“We need to talk,” he spat spying his boss coming out of the toilets.
Following Carter into the VIP room, his Boss did not put up a fight, he had been waiting for Carter’s wrath all week as he knew what a control freak he was about his bar.
“What’s going on Vinnie,” Carter begun letting his anger flow out of him like water. “I’ve been gone two weeks and you replace me already!”
“Carter calm down, we haven’t replaced you. We needed someone to cover you while you were gone and Anna came available and I had to act quickly.”
“Well I am back now so she can go!”
“No Carter, Anna is staying. You know Kyro is leaving tomorrow so she will take his job now.”
“The only demand I had when I took this position Vinnie was that I got to choose who I worked with. You had no right going over my head and hiring this Anna girl! I know nothing about her!”
“Anna is excellent. She was the deputy bar manager at The Prosper Room’s, we were lucky to get her. Peninsula offered her their Head Barman position.”
“Why didn’t she take it then?”
“Because she wanted to work with the notorious Carter Starr! You should be flattered Carter!”
That shut him up.
As Carter headed back out to the bar, he saw Kyro and the waitress gathered around Anna. She was holding some sort of audience with them and they were all laughing and joking with her like she was their best friend already.
“Everyone get back to work,” Carter hollered. Who does this girl think she is coming in here and distracting my staff, he thought. She still has a lot to prove!
Everyone jumped to attention and carried on with their duties, the fun was obviously over now Carter was back. He headed straight behind the bar keeping Anna in eyeshot the whole time. It was time she knew who she was dealing with.
“Hi Carter, it’s a pleasure to finally get to work with you,” Anna said as Carter approached.
“Ur huh,” Carter replied bending down to look under the bar. She had already moved all his stock around so he no longer knew where anything was. This was going to take forever for him to set right!
Anna kept chatting behind him as he went to work, chirping about what an honour it was to get the job and how she planned to work hard for him. By the time he had re-arranged his work space, he had managed to block out most of her voice. “What are they,” he snapped looking across the bar at rows of pink cocktails.
“They’re the cocktails of the day,” Kyro the other barman replied not even turning around, he was used to Carter’s control freak ways and was expecting Anna’s appearance to unsettle him. “They were Anna’s idea and they’ve been a huge success.”
“Why don’t you try one,” Anna quickly said.
“No thanks,” Carter replied leaning back down and re-arranging the aperitifs on the bar top.
Anna looked over at Kyro and let out a slight smile, rolling her eyes at him. She had been warned this would happen.
The following day Kyro left and Anna moved over to his post. Carter quickly got used to Anna’s presence. Like Vinnie had said, she was a very talented bar-tender. She knew all the tricks and the punters seemed to love her.
But none of this changed anything for Carter, for some reason the longer he worked with her, the more she got on his nerves. For one, everyone loved her. She had quickly taken up the role of Joker at the Bar which meant she was an easy distraction for everyone who was supposed to be working, including Vinnie who owned the place.
Secondly, she was always getting in Carter’s way. Where ever he went she happened to be crossing his path and they constantly bumped into each other. “Just stay out my way,” he would snap at her. He knew his words sometimes hurt her, but he wouldn’t have to use them if she just did as she was meant to.
“Can I have a word with you in private,” Anna asked Cater one day when the bar was empty.
Carter tutted and followed her to the corner of the bar. “What’s up,” he snapped irritated by her interruption.
“Why are you so mad at me?”
Oh here we go, Carter thought. “I’m not mad at you Anna,” he sighed.
“Yes you are,” Anna retaliated. “You’re very mad and I would like to know what I’ve done.”
“You wanna know,” Carter exploded.
“Yes I wanna know.”
“Look this is my bar. I’ve worked really hard to get here and I’m not gonna let you take it away from me!”
“What makes you think I want to take it away?”
“What else could you possibly want?! You come in here and everyone loves you and you’re so god dam good at mixing. You’re taking over Anna and I won’t let you, you hear me?!”
