A Borrowed Life (Carly and Liam #1)

Stephanie Cholette

 

 

 

 

A Borrowed Life

 

 

Translated from French

by Stephanie Cholette

Edited by Amanda Noonan

 

Title of original edition

Une vie empruntée

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special thanks to Amanda Noonan for her amazing contribution to this English version of my novel.

 

Chapter 1

 

Let's see. The cutlery, glasses, napkins, and salt and pepper shakers are all placed, and the lanterns are lit; everything is in order, and I check all eight tables in my section to make sure they all look the same. It will be a rather quiet lunch hour, just like every Monday. That's why there are only three waitresses on the floor: me, my best friend, Liv, and Josie, the oldest employee of the restaurant and the boss's favorite. She always gets the best schedules and the best sections, and the most generous customers are inevitably seated at her tables. Everyone knows how she got these privileges, and we all are aware of what happens when she and Cayden hide away in his office, but there's nothing we can do so we’ve learned to deal with it.

Anyway, it's not that bad. Minimum wage, of course, but with tips I can easily make about twenty-five dollars per hour during busy days. The restaurant is divided into two sections; there is a bar on one side with a few stools and nothing more, and a family area on the other. It’s a friendly atmosphere, both familial and romantic, and provides worthy entertainment to the drinking crowd. It's one of the most popular places in Jersey City.

“Turn it up, Sam!” Liv shouts to the bartender.

Demons
by Imagine Dragon
s
her favorite song. She gracefully stretches her arms above her head and starts dancing to the melody, dancing provocatively. Liv is an absolutely gorgeous, young woman with long blonde, naturally straight hair, big blue eyes, bronze skin, a face both sweet and flirtatious, and a thin waist with long legs; she has everything going for her, and she’s also very good at seducing men!

Sam drastically lowers the volume when he sees Cayden, the manager of the restaurant, come out of his office. He will own it in a few months when Mr. Fisher officially retires. He’s quite a handsome man with a lot of charm. His brown hair frames his green eyes and well-defined, broad face, and he has a slightly menacing gaz
e
if he wasn't so detestable, he would surely be dateable.

Already, Liv has stopped dancing to ensure her section is impeccable, andI'd better do the same. At the beginning of each shift, Cayden moves behind the counter to his favorite place where he can see the whole room, and looks for his victi
m
the one he will lash out at all day and all night. Our evening will become a living hell as a result of a knife that isn't rightly placed, a missing salt shaker or a misplaced chair.

Bailey, the young, blond busboy who’s barely nineteen years old, walks through my section and gives me a friendly shove on the shoulder. I mask my smile without answering his challenge, fully aware it's not the time.

“What wouldn't I give to have another life!” complains Liv, approaching me.

“What are you talking about?” Bailey retorts mockingly. “You're the one who makes the most money here.”

“I just know how to use my charms.”

She shrugs and gives him a wink, and I can't help but laugh quietly. Liv has no shame in using all of what nature has given her, while I tend to be more reserved.

“Still, can you imagine living the high life?” Liv continues. “We would parade on the red carpet and spend our days on a yacht, never worrying about being able to pay the bills…”

“You wouldn't have to worry about paying your bills if you wouldn't buy shoes, handbags, and jewelry, and all the other stuff you girls need.”

Liv laughs at Bailey's answer.

“Sam!” grumbles Cayden. “Turn down the volume, will you?”

There you go, he found his victim. The poor guy! The volume goes down quietly, and I vaguely hear the voice of the presenter on the radio. My attention is soon distracted by the ringing of my cell phone.

Shit! Like this is a good time! I grab it quickly to turn it off, but I notice the manager is busy in the kitchen. I probably have time to answer discreetly.

“Go ahead, I'll cover for you!” Bailey insists, standing in front of me and pretending to sweep the floor.

I hide under the table and pick up. Liv watches me from the corner of her eye.

“Are you crazy!” she protests with a low voice.

“Hello?”

“Hello, am I speaking with Carly Bray Scott?”

“Yes.”

I hear a faint echo in the restaurant and wonder what it is when I notice Liv is completely frozen. She looks at me in amazement, as if she's expecting a nuclear disaster.

“Hi Carly! This is Frank from the ultimate rock radio station. I have only one question for you.”

My heart races and I can hardly believe what is happening to me! I turn around to glance at the manager. His attention returns to the room, so I know he'll be looking for me soon. I have to hurry.

“I'm listening.”

“What is the song that just ended? I want the exact title and the name of the group.”

Oh! I know that one! Liv danced to it, it's her favorite song!

“Demons by Imagine Dragons!” I exclaim excitedly.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely!”

“Carly, do you find it cold in New Jersey?”

“Freezing,” I reply in a voice that barely contains my excitement.

I know why he’s calling me.

“Then I guess you'll be happy to know that you are going to Bora Bora in a week!” he announces.

“Did I win?”

“Yes you did! Congratulations Carly!”

“AHHHH!!!”

I jump to my feet and shout my joy, completely forgetting where I'm at. The table above my head falls backwards, but even the shock and the glass breaking can’t burst my bubble. I entered this contest with Liv weeks earlier as mostly a joke, because we knew we didn’t have a good chance at winning. I've never won anything in my life! I prance around, thanking the man at least a thousand times. He asks me to remain on the line to give my contact details to the receptionist.

