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Chapter 1 : Lightning
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The alarm on the bedside table sounds really loud and really obnoxious in the semi silence; tick tock, tick tock. It’s patiently ticking away the last few seconds of a peaceful night. The moment it rings will be my first day as an employee. Because I am working now, as a waiter in a small lunchroom in the centre of London. Not a dream job or anything, but it will bring in some money. The owner of the place is called Jack. He’s a thirty-something year old guy with twinkling eyes (why am I thinking of this twinkling eyes?), who has this great passion for matching things. Therefor the place is called “The Beanstalk”.
The sudden beeping of the alarm shatters the serenity of the room. Has it always been this loud? I’m not sure. Yeah it probably has, Neil, get up now. An annoyed sigh escapes me as I reach out to shut up the alarm. I really don’t want to open my eyes and my duvet is way too comfortable. It’s half six in the morning for crying out loud! Way too early to get up on a Saturday, if you ask me. But yeah, that’s the live of a poor medical student in London. You can’t afford a flat without a job, or two.
I yawn, stretching under the covers. What wouldn’t I give to just roll over and keep on sleeping. But no, I have to get up now, duty call. Shut up duty, let me sleep!
I carefully poke my toes out from under my warm duvet, the air in my room is cold, placing my feet carefully on the stone bedroom floor and I yank them back up under the duvet. It is freezing! I should really get someone to look at the heating. Another big yawn, what I’m tired, where are my socks? I need something on my feet before my toes fall off.
Maybe I’ll take a shower first, that will wake me up. Stumbling, staggering, crashing I make my way around my half lid room. This towel feels dry, I think I dropped it on this chair last night. Anyway, time to make my way over to the bathroom. There is an icy draught blowing through my flat, by the way, really uncool.
The steaming hot water does indeed wake me up quite affectively. It’s a miracle what hot water can do for you. I don’t think I want to leave this shower again. But I have to. Running the towel through my hair, who cares, it won’t fall nicely anyway it’s stubborn to the end, it won’t ever lay flat, not even if my live depended on it. I look at the mirror. My blond hair is damp and hopelessly tousled from my towel. Instead of trying to flatten it I’ll just mess it up even more, it might look like I meant for it to be that way. I hope my boss won’t be offended, he didn’t seem an easily irritated kind of guy.
So what am I wearing today? A pair of dark jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper, sounds great. Even though it’s only October, it’s really cold outside. You know, last night I thought walking home without my jacket would be fine. It wasn’t. I almost froze to death. Literally.
Ah, rumbling stomach, always telling me time for breakfast. This will be an interesting quest, I didn’t do any shopping for… ten days? Maybe eleven. There is one egg in my fridge. That’s not going to make a good breakfast. Let’s check the cupboard. My tiny kitchen has two small cupboards under the sink and two even smaller ones above it. The only thing I find in either cupboard is a box of cereal.
That’s going to be a great breakfast. Insert sarcastic snort here. Sometimes it’s really hard to have your own place, especially when it comes down to keeping it stocked with food. Even if I have money, I don’t like it. It’s stupid and I always forget something important like milk or bread. Respect to my mom for doing it every week for five people and a dog. We never starved so she did something right.
At a quarter past seven, my stomach filled with a scrambled egg and some half stale cereal, I put on my jacket and pick up my keys, time to leave for The Beanstalk. I’ll say work, work sounds more mature.
It takes twenty minutes with the underground to get there. I somehow end up squashed in between a very large man and a rather smelly old lady with a little dog on her lap. Smelly lady be gone, you don’t need to be on this tube right now.
“Good morning!” I say to Jack, upon entering The Beanstalk, work, I mean work. Couldn’t Jack think of a more mature name? Jack looks up surprised, but then he smiles with recognition.
“Mornin’ Neil O’Connor, how are yeh?” He says gesturing for me to follow him. I follow, he takes me through a swinging door behind the bar, into a small kitchen.
“Here’s your work apron, it’s specially made for yeh. You take it home and I trust you keep it clean and presentable at all time.” Jack says, handing me a dark green apron. It has my name stitched on it. Awesome!
