When Darkness Ends (Moments in Boston #3) by Marni Mann

I reached over the cutting board and hugged her. “Thanks for having my back.”

“Girl, I’ve always got you—you know that.”

As I pulled away, grinning, I pointed at the two high-tops by the door. “Have they been helped?”

She shook her head. “I told them you’d be right over.”

I thanked her again and went up to the first table. “What can I get you?” I asked the two men.

“Two shots of Jameson,” one of them answered. “And a Jack and Coke for me.”

“Bud Light,” the other man replied.

I wrote down their order and moved on to the four-top, asking those customers the same question.

And I repeated those words over and over for the next five hours until Frank came up behind me and said, “You’re cut.”

I was at the bar, waiting for Erin to finish making a round of drinks I had ordered, when I felt his breath on the back of my ear. I looked at him over my shoulder, his stare making my stomach turn. “Now?”

“We’re slow tonight. You’re lucky I didn’t send you home hours ago.”

“But my tables are still full.”

“I’m the boss; I give the orders. You? You’re barely holding on by a thread.” The whiskey he sipped made his lips wet, and he didn’t bother to lick it off. “Collect your tips and get your ass home.” I was just turning away when he said my name, gaining my attention again. “Do yourself a favor and be early tomorrow.”

I had another study group after class, followed by play rehearsal.

Tomorrow would just be an echo of today.

As he left, Erin placed the drinks on my tray and said, “One day, when you’re a famous actress and you’re on set in Paris or Italy—somewhere extra magical—you’re going to think back to this moment and laugh.”

I sighed. “Wouldn’t that be a dream?”

“It’s going to happen—I’m sure of it.” She placed small black straws in each of the glasses before I lifted the tray into the air. “Let me know if you’re running late tomorrow, and I’ll cover for you.”

I caught her hand on the bar top, giving her fingers a squeeze, and then I delivered the final round of drinks, cashing out for the night. With my tips tucked securely in my apron, I changed into my old clothes and rushed out the back door.

The train station was only a few short blocks away, and I slid my pass through the reader before waiting on the platform for the orange line to arrive. Once I got on and found a seat in the corner, I pulled out my notes I’d taken during class and began to study. Even though the ride was short, school had taught me that every minute of my day had to count.

Arriving at my stop, I put my notebook away and quickly walked to our place. At the front of our building, I hopscotched around the broken steps, carefully opening the door so the shattered glass wouldn’t come falling out on me. Knowing at this hour there was probably someone sleeping in the elevator, I climbed the stairs to the sixth floor, the light in the hallway flickering as I quietly stuck my key in the lock.

As I got inside, the lamp in the living room was on, and Gran was reading on the couch.

“Hi,” I said loud enough for her to hear.

She glanced up from the paperback, her smile causing the wrinkles to bunch on the sides of her face. “How was your day, dollface?”

“Long but good.” I left my bag on the counter and sat next to her, snuggling into her arm. “I thought you’d be sleeping.” The scent of baby powder instantly filled my nose, the smell even stronger as her hand surrounded my cheek.

“I couldn’t get comfortable. You know these old bones like to ache a bit extra at night.” She set her book on the table, preferring to read than watch one of the four channels we got on our rabbit-eared TV. “You’re home earlier than usual.”

“It was a slow night at the bar.” I circled my hands around the frailness of her upper arm, pulling it closer to me. “Did you eat?”

“I heated up some soup.”

“Was it enough? Are you still hungry?”

“It was plenty for me, dollface.” Her thumb rubbed back and forth across the corner of my mouth. “How was school today?”

“Theater class went great, but I have an elective that’s much harder than I thought it would be. Luckily, I found a good study group that I think is going to help a lot.”