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Johanna – 8-1

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It was Fall 2016 in New York and I had nothing to do – I’d finished my law degree, but I had no job, no income, and had not taken the summer bar exam as I had spent it tending to Mom in her last days. The next sitting was in Spring 2017, and I had to pay for rent and groceries till then. Mom’s estate was still going through probate, so I could not access any funds from it. Mom had provided me with basic support through law school, but I could not have survived without the substantial supplements Roberta had provided. At this point, I was reluctant to ask her for even more money.I looked for research assistant positions with law firms in the city, but the hiring season was over. In the end, waitressing was the only job that fit my short-term requirements and gave me the flexibility to continue studying for the bar exam. I applied for a job as a cocktail waitress at an upscale club in midtown for the generous tips. The manager asked me to come in for an interview. I wore a padded bra to give myself some shape and a skirt to highlight my long legs.“You have no relevant experience,” said Ahmad, the manager. He was short, dark, and dumpy, a recent immigrant from Bangladesh.“I’m a fast learner,” I said.“I have two other girls with waitressing experience, and they’ll stay with me. With your law degree, you’ll leave as soon as you get an office job.” He looked at me with frank appraisal and I flushed. “You’re cute, though. Will you give me a blowjob if I hire you?”“No,” I said.“I didn’t think so, but I thought there was no harm in asking.”I thought the interview was over, so I stood up, but Ahmad said, “Wait, wait. I think I’ll take a chance on you. We get a lot of lawyers at lunch, they should like you. You look athletic and classy, I like that.”He mentioned a minimal salary saying, “You’ll make ten times your salary in tips, if you make the clients feel good. When can you start?”“I’m not doing anything. I could start today.”“Fill in these forms, sign them and bring them back to me. Then go see Destiny at the hostess station. She’ll get you set up with a uniform and show you the ropes. The first week you’ll be in training, you’ll only get half the salary. But you can still get tips.”The job was more physically demanding than I expected, but the routines were repetitive. By the third day, I had all them all down. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed interacting with customers. Working out the approach to take with each group was like a puzzle and I developed a system of observing, categorizing, and evaluating before I first approached a table. In general, I found that subtlety worked better than high pressure when it came to upselling the customers to fatten the bill, and consequently the tip. Smiles and conversation went a long way, too.Ahmad, on the other hand, was convinced it was the revealing uniforms that loosened the customers’ wallets. It took me several days to get used to it: a very short skirt, a see-through blouse, and a tiny frilly apron with a large bow tie at the back.However, my curiosity often got me into trouble. I couldn’t stop myself from listening to the customers’ conversations as I was taking orders or serving. Trying to follow the conversation sometimes caused me to mess up my orders or mix up who was having what as I was serving. Most of the time, I would just get my head bitten off, but sometimes a customer would complain to Ahmad.Now and again, I’d get into a conversation with my customers. When this happened, they were usually keen for me to stop and chat some more. There was a cost of this, though, since it meant that I held up my other tables and irritated the customers there.“For every customer that gives you praise, I get three who complain about you,” Ahmad said to me at the end of two weeks. “You’re not a good waitress. But I like you, so I’ll keep you on. Will you give me a blowjob?”