My hands began to shake, but I managed to keep typing.
You enroll in a program, show me the proof. I’ll pay the bill. Deal?
That could be next week.
Take it or leave it.
Fuck you, Cami. You’re such a self-righteous bitch sometimes.
Maybe, but I’m not the one who’s going to be without a car in a few weeks.
I took a deep breath and let the phone fall to my lap. If I’m going to help out Coby, I need a second job.
Trenton watched me with concern in his eyes. “You okay?”
I was quiet for a long time, and then slowly met Trenton’s eyes. “Cal’s really looking for a receptionist?”
JESUS CHRIST, CALVIN,” TRENTON SAID. HE WAS LOOKING AT the large Chinese mural on the wall, trying not to notice that Calvin couldn’t manage to stare anywhere else but at my br**sts. Trenton’s red ball cap was on backward, and his boots were untied. On anyone else the look would have appeared sloppy and screamed douche bag, but somehow the look made Trenton even more appealing. It felt wrong to notice anything about him, but I couldn’t help it.
I didn’t have the most voluptuous chest in the world, but my slight frame made my small D cups seem bigger than they were. I hated to admit it, but they helped score extra tips at the Red, and now they could help me get a second job. It was a vicious cycle of not wanting to be objectified, and using the gifts God gave me to my advantage.
“When did you say you could start?” Calvin said absently, straightening a picture of a brunette beauty on the wall behind the counter. Her tattoos covered nearly every part of her, and ink and a smile were the only things she wore as she lay across the bodies of other naked, apparently sleepy women. Most of the walls were covered in either art or photographs of tatted-up models draped over muscle cars or sprawled in a way that best displayed their skin art. The counter was a mess of papers¸ pens, receipts, and paper clips, but the rest of the place seemed to be clean, even if it did look like Calvin had bought the décor at an auction held by a failed Chinese restaurant.
“Right now. I can work Mondays and Tuesdays, noon until close, but Wednesday through Friday I can only work until seven. Saturday I have to be off by five. I can’t work Sundays.”
“I have to study and do homework sometime, and then I have an employee meeting at the Red, before working the bar.”
Calvin looked over at Trenton for approval. Trenton nodded.
“Okay, I’ll let Trent and Hazel train you on the phone, computer, and paperwork. It’s fairly simple. Mostly customer service and cleanup,” he said, walking out from behind the desk. “You got any tats?”
“No, but I bet you’ll get one within the first month,” he said, walking down the hall.
“I doubt it,” I said, walking past him to stand behind the counter.
Trenton came over to me and rested his elbows on the desk. “Welcome to Skin Deep.”
“That’s my line,” I teased. The phone rang, and I picked it up. “Skin Deep Tattoo,” I said.
“Yeah . . . uh . . . what time do you guys close tonight?” Whoever he was, he sounded drunk off his ass, and it was only three in the afternoon.
I looked at the door. “We close at eleven, but you’d better sober up first. They won’t ink you if you’re intoxicated.”
Trenton made a face. I wasn’t sure if that was a rule or not, but it should be. I was used to dealing with drunks, and I would probably see my fair share of them here, too. In a weird way, I felt more at ease with drunks. My dad had popped the top of a Busch beer can every morning for breakfast since before I was born. The slurring, the stumbling, the inappropriate comments, the giggling, and even the anger was what I was used to. Working in a cubicle around a bunch of uptight weenies discussing memos would be more unsettling to me than listening to a fully grown man crying into his beer over his ex-girlfriend.
“So, if it’s a personal call, and it’s for one of us, you can either transfer it to the back like this,” Trenton said, pushing hold, the transfer button, and then one of five numbered buttons at the top. “One hundred is Cal’s office. One-oh-one is my room. One-oh-two is Hazel’s room. One-oh-three is Bishop’s room . . . you’ll meet him later . . . and if you hang up, that’s okay, they’ll call back. The list is taped under the phone base,” he said, pushing the base to the side.
“I’m Hazel,” a tiny woman said from the other side of the room. She walked over to me and held out her hand. The dark bronze skin of her arms was covered from wrist to shoulder by dozens of pieces of colorful artwork. Her ears glistened with hardware that spanned the entire rim of her cartilage, and a rhinestone glistened in the place of a beauty mark. She was naturally a dark brunette, but her faux hawk was a brassy blond. “I’m the body piercer,” she said, her thick lips forming around the words with elegance and the tiniest hint of an accent. For such a tiny thing, her grip was tight; her bright turquoise nails were so long, I wondered how she did anything, especially the complicated task of piercing small areas of the body.
“Cami. As of two minutes ago, I’m the receptionist.”
“Cool,” she said with a smile. “If anyone asks for me, always get their name and take a message. If it’s a girl by the name of Alisha, tell her to choke on a dick.”
She walked away, and I looked at Trenton, eyebrows raised high. “Okay, then.”
“They broke up a few months ago. She’s still angry.”
“So, here are the forms,” Trenton said, pulling out the long, bottom drawer of a metal filing cabinet. We went over those between phone calls and customers, and when Trenton was busy, Hazel came up to help. Calvin stayed back in his office for the most part, and it didn’t occur to me to mind.
After Trenton finished a client, he saw her out, and then poked his head inside one of the double glass doors. “You’re probably getting hungry. Want me to grab you something from next door?”
Next door was Pei Wei’s, and the delicious, salty, and savory smells of their food wafted in every time someone opened the doors, but I was working two jobs to help Coby get caught up on his bills. Eating out wasn’t a luxury I could afford.
“No, thanks,” I said, feeling my stomach growl. “It’s almost closing time. I’ll just grab a sandwich at home.”
He nodded. “Well, I’m going. Tell Cal I’ll be right back.”
“No problem,” I said, feeling my shoulders sag a bit when the door closed.
Hazel was in her room with a customer, so I went back there and watched her impale the septum of some guy’s nose. He didn’t even flinch.
Hazel noticed my expression and smiled. “I call these The Bull. They’re pretty popular because you can just tuck the ring right up into the nostrils and hide it, like so.”
I winced. “That’s . . . fantastic. Trent went next door for dinner. He’ll be back.”
“He better bring me something,” she said. “I’m f**king famished.”