Libby's having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she's got to pay for college herself, and he's evicting her when she graduates so he can Airbnb her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dupming a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant's most important customer, and Libby's mom's boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who've screwed up her lifeand her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Customer Is Always Right
“I have the item” is the first thing I hear when I walk into work on Sunday night.
The item in question is my duvet, and the person winking at me about it is Kyle.
Kyle, who is standing behind the host stand in the cheery foyer of the Goat wearing a mini cowboy hat with plush horns curling out of it—the latest in his growing collection of goat-themed apparel. He looks hilarious, cute, and deceptively harmless.
“It’s in my truck. I’ll give it to you after?”
“Sure. Thanks,” I say, with what I hope is a neutral-seeming nod.
I’ll have to wash it in hot water. Twice.
“Or we could go for a drive, climb into the back, get cozy,” Kyle suggests, with a waggle of his white-blond eyebrows.
My insides take flight like a flock of startled birds, and then I’m doing this awkward thing where I’m cringing and trying to smile at the same time. But smiling might be too encouraging and so I stop, because even after three weeks of my ignoring his texts and generally avoiding him as much as possible, Kyle continues to look at me with those stupidly hopeful, flirty eyes.
Still, I don’t want to be rude. We work together, and in that capacity Kyle has been fine. In fact, except for the one (admittedly problematic) incident, he’s been great. Not to mention, I’m the one who asked him to bring me the duvet when my mom finally noticed it was missing today. I’m also the one who let him wear it home from my house in the first place.
“I’ll just grab it from you after,” I say. “I have a lot of homework.”
“Your call,” he says with a shrug.
“Nothing,” I say, with another too-bright smile. “Um, what’s my section?”
“The patio,” Kyle says, gesturing at the giant, erasable seating chart that sits on the host podium.
“Yeah. That okay?”
It’s a big section to handle solo, but more tables means more tips, so I say, “Totally.”
“By the way, Perry’s coming in, and he asked for you specifically,” Kyle says, looking at me like he expects this to make me ecstatic.
Perry Ackerman is a handful, and high on the list of people I’d rather not have to deal with right now. But he’s a great tipper, and a regular, so I give Kyle a thumbs-up and say, “Awesome.”
“I knew that’d make you happy.”
“So happy,” I say, and walk away taking deep breaths.
On my way through the restaurant I wave at my fellow servers Brianna and Kat, both of whom are working in the front tonight. Kat seems not to see me, but Brianna gives me a thumbs-up and pulls a comically panicked face that tells me she’s already in the weeds.
The patio is at the back of the restaurant, and is, in fact, not a patio at all, but a windowless, rectangular space tricked out with fake plants, paper lanterns, an anemic fountain, and painted “windows” on every wall that do not fool anyone.
I have just enough time to tidy the section, tally my float, and gulp down a half cup of hideously bitter coffee behind the wall of the service station before I hear, “Libbyyyyyyyy!”
“You got the ol’ perv?” Brianna gives me a wry, dimpled grin as she comes through with a stack of dirty plates. Her amazing crown of black braids adds at least three inches to her diminutive stature.
“All right, tits up,” she says, which I’ve come to understand means some combination of “chin up” and “good luck.”
I snort and square my shoulders.
“Libbyyyyyyyyyyy!” Perry is now advancing conspicuously through the dining room in one of his linen suits, with a shirt almost as pink as his bulbous nose, his silver hair gleaming. He’s accompanied by two of his friends, Douglas and Garcia, while Kyle trails behind them with a stack of menus.
I paste on a thrilled expression and step out from behind the station.
“There you are! Where’s my hug?” Perry demands with open arms, then closes the distance between us and yanks me into one of his boob-crushing, bone-cracking, full-frontal embraces. Perry Ackerman is Pine Ridge’s much-loved town savior, thus the hugging must be endured. It’s a bit much, though.
When it finally ends I take the menus from Kyle and usher Perry and his friends to their table. I get them settled, take their drink order—Ackerman beer to start with, of course—punch it in, and head to the bar to pick it up.
Nita, our bartender and niece of the owners, Dev and Maya, gives me a wave.
“Perry, huh?” she says, with a knowing look.
“Yep,” I say, carefully balancing three beer glasses upright in my left hand, then grabbling the bottles by the neck in my right. “At least it won’t be boring.”
“That’s the spirit,” she says, then adds, “Oh, hey, can you try to sell some of the cucumber salad? Or the butter chicken burger? People are really digging the fusion items and Maya and Dev really want us to keep pushing them.”