“No,” I said.It became a running joke between us. He would regularly ask me for a blowjob, I would say no, and he would give me a disappointed look, trying a different facial expression each time. I liked Ahmad. He was always cheerful and there was no harm in him. * * * * *I still ran almost every morning for at least an hour. It had always been my therapy, it enabled me to zone out, to clear my mind, to forget. I was running in Central Park on a Saturday, when I came upon a group in New York Road Runners (NYRR) kit. They were going about my pace, I fell in with them, and one of them invited me to join them. We ran a lap of the park together, just over ten kilometers.I chatted with them during the cooldown and they encouraged me to join the club. The dues were minimal, so went I got home, I went online and signed up. Thereafter, I got regular notices of NYRR events. I began running with their training runs in the early mornings and on weekends.I got friendly with one guy in particular, Jerry Slink. We ran about the same pace in training, so found ourselves together on many runs. The long runs gave us a lot of time to chat. His looks were only average but he had the body of a Greek god. He was a fitness instructor at a gym, and a personal trainer on the side, so he worked out all the time – cardio, weights, machines, the whole nine yards. He was young, only twenty-two, and had two years in a community college. He had no interest in anything intellectual, and our conversations were limited to fitness issues and dating.Soon after we met, we were having a drink in a bar on a Saturday afternoon. He’d asked me during the morning club run.“I rarely go out with a woman unless she’s at least an eight, preferably a nine,” he said.“I’m flattered,” I said.“Do you want me to be honest, Johanna?”“Of course.”“You’re only a six, maybe a six and a half.”“Yet here you are with me,” I teased.“I’m just having a drink, güvenilir bahis not sleeping with you.” He took a deep pull at his beer. “You do have a nice bod, though. I could make it better if you worked with me.”“Maybe I’ll take you up on that.”“I’ll give you a discount on my rates,” he said. He perked up, suddenly. “You know, Johanna, I’ve been thinking. We ran 7:45 pace this morning over fourteen miles. You’re on pace to qualify for Boston. I’m running a marathon in Schenectady in a couple weeks, I hope to get a BQ. Want to come up with me?”“You need to run a lot faster than me to qualify for Boston, Jerry. You need to run sub-7 pace for the whole marathon. I only need to run sub-8.”“Oh, we wouldn’t run together. But we could both join the trip the club is putting together. Carpool, shared hotel rooms, it won’t cost too much.”“Let’s go,” I said.“Great. I’ll put both our names down. There’s a $50 deposit.”I paid him before we finished our drinks.We went up to Schenectady with the club trip, packed into a car with four other runners. I shared a hotel room with a girl I did not know and met Jerry for some stretching and a short warmup jog in the chilly predawn. His jaunty, optimistic demeanor was infectious and boosted my confidence.We were in different start corrals, but promised to look for each other at the finish. I did not have any device other than my watch, but it gave me a pretty good idea of the pace I needed to maintain. I fought my normal risk-taking instinct, and played it safe, running just a few seconds faster than I needed to go. Every single training run, other runners had talked about the dreaded ‘wall’ between miles 20 and 23. I didn’t want to hit it.I got to mile 23 feeling pretty good, and a few minutes ahead of schedule. I opened it up and ran the last five kilometers as fast as I could, finishing in 3:23, a comfortable qualifying time. Jerry was waiting for me at the end of the cooldown chute, his finisher’s medal around his neck. He gave me a high five saying, “I came home in 2:54, Johanna! I’m a BQ!”I wanted to say, “I am, too!” but I was tired, and it seemed too trite, so I just smiled. We both put down our money for Boston as soon as we got back to New York. * * * * *I spoke to Roberta almost every day. However, I did not tell her about my waitressing job. I knew she would worry and try to send me more money. I did not want to cause her undue tension in her current state – still grieving over Mom while she was getting ready to be married.The wedding was set for early December for as she told me, “Owen and I both want children, and I’m getting to the age where every month counts!” Privately, I wondered about her daughter with Jack. But apparently, she had been too drunk to remember much of that night. She never mentioned it, so I didn’t either.Roberta asked me to be her maid of honor, and I was delighted to accept. I told Ahmad I would be gone for ten days and flew to San Fran for Thanksgiving. Roberta met me at the airport and took me to her apartment. We had a lovely turkey dinner together, just the two of us. It was bittersweet as we both remembered our many Thanksgivings with Mom.The weekend after Thanksgiving, there was the rehearsal dinner at Owen’s parents’ place in Marin County. His parents were well-off, for the house was large with rambling grounds. There was a big tent set up and the party was catered by professionals. Owen had a large circle of family and friends in the Bay Area, and there were several dozen people at the dinner.Owen’s sister Ophelia snagged Roberta as soon as we arrived. She dragged her off to meet and commune with some female cousins. Roberta tried to get me to join, but Ophelia just laughed gaily and said, “We want the bride, for now, just the bride!”They seemed very excited to be with Roberta and that made me happy. I took a glass of punch from a passing waitperson and wandered up to one of the sideboards that were set with hors d’oeuvres. I was considering what to snack on, when Owen appeared by my side.