I stacked the beer mugs into the freezer then hung the wineglasses above the bar.

Christmas Eve, and I'm working the night shift at the Ocean Spray Restaurant. Not a bad place. Live music most weekends and a pub menu. Ouside there was a 10 slip marina and ocean as far as I can see.

I didn't really mind working tonight because I had no family, no boyfriend, no big holiday plans.

I heard the familiar screech of brakes as my boss Jimmy swung into the parking lot. He thought it was fun to drive his red corvette fast towards the front window, then slam on the brakes.

"What a dick, I muttered.

Watching the new waitress Annie, slink from the passenger seat and make her entrance 'round the back so it wouldn't look like they had arrived together.

Hah, the whole town knew they were sleeping together.

''Hey Doll,'' Jimmy called out as he came in through the front.

I had given up telling him that my name was actually Jenna.

''Thanks for working tonight, I'm off to the Bahamas this afternoon. Just wanted to check that everything was okay with you.''

"Hey, remember you told me I could have Tuesday and Wednesday off, Jimmy. Are you going to be back by then?"

He turned and held his arms up comically, "I'll be back, uh, wheneverish. How 'bout that Doll?"

He made his way to the small office in the back and shut the door.

I could hear Jimmy and Annie giggling inside. I knew they were doing lines of cocaine. His glass topped desk always looked like a well worn skating rink when I cleaned up afterwards.

Muffled by the closed door, i heard the petty cash box being closed.

So, he just swung by to wish me well? He came by to get his stash and some money for his trip to the Islands. I knew that Annie was going with him because the travel agent had called earlier to confirm their tickets.

I went into the kitchen where Jesus and his cousins worked their magic. The three of them took care of everything from prep to dishes seamlessly.

''Hola, felize navidad,'' I called out happily. Tony raised a soapy arm in reply.

I picked up the small bowls of fish scraps for the marina cats and went through the kitchen screen door.

The little family of cats came around my feet purring in delight as I set the bowls down.

A multicolored bus pulled into the lot and parked beneath the palm trees.

The doors slid opened and a group of people spilled out. Laughing and locking arms, they strode as one to the ocean edge. They stood silently as the waves washed over their feet.

One man in a faded blue tunic draped in beads turned slowly and our eyes locked.

''Hello beautiful girl."

I heard this whispered greeting clearly. It must be him, but he was so far away.

How could that be?

For a test, I lifted my hand in greeting and laughed with glee when he waved back.

An incredible feeling of pure joy swept over me. Waves of warm comfort. I felt as if I was standing with them, within their peaceful glow.

I shook my head and returned to the bar.

The group came in and instantly the bar was suddenly filled ambiance and cheery laughter. Even the air even smelled to smell better. There was a lightness, a goodness that I could almost see.

From behind the bar, I greeted them in fun.

''Good evening fellow revelers. I welcome you to our humble rest stop. What may I serve for your pleasure tonight.''

I pulled a few extra chairs to the longest table by the window, then placed several menus in the center.

"Greetings fair maiden, we will make your task simple this festive eve. We shall all drink beer! "

His friends voiced their consent with a hearty cheer.

They were all so beautiful I thought as I looked at their joyful faces. So vibrant with life and love. The women were stunning and the men handsome.

This bar had a novel system. For large parties, I would fill a huge cooler with ice, then place 24 beers in. I wheel this over to the table and serve the first round. After that, they are on their own to serve themselves. It looked like this group might go through a few rounds.

I placed a beer in front of the beautiful man that had somehow gotten into my head earlier.

He reached out and tenderly took my hand.

''Sweet lady, may I say you are truly beautiful?''

A surge of soft chills ran up my arm.

'Thank you, kind sire,'' I chuckled.

Throughout the night, my eyes kept drifting to this fascinating group of gentle travelers. Their laughter and good natured remarks kept me amused as I worked.

There were not many guests that night. Most people have family and loved ones to stay home with. I had neither, not even a dog.

Frankly, I was tired of this job and the boss that came with it. I seemed to always be waiting for the right opportunity to finally quit. Something to push me out.

By the time the fish dinners were served, they were all talking about Key West.

They were heading for the southernmost tip of America. That alone sounded like pure adventure.

They all broke into a off key version of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville song.

"Okay, okay, I believe you!" I held my hands over my ears in mock torment.

What a magical life. Just going where the impulse nudged, seemed so reckless yet wonderful to me.

Maybe I could be adventurous, one time. Just once in my life.

The band of modern day gypsies made their way gaily out the door.

The beautiful one came to the bar and handed me the check and money.

''Fare thee well," he smiled and I was hypnotized by impossible blue eyes.

When they had all left the bar, it suddenly became cold and barren.

I longed for that magical energy to swirl around me once again.

I wiped the bar and checked the kitchen. The stainless steel glistened and the floor tiles shined. I locked the back door and turned off the lights. Jesus and his cousins often sat on the picnic table by the beach to unwind from their shift. Their boyish laughter, carried on the ocean breeze, made me realize just how lonely my life was.

I locked the front door of the Ocean Spray and headed to my car. I was thrilled to see the van still parked under the trees.

The group waved me over and I obliged.

''Hey, why don't you join us? We'll be back in a few days, but a whole lot of fun in between.

I stood before this peaceful tribe of friends and nodded my head slowly.

For the first time in my life, I said yes.

I headed back to the picnic table and tossed the keys to Jesus.

''I am going to follow my heart for once in this life guys. Tell Jimmy I'll be back... wheneverish."

A light energy took over the heaviness that I now realized was my cowardly life. It was every one of those safe, timid choices. The weight of constant indecision.

I suddenly realized with clarity, it is better to be led into change by a gentle hand than to be pushed into it by life.

We piled into the van and headed south. to Margaritaville.

December 21, 2019 14:23

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