“Sure,” I say, and head off.
Perry, Douglas, and Garcia order a ton of food and agree to every upsell and special I suggest. They’re going to have way too much and their table is going to be overloaded, but I’ve become pretty mercenary about this stuff. Every little increase of the bill increases my tips. Not only that, but the more I sell overall, the more shifts and better sections I get. And the more shifts and better sections I get, the higher my bank balance climbs, which is the rather urgent reason I’m working here in the first place.
Kyle is careful not to fill up my section until Perry & Co. are settled, but soon all my tables have been sat, and the pace picks up. I’m checking on orders, cranking the pepper mill, delivering and clearing plates, taking more orders, making suggestions, chatting people up, running bins of dirty dishes to the dish pit, making pots of coffee, getting another round of drinks for Perry because they’re switching to sangria, and helping Brianna and Kat any time I’m not busy for more than ten seconds.
Dev makes his way around, overseeing it all and lending a hand where needed. Kyle’s there too, on the periphery, bussing and turning tables, but I don’t have time to think about him. I don’t have time to think about anything.
This state of bonkers, nonstop busyness where the entire world falls away was one of the biggest surprises for me about this job. Restaurant work can be hugely stressful, but when the place is full and everything is going right, it’s wild. You get into this zone, like a flow state, where you’re thinking and moving so fast, juggling so many things at once, that hours can pass in what feels like the blink of an eye. You come back to reality with your brain melted, feet/knees/back throbbing, smelling like you live inside a barbeque, but also knowing you somehow survived.
And then there are the times when one tiny thing goes wrong, and it causes a cascade, and then sometimes an avalanche of more things going wrong, and you just can’t recover.
The tiny thing that goes wrong for me tonight is Perry’s salad—the one Nita told me to push. Thirty seconds after I deliver it I hear, “Libbyyyyyyy!” and then Perry is pointing at his bowl and saying he doesn’t like red onion.
I had told him there was onion in it, but saying so would be futile.
“I’ll get you a new one made right away,” I say, and then take the salad back to the line cook, Domenic.
Domenic frowns, but agrees to make me another one.
“Can you do it fast?” I say, giving him my most pathetic, pleading expression because he’s got a huge stack of orders to get out and this’ll put him behind. “Please? It’s for Perry.”
Domenic makes a show of grumbling, but he’s on it already.
I deliver two soups for Kat and a bread basket for Brianna, grab the new salad, thank Domenic profusely, make the delivery to Perry, and then go to deliver the orders of a family of six.
I’m carrying four heavy plates, one in each hand and two up my arm, and am arriving at their table when I hear, “Libbyyyyyyy!”
I glance over my shoulder and signal to Perry that I’ll be with him in a moment, set the plates down, then zoom back to the hot food window to grab the last two orders and deliver them, while Garcia and Douglas start chiming in.
More customers are trying to flag me down, someone wants their bill, I need to punch another order in quickly because people with small children hate having to wait, I can barely hear myself think, and I’m starting to sweat.
“This isn’t spicy,” Perry says, waving at the salad. “Isn’t this Indian stuff supposed to be spicy?”
Maya’s been very careful to introduce her South India–inspired menu items slowly—masala fries, a mild fish curry— nothing too hot for the average Pine Ridge (i.e., small town)palate.
“It’s not meant to be spicy!” Domenic shouts at me thirty seconds later when I return with the salad.
“I know. But can you just . . . add something to it?”
“Fine,” he says, rolling his eyes.
“Thank you,” I say, then I duck out to the computer to print a bill and input the dessert and coffee order for the family of six before returning to Domenic.
I take the salad, now with spicier dressing and conspicuously garnished with chili peppers, out to Perry, and wait to make sure he likes it.
He makes a big production of his first bite, whoops, and finally grins.
“Good?” I say.
“I dunno,” he drawls, “you’re so cute when you’re flustered, I almost want to send it back again.”
“Please don’t. Domenic would kill me.”
“But we’re enjoying watching you come and go,” Perry says.
I need to leave so I can deliver the bill I just printed and get caught up, but Perry grabs me by the wrist and trails his eyes blatantly down my body. My stomach clenches. I manage a weak chuckle and a playful swat to get him to let go of me, then walk away feeling like there’s a target on my butt.
Brianna swoops in to help me with my falling-apart section.
“You okay?” she asks as we slide into either side of a booth to clear and clean it.
“A couple weeks ago Perry smacked me on the backside and said ‘giddyup’ after I took his order.”