“How’s New York?” he asked.“Okay.”“Hard at work? The first few months as an associate are hard. Especially in corporate law.”“I’m not working as a lawyer at the moment. I haven’t passed the bar.”“Oh? What are you doing then?”“Waitressing.”“You did that badly in law school, huh?”I didn’t want to explain my situation to him, and I certainly wasn’t going to talk to him about my summer with Mom. I simply said, “Whatever.”“Nature’s a bitch, isn’t she?”“Excuse me?”“She gives one sister all the brains and all the looks. It must suck to be the other sister.”“I’ve always been the other sister,” I said. “I don’t mind. I’m proud of Roberta.”“She’s a prize. French sophistication with American practicality, musical excellence with mathematical genius. An impossibly rich combination. On top of that, she’s kind and generous, even to her little sister who has so little to recommend herself.”I could see that he was needling me, trying to get me to lose my temper.“We’re soon going to be related, Owen,” I said, striving to be calm. “You know what they say, you can’t pick your relatives. I know you wouldn’t have picked me, but why don’t we try to make the best of it? We can at least be polite to each other.”“It’s difficult, Johanna.”‘Why? What have I ever done to you?”He paced away from me and back again. He took an olive, popped it into his mouth, and chewed it through before responding.“When I met Roberta, you were one of the first things she talked about, ‘my lovely sister Johanna’. She always goes on and on about you, how wonderful you are, how you can do anything. Then I met you and I couldn’t believe you were the person she was talking about.” He ate another olive. “She builds you up to the skies, and you lap it up, don’t you? You’re so cocky, so sure of yourself, güvenilir bahis siteleri so, so self-contained! So superior, like you don’t need anyone else. All on the basis of what? You’re a waitress! A nothing!”“I can’t help how you perceive me, Owen.”“I wanted my sister Ophelia to be Roberta’s matron of honor. She’s married into one of the Napa wine families, is a principal with a high-tech venture capital firm, one of the biggest in the Valley. But Roberta wouldn’t have it. She fought me tooth and nail, till I gave in. My sister is just a bridesmaid, while you are maid of honor. A waitress!”“A wedding is about family, not a resume, Owen,” I said. “You’re not picking someone to serve on a board of directors. The maid of honor is someone the bride feels closest to. Whether you like it or not, that’s me.”Roberta came by with Ophelia and several of Owen’s female relatives, on their way back into the house.“I’m so glad the two of you are talking!” Roberta said, as she passed. “Is Owen telling you how he took me skiing?”They disappeared into the house before either of us could reply.“You took Roberta skiing!” I exclaimed. “At her age! She’s never been on skis before. That’s so dangerous!”“I took her to Tahoe, she was fine. She has surprisingly good balance, she was on the slopes with me after just a day of lessons.” His eyes narrowed. “She talked about you all day long. She made it sound like you’ve been in the Winter Olympics!”“I’ve never had a lesson. I don’t have good form. But I can handle myself on skis.”“Never had a lesson! No form! Well, I started ski school at five, I was a ski racer as a teenager. We should take you with us one of these days. Just so I can show Roberta how terrible you really are. Maybe that will open her eyes.” He laughed. “A waitress on skis!”I’m not a saint, so I couldn’t repress the thought that formed in my mind. I’m sure you can beat me down the groomed slopes, you spoiled asshole. But try to keep up with me in the rough and you’ll kill yourself. But then I reminded myself that this was Roberta’s love, and mentally scolded myself for thinking such a horrible thing.He paced away, and I thought he was gone, but he returned. He took another olive and chewed on it.“I know Roberta has been sending you money,” he said. “She mentioned it to me as though it was nothing, wouldn’t tell me how much. But I pressed her hard, and finally got her to tell me. Over the years, she’s given you an enormous sum, Johanna.”