I have the dark fabric wrapped around my waist and I get a tour around the kitchen and the lunchroom itself. It’s not very big and painted in several colours of green with fake ivy (or something) climbing up in the corners and it has a small terrace, that’s closed now because of the cold weather. I mean, no one is going to willingly freeze to death on a terrace, that’s madness.
I get introduced to the chef, a balding guy named Alexander, who is wearing a white apron over his impressive chef belly. He looks like, exactly how you’d expect a chef to look like. He tells me he makes the best omelettes in Great Britain. I don’t believe him, so he’s making me one for lunch break. He’s cool.
Jack give a quick but thorough explanation on how to use the cash register and hands me a menu to memorise the specials. If I can memorise all the bones in the human body a few specials won’t be a problem, right?
“It won’t be very busy ‘till about eleven.” He says. “You can start t’day by settin’ the tables and foldin’ the napkins.”
All morning only a hand full of people come in for a cup of coffee. It’s around ten when a young woman enters the shop. She’s got a cute smile. She sits down near the bar.
“Good morning, what can I help you with?” I ask her. She looks up and gives me an odd look. Did I say something weird, I don’t think so.
“I’ll have my usual,” is her answer. Yeah, I’m new here madam, you have to be more specific.
“ Excuse me, miss, but I don’t...” I begin, but she raises her hand to silence me. Seriously?
“I don’t know what it’s called, alright. Just tell Jack it’s Megan and he’ll know.” She looks really awkward, then ads: “Oh, and a cup of lemon tea, please.”
Okay, what on earth is here problem?
The clock strikes eleven and it’s like a sign for the shopping people in the street, they all come tumbling into the lunchroom, making it steadily more and more crowded. If they don’t stop it all the tables will soon filled with people.
I have to work my harder than I remember ever working in my entire life, including that one time when I was asked by my dad to help on the boat and suddenly a storm blew over. That had been hard work, but not compared to this experience. I’m running around like a crazy person with big plates and dishes, cups and classes and a slightly forced polite smile. I try my hardest but a lot of people have to wait for quite some time for their food and drinks. Hell, it’s so busy I accidentally screw up some of the orders, handing a flustered looking chap a cup of green tea, that was clearly not meant for him.
Some purple haired woman complains about her soup being too cold to eat. A ridiculously good looking girl refuses to pay for her sandwich because in had mayonnaise on it and she claims that she gained weight just by looking at it. Come on people, cut me some slack.
It’s well past four in the afternoon before the bustle starts to lay off. God am I tired. That was by far the most running I’ve done in weeks. Figuratively speaking, because I’m not actually aloud to run in the lunchroom. Unless there is like a fire or something.
I have to wipe my face on a tablecloth, a handkerchief is not going to do the job, fanning my flustered cheeks with my hand. There are only three tables occupied right now. All customers provided with the right food and drinks. I’m brilliant, thank you very much.
“Sorry you had to work so hard on your first day, boy.” Jack says handing me glass of juice. “But tomorrow it will be better. You’ll have help then.”
“That’d be great.” I answer, because honestly I wouldn’t be able to pull this off again. It was a real nightmare to do this all alone on my first day. I set the glass to my lips, the ice cold orange juice tastes delicious.
It’s around six o’clock when Jack closes the cash register and hands me today’s tips. It’s thirty four pounds, twenty two whole pennies! That’s a nice sum for your first day. I got tips despite my admittedly terribly waiting job. Now that’s something I can get used to.
“I pay your salary at the end of each month.” Jack says, “The tips are for you waiters, you’ll have to split it with our waitress tomorrow, but today’s tips are all yours. You deserve it after all this.” He waves his hand around at the lunchroom.
That’s cool, I can go buy take away food with these tips. It’s might even be enough for eating out!
“Don’t you want any tips then?” I ask Jack. I hope he doesn’t, but it’s common curtesy to ask. He shakes his head. Hah, more for me, oh how egoistic, but still true.
“I earn enough, plus I don’t have to pay for a study. You want to become a doctor, I understand?” I nod. “Well, that’s an expensive study, I understand medical studies offers next to no financial support for their students. It really is a shame, but they have to go round on donations, I understand.” He looks troubled, it’s true we do really get the short end of it as medical students, though most of them have rich doctor parents who can pay up.