Dev has new customers ready to sit in the booth the moment we’re out of it, so that’s the end of the conversation.
When I arrive back at Perry’s table a few minutes later, he’s flushed and in the middle of retelling his favorite story: how he saved Pine Ridge.
“Bank closed down and nobody’d buy the building. People had lost their jobs. The bank jobs, plus around that time a lotta people lost their farming jobs, too. Everyone was starting to think they’d have to move somewhere else. And I looked at that big, fancy old building, with the pillars and the vaults, and thought: Beer!”
Garcia and Douglas, who have no doubt heard this story multiple times, nevertheless burst into raucous laughter.
All I want to do is quickly grab some of the dirty plates before moving on to my veritable horde of unsatisfied customers, but Perry turns the beam of his attention on me, trapping me at their table. “Nobody around here even knew the term ‘microbrewery’ and everyone thought I was crazy. Who’s crazy now, right?”
Perry presses on with grandiosity, chest puffing, and I almost expect him to start pounding it. “That’s right, I employed all those people, still employ them, and now we got tourists, and we got stores with stuff in them that nobody even knows what it is. Furniture made out of twigs and someone’ll pay a thousand dollars for it. I did that.”
Amid the next chorus of cheers, I start clearing the table.
There’s so much uneaten food I can’t imagine they’re going to want anything else, but then Perry informs me Dev is buying them dessert.
“Great,” I say, pausing, arms loaded with dishes. “I’ll bring dessert menus.”
“Don’t you have it memorized, doll?”
“We want your sales pitch, Libby,” he says, with the pronounced enunciation of someone trying not to slur. “Everything sounds so much more delicious coming from your lips.”
“Okay,” I say, blowing out a breath. “Just let me drop off these plates.”
Luckily I only have to take three steps before Kyle is there with an empty bin, which means I can unload and go straight back to Perry.
“Make it good,” Perry says, with a leer. “Cause I’m still mad at you about the salad.”
“Right,” I say, pushing down the urge to point out that there was never anything wrong with the salad. “First we have the cheesecake with salted caramel—”
“No, no!” Perry puts a hand to my lower back. “Not like that. It’s what I’m always telling my staff: sell it to me. I want tofeel the caramel on your tongue. I want to feel like I’m the caramel on your tongue.”
His buddies chortle and Perry’s hand slides lower. I try to shift discreetly away, but the hand comes with me.
I don’t know how to do what he’s asking, exactly, and I’m super distracted by the fact that his hand is now fully cupping my butt cheek, but I am not going through all of this crap only to lose my tip right at the end. So I just try to imagine I’m acting in a cheesy TV commercial. I slow down on words like “salted” and “caramel,” roll the “r” in “creamy,” try to look ecstatic about sticky toffee pudding, then finally throw on a bad Russian accent for white chocolate mousse tower.
“Oh God, can you tell me that last one again?” Perry says, with a disgusting groan. “But do it like . . . have you heard of Marilyn Monroe?” And then Perry finally drops his hand from my butt and does an imitation of her singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” all breathy and wriggling his shoulders and chest ridiculously, which, of course, makes his buddies roar.
“Do it,” he commands. “White chocolate mousse tower, Marilyn-style, but keep the Russian accent. Sing the whole menu!”
Everyone is staring—not just Perry and his loathsome friends, but most of my section, plus Brianna and Kyle, who’s standing nearby with a strangely blank look on his face.
This, of course, is awful. But Perry’s bill is up over two hundred dollars already. A twenty percent tip will be at least forty bucks, and the faster I do it the faster he’ll be gone.
And so I sing the whole damned dessert menu in a breathy voice, with a bad Russian accent, to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” skipping all the gross wiggling but finishing with what I hope is a cute tilt of my head.
There’s a short silence once I’m done, and then Perry, Douglas, and Garcia start clapping and hooting.
“Yes, yes, give it to me!” Perry shouts. “What’s your favorite, Lib?”
“The, uh, toffee pudding.”
“The sticky toffee pudding, you mean. We’ll alllllll have it.”
“Great,” I say, tone brisk and back-to-business. “Three toffee puddings.”
“And more sangria.”
“It better be the stickiest, best toffee pudding I’ve ever tasted,” he says, reaching out to give me a sideways squeeze, “otherwise I’m going to come after you with my mousse tower.”
Ugh. I might vomit. On purpose. On him.
But honestly I’m scared by the look in his eyes and so the best I can manage is to laugh, as if by laughing I can erase it. I laugh as if he’s hilarious and then wrench myself out of his grasp, and finally make a beeline for the service area.