“Surely that’s none of your business.”“It is now. Once we’re married, everything we have is going to be joint. I don’t believe in separate lives, separate finances, and neither does she.” He pointed at me with a stern finger. “From now on, you’re on your own, sister. Not a penny more from us.”“Listen, Owen, I don’t care if you like me or not. I most certainly don’t want your money if it will cause distress for my sister. And please don’t tell her that I’m waitressing, it would really upset her.” I paused and tried to look warm. “Love my sister, treasure her, make her happy. Just do that, and I’ll stay out of your way, out of your life.”He looked at me for a long moment.“We both want Roberta to be happy,” he said.“That’s a good note on which to end our conversation, Owen.” I touched him lightly on the arm. “Thank you for making clear where I stand with you. You have the subtlety of a hammer, but you’re honest.”“Roberta said the same thing,” he said, surprised.“We are sisters after all,” I said.He smiled. It was the only smile he ever gave me. * * * * *It was a big society wedding with lots of photographers and got written up in the local papers. Everyone in the wedding party was described in terms of what they did – principal at this firm, manager at that one – except me. I was prominent in all the wedding pictures but conspicuously was not mentioned in any of the writeups.But Roberta said she loved me as her maid of honor, told me that I looked beautiful, and that made everything wonderful. Nothing else mattered to me. I did not tell her about my interaction with Owen, for I never wanted her to have to choose between him and me. * * * * *I flew back to New York and returned to my job. Every waking hour that I wasn’t working, I spent studying for the bar exam at the New York Public Library. I was only sleeping four or five hours a night and was always tired, especially on my runs with the club. Jerry mentioned it to me saying, “Get more sleep, Johanna. Seven or eight hours a night is crucial to fitness.”“I’ll sleep after the bar exam,” I said.The first day I arrived back at work, Ahmad welcomed me, beaming.“We have a big booking for New Year’s Eve,” he said. “A wealthy lawyer has booked the whole club for a private party. Lawyers like talking to you, I’m sure they’re big tippers. You should be very happy.”“It’s work,” I said, with a shrug.Roberta was back from her honeymoon and invited me to spend Christmas with her new family in California. But I was mindful of my promise to Owen to stay out of his life.“I’m very busy studying for the bar,” I said. “I don’t think I can make it.”“But we always spent Christmas together in Wisconsin with Mom,” she said. “It will be so depressing for you alone in New York.”“I have some friends I’ll spend it with,” I lied.“What friends are these?”“Some people I met recently.”“Well, remember you’re always welcome in our home,” said Roberta. “You’ve never needed an invitation before. That hasn’t changed just because I’m married.”I could hear the worry in her voice, and I missed her terribly. It was a lonely Christmas. * * * * *A few days before New Year’s Ahmad gave me the announcement for the private party. It read: Theodora and Matthew O’Connor request the pleasure of your company to ring in the New Year.“I can’t work this party,” I said iddaa siteleri to Ahmad. “I know this man. He might remember me. I will certainly know several of the guests. It would be embarrassing.”“What’s embarrassing about honest work, Johanna?” he asked. “Do you think less of me because I work here?”“No, no,” I said. “But these people know me from law school.”“So? Are you ashamed of your work?”I sighed.“No, of course not. You’re right. If they think less of me for what I do, that’s their problem, not mine.” * * * * *Ahmad asked all of us waitresses to wear fishnet stockings along with our brief uniforms for the O’Connor party. He also ‘suggested’ that we leave the top buttons of our blouses unbuttoned to show our cleavages.“The sexier you look, the more the tips,” he said at our planning meeting. “Especially after the men have had a few drinks.”I worked with the barmen setting up the welcoming drinks trays and did not come onto the floor till the party was already in progress. O’Connor and his wife were still by the entrance, greeting arriving guests. She was a handsome fifty-something woman, carried a bit of excess weight, and looked formidable. She beckoned to me.“The champagne you have on the welcome trays is substandard,” she said.“You’ll have to talk to my manager about that,” I replied.O”Connor saw me and said, “Wait, wait. I know you. You interned with our firm year before last. Isn’t your name Johanna?”“Yes, sir,” I said.