. Sometimes she sneaks into my bedroom at night and crawls into bed with me. Shes a very loving cat, though she spends most of her time outside hunting for small things.
I hated Saturdays for two reasons. The first reason had to do with my roommate. He drags himself home at four or five in the morning, sleeps until three in the afternoon, and then be off again to play another gig well into the next day. Im always up at around ten in the morning. His continuing slumber makes me think I have to be quiet for the next several hours before he wakes up. Then I leave for work at five. Its like Saturday was just another weekday. I hated it.
The second reason is the fact that I had no life. I would go to work and play happy little waitress for young couples on dates. As much as I wished it wouldnt bother me, it did. My co-workers had different ideas about life. Most of them were much older and already married, thus not minding the continuing couples at La Scarla. In fact, I was the youngest server. I was the only one who cringed at the idea of serving a table of girls my age having a good time. I was only hired because Id had previous experience and didnt go to school. My boss was pretty nice for an old, ridiculously short Italian lady.
Ive never told anybody why I was in Chicago. People often ask, but I always gave them the usual lie saying Id lived there my whole life. Of course my co-workers knew different. They kept their mouths shut. All they really knew was that I was some broken down teenager from Evergreen, Colorado who ended up in the big city with nothing but the clothes on her back and a few dollars to her name. It was enough to get me started at least.
The one person I can truly confide in was my brother, but he had been drafted a few months before. I write to him as often as I could afford. I miss him more every day and pray he comes home alive. The war both scares and infuriates me. Im not a political person. In fact, I hate politics. To me, the war is another idiot scheme to make the US seem more powerful. Uncle Sam can kiss my ass.
Even though I dread work every day, once Im there Im fine. Its a welcome relief from having to think about my past and my present. Im not a people person, but work is an exception. I love when parents bring their little kids, even if sometimes when I see them I ache for my younger sister. I also love making people laugh. Its quite the stress reliever.
Today happens to be Friday. Im supposed to be at work at five to help set up for a party of twenty people coming in at seven. From the description my boss gave me, theyre all men. I decided Id better get home and clean up a bit. I might as well try and earn a few extra bucks that night.
I glared at the boring looking girl staring back at me in the foggy mirror. The dim, yellow light in the bathroom made my face look sunken and dead. I used to think I was pretty until I moved to Chicago. Back home I was some sheltered, straight-A student who didnt know a thing about real life. I always wore nice dresses and had my hair teased to great heights. I never wore jeans, I never swore, and I never got anywhere near boys. In just a few months all that had changed. As much as I wanted someone to comfort me and tell me life was okay, I chose to be rude and sarcastic. I let my hair be messy and boring. I didnt wear make-up. I slept in my jeans. I still hadnt gotten involved with anybody in the male species, though. My rudeness usually drove the good ones away.
I ignored my nagging memories and proceeded to pull my long red hair into a pony tail. I then brushed my bangs to the side and plastered them in place with water. I couldnt afford hair spray. Then I rummaged around in the side drawer of the counter, hoping I had at least a tube of lipstick or maybe something to cover my annoying freckles. I found an old tube of mascara instead. It must have belonged to one of the many girls my roommate brought home. I pulled the small brush through my eyelashes before I grabbed my apron, pat Flicka on the head, and headed out the door.
The cold September air bit at my exposed arms. If I had the money, I would have bough a jacket or a coat ages ago. I grit my teeth and ran down the street. The restaurant, named La Scarla after my boss, was just around the corner and down a two blocks. The walk there wasnt even half as bad as the walk back when the drunks and creeps were out.
Nicolette! My boss said enthusiastically upon my entry. Her accent was just thick enough for me to crack a smile. Despite her height and age, Scarla was a very attractive woman. She always kept her long, black hair neat and tidy in a bun. She wore dark colored dresses and gaudy jewelry. She reminded me of a drama teacher. I sometimes thought of her as my second mother, but not really.
The small restaurant was dimly lit with red walls and wood flooring. Tables and booths were placed haphazardly in the main dining room, with three separate rooms for overflow. The walls were covered in black and white photographs of Italy and of Scarlas family. Fake flowers adorned the front counter. There were small bouquets of silk flowers on each table and booth, placed there by Scarla herself. The place had a nice, homey feeling with the smell of fresh baked bread always present. I loved being there more than any other place.
