Doris unpinned her silver name tag and flung it into the bottom of the narrow olive green locker. With a flick of her wrist the metal door banged closed. She spun on her stout heel and froze. Ted filled the staff room door.
“I’m sorry, Doris.”
She tossed her head, bobbing her ebony curls and folded her arms across her blouse. The front and sleeves were speckled with the butternut risotto and Anjou remnants from her last dropped tray. She tossed her glare over at the rack of aprons and tapped her toe in an impatient staccato.
Ted took a step into the room, hands stuffed into his maitre d’ slacks. “You know it just wasn’t working out.”
“Sure.” Her fiery glare swept up and landed on his wounded face. “Then why are you standing in my way? You wanted me out, so move.”
“Doris.” Ted’s shoulders slumped. “I wanted to explain.”
“Explain? I thought you did a fine job when you were screaming at me. I bet the entire restaurant heard.”
Ted winced. “I’m sorry about that. My temper got the best of me.” He sighed. “But that was the third tray you lost tonight. The eighth one this week and it’s only Friday.”
“They’re slippery. I’ve been telling you that since I started.”
“No one else seems to have a problem with them,” Ted snapped back.
“Well I’m not Ben or Sandra or Marc or any of your other perfect waiters,” she said curtly, her voice rising to a crescendo.
“I know.” Ted took a long, deep breath and adjusted the stiff bow tie at his neck. “I just wanted to apologize for yelling. I couldn’t let you leave with that hanging over me. So, I’m sorry.”
Doris sniffed at the spicy scented air and blinked away the frustrated tears that were crested her mascara lined eyes. “Are you finished?”
Ted nodded and stepped to the side. “At least you’ll have more time now…” he murmured with a slight shrug.
“More time?” Doris brushed at her cheeks to make sure they were still dry as she stepped to the door.
She froze and glanced over at the vested man. “What are you talking about?”
“Ben mentioned you play the flute. That you were really good but just hadn’t landed anything yet since you were new in town. This way you can focus on that.”
“Sure, Ted. But how am I going to pay the rent?” Her voice wavered and her hands clutched at the ruby red straps of her purse slung over her shoulder.
Ted managed a small smile. “It just so happens I know the guy who’s the assistant to the guy that runs the auditions for the city symphony.” He slipped a folded piece of paper from his pocket and held it out over the black and white tiled floor. “He’s always looking for talent.”
Doris blinked. Her entire body froze except for her eyes which flicked between the paper in Ted’s hand, his wavering smile and back again.
“What is that?” Her knees felt like they were shaking as much as her voice.
“His number.” Ted shrugged again. “I told him you’d call. It’s the least I can do.”
Doris managed to uncoil one white knuckled hand and took the note. Her shiny, manicured fingers opened the paper and she saw Ted’s neat print in the form of seven numbers and a name.
She leaned into the doorframe. “You know Joe Camble?”
Ted nodded. “We were in college together.”
“This is Joe Camble’s number?”
“And you told him about me?”
“I told him about you playing the flute, not about the waitressing.”
Doris let out a nervous, high pitched laugh. Her fingers tightened around the note and she clutched it to her mottled shirt.
“This is just…” She swallowed and brushed away the startled tears that tumbled down her face. “Thank you.”
“Just remember me when you’ve got free tickets. Betty loves the symphony.”
Doris laughed again, this time it came from deep within her belly. “Well, I’ve got to make it first.”
“Then call Joe and get to it,” Ted said with a broad grin.
Doris shook her head and glanced down with disbelief at the crumpled note.
“I will.” She looked up with a wobbling smile. “Thanks Ted.” She stepped forward and he accepted the hug carefully in order to avoid smearing his dark vest and pristine sleeves.
“No problem. Just be sure you’re a better musician than you are waitress.”
She brushed away the last drops and adjusted her purse. “That shouldn’t be hard.”
“Break a leg then.”
“Better than dishes.”
Doris waggled her fingers. “See you around.”
“See you on stage.”