“Didn’t you finish law school?”“Yes, but I missed the bar exam and the job market this year for personal reasons. I’m just making ends meet as I prepare to take the bar in the spring.”I went back to work. More guests arrived, the party grew more animated, and the buzz of conversations rose. It was harder work than a normal night, since the drinks were free. The tips were correspondingly larger. There was a lot of legal chatter that I found very interesting. Following the conversations so intently meant that I made even more mistakes than usual with my orders. Even so, the wad of bills in my small frilly white apron was thicker than on a normal night.O”Connor intercepted me just before nine o’clock, took my elbow, and steered me into a dark corner.“I’m very impressed that you’re working while preparing for the bar,” he said. “The New York bar exam is the hardest in the country. You shouldn’t take it lightly.”“I’m not,” I said.“You should give up this job and study full time. You don’t want to risk flunking it.”“I have to pay for groceries and rent, sir.”He put his hands on my shoulders and looked at me kindly.“Perhaps we can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, Johanna.”“I would love a research assistant position, sir. You won’t regret hiring me.”“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” he said. He sounded and looked a bit testy, but quickly reset his features. “I recall you were friendly with Adriana Montez when you interned at our firm. She may have told you about the arrangement we had when she was an intern. She’s now an associate with us.”“I’m not interested in that kind of arrangement, Mr. O’Connor. You’re a married man. Your wife is co-hosting this party with you.”“Oh, Theodora! You saw how she treats people. She doesn’t treat me any better. I have a sad life, Johanna. I admit I do seek consolation elsewhere, but I make sure it is worthwhile for those who comfort me. Adriana has done very well out of her arrangement with me. You could, too.”“No, thank you, Mr. O’Connor. You will excuse me, I have to get back to work.”An hour later, I was waiting on a table by a large bay window. There were several gentlemen around it, some sitting, some standing. They were discussing a hostile takeover deal that was being held up by the legal action of the target firm. It was very interesting and I lingered as though waiting for them to order, listening intently. At a break in the conversation, I couldn’t help interjecting.“Surely the precedent of Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp. suggests that the transaction is subject to the business judgment standard of review, and so is open to early dismissal without a prolonged hearing. After all, the relevant information is in the Schedule 13(d) filing.”They all looked at me with various degrees of surprise. Several looked annoyed at my presumptuous interruption. But one silver-haired gentleman looked at me with genuine interest.“That’s a nice, straightforward approach, young lady,” he said. “We’ve got millions of dollars of legal talent around this table, but no one’s made that base case yet.”“I don’t know if it makes any practical sense,” I said, respectfully. “I was just looking at it from a textbook perspective.”“Hey, hey,” said a younger man, his dark suit adorned with a carnation. He snapped his fingers at me, even though he already had my attention. “Do your job and don’t stick your nose in other people’s business. Get me a vodka martini.”All the others around the table placed their orders, except for the silver-haired gentleman. His eyes were eloquent with kindness and I gave him a grateful look.I returned with their drinks. It was a heavy tray and the silver-haired gentleman helped me set it down so I could serve them.“Hey, this is gin!” said the man with carnation, holding up his glass. “I ordered a vodka martini.”“I’m sorry, sir,” I said.“Well, take it back and get me what I ordered, you stupid bimbo! And be quick about it!”I hurriedly went back to the bar and returned with his drink. He didn’t tip me, and the others followed his lead. The silver-haired gentleman slipped me a twenty, even though he had not ordered a drink.Adriana came fashionably late, just after ten. She was dressed to kill as usual, on the arm of a very handsome Latin man. I watched her as I worked and saw her going through the party with her usual finesse. She met with every important person in the room, introduced her boyfriend, and made just enough conversation to leave a favorable impression before moving on. Her interaction with O’Connor was the only sour note, for he did not look happy to see her at all.

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