I paused to catch my breath before responding to Scarlas greeting. Hey, sorry Im late, I said, surveying the area. There were only a few customers. The rush didnt usually come until six.
Is no problem, hon, Scarla said. Now, go help Jim set the banquet room. Hes got the plates, but he needs the cutlery.
Why the banquet room? Its only twenty people, I said as I tied on my apron. I didnt mention my dislike of Jim. He was the resident thirty year old pervert who was always grabbing my butt and making passes at me. Ive already had to punch him a few times. It was hard to reach his face because of his height, so I always settled for his gut.
He only worked two nights a week. His real job was working in construction. I was still puzzled as to why he still worked at La Scarla, but it was none of my business.
Well, the man that called said that privacy was estremamente importante, Scarla replied thoughtfully. She always substituted Italian for English in random instances. He kept making sure they would have as much as possible.
Makes sense, I guess, I said. Whos taking the party?
I havent decided yet. I suppose you can. Can you handle a twenty?
I made the customary pshhh sound I always make. Yeah. Piece of cake.
Ahh, but twenty men?
Is that a supposed to be a joke? I asked. I left her and went to the back kitchen to clock in. I noticed Jennas card on the In side. Jenna was my only real friend. Shes twenty seven, married, and has two kids. Working with her was always a treat. She bugs me almost every day that we see each other, asking about my family and my life. I always respond with sarcasm, never the truth. She always takes it with good humor, and I never mind when she asks.
I grabbed a handful of knives and forks from the buckets on the counter. Nobody noticed me walk across the dining room to a set of double doors. I pushed one of the slightly ajar doors open with my foot and went inside.
Normally we put parties of forty or fifty in here. Every time someone scheduled a party that big I secretly wondered why on earth theyd want to eat here. The guests would come, sit, and talk. Sometimes theyd completely ignore who was serving them. I hated having to raise my voice to get their attention, but it was usually needed. Then theyd get their food, eat, and then talk more. That was when the people who somehow got missed when ordering would speak up. It was the most annoying thing in the world. Then theyd get mad for being missed. Id get mad since they waited so long to actually tell us. Finally, after being here an hour after closing, theyd leave. Then wed spend half an hour cleaning up and be home by eleven thirty or midnight.
The food isnt even that great. Its homemade, and its greasy. Sometimes Id rather eat a stick of butter than partake of the lasagna. I suppose thats the appeal. Grease, grease, breadsticks, and more grease. Oh, and the hot chocolate cake is pretty good too.
The room was fairly large. The tables were arranged in a U-shape with the head of the table in the back. Tonight, however, most of the tables were pushed to the back. Three tables were pushed together in the middle with nine on each side and one on each end. Twenty people, twenty chairs.
Hello, Nicky, Jim said in his suave, disgusting voice. He always calls me Nicky. In fact, hes the only one. Everyone else has their own variation of my real name for me. He was busy pulling the blinds on all the windows.
Hello, Jimmy, I said casually as I set the tables.
Awh, come on. Wheres my hug? Jim asked sweetly, extending his arms to me.
Dont touch me, I said bluntly. I pointed a threatening butter knife at him. Im taking this party tonight, and I dont want to be in a bad mood once they get here. I need the best tip I can get.
Jim put his hands up in mock defense. Hey! Watch where you point that thing! He lowered his hands, a sly look appearing on his face. I tip well, you know. He winked.
Not worth it, I said simply. I could tell his pride was semi hurt, though he was used to me putting him down. Youd keep me awake all night and Id never forgive myself.
You know you want me, baby, he said, inching closer to me.
Yeah, I want you to die, I replied, still setting the table.
Why do you wear the same thing every day? Jim asked, eyeing my jeans and black button up shirt. Id rather see you in a little less. You should actually try to style your hair, too.
Because if I wore something pretty, youd carry me away to your demon lair, I scoffed. The truth is I dont own much else. And leave my hair alone.
Jenna poked her head into the room at that moment. Hey, love birds, keep it down. My customers can hear you. She looked at me with a smile. Hello, Nick.
Hey, Jen. Been busy today? I asked.
Nah. Im about to go home. Ive been here since this morning. By the way, you have a table of three.
I set the rest of the silverware down and wiped my hands on my apron. Already?
Yeah, three teenage girls.
Great. I immediately went into defensive mode. I hated serving people close to my age. They always gave me funny, disapproving looks.
