“I like it,” she said. “I intend to change my name as soon as I get to a place where nobody knows me, you know, where I can reinvent myself. I’ve always wanted to do that. I think I want to be a Veronique. Or maybe Blanca. Something with flair, you know. Anybody can be a Kristy.”
Maybe, I thought, as she started to push her cart again. But even five minutes into our friendship, I knew that this Kristy was different.
As we came up to the side door it opened, and Delia stuck her head out. She had on a red Wish Catering apron and there was a spot of flour on her cheek. “Are those the ham biscuits? Or the shrimp and grits?”
“The biscuits,” Kristy said, pushing her cart up against the side of house and gesturing for me to do the same. “Or the shrimp.”
Delia just looked at her.
“It’s definitely one or the other,” Kristy said. “Definitely.”
Delia sighed, then came out and started peering into the various pans on the carts.
Kristy leaned against the wall, crossing her arms over her chest. “That hill is a killer,” she said to Delia. “We’ve got to get the van up here or we’ll never get everything in on time.”
“If we’d left when we were supposed to,” Delia said, lifting the lid of one pan, “we could have.”
“I said I was sorry!” Kristy said. To me she added, “I was having a fashion crisis. Nothing looked good. Nothing! Don’t you hate it when that happens?”
“And anyway,” Delia continued, ignoring this tangent, “they have strict rules about service vehicles up here by the garden. The grass is apparently very fragile.”
“So are my lungs,” Kristy said. “And if we do it fast, they’ll never notice.”
Monica appeared in the open door, holding a cookie sheet. “Mushrooms?” she asked.
“Meatballs,” Delia said, without looking up. “Put three trays in, get another three ready.”
Monica turned her body slowly, glancing at the oven behind her. Then she looked at Delia again. “Meatballs,” she repeated, like it was a foreign word.
“Monica, you do this every weekend,” Delia said. “Try to retain some knowledge, please God I’m begging you.”
“She retains knowledge,” Kristy said, a little defensively. “She’s just mad at me for holding us up, and that’s how she expresses it. She’s not good at being forthright about her emotions, you know that.”
“Then go help her, please,” Delia said in a tired voice. “With the meatballs, not her emotions. Okay?”
“Okay,” Kristy said cheerfully, pulling open the door and going inside.
Delia put her hand on the small of her back and looked at me. “Hi,” she said, sounding a little surprised. “It’s Macy, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “I know this is probably a bad time—-”
“It’s always a bad time,” Delia said with a smile. “It’s a bad business. But I chose it, so I can’t really complain. What can I do for you?”
“I just wondered,” I said, then stopped. I felt stupid now for holding her up, when so much else was going on. Maybe she had just been being nice when she’d said she would hire me. But then again, I was already here. I’d climbed that hill. The worst she could do was send me back down. “I just wondered,” I said again, “if the offer still stood. About the job.”
Before Delia could answer, Kristy reappeared in the doorway. “Meatballs are in,” she said. “Can I get the van now?”
Delia looked down the driveway, then shot a glance in the front window of the house. “Can you? No,” she said.
“It’s just one hill.” Kristy rolled her eyes. To me she said, “I’m a terrible driver. But the fact that I admit it, shouldn’t that count for something?”
“No,” Delia said. She looked down the driveway, then at the house, as if weighing the pros and cons, before digging into the pocket of her apron to pull out some keys. “Once it’s up here, unload fast,” she said to Kristy. “And if anyone starts freaking, pretend you had no idea about the rules.”
“What rules?” Kristy said, reaching for the keys.
Delia shifted them out of her reach, holding them out to me instead. “And Macy drives. Period. No argument.”
“Fine,” Kristy said. “Let’s just do it, okay?”
She turned on her heel and started down the driveway, bouncing a bit with each step. Even from a distance, you could-n’t help but watch her: maybe it was the boots or the hair or the short skirt, but somehow to me it was something else. Something so electric, alive, that I recognized it instantly, if only because it was so lacking in myself.
Delia was watching her, too, a resigned expression on her face, before turning her attention back to me. “If you want a job, it’s yours,” she said, dropping the keys into my hand. “Payday’s every other Friday, and you’ll usually know your schedule a week in advance. You’ll want to invest in a few pairs of black pants and some white shirts, if you don’t have a few already, and we don’t work on Mondays. There’s probably more you need to know but we’re off to a rocky start here, so I’ll fill you in later. Okay?”
“Sounds good,” I said.
Kristy, already halfway down the driveway, turned her head and looked up at us. “Hey, Macy!” she yelled. “Let’s go!”
Delia shook her head, pulling the screen door open. “Which is to say,” she said to me, “welcome aboard.”
At the library, I’d had two weeks of training. Here, it was two minutes.
“What’s most important,” Kristy said to me, as we stood side by side at the counter, piling mini ham biscuits onto trays, “is that you identify what you’re carrying and keep all crumpled-up napkins off your tray. No one will pick up anything and stick it in their mouth if it’s next to a dirty napkin.”
I nodded, and she continued.
“Here’s what you need to remember,” she continued, as Delia bustled past behind us, putting down another sheet of meatballs. “You don’t exist. Just hold out your tray, smile, say, ‘Ham biscuits with Dijon mustard’ and move on. Try to be invisible.”
“Right,” I said.
“What she means,” Delia clarified from the stove, “is that as a server, it’s your job to blend in and make the partygoer’s experience as enjoyable as possible. You are not attending the event: you are facilitating it.”