I watched as the Delaneys walked out to their car, parked in one of the angled spaces in front of the Bucksaw. The father fought to get his daughter into her car seat, alternately pleading with her and then scolding her.

John secured the girl and then patted his own jeans, saying something to his wife before returning to the bar.

He stopped just in front of me, leaning in. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “She asked why we never come in here anymore. I’ll try not to come back.”

“I’m truly sorry, Falyn. For everything,” he said again, pulling his wallet from his pocket before jogging outside.

All the air felt like it had left the room with John, and I stood there, unable to move or breathe.

Kirby wandered behind the bar, saying hello to the regulars before leaning over the counter on her elbows. “I didn’t think that rush would ever let up.” She picked at the corner of a menu and then sighed. “Hey, I’m talking to you. Are you going to tell me what you haven’t told me?”

“Not today,” I said, snapping back to the present.

Kirby pouted. “So, do you like him? Because … you’re being you but different. You always act weird when a guy tries to pursue you, but you’re not running this one off.”

“Yeah. Why is that?” Hannah asked. “What’s with the weirdness when it comes to guys?”

I glowered at her. “Go check your tables.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said, turning on her heels.

“I’m serious,” Kirby said. “I thought you were just pissed at your parents. Until recently, I didn’t realize that you also hated men, and then Taylor happened.”

I stole a glance at Taylor. He did the same to me, so I looked away for a moment. With a small smile lingering on his face, he was talking to his crew again.

“I like men. I just don’t have time for them.”

“No,” she said, scratching at a speck on the counter, “it’s something else.” She grabbed a clean cloth and a spray bottle, and she headed to the main dining area to bus tables.

I brought a round tray to the window before loading it with the hotshot crew’s entrees.

“I got it,” I said, fitting one edge into the crook of my neck as I centered my palm beneath the tray.

“That’s not what I meant,” Chuck said.

The boys were chatting when I approached them, and three pairs of eyes lit up when they recognized the tray of food was theirs.

“Wrap,” I said, placing it in front of Dalton.

“Crepe,” I said, lowering it to the table before Zeke.

Taylor reached out, and I handed his plate to him.

“Doesn’t bother me,” Taylor said with a half smile. Just as I turned, he touched my elbow. “I am capable of just hanging out as friends, you know.”

I shot him a dubious look. “I’m a waitress in a popular tourist town. You think I haven’t heard that before? That I haven’t heard it all before? Listen, you’re nice. I like you guys. But I don’t need any more friends, especially temporary ones.”

I could feel him watching me as I walked away, and I could guess what he was thinking. He’d already proven he enjoyed a challenge, so I was giving him one.

Once they cleaned their plates and sat back against their chairs, I brought them the check. They wasted no time gathering their things and heading out, but Taylor made sure to wait until he could wave to me before leaving.

Kirby bussed their table and brought me a handful of ones and fives and some change for a tip that totaled more than their meals. I shook my head and chuckled quietly. It was the best way to tell a waitress good-bye.

The remainder of my shift was comfortably busy. Hannah and I sat together on the stools near the kitchen end of the bar, counting our tips and listening to Hector’s and Chuck’s funny stories about their mishaps and near misses throughout the day.

With one hand on her back, Phaedra trudged up to us from the back room, covered in cream cheese, chocolate, and strawberry smears. “The goddamn pies are done.”

Chuck hugged her. “Well done, my love. Well done.”

He kissed her cheek, and she batted him away.

“How was it? I meant to come out earlier. I got behind.”

Kirby smirked. “Taylor came in again today. Left her a big tip.”

“What did it say?” Hannah said.

Hannah nodded to my stack of cash. “He wrote on one of the bills. I thought you knew.”

Kirby rushed to stand next to me as I fanned out my money.

“It’s on the other side, kiddo,” Phaedra said, her eyes targeting one of the singles.

I flipped over the stack and found the note scribbled in barely legible print.

Kirby laughed. “He gets points for persistence. You have to give him that.”

I inhaled, the wheels in my head spinning a hundred miles per hour. Now that I had somewhat of a plan, it was hard to be patient. But being patient was the only way it could work.

“It’s not cute. It’s obnoxious. But keep seating them in my section, okay?”

“You got it,” she said, climbing onto a stool and dangling her feet like a child.

Phaedra patted Chuck’s face. “Remember when you were obnoxious, honey?”

“How could I forget?” he said, waggling an eyebrow.

Kirby sighed. “He’s actually on time for once.”

When she didn’t move and didn’t say anything else, I turned to see Taylor standing in a white hat, a gray hoodie, and navy basketball shorts with flip-flops, holding a laundry basket full of clothes.

“I’ll be a son of a bitch,” Phaedra said with her gravelly low voice.

Everyone looked at me.

“Just … nobody say a word. Let me handle it.”

“I feel like this is a joke,” Hannah said. “Is she playing a joke on us?”

“No, but it’s still funny,” Chuck said, trying not to laugh.

I made my way to the front door, not at all in a hurry, stopping just shy of an arm’s length away. “What are you doing here?” I asked, trying to seem exasperated.

“Laundry day,” he said, grinning from one ear to the other.

“Okay. You still haven’t explained why you’re here.”

“Do you have a washer and dryer?”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Do people not know how to ask to borrow things where you’re from?”