“And Alexander?” I wonder out loud. Shouldn’t he get some of it, as the chef?
“He says he doesn’t need more than this monthly pay check. Don’t worry about it.” Jack replies. It’s all fine by me, I have to pay rent from this money, maybe I shouldn’t eat out. “Well have a good night and I see you tomorrow.” Jack says opening the door to let me out. I wish him a good night and stumble over the threshold. Wow, great move Neil! Seriously.
Okay, a list, what do I have to do today.
1. Buy groceries,
2. Make dinner,
3. learn for that test about poisoning.
I stifle a yawn with my hand. Secretly I wish that when I come home my mom is there with a perfectly fine meal. Wouldn’t that be a surprise. I know she won’t be though, she’s far away in Ireland, cooking for my father and for Amy and Owen. Oh, man I am tired!
Then, the next morning, half past six my alarm rings again. This evil devise is seriously trying to annoy me to death. I’m still half asleep when I go through the motions of waking up, you know getting ready for another day of waiting tables in the Beanstalk, I mean work. Damn that name.
It’s only when I enter the lunchroom that I remember that I will have help today. This time I may even be alive at the end of my shift. I’m curious who this waitress is. Jack couldn’t stop talking about her yesterday, he seems to really like her. According to him she makes the best caramel surprises, which appears to be a specialty of The Beanstalk. I hope she’s cool.
I pick up my pencil to put it behind my ear (that’s where you keep pencils when you’re a waiter you see) when the door opens with the soft tingling of the bell. And in walks a girl, but not just a girl: a very pretty girl. Like, she’s petit but everything works, long slender legs, thin face, long red hair pulled back in a ponytail. Okay, I’m staring, I’m definitely staring. But come on; her cheeks are splattered with freckles (and I love freckles, have I told you how adorable freckles are?) and her eyes are sparkling, like really bright. She’s wearing a blue pair of very nicely fitting jeans and a white blouse. Her apron is already in place and it all suites her so wonderfully. How does Jack expect me to get work done around something like her? Her brown eyes fall upon me and she smiles. Even her smile is adorable.
“Hi!” She says a little timid. How strange, I had not imagined her to be timid at all. I look at her a little confused. She smiles that perfect smile again, you know, that kind that won’t ever fail to make a guy swoon in her presence (okay, guys don’t swoon, but you know what I mean). I’m sure she has every boy in London after her, with a smile like that. Her lips part and she bites her bottom lip.
I quickly bend down to pick up my pencil, which I dropped in surprise. In my defence; I don’t meet pretty gingers every day.
When I straighten up I find her next to me.
“Hey.” I say in barely more than a whisper. A very heavy, awkward silence follows. It’s the kind of silence that could be cut with knives. She’s looking at me, her brown eyes fixed of my face. Her brows are knitting together as though she’s thinking about something. Close up I can see her whole face is covered with a thousand golden freckles. They are sprinkled over her nose and cheeks and some of them found their way to her forehead and chin. I’m staring again, bite me. By the way she’s staring just as hard.
“So, you met my waitress.” Jack breaks the silence. “This is Lily Potter. She’s the best. It will be like a holiday now that she’s here. Nothin’ like yesterday.” He turn to Lily with a smirk “He had to work a very busy shift all alone yesterday. His first day, no less. You know how it gets here. Did you have a nice wedding?”
“Oh yeah, it was loads of fun.” Lily replies, turning to him.
I’m confused, she looks barely older than eighteen. She can’t be married, right? My eyes travel down to her hand. She’s not wearing a ring, so it wasn’t her wedding. Wow, Sherlock, what a marvellous observation. Oh well, she would have been a little young to get married. Although, I don’t even know how old she is.
“Who’s wedding was it?” That came out before I could stop myself.
“My cousin Dominique married this Greek guy, they met on a holiday.” Lily rolls her eyes like she does that often. I want to introduce myself but just then our first customer of the day walks in, he pretty effectively ended the conversation.
“So what is your name? I did not catch it earlier.” Lily asks when she’s put away the cash. I lean against the bar, placing my notepad in my apron. She’s looking at me with great interest. Her head a little inclined. She looks really adorable.
