The restaurant was still dark as I hurried down the stairs. I flipped the switch on my way past the kitchen where the smell of fresh brewed coffee drifted under my nose.
Chase was busy setting out the eggs, bacon, and sausages. He also shoved a pan of biscuits into the oven and slammed the door. Even when he was working, I could hear him mumbling to himself. It made me laugh every time.
After flipping the open sign around, I turned to see to the seating area. I scrubbed down the wood tables and chairs every night, but I always double-checked to make sure they were clean. I also had to see that the sugar, sweetener, salt, pepper, and ketchup were available for use. Not to mention that the napkin holders probably needed filling. Thankfully, everything was in order by the time the bell over the door rang.
"Hello! Come on in and take a seat anywhere you like," I chirped. "I'll bring water and silverware out for you."
As I ran into the kitchen, I glanced back to see a young man walk towards the small booth in the far back. He had a blue baseball cap and short blond hair, but the rest of him was as unremarkable as his green shirt and blue jeans. The only thing that made me do a double-take was the fact I didn't recognize him.
"We have a new customer."
"Yeah, and?" Chase asked, washing his hands. "It's not that big of a deal."
"Maybe not to you," I said, "but it's rare for a new face to show up here in Lilydale. Don't you think?"
"Just take his order already."
I whapped Chase on the back of his red head, but I still left the kitchen with a smile. "Sorry about the wait," I said as I approached. "I've got your water and a menu here. Do you want a cup of coffee? It's on the house."
The young man looked up at me. When he did, I almost whistled to see his pair of pretty blue eyes. They were unlike any I had ever seen. Before I could comment on them, he nodded, and went back to reading the menu.
"All right, I'll take your order when I get back."
I trotted off to pour him a cup fresh from the pot, but I took my time just to watch him out of the corner of my eye. He scanned the breakfast selection and closed the menu again. Then he took a sip of his water and waited.
"Are you all set then?" I asked as I set his drink down. "It didn't take you long to figure it out."
"I'll just have the Second Street," the young man replied. "Eggs over easy. You can cut out the waffles and pancakes. I won't eat them."
"Well, we have sausage and gravy if you'd like that instead," I offered. He nodded, and I scribbled it down. "Do you want sausage for the meat, too, or would you like bacon?"
"Sausage is fine."
"Then one Second Street with sausage and gravy coming right up," I agreed. "I'll be around if you need anything, so…" The bell over the door rang again, and an old man and his wife shuffled in. "Good to see you, Galen, Nina, I'll be right with you!" I turned my attention back to the young man in front of me and smiled. "Just tell me if you need a refill, okay?"
Unfortunately, I didn't get to talk to the young man much after that. Galen and Nina were always the ones to kick-start the morning rush, so I was running from table to table. Even after Maya showed up to help with waiting tables, I only had time to bring him his order, refill his cup, and clear away his dishes.
When I finally got a chance to breathe, he was gone. He'd paid with a ten dollar bill, and on a napkin, he scribbled a note. All it said was "Keep the change." Doing the math in my head, he left me almost five dollars which, needless to say, was much more of a tip than I was expecting.
I didn't really think about it much after that. By the time we closed at four, I'd forgotten all about him. That was until Chase mentioned it to me again.
"How was that new guy you were so excited about?"
"What guy?" Maya asked. Her braids bounced as she scrubbed at a stubborn piece of grit on one of the tables. "I didn't see anyone new today."
"That's because you don't pay attention," Chase scolded her. He put away the last of the dishes and hid his smile behind his arm. "You didn't even notice the salt all over table twelve."
Maya squeaked with embarrassment and scurried over to take care of it. I sighed and rolled my eyes as she busied herself with her new task. I loved the girl, but she could be so gullible when it came to what Chase told her.
"You don't always have to tease her, you know."
"It's her own fault for falling for it," Chase reasoned. "If she'd just used her brain a little, she wouldn't be so easy to make fun of."
"You're terrible." I frowned. If he just used his brain a little, he would be able to tell the poor girl had a crush on him. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but I refused to tell him. That was between those two. "Listen, as long as I'm here, you're going to be nice to her. Do you understand?"
I considered smacking him across the back of the head, but I decided not to bother. Instead, I handed him my dish rag and headed for the stairs. "I'll let you two finish cleaning up. I'm going upstairs to get ready for the bar. You're working tonight, right?"
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"
I chose not to answer him. Whatever I said was probably going to be thrown back at me anyway, and I didn't want to deal with Chase more than I had to. He was a good cook, but his attitude needed work. Then again, maybe that was why restaurants hired wait staff separately.
At least I had a few hours before work. I'd make some dinner, and then I could take a nap. Maybe I could watch a movie instead- Grease, probably- and get myself all dolled up for the bar while listening to the Rock Hop hour. Either way, I had to be ready to serve drinks by eight until two.
A working girl had no time for boys.