Liv throws herself into my arms and we yell like crazy in the restaurant. Everyone is looking at us, but we could care less.

“Bora Bora?” Liv asks shrilly.

“Bora Bora!” I confirm.

“Aaaahhh!”

A man clearing his throat behind us suddenly brings us back to reality. We find ourselves face to face with our boss who is clearly not in a good mood. Oh well! Even he can't spoil this moment. I give all my information to the woman who comes on the line and making sure she correctly takes down my name and address. I repeat it twice.

As soon as I hang up, I know I have to deal with Cayden. That's when I notice the damage I've caused with the table. Okay, it wasn't one of my brightest moments. As the adrenaline goes down, I realize my head hurts like hell.

“What was that!” Cayden reprimands.

“That was me winning a VIP cruise to Bora Bora, all expenses paid, aboard the most luxurious ship ever!”

I hope he will understand and be merciful now knowing why I'm so excited.

“Does the expenses also cover these broken dishes?”

I look down regretfully.

“I thought so. In that case, it will be deducted directly from your pay. And let me point out you're working next week, so you can forget about the cruise.”

“What!”

“No, you're kidding!” exclaims Liv.

“Mr. Boyle, you can't do this to us!” I practically yell.

“Us?”

“I’m going with her,” Liv affirms.

A sarcastic chuckle comes out of the manager's mouth and he shakes his head.

“So you announce to me at the last minute that I’m losing two of my full time waitresses next week? It's a no! I need you. It’s the holidays and the restaurant will be crowded.”

“Find someone to cover for us,” Liv protests.

“We're short of staff.”

“We're always short of staff, but we don’t lack applicants!”

Liv is right. Everyone wants to work here and it's understandabl
e
the best tips are made here. However, our boss is a real cheapskate and a jerk, and he never hires anyone. But this time, he won't get away with it. Liv and I have been working here for four years and we have never taken vacation, primarily because he keeps giving us this same excuse.

“Consider it our vacation for the last four years of work,” I say.

“I need a written two weeks notice, and you know very well you can't take your vacation at the same time as another full time employee.”

“Well, you have seven days notice and it will have to be enough, because Liv and I are going!”

“Wow! Carly, where did you get this conviction? It's not like you,” rejoices my best friend, linking her arm in mine as a sign of solidarity.

“Shut up,” I whisper, knowing she could ruin everything.

Actually, it only validates my determination. It's true; I normally don't object to orders and I do what I'm told, period. I'm not very authoritative by nature, but this is a chance of a lifetime! Two full weeks aboard a cruise going straight to the tropics with known celebrities, the best massages, five-star dinners, shows, and more; we simply can't miss it.

“Only one of you can leave. I can't replace you both, so choose.”

Liv sighs, about to give me her place, but I refuse.

“I'm not leaving without Liv. That's it, so deal with it. If you're struggling to replace us for two weeks, imagine what it will be like replacing us indefinitely.”

“You wouldn't…”

“Don't try me!” I retort, praying that my bluff works and that he doesn't let us quit.

“Don't underestimate us,” Liv adds, showing her killer smile.

Cayden rumbles, pursing his lips to form only a thin line. His look is threatening, but we don't yield. He doesn't have a choice; we’re two of his best waitresses and even though he’d never admit it, he can't afford to lose us both.

“Oh fuck it!” he complains as he leaves.

Liv and I utter a cry of joy, jumping into each other's arms. Bora Bora, here we come! I can't believe it! This kind of luxury will only be offered to us once in our lifetime, and I can already see myself enjoying all the benefits without any hesitation.

“You know what we have to do now?” Liv asks.

“What?”

“Shop!”

“What? Why? Don't you have enough shoes already?”

“Not for me, silly! For you!”

“Oh. I, uh… you know, I'm fine with what I have.”

“Don't be stupid! I don't want to see you wearing your brother's old clothes! Carly, we will be on board a luxury cruise among tons of stars.”

“And the stars are who everyone will look at. They won’t look at me.”

“Yes, they will. You’ll become their new entertainment. The women would laugh at you and men would take you for a poor, easy to impress girl, and that's if they even bother speaking to you. No, you have to look like of one of them.”

I let out a giggle. Me? I’ve never worn anything besides sneakers, old jeans with holes, and sweaters my brother didn't want anymore. I have no sense of fashion. For me, comfort is everything. Thinking back, it’s probably why I didn't have many friends at school, but I am who I am and that's that.

“And how would I do that, exactly?”

“When I'm done with you, Carly, you'll be unrecognizable!”

“You're lucky that I'm so happy, I would say yes to almost anything.”

“Yay!” Liv exclaims, clapping her hands. “Then Adam can take us to the mall after work.”

She leaves before I change my mind. Wise choice. I shake my head and I bend down to pick up the overturned table. I begin to picture myself in a long, shimmering evening dress, wearing high heels and a beautiful hairstyle, and blending in perfectly with sophisticated people as well-dressed as me. This scene forces a smile on my fac
e
me, Carly Bray Scott, apart of the real world for the span of two weeks. Liv is right, I must take this opportunity and live it fully!

Adam, Liv's brother, sits on a chair at the salon while Liv and I freshen our hairstyles. He's just a few years older than us, and wasn't always as attractive as he is today, but after a few months of weight training, a new haircut, a little tan and a makeover courtesy of Liv Sawyer, he's become very desirable.

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