Just before entering the dining room I put on my happy little waitress smile. I breezed on through the doors and approached the booth in the far corner.
Bueno sera, ladies, I said in a tone higher than my normal voice. Scarla had taught us to use a little Italian when greeting guests. How are we doin tonight?
Fine, thanks, one of the girls replied without looking at me. She looked to be about fourteen. The other girls seemed the same age. I relaxed a little.
What can I get you girls to drink? I asked pleasantly.
Hey, whats the Beatles favorite drink? One girl asked leaning over the table to her friend.
Coke! her friend whispered back.
The three girls faced me with big grins. Coke! They said in unison.
Cokes all around, I said enthusiastically. I was secretly dying on the inside as I rushed back to the kitchen to prepare their drinks and free breadsticks.
When I lived at home my sister and I practically worshipped the Beatles. Though at the time theyd only had two albums out, they were a hit. We were two naïve little people who didnt have a clue who we were really swooning over. The bitter truth led me to believe that these men arent who they seem to be. No man is who they seem to be at first. When I left home, it was still about a month before their famous Ed Sullivan show appearance. I didnt watch it. The memory of my sister and I staying up late listening to their music was unbearable. Wed whisper in the dark about which one was our favorite. Hers was Paul. Mine... well, I never chose. I changed my mind every day, depending on my mood. I certainly didnt have one now. The only chance I got to hear their music was on radios in shops. I couldnt afford to buy any records, and the ones Id had before had been left behind.
I couldnt listen to them anymore. I couldnt think about them. I almost hated them, but not quite. I loved their music. I loved their image. I loved how different and unique they were. But I couldnt. It brought back too many memories of someone I missed dearly and a time that was bliss compared to now. And I couldnt go back to the immature fantasies and love filled giggles. I knew better.
The sudden sound of my name brought me back to the present. I realized I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, right in everyones way. It was one of the cooks whod said my name.
Whered yer brain go? Your eyes were out of focus! The burly cook said. His name was Mike. Keep yer mind on yer work! I had a sneaking suspicion that he is single and lives on his own.
I hate that man. Hes big, ugly, and dumb. He could be nice when he wants to be, but only after hours when the place is empty of customers. I proceeded to the ice box to grab three bottles of Coke. Even though I hate to admit it, I love Coke. I balanced a basket of breadsticks on my wrist while holding one bottle of Coke. The other two were in my other hand.
Here you are, ladies, I said, passing the bottles around. I pulled a bottle opener out of my apron pocket and opened each one. Are you ready to order?
How do you say Coca-Cola in Italian? one girl asked.
I sighed. Coca-Cola. They seemed disappointed. I smiled at their absurdity.
How do you say the Beatles? Another asked.
Hell if I know! The Beatles, I replied. Now, what will you have to eat?
The girls took their time making up their minds, each glancing at me as if to question my Beatle fan basis. Their chatter kept referring back to the Beatles, not what they were going to order. I wondered if their parents had made them go eat out just to get them out of the house.
Pie, please. Apple, one finally said. One slice each.
Anything else? I asked, hoping theyd at least get something worth my time.
All three shook their head. I didnt bother writing the order down. Their chatter returned to the Beatles. Before I was out of earshot, I heard one of them exclaim how excited she was for the concert tomorrow night. They were more like ten year olds than teenagers.
I decided not to play nice waitress anymore. The tip was a lost cause when it came to this bunch. I could tell. I became more like myself and served them their pie without a word. I sat in the back kitchen while they ate, waiting for the time to give them their check. Then theyd leave. When that time came, I left them their check, told them to pay up front, and went back to the kitchen.
Nicky, Jim said, poking his head in the back. Your party is starting to arrive. Theyre... uh... He stuttered.
What? I asked.
Jim shook his head. Never mind. Give it a few minutes. Only two guys are here.
I raised an eyebrow before going to the window near the cook. Hey, Im going to need twenty breadsticks soon. Weve got a party.
Comin up, the man replied gruffly.
About five minutes later I heard a shriek from the dining room. Thinking someone had gotten hurt, I rushed out of the kitchen. The three girls Id served earlier were standing at the front by the cash register. I guessed that theyd just paid for their food. They were all facing the banquet room, smiling and pointing. I looked, but whoever theyd seen was already inside.
Its them! Im sure of it! One of them yelled.
No its not, Beth. Stop making things up, the shortest girl said irately. I didnt see them.