“Oh, it’s Neil, Neil O’Connor.” I tell her, offering my hand to shake hers. “I’ve been to China, you know.” O JESUS! Did I just say that? Why did I say that? She’ll think I’m a bragging weirdo.
My cheeks heat up in embarrassment. Do I dare look at her?
I do. Her expression has changed from curiosity to amusement. Her eyes grow wide as she smiles. She thinks I’m a weirdo for sure.
“That’s so cool!” She exclaims, laughing a little. “I would love to travel around the world some time. What is China like? My uncle has a joke shop, he sells those lantern things, he says they are from China. They are a lot of fun, they...” She suddenly stops talking and turns away from me, a customer raises his hand. “One second, ” she says, blushing furiously, and she’s off to serve him.
But while she’s off other customers come in and we’re both kept too busy to talk. Such a shame, but that a job in the real world for you, no time to socialise in the boss’s time.
It is really nice to work with Lily, though. She knows her way around the lunchroom and she is a great help with the coffee machine. When the end of the day draws nearer the lunchroom actually goes quieter too. Lily is putting away hand full of change. She picks up a 50p piece and giggles softly. The way she looks at it is like she’s holding strange currency, instead of normal pennies and pounds. It’s curious.
Jack turns the door sigh to ‘closed’ and I can’t help but linger at the bar. Both of us have taken off our aprons and Lily is talking to Jack about the cousin’s wedding. He seems to know her family a bit. Lily uses her hands when she talks, animatedly flapping them around. It’s rather mesmerising to look at. I would have thought of a witty metaphor, but I’m kind of busy staring.
I’m really trying to keep my eyes at her face, but they are determined to wander. Her appearance is quite stunning, to say the least. Her back is curved ever so slightly and her butt looks very nice in her jeans. The most apparent thing about her appearance is the fact that she’s so very small. She can’t be much longer than 1 metre 60 and has something fragile about her. Everything about her seems to be tiny, petite.
Lily suddenly turns to me, looking a bit amused. Did she catch me staring? Oh my god, she did, didn’t she? I’m innocent, she doesn’t have proof.
“So, what are you eating tonight?” She asks, playfully twirling a strand of hair around her finger.
That’s a very good question. I’m not feeling like cooking tonight, not that I ever feel like it. I’m very much tempted to spend my share of the tips on take-out food. I shrug and tell her so. Lily shakes her head.
“If you like... I made a lasagne yesterday and at the rate I’m eating it I will be eating lasagne till I’m sixty. So...?”
I smile. She knows how to invite someone, it’s practically impossible to say no to such an offer.
“Alright.” I answer. I guess I’m having lasagne tonight, that’s pretty sweet.
Lily looks around as we leave the lunchroom, she seems confused for a second, but it’s such a brief moment I could just as easily have imagined it. I mean, she’s worked her far longer than I have.
We start walking along the street. Cars are humming past, the streetlamps are lit, glowing orangey. We walk for quite a while and Lily pretty much talks the entire time. I haven’t got a clue what she’s talking about, maybe still the wedding. She doesn’t seem to mind my lack of response. Maybe I’ve ‘hmmm-ed’ and ‘yeah-ed’ in the right places. I’m sorry Lily, next time I will listen to you, once I’ve gotten over your pretty face.
“Here we are.” Lily suddenly says, stopping in front of an old, warehouse like building. It has large windows and is several stories high. We enter into a big hallway that echo’s, the sound of the closing door comes back at us in tenfold. Lily leads me to her flat on ground level. She tells me she’s living there with her best friend, Alice Jones. But Alice has a boyfriend now and is practically never at home. According to Lily this is only temporary.
“Alice has a different boyfriend every few months. She goes around telling everybody how this is the one, the boy she’s going to marry. Only to get bored with him after a few months, break up, be happily single for a bit and repeat.” She smiles a little and opens the door.
The front door opens straight into a living room that also functions as a kitchen. A small round table is happily standing in the middle of the small, overfull kitchen. One of the two doors on the opposite wall is ajar. I suppose it leads into one of the two bedrooms. The walls are painted a light yellow and there is a big, poufy looking, red couch in the corner.
Isn’t this a bit awkward? I don’t come into girls houses very often, and I’ve only known Lily for a day. How did I end up being invited for dinner? And how am I supposed to behave? Okay, I can handle this, be cool Neil.
