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Aces Up
Aces Up
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Aces Up

Written by Lauren BarnholdtAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lauren Barnholdt

· Ember
· Trade Paperback · August 10, 2010 · $9.99 · 978-0-385-73874-3 (0-385-73874-9)
Also available as an eBook.

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I will not freak out, I will not freak out, I will not freak out. It is only a dress. A flimsy, totally stretchable piece of fabric. A flimsy, totally stretchable piece of fabric that will not budge over my hips, but still. Not a big deal. In fact, I’m sure things like this happen all the time. I’ll just march out of here, head into the office of my new boss, Adrienne, and calmly explain to her that the uniform they’ve given me just doesn’t fit.

I mean, I indicated on my application that I’m a size eight. And since they have somehow decided to give me a size two uniform, then really, they should be the ones apologizing to me. Isn’t that some sort of sizeism? (Sizeism = like racism, only against people who aren’t a size two or four.) They’ll probably be so nervous I’m going to sue them for discrimination that I’ll get some kind of bonus or something. You know, so that I’ll keep my mouth shut.

I start to pull the dress off, but before I can get out of it, someone knocks on the door to the dressing room in the employee lounge, where I’m huddled with the dress stuck halfway up my hips.

“Who’s in there?” a voice demands. A bossy, nasally, very loud voice. My boss, Adrienne.

“Um, it’s me,” I say. “Shannon.” My voice comes out all strangled, and I clear my throat and try to sound normal. Maybe I just need someone to zip me up? Or I need to lie down on a bed somewhere, like I have to do when my jeans just come out of the dryer. Of course, there’s no bed in here, they wouldn’t put a bed in a dressing room, that would be a little ridiculous. And there’s definitely not enough room to lie down on the floor, but maybe if I angled myself a little better, I could lean back and then—


“Shannon!” I say, louder this time. Maybe the uniform is vanity-sized, and so their two is actually a six. Like they do at the Gap. I give the dress a good yank, and it creeps up a little further over my hips. Hmmm. I give it another tug, this time as hard as I can. Riiiiip. The sound of fabric tearing echoes through the dressing room as the side seam of the dress splits in two. Oops.

“What the hell was that?” More pounding. “There are customers waiting to be served!”

“Um, well,” I say, throwing my sweatshirt over my head and opening the door to the stall. My face is burning with embarrassment, and I’m sure there are two big red splotches on my cheeks. “The thing is,” I tell Adrienne, “I have a problem with my uniform. It doesn’t fit.” I hold up the shredded piece of fabric. “Or, um, it didn’t fit.” I give her a hopeful smile.

“You ripped it?” Adrienne asks, looking incredulous. She reaches out and fingers the material.

“Well, not on purpose, I would never do something like that on purpose.” She looks at me blankly. “I thought it was vanity sized,” I explain, still trying to stay positive.

“You tried to shove yourself into it, and you split it?”

“Well, not shove, exactly, it was more like . . . wedge.” Adrienne is a few years older than me, and very, very scary. She has short black hair with thick bangs, and a dark red mouth. She wears lots of eyeliner and I’m pretty sure her boobs are fake. At my interview last week, when she asked me why I wanted this job, I told her I loved interacting with people, and she laughed, like she thought I was joking. I totally wasn’t, but I did not want Adrienne to hate me and/or think I was going to cause any kind of trouble, so I laughed, too.

If she finds out I’m only seventeen, I will be fired immediately. You have to be twenty-one to work as a cocktail waitress at the Collosio Casino, but I really, really need this job. My dad got fired from his job four months ago, and if I don’t make my own money, there’s no way I’ll be able to go to Wellesley in the fall. And since I’ve already been accepted early admission, which means I’m not allowed to apply anywhere else, this is a bit of a problem. (I’m calling it a “bit of a problem” so that I don’t freak myself out too much. The truth is it’s a “bit of a problem” that has the potential to turn into a “really bad disaster.” No money for Wellesley = no college.) So I bought a fake ID from this guy named Chris Harmon, who’s in my fifth- period study hall, and here I am. Besides, I’ll be twenty-one soon. Well. In, like, four years.

“It was too small,” I say, holding the dress up in front of me, as if to demonstrate its too-small state. Adrienne’s making me nervous, and the lights overhead are beating down on me. I brush my long brown hair out of my face and hope I don’t start to sweat. “I am so, so sorry. I thought I marked down on my application that I’m a size eight, but apparently it ended up that—”

Adrienne sighs and rubs her temples, then looks at me like I’m a child she’s babysitting. She sets her pen down on her clipboard. “What time is it, Shannon?”

Um, is this a trick question? “Five o’clock?” I try.

“Right. And what happens at five o’clock?”

“I start work?”

“Right. And if you come into work not ready to start working, then what happens at five o’clock?”

“Um, I don’t start working?”


“I’m sorry,” I say again. “But I marked down on the application you gave me that I’m a size—”

Adrienne holds up a hand. “Look,” she says, her blue eyes narrowing. She smells like some kind of violet perfume. “Can you hang or not? Because there are a lot of girls who would kill for this job.” I’m not sure what “Can you hang?” means, but I have a feeling it’s to be answered in the affirmative and does not involve having a uniform situation on day one. Also, I’m very wary now that she’s said “There are a lot of girls who would kill for this job.” That’s what they kept telling Anne Hathaway’s character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. And things did not go so well for her.

“Yes,” I say, squaring my shoulders and trying to look shocked, as if I can’t believe she’s asked such an insane question. I roll my eyes. “Of course. Of course I can hang.” For ten dollars an hour plus tips, I can definitely hang. One hundred percent hanging.

“Then go get another uniform from the uniform closet,” Adrienne says, pointing toward a door on the other side of the room. She snatches the ruined uniform out of my hands. “This one will have to come out of your paycheck. And then get back here and we’ll get you started on your training.” She waves her hand and her black-tipped acrylic fingernails, dismissing me.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m in my new uniform (fits, but makes me look like a sausage—stretchy black fabric, a gathered waist, and a built-in bra that pushes your boobs together is not a good look for anyone), standing in the bar area with Mackenzie.

Mackenzie is the waitress who’s training me. She looks like a Miss Hawaiian Tropic and definitely does not have a problem zipping up her uniform.

“Basically the tips are all you want to worry about,” she’s saying. “You want to take as many drink orders as possible, and get the drinks out as fast as possible.”

She flips her long blond hair over her shoulder. I’m shadowing her, which, as far as I can tell, basically means I’m going to follow her around the casino all night, watching what she does. For this, I will earn my ten dollars an hour, with no tips.

But whatevs. I’m all about the big picture. Once I get the hang of it, I’ll be out on my own, and then I’m sure I’ll be making tons.

“Right,” I say. I work on practicing what I learned from The Secret, that book that says whatever you think will actually become your reality, and conjure up an image of myself at Wellesley, walking on campus with a bag full of newly purchased schoolbooks in one hand and a grande peppermint latte in the other. Feeling cheered by my mental picture, I pull a tiny gray notebook out of my pocket and write, “as many drinks as possible, make them come out fast.”

Excerpted from Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt Copyright © 2010 by Lauren Barnholdt. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.