“My god, you really do have trust issues, someone really did a number on you.” Anna gasped.
Carter did not want to hear anymore. He tried to walk off but Anna pulled him back. “Now you listen to me. I don’t need this job, I can work wherever I want. I’d like to work here because it’s an honour to mix with you. But I’d rather work somewhere I’m welcome so if you want me to go, just say the word.”
“No no no, that won’t be necessary,” Carter replied. He did not actually want her to go. “Now let’s back to work.”
For Anna the conversation was not exactly over but she did not want to push it. She went back to her post and started polishing glasses. Carter headed back to his, Anna’s words ringing in his ears – “trust issues.” As he watched her polishing her glasses, he suddenly felt very guilty – maybe he had been too hard on her.
That evening Carter went home still thinking of his argument with Anna. What had she meant, trust issues? He didn’t have trust issues, he was just very wary of people. When he entered his house, Bella was waiting up for him.
“Hey mum, what are you still doing up,” Carter asked.
“I just wanted to wait up and tell you that Danny had a rough night tonight,” Bella said coming over to her son. “He’s asleep now but he’s been crying for Sadie all night. Bless his little heart.”
“Gee mum, it’s been a while since he’s done that. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take him into work with me tomorrow. Might be good to spend some time together and he can see what his old man gets up to.”
“I think that sounds like a fine idea,” Bella replied giving her son a reassuring hug.
So the next day, Bella picked Danny up from school at 3pm and dropped him at The Purple Lounge. Once there, Carter did not really know what to do with him, so he sat him at the bar with a book. As he served customers he watched him out the corner of his eye, Danny looked so sad and lonely sitting there reading but Carter was working so could not do much about it. Maybe bringing him to work was not such a good idea after all.
“Hey kiddo, what you reading there?” Carter looked up to see Anna sitting on the stool next to Danny. He was about to tell her to get back to work, when he stopped himself, intrigued to see how his son would react.
“Nothing special,” Danny replied putting his book away.
As Carter turned to serve a customer he left Anna chatting to Danny. He could not hear what they were saying but when he turned back a few minutes later, a smile as big as a clowns was suddenly plastered across Danny’s face.
It was the first time Carter had ever seen Danny smile and he thought he might actually cry. Carter looked around the room wanting to scream, “look, look what my son’s doing, he’s smiling.” But there was no one who would understand. Even Anna had no idea of what she had done.
When Carter went to take Danny home an hour later, he turned and waved goodbye to Anna. It was her turn to be taken aback, Carter had never said goodbye to her before. “Bye,” she squealed back a little too enthusiastically!
From there on, Danny came to work with Carter every day after school. Bella would drop him off and Carter would take him home. It was like a fire had suddenly been re-lit inside Danny and Carter was determined never to let it go out again. He did everything he could to keep him smiling from teaching him how to juggle with the bottles to mixing his own fruit punch.
Anna even taught Danny how to dance. She loved goofing around with him spinning him around the dance floor.
Carter would watch from behind the bar, wetting himself. It seemed Danny was not the only one Anna had taught how to smile again.
One afternoon, Danny tugged on his dad’s sleeve. “Psst dad, can I ask you something?”
“Sure what’s up?”
“The bar is closed tomorrow night right, so you have a night off?”
“Of course, the bar is always closed on a Monday night. What do you wanna do?”
“Well as it’s closed it means Anna’s not working either and I was wondering if we could have her round for dinner tomorrow night.”
Carter suddenly felt uncomfortable but he did not have the heart to say no to Danny. “If that’s what you want, then go ask her,” he encouraged.
“Anna Anna,” Danny shrieked running behind the bar. “Me and dad were wondering if you would come for dinner tomorrow night.”
Anna looked back at Carter in surprise and Carter smiled back at her. “Well if it’s ok with your dad,” Anna replied turning back to Danny.
“Of course it is,” Danny answered getting overexcited.