Well, I did! Beth said, the color rising in her cheeks.
No way! The one that hadnt spoken yet said. The papers said theyd be arriving tomorrow! Youre a few hours too early.
The three girls were arguing amongst themselves as they left. I approached the front counter and asked Scarla what that was about.
No idea. Youd better get inside and take drink orders. I think theyre already here, Scarla replied.
Who made the reservation? I had to get to the bottom of this before going into that room.
Someone named Tony, Scarla said, peering at the reservation sheet. He didnt give me his last name.
I sighed. It wasnt who I thought. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. Nonetheless, I strode over to the double doors and confidently walked inside.
Ciao, gentleman. My name is Nicolette, and I will be your waitress this evening. Now if you would take a seat, Id be happy to get your drink orders. Half way through my little speech it dawned on me who I was dealing with. A pit seemed to form in my stomach as I looked from one face to the other. However, my voice was unfaltering.
A few of the men sat. Some fought over who got to sit by who.
Come off it, John! I was sittin ere first! One man said. I realized it was Ringo Starr from his nose, right down to his rings on his fingers. John Lennon was trying to get Ringo off of the chair.
I called sitting by the cute one, and damn it, Im sitting by the cute one! He pulled out the chair next to Ringo and proceeded to drag him, chair and all, over one space. He then took the empty chair and placed himself next to the cute one who turned out to be Paul McCartney; my sisters dream lover.
Ill have a Scotch and Coke, if you please, miss, Paul said politely. My attitude lightened at the sound of his accent.
Me too, George Harrison said from the other end of the table. My heart skipped a beat.
John raised his hand and cocked his head. I nodded and wrote down another tally mark. Soon, every man asked for the same drink. I hoped there were twenty Cokes in the ice box and enough Scotch to keep them happy. But that was the least of my worries. I was staring at the four men (and the rest of their entourage) that Id tried to ignore for the past few months. Four men whos popularity spread through the whole earth like some sick disease. Four men who, at the very sound of their name, could make a teenage girl faint away.
It doesnt matter, I thought angrily, mentally punching myself. Grin and bear it.
Alright, Ill get those ready for you and be back to take your orders, I said smoothly. It looked like they still needed time to make up their minds. As I turned to go, one of them called me back.
If I may, the man said. He stood and shook my hand. My name is Brian Epstein, manager to the Beatles.
More like father, Ringo said. There was a round of stifled laughter before Brian continued.
Id appreciate it if you didnt spread it around that we were here. Is that alright? Well tip you extra for your word, he said.
I managed to smile. Sure thing, Mr. Epstein. Youll have absolute privacy.
As I turned to go, I made a gagging face. It dawned on me that I had the Beatles under my supervision. I could easily bring a mob here. That would make me happy.
What was I thinking? I cant hate the Beatles just because they brought back memories that upset me. Its not their fault. Besides, I need the money. Feeling stupid, I went about filing a tray with glasses of ice. I brought them out to the banquet room before retrieving the actual beverages. The tactic worked, and soon the whole group was at ease with me.
Alright, time to settle down, I said as though they were all little kids. I whipped out my pad and pen. Time to get to business.
What, no screaming? Fainting? Ringo said, puzzled.
Excuse me? I raised an eyebrow.
Usually girls your age fawn over the Beatles, a man I didnt recognize said. A few of the men chuckled.
Get fawning, girl, John said tartly. Were not tipping you to be our waitress, yeh know.
I put my hands on my hips, still holding the pad and pen. How big is my tip gonna be? That got them laughing. I winked, though not at a specific person. If they wanted cutesy little waitress, Id give it to them.
So you think every girl you meet is going to get on their knees and bow, do ya? I asked to egg them on, half laughing.
It seems to be a running theme in our lives, George said. He pointed to his manager. Brian, add ten dollars to her tip! The table erupted with laughter.
I folded my arms and pursed my lips in a playful manner. You think Im some teenage little girl? Come on. How old do you think I am?
A murmur passed through the group of men.
Im taking bets! Ringo called. Winner gets dessert!
Yeah but Im paying, Brian said glumly.
Ten more dollars, Brian! Paul added.
Youre... fifteen! One man guessed.
Thirty five! John said in an Irish accent. I shook my head and gave him a disapproving scowl.
Seventeen! Another shouted. I was astonished. Did I really look that young still?
