A Woman of Conviction Ch 4
A hangover and working at a diner isn’t something I have ever wanted to experience. The smell of day old bread and grease is turning my stomach.
The morning is awfully busy and it makes my head spin. When it finally begins to slow down so I can tend to my health from a mistake of a night, the sound of the door ringing signals that customers have arrived. I turn slowly and see the business group from yesterday. They choose a table in my section again, so I quickly grab menus and get over to greet them.
“Hello guys, glad to see you came back. What can I get you to drink today?” I can’t help but stare at my over-tipper, Copper Hair. He has a strong jaw and just a few small stress wrinkles around his eyes. I’m happy that I can still multi-task even with a hangover, because as I’m scoping out the hunk of a man, I manage to catch their drink orders.
“Alright, I’ll go grab those while you decide what you would like to order today.” I smile; I think it came out as a smile, anyway.
I grab the drinks and take them back over, trying to maintain my usual peppy self as I take their food order. I’m happy that they’re the only ones here, because once I get them all set I finally take some Advil and sit down for a moment.
I get them their bill when they’re done and watch them begin to leave, but then I see a piece of paper with a Benjamin Franklin next to it. You have to be kidding me! I growl as I snatch the money up and I storm out to confront him.
“Hey you,” I shout to Copper Hair, who turns and looks at me with a startled expression.
“Yes,” his voice is wary. I watch him put his hands in the pockets of his pristine charcoal grey suit that probably cost a year’s worth of my salary.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you think if you keep tipping big I’ll get into bed with you? You think I’m some charity case you can flaunt money at and get what you want from me?” I’m just shouting and making no sense whatsoever, but I’m just so angry. Angry at Jake, angry at this man who just tips whatever he wants.
“I just thought you deserved it,” he answers, unabashed.
I can feel my mouth pop open and I just stare at him. Me? Deserve hundreds of dollars? No. I raise my arm with the money in it towards him. “I don’t deserve it. Please take it back,” I whisper.
He pushes my hand down, stepping closer to me. “You do. If I promise to never tip like this again, will you please keep it?”
I think of my boys and know they can use it. As much as I hate charity and not earning this, I have to think about them. “Okay,” I agree, then I decide I should threaten him. “If you do, I swear that I will tear it up right in front of you.”
“Deal.” He smiles a bit and walks away from me.
Days turn into weeks and they come in every weekday. It might not be all of them, but a few of them are always there. I’ve even learned their names. Pixie is Alice, the leggy blonde is Rose, the big guy is Emmett, basketballer is Jasper, and Copper Hair, aka the over-tipper, is Edward. I even call him over-tipper to his face because he leaves twenty to thirty dollars each tip, but I don’t argue with it because he’s keeping to his word and I don’t feel as much like a charity case.
“Mom, hurry up!” Damon yells from the door. He and Lucian are so excited today because Tanya and Irina found a flag football league and it’s sign up day for one of the teams. This team is based just a little ways away from the diner.
“I’m coming!” I grab my purse and we head to the field that the flyer directed us to go to.
We arrive and there are lots of kids and parents around, making it look chaotic. I scan the area, trying to find someone that looks like they might know something. I spot a young woman with a green shirt holding a clipboard and walk up to her.
“Excuse me, I want to sign my ten-year-old and eight-year-old up for flag football.”
“Yes, eight- to ten-year-olds are over there by the bleachers. Edward, Emmett, and Jasper are the gentlemen who will be coaching that age bracket.” She points to the right of where we’re standing.
I’m in shock knowing that my regulars, my over-tippers, are going to be coaching my boys. I really don’t know why I’m freaking out, but I definitely feel freaked out.
I take a deep breath and take the boys’ hands, walking in the direction pointed out to me. Rather quickly, I spot Edward’s copper hair as he holds a clipboard while talking to Emmett and Jasper. They’re all standing by a big white table covered with lots of clipboards and boxes.
“Aren’t they the regulars, Mom, the ones with lots of money?” Damon questions.
“They are, but let’s not describe them that way, okay?” I look at my son seriously.
“Okay.” He shrugs, not asking further.
“Let’s get you two signed up.” I lead us over to the table.
“Hey, Bella,” Jasper greets me and then looks down to my boys, still smiling. “You dragged your big sister down here to play some football?” he says directly to Lucian and Damon.
“She isn’t my sister, she’s my mom,” Lucian corrects him.
I can feel the heat rise through my chest as I feel several pair of eyes on me. After so many years of being a young mom, I don’t usually get uncomfortable with people knowing how young of a mom I actually am.
Trying to move on from this awkward silence, I say, “Lucian is ten, and Damon is eight.” I raise each child’s arm as I introduce them.
“Here’s the paperwork for Lucian; he’ll be with my assistant, Quill. Jasper and Emmett will be Damon’s coaches, and I think Jasper has the papers for you to fill out for him.” Edward hands me the clipboard, his voice hesitant.
I take the clipboard from him. He smiles toward Lucian.
“I’m having my group start warm-up with Quill down on that field.” He points to a field behind me. I see a young man maybe eighteen or nineteen doing some jumping jacks with a group of kids. “You can go join them, Lucian,” Edward tells him.
Lucian looks up to me, his brown eyes wary. He bites his lip, hesitating. My poor boy is nervous.
