A/N: Just a word to all my readers before you begin: This is a modern coffee shop A/U featuring the characters from the Leviathan Trilogy (obviously) and a few of my OCs, some of whom you may recognize if you've read my other fanfictions. So now that you know why you're here, I hope so much that you enjoy reading this fanfic as much as I do writing it!
I tie the apron around my waist, fumbling with the strings in the back. It's an ugly brown color, and the logo on the front looks like a primary school student drew it.
"And there's a list of prices taped on the counter in front of the register you can look at if you don't know how much something costs," says the man-his name sounds something like Rugby, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is-leading my orientation. "It saves you the embarrassment of having to look at the chalkboard behind you."
"Great." I clear my throat nervously and scan the shop again, taking in the lounge chairs and cozy two person tables that litter the place with a nod. I can do this.
"So, if you don't have any questions, I have some work to do back in the office." He raises an eyebrow at me.
"No, I'm good, thanks," I say awkwardly. If I ask too many questions in front of the manager, he'll think I'm an idiot. Better to figure it out on my own. Besides, I could just ask the other employees working if I really need to know something.
"Alright then. Eugene and Robert are working the counter with you today. Have fun," he says, though I'm not sure how sincerely, and hurries back to his office.
I wipe my sweaty palms on my apron. How hard can working at a café really be, honestly?
"What's your name, again, Newb?" asks one of the boys behind the counter. His name tag says "Hi, I'm Robert."
"Deryn," I tell him, and point helpfully to my own name tag with a wry smile. The boy glares at me with cold blue eyes, but I'm not sure what I did to offend him.
"You can call me Newkirk," offers the other boy, holding out a hand. "I love my mom, but she gave me one of the worst names in the history of the world."
That draws a chuckle out of me, and Newkirk smiles in success.
The bell above the door rings and my humor disappears immediately. I walk behind the counter and take a rag, busying myself cleaning the already-spotless surface.
"Welcome to Rigby's," Newkirk says with a genuine smile to the tall woman who just came in. "I'll take your order whenever you're ready."
The woman clears her throat. "I'll have chamomile and raspberry tea with cream and sugar, please."
Robert nods and begins to fill the order. "That will be two pounds and twenty-five pence," Newkirk says. "And what name can I put on the order?"
"Nora, if you please," she replies, pulling out a coin purse and handing Newkirk a five pound note. He measures out the correct change deftly, and by the time he's printed out her receipt Robert is standing at the end of the counter with a covered styrofoam cup. Steam trickles out the top, and written all around the lid are the words, "Caution: Contents may be hot."
The woman gives us a polite thank you and drops her coin change in our tip jar. The bell on the door jangles again as she walks out.
"See how it's done?" Newkirk asks. "One person takes the orders and the other person-or people, I suppose-fills it. It works like a happy mule."
"I've never met a happy mule," says Robert with a smirk.
"Then you've never been to my family's farm," he replies. "So tell us more about yourself, Deryn."
"Uh-" I splutter. "Like what?"
Newkirk wrings a towel out in the sink and dries his hands on his apron. "The usual. Where you're from. What school you go to. How many dead bodies you have stashed in the forest."
"Well, I'm from Glasgow originally, but we moved here to London when my mom got a job as a dental assistant. I'm starting school at Leviathan next week, and I haven't been here long enough yet to find a forest to hide my victims in." I meet Newkirk's eyes and try for a winning smile. He nods and pats my shoulder.
"You'll do well here, Deryn. Oh, and Fitzroy here throws his bodies in the Thames, so you don't even need a forest. Welcome to the city, kid."
I blink a few times and shuffle my converse on the tiled floor. "Good to know."
"You said you're starting at Leviathan next week?" Robert chimes in.
"Yeah," I say.
"Good luck," he advises. "We were an all boys school until last year. The only reason we started letting girls in was for budget reasons. Even now only a few girls have been brave enough to enroll. Fair warning, you won't be well liked." Fitzroy leans onto the back counter with a challenging stare.
"Or you'll be too well liked," mutters Newkirk, and I can feel my cheeks redden. The floor is suddenly very interesting.
There is silence for a moment, but then a phone buzzes and Newkirk jumps. "Sorry," he apologizes, pulling an ancient flip phone from his apron pocket. The thing has trouble opening, and Newkirk grumbles a little as he squints at the screen, reading a text message. "Blisters," he swears, eyes widening. "I've got to go. I'll explain later."
He rushes out the employee door, untying his apron as he runs down the street and around the corner.
I blink and turn a questioning glance to Robert. "Is he allowed to do that?" I ask.
"No," Fitzroy says, "But Rigby likes him and he's already worked a few double shifts this week. You'd never get away with it, Newbie."
I sigh. "Got it."
He looks at his watch. "I'll go bring up a few new boxes of cups from the back." His Nike* tennis shoes squeak on the tiles as he turns around and pushes the door open, walking to the storage closet down the hall.
And abandoning me at the counter.
I silently beg whatever higher power is watching over me to stop anyone from walking in. The register looks as confusing as it does old, and I don't want to think about how to run any of the drink machines behind me. I'm not much of a technology person, and I would have much preferred a job at the local pet store. But they weren't hiring, and Rigby's was.
So here I am.
I'm starting at the chicken-scratch handwriting crammed on the chalkboard when the bell I've already learned to hate chimes.
With a deep breath, I turn around to face the customer. He has reddish brown hair and startling green eyes, and as he walks up to the counter I notice that he's at least an inch shorter than me. His shoes shine and his trousers are ironed, and I immediately classify him as a rich boy.
"Hey," I say, then back track and say the official greeting. "Welcome to Rigby's. How can I help you?"
The boy furrows his eyebrows for a second, trying to decipher the chalkboard. "You certainly do sell a lot of tea," he says with a thick accent that I can't place.
"Yeah. This is England, you know."
He blinks, startled, and I curse silently. Insulting customers is the first thing you learn not to do in a job like this.
"I'll have the house coffee, please."
"Sure." I stare blankly at the register. Coffee. Coffee. We sell coffee, right? I glance at the cheat sheet taped to the counter and breathe a sigh of relief. "That will be one pound and fifty-four pence."
After a moment's hesitation, the boy digs in his pocket and pulls out a handful of cash and change. I try not to stare. My assumption that he's loaded was correct.
"I think this is right," he says, and hands over a one pound note and the right change.
"Brilliant," I tell him. It's obvious he's not from around here. For a moment I forget what to do next. "Oh! What name should I put on the order?"
After a split-second pause he replies, "Alek."