Twenty, George guessed. I shook my head. Damn! He spat. Ten more dollars!
Nineteen, a man to the left of me said.
Right, I replied, glancing at him. He smiled at me. I felt my heart warm. Now, who wants what? I said, bringing my pad of paper back up, pen poised.
Ill take you, John called, almost jumping out of his seat.
No way, Johnny. You got the last one. Plus, yer married. Its my turn, George said, tossing a packet of sugar at his band mate.
Their idiotic remarks didnt faze me one bit. What did bother me was that Paul, Ringo, and a few other men were staring at me. I couldnt help but feel self conscious about my current appearance.
Alright, whos first? I asked firmly. I have got all night.
Start with Neil, Paul said, pointing to the left of the table. Hes the one that won the game. The man who was Neil raised his hand. He was sitting at the head of the table.
Ill have the fettuccine alfredo, please, he said. As I wrote down the order, I looked him over. He was fairly handsome. He didnt quite have the mop-top, but was pretty close. I liked his face the most, as well as his shoulders. Thankfully nobody noticed me checking Neil out. I resumed the order taking until the last person ordered. I told them the order would be ready as soon as possible, and left.
On my way across the dining room I stopped at the table the three girls had occupied before. I searched for the tip while I picked up the dishes. There it was next to the salt and pepper shakers; a quarter and a dime.
Back in the kitchen I prepared some of the salads that had been ordered. Once again, my mind was elsewhere. The process of putting dressing on iceberg lettuce and bits of carrot can be a bit boring.
I wondered why the Beatles had chosen such a place to eat. Maybe to get away from fans. I suppose this was the last place anybody would look for anybody famous. Even I wouldnt come here looking for somebody.
I missed a plate and poured Italian dressing all over the counter. Jim scolded me while I cleaned it up. I loaded up a large tray with the salads and ventured back to the banquet room. I entered carrying the tray with only my left hand.
Isnt it heavy, miss? a man with Buddy Holly glasses asked. I recognized him from the papers. He was Mal Evans, the Beatles roadie.
Hardly, I replied, setting the tray on a tray-jack. Ive carried heavier. I began to pass out the salads. I successfully remembered what each man had ordered. The seemed semi-impressed at my accuracy. I smiled on the inside.
Then I realized the reason they were here. The banquet room has a back door. An escape route in case rabid fans came. It made sense! They probably had somebody scout out the local not-so-popular restaurants before deciding where to eat. I laughed at this, receiving a few side glances afterward.
Are you comin to our concert tomorrow? John asked at random.
You think I can afford to go to a concert? I asked as I picked up the now empty tray. Im a waitress.
A girl like you? Im sure you make hundreds a night with that body of yours, Ringo said.
Behave! I jeered, trying to decide if I was flattered or not.
Ten more dollars! Paul piped in.
Good stuff, eh lads? One man asked. Love this... lettuce.
Who you talkin to, Tony? Ringo asked through a mouthful of salad. Dressing was running down his chin.
Ten more dollars, George murmured before taking another bite of his salad.
I left the room before I burst out laughing. I was starting to enjoy serving them. They werent just some random table. They were the Beatles, and they were hilarious. I didnt have anything to compare them to. I hadnt seen their movie, and Id never watched them perform live or on TV. I felt like I was seeing the real them.
I opened the ice box and grabbed a Coke. I was going to need it. I could already feel myself getting worked up. I could feel a headache coming on too.
Finally it was time to bring out their food. Some of the dishes required a slice of garlic bread. The pieces were so large that we had to cut them in half ourselves before putting them on the plates. I didnt mind. I loved the smell of freshly baked bread.
As I sliced the tough bread I got lost in my own thoughts. Of all the people for me to be serving that night, and of all the people that could have taken that party tonight... I just couldnt believe it. Jim and I werent the only ones working that night. Jenna had gone home, but there was still Keisha, Steve, and Clark. They were busy with their own tables and had no idea who was just behind the double doors. I smiled inwardly at my own little secret. I had the Beatles to myself for the rest of the night.
I held a new piece of bread and shoved the knife through. Extreme pain filled my entire hand. My mind returned to the present and looked down. My hand was bleeding all over the counter! I dropped the knife onto the floor and grabbed my wrist. Blood oozed from the large cut in my left hand, dripping all over the floor. The cut started at the bottom of my palm near my wrist and went diagonally to my index finger. I gasped. The pain was incredible.