I bend down to his level. “Hey, sweetheart, don’t you want to play football anymore?” I ask in a soft voice.
He pushes his glasses up his nose. “Yes, I do. I’m just scared that the other kids will tease me like the kids did at school.” My chest tightens with sadness. I go to pull him in for a hug when I feel Edward crouch down beside us.
“If anyone bothers you like that, you tell me or Quill. I will not tolerate anything like that. On this team, we treat each other with respect.” Edward is firm in a way that is comforting. I feel something stir inside me when he comforts my son this way.
“Okay,” Lucian sounds more confident.
“If anyone messes with you, I got your back, brother.” Damon puffs up, narrowing his eyes at the boys that Lucian will be joining.
“Damon.” I sigh, straightening up. My youngest child is going to be the death of me with all his attitude and anger.
“I’m not sure you can play on my team if you’re going to have that kind of attitude,” Emmett addresses Damon with a raised eyebrow.
A small smile forms on my lips as I watch Damon explain himself.
“Sir, I love my brother, and he’s my only brother. He’s smart and has a big heart, that’s what my mom says, anyway. I have to use my size and protect him,” Damon tries to reason with his potential coach.
“I understand how you feel, big guy, but on this team, we don’t fight. We use our words and talk things out. I don’t know if you can handle that.” Emmett crosses his arms.
Damon’s mouth pops open and gapes at Emmett for a moment. “I really want to play. I promise I will try really hard, please let me play.” His voice shocks me because it’s the first time my youngest has shown any weakness.
The big hulking man clasps Damon’s shoulder gently and bends down. “And that’s all I need from you, is to try. If you’re having any problems you come to me or Jasper.” He gestures over to Jasper who tips his imaginary hat back. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Okay.” My youngest son nods his head in understanding. I really hope that this will help his hot head. I love that he’s protective of his brother and me, but he needs to learn that we have to fight our own battles, and that he can’t talk with his fists.
“Alright, let’s get over to where we’ll be practicing, and your mom can get all the paperwork done.” Emmett stands up and begins to lead Damon away, and I nudge Lucian to go to his own spot for warm-ups.
It’s now an awkward silence between Edward, Jasper, and me. “I guess I better get to these.” I wave my clipboard and then go and grab one from Jasper.
“If you have any questions, Jasper can answer them,” Edward says to me curtly and walks away in the direction of his field.
I sigh and find a place to sit to start filling out the paperwork. It starts with permission slips, and a form for emergencies. I put down Tanya and Irina. Then there is a t-shirt form. I feel so happy that I can feel safe about them playing with all these questions and information they ask. I’m not necessarily an overprotective or overbearing mom, but they’re my whole world and the only blood family I have.
Finishing the paperwork, I look over to the table and see Jasper is over there filing the papers in different bins. I get up and walk over to him.
“Is cash okay to pay for the fees and t-shirts?” I ask him.
“No fees for anything. Edward’s company pays for everything, including the t-shirts,” he answers me with a smile.
“Oh, that’s generous of his company,” I say politely. It would figure that he works for a well-off company that does things like this.
“It’s Edward’s company; he started it in college. He’s very good at what he does, and he likes sports, so he likes to help the community kids have fun,” Jasper explains and corrects me at the same time.
I’m stunned into silence. Edward, grumpy over-tipper, owns his own company, and it must be a billion-dollar company at that with the way he tosses money around.
Not being able to respond to the new information I received, I bounce between fields watching the boys play. Damon is not overly fast but he is a good blocker and he seems to have a bond with Emmett already, because he listens to him so well I want to take Emmett home with me.
Lucian is fast, remarkable so; I’ve yet to see anyone catch him. Edward is a good coach, but I notice that he really watches Lucian and engages him often enough I begin to wonder why. On the other hand, I’m happy that some form of a male figure sees what I see in him.
After an hour, practice is over. I see all the parents talking and taking their kids away, but I wait at the white sign-up table. I thought it would be easier to talk to Edward and Emmett together about the boys rather than separately.
After what feels like an eternity, Lucian walks up with Edward, and Emmett with Damon. “So, how’d they do?”
“Damon is great, and he listens well. He needs to work on focus, though. I kept catching him looking over toward where his brother was.”
“I just was checking. I’ll do better next time,” Damon defends quickly.
“You better, or you’ll do laps,” Emmett warns him with a smirk on his face.
“Yes, coach,” Damon mumbles back with his shoulders slumped.
“And how did Lucian do?” I question Edward. I’m more concerned with how Lucian did because of the issues he has in school with other kids. He’s also very shy and likes to keep to himself.
Edward meets my eyes and they freeze me with the intensity of green they have. “Lucian is the fastest kid on the team. We have to work on communication and speaking up, but I think he’s going to fit right in.” He smiles and pats Lucian on the shoulder.
“All the practice schedules are on the sheet at the end of the table, and it also has the game schedule.” Edward points to a paper that I missed.
“Okay, see you coaches later.” I smile and wave as I take the schedule off the table.
The boys talk nonstop about the first practice and upcoming games. They compare and talk about their coaches. I’m so excited for them.
But all of that comes to a halt when we arrive home and I see a note stuck to my door. The handwriting is familiar and makes my blood boil.