My laugh turns into a strangled sound as soon as I’m out of view, and I come to a full stop just as Dev enters from the opposite side.
“What’s wrong?” he says, stopping short at the sight of me. “Are you sick?”
“No, it’s just Perry.”
“Still about the salad?”
“No, still about the being a disgusting, butt-grabbing pervert,” I say.
Poor Dev is very proper, so he nearly chokes. He’s probably never even said the word “butt” out loud. He’s also almost as new at running a restaurant as I am at serving in one.
“Did you mean to say . . . ?”
“That he grabbed my butt? Yes.”
“Gracious me,” Dev says.
“Honestly, that’s the least of it.”
I tell him the rest and he listens with a mounting horror and embarrassment that almost makes me feel guilty for putting him through this.
“I knew he was sometimes inappropriate, but I didn’t realize the extent of it. You should not have to deal with this type of behavior,” Dev says, with a flustered exhale. “I’m very sorry.”
“Thank you,” I say, so relieved that he’s listened and believed me, and feeling proud of myself for doing the thing everyone always says you should do—talk to someone who can help—and having it actually work out.
“What should we do?”
“Do?” Dev says.
“I’d rather not go back out there.”
The sudden change of expression on Dev’s face at this comment is almost comical—he looks totally panicked.
“Not go? We are understaffed and your section’s been a disaster all evening!”
“But . . .”
“Who is going to serve all of those tables? Yes, Perry is behaving poorly, but this is all jokes. He is not going to hurt you. He has a wife!”
“What? Wife? What’s that got to do with it?”
“If you’re truly worried, I can have Kyle walk you out after your shift, or even accompany you home.”
Have Kyle accompany me home.
“Don’t worry,” Dev says, in what he obviously thinks is a reassuring tone, “everything is fine.”
And then he leaves, and I stand there blinking.
Everything is fine.
Yes, my legs are shaking and I feel like I’ve been slimed, but there’s a job to do. I trudge back to the computer to put in the orders for the desserts and sangria.
When I get to the bar a couple of minutes later, Nita is quartering the oranges for the sangria. “We need to get Perry’s keys from him,” she says.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all. He shouldn’t be driving.”
“I am not playing ‘find-my-keys-they’re-in-my-pants’ with Perry.”
Nita lets out a choking laugh, and says, “Eww.”
“Seriously, no way. I’m not doing that.”
“Okay, relax. I’ll ask one of the guys to help. Just . . . tell them we’ll pay for a taxi,” she says, and sets the finished pitcher of sangria in front of me.
“Are we going to pay his mortgage, too? Maybe buy him a car? Will someone have to jerk him off to get him out of here?”
“Ew. Whoa. What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing,” I say, taking the sangria. “Everything’s fine!”
And then . . . well, I’m not entirely clear about what happens then.
First I am marching with grim determination back to the patio, and Perry. And there is his face, and the other two faces, all of them flushed and leering as they greet me. The desserts have arrived in record time, and Perry is spooning the sticky toffee pudding into his mouth with relish. For a gross moment things go slow motion and all I can see is his tongue, lizarding out to the spoon, and I’m thinking that I’ll never be able to eat sticky toffee pudding again, and how, between that and the mousse tower comment, that’s two desserts Perry has ruined for me. And then he’s grinning, saying something about how I’m really lucky he likes it.
Meanwhile, I’m looking at his empty glass, trying to figure out how to refill it without getting too close to him because I’ve had just about enough of his hands on me for one night. Almost like he can read my mind, he smirks, then picks up his glass and places it farther away, where I’ll have to lean all the way over the table to reach it.
Later it will occur to me that I could have just made him pour it himself. Later I will have lots of smarty-pants ideas about how I could have handled this differently. But I’m stressed and creeped out and really pissed off, and the only thing I can think of right now is how exposed I will be, balanced over the table trying not to spill.
And all of a sudden I’m pouring the sangria, not into Perry’s glass, not into any glass, but onto Perry.
Onto his head, his chest, his shoulders, and finally his lap.
I’m seeing chunks of the orange Nita just sliced bouncing down him, and the fruity liquid soaking his nether region.
And I’m hearing the sound of ice cubes as they hit the floor.
And I’m feeling words roaring out of me, though I don’t even know what they are.
And there’s Perry’s face, and all the faces, shocked, and finally silent.
And it’s incredible.
For a moment I feel incredible, I feel amazing, I feel like everything finallyis fine.
And then I remember.
All the reasons I needed this job.