I’ll just sit down on one of these chairs at the small table and maybe have a look around. No harm in sitting and looking, right?
Every centimetre of the kitchen counter is littered with stuff. There are little bottles, magazines, some metal bowl of sorts, just loads and loads stuff. It sure needs a good clean-up. The whole house is very much a girl’s apartment, with pictures of flowers dotting the walls. But it’s nice and warm, somehow. A bit like Amy’s room. Yeah, Amy would love it here, though she would get a heart attack form that kitchen counter, neat freak that she is.
Lily takes her lasagne form the fridge and takes out some plates. Firing questions at me now, instead of talking.
“I’m in my first year of medical training.” I tell her, answering her question. Lily nods, she’s scooping up the lasagne with her back to me. Suddenly the smell of tomato sauce and cheese spreads across the kitchen. She turns and puts two squares of hot lasagne on the kitchen table. I don’t know how she heated them that fast, but I don’t really care, probably a trick only women are allowed to know about. It smells amazing!
“That’s so nice, you want to be a… a doctor then?” she asks, I nod. “Cool, I’m an unpaid intern for the at newspaper, at the moment. I want to be a reporter.” She does not bother to tell me the name of the newspaper, but I’m not into newspapers very much so I don’t care. So she wants to be a reporter? Well, she seems nosey enough for it, I guess. And if she can write as well as she can talk she won’t have a problem.
“Do you have a nice family?” I ask her conversationally over my lasagne. Let’s take another bite of this very enjoyable piece of Italian food. (I am a big fan of Italian food.) Lily gives me a smile and nods. The piece of lasagne slips of my fork and down my shirt. Thank you for the stain, terribly nice lasagne.
Lily hasn’t noticed my misfortune, that’s good. She’s answering my question though, I better listen.
“… got two older brothers. James and Al. They are the loudest, most obnoxious bunch you’ll ever meet. But I guess they are okay. You probably can’t imagine the trouble they get into on a daily basis.” She laughs loudly.
“That bad, huh?” I ask. I bet that aren’t worse than Owen. Lily nods again then shakes her head.
“Yeah, they’re pretty crazy. My mom’s alright, she’s a sports reporter and my dad hunts bad people for a living. He says it’s his destiny.” She laughs again, throwing her head back a little. Her brown eyes are sparkling with mirth. I don’t get what’s so funny, but that okay. I’ll smile anyway. Lily looks at me, suddenly intense. Her stare makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
“How about you?” she asks “Your family I mean.”
“My family is pretty normal, I guess. Got a brother and a sister, they’re twins, both sixteen years old. Owen and Amy. Amy is rather pretty, I guess, got a lot of boys following her around, according to Owen. He tried to ward them off, but he’s not very successful.”
“Please tell him not to do that. You don’t know half how annoying that is.” There is a irritated edge in her voice but her eyes betray no irritation, they sparkle mischievously. Protective brother Lily? I can’t help but smirk, that’s so typical.
“Yeah? I like the thought of her being protected from boys with the wrong intentions. Anyway, my parents are both marine biologists. They live by the sea, they don’t make too much money, that’s why I have to work to pay for my study. But my dad says that it’s character building to work for your money, so I’m not allowed to complain.”
“I guess it is character building.” She says, she’s got her brows knitted together. “My parents have loads of money, but I wanted to know what it’s like to support myself. I mean, you can’t always live on someone else’s gold.” Her solemn look makes my chuckle. I guess that’s also true. “And I was really curious how you people live. That’s why I took the job at the Beanstalk. It’s not that bad, though.”
“I suppose not.” I tell her and she smile. What does she mean ‘us people’? Is she royal or something?
I am rather surprised how easy it is to talk to Lily. Didn’t expect a young doctor to be socially awkward, well that’s me. But Lily is cool, she starts rambling from time to time, but she’s genuinely interested when she asks questions. I’ve already discovered she likes laughing a lot. I’ll provide her with laughing matter, I really enjoy her company, okay?
A/N: I do not own anything that you recognize.
I've been busy editing the entire story. The changes are small but I think the make the story better. It's probaby not the final form, but still... Leave me a review to tell me what you think. Thank you!
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