“Well then count me in!”
“She said yes,” Danny cried running back over to Carter. Carter loved seeing Danny so happy, it made everything worthwhile. “Thank you,” he mouthed over to Anna.
“No problem,” she mouthed back.
“What you doing over there Danny-boy,” Cater called while crushing the burger meat between his fingers.
“She’s late,” Danny called back. “I’m waiting for her so when she gets here I can quickly open the door.” Carter could not help but laugh at his son. He had dragged one of the kitchen chairs over to the front door and had been camped out there for the last 20 minutes.
When the doorbell finally rung a few minutes later, Danny leapt from his chair and swung the door open. “Danny,” Anna cried pulling the boy into a big hug.
“Daddy, Anna’s here,” Danny called.
“Hey Carter,” Anna said letting Danny lead her into the kitchen. “Do you need some help?”
“Nope I’m all good here thanks,” Carter replied not turning from his cooking. “Danny will you sit Anna down at the table, dinner will be ready in a minute.”
Carter sprinkled the last of the burger meat with some herbs and then tucked them into the buns. He laid them onto a platter and spun around to serve his dinner. “Grubs up,” he called suddenly stopping in his tracks.
Anna looked so different. He had never seen her out of her uniform and she had also let her hair down. Cater gulped as butterflies run through him.
He served the burgers and Danny tucked in straight away. Carter sat silently eating his burger allowing Danny to tell Anna all about his day at school. He could not believe how awkward he was suddenly feeling – this was Anna after-all – his employee!
After dinner, Carter had promised Danny that he could watch the new fright night movie and so they all settled on the sofa.
“Aww dad, will you keep your voices down, I’m trying to watch the movie,” Danny whined as Carter and Anna chatted away to each other.
They both looked at each other and Cater rolled his eyes. One hour later, Danny was fast asleep and Carter moved him across to the adjacent sofa to let him stretch out.
“So where did you learn to mix,” Carter asked when they could finally talk.
“Well it’s a pretty boring story really,” Anna begun. “After high school I moved to New York. I owe my entire career to a guy named Jerry.”
“Yeah, he was my first love. His father owned a bar in Manhattan. He was a brilliant Mixologist and he taught me everything I knew. I fell madly in love with mixing and the rest I guess is history.”
“So what happened to Jerry,” Carter asked suddenly feeling very jealous.
“It didn’t work out and so his dad sacked me.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Well it opened lots of doors. I spent the next few years working in some of the best bars in New York.”
“So how come you don’t run your own bar now,” Carter asked intrigued.
“I don’t know,” Anna replied. “I guess the right offer hasn’t come my way.” Anna starred into Carter’s eyes and Carter starred back. Tingles went through his body and he leaned into her, his lips parting. “It’s getting late,” Anna whispered pulling Carter out of his trance. “I should really go.”
“Ok,” Carter replied feeling foolish and walking her to the door.
“Thank you so much for dinner and inviting me over,” Anna said pulling Carter into a hug.
“No thank you for coming,” Carter replied wrapping his arms around Anna’s waist. “You don’t know how much it meant to Danny to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for everything you do for him.”
Anna pulled back at Carter and smiled. “Well good-night,” she said turning on her heel and walking out.
Carter gently closed the door behind her and fell back against it letting out a huge sigh, he already missed her. What’s happening, he asked himself. Pull yourself together man.
But before he had a chance to catch his breath there was a gently knock on the door. Carter jumped to attention swinging the door back open to reveal Anna. They both stood still gazing at each other, the bright hue of the moon lighting up the spot where Anna stood.
Then without saying a word, Anna launched forward into Carter’s arms, their mouths devouring each other.
“I can’t I can’t,” Carter gasped pulling back. “I’m sorry but I can’t do this. I’m broken. I’m no good.”
“Shhhh,” Anna said putting her finger to his lips. “No you’re not!” She replaced her finger with her lips and this time Carter did not pull back. It was too late – he had fallen!