Chapter 1 : Lightning
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The alarm on the bedside table sounds loud and 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 today I am starting as a waiter in a small lunchroom in the centre of London. It’s owner is called Jack. He’s a thirty year old guy with twinkling eyes, who has this great passion for matching things. The place is called “The Beanstalk”.
Until my alarm goes of I refuse to open my eyes. It’s too early.
The sudden beeping of the alarm shatters the serenity of the room. Has it always been this loud?
I let out a sigh as I reach out to shut up the alarm. I really don’t want to open my eyes and my duvet is so comfortable. It’s only half past six in the morning, way to 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.
I carefully poke my toes out from under my warm duvet, the air in my room is cold and as I place my feet on the stone bedroom floor I realize it is freezing. I give another big yawn and try to find a pair of socks to put on before my toes fall off.
Maybe I’ll take a shower first, that will wake me up. Stumbling around in my half lid room I manage to find a dry towel, that I dropped on a chair last night, and I make my way over to the bathroom. There is an icy draught blowing through my flat.
The steaming hot water does indeed wake me up quite affectively. It’s a miracle what hot water can do for you. Still running the towel through my hair I look at the mirror. My blond hair is damp and hopelessly tousled from my towel. Well it’s stubborn to the end anyway, it won’t ever lay flat, not even if my live depended on it. Instead of trying to flatten it I just mess it up even more, to make it look like I mean for it to be that way. I hope my boss won’t be offended, but he did not seem an easily irritated kind of guy.
I find myself a clean pair of dark jeans and a jumper. Even though it’s only October, it’s already pretty cold outside. I remember last night, when I thought walking home without my jacket would be fine. It wasn’t.
A rumble in my stomach tells me it’s time to have breakfast. This will be an interesting quest.
I pull open my fridge and find one egg. 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 once 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.
At a quarter past seven, my stomach filled with a scrambled egg and some bare cereal, I put on my jacket and pick up my keys, time to leave for The Beanstalk. It takes twenty minutes with the underground to get there. I somehow ended up squashed in between a very large man and a rather smelly old lady with a little dog on her lap.
“Good morning!” I say to Jack, when I enter The Beanstalk. Jack looks up surprised, but then he smile with recognition.
“Mornin’ Neil O’Connor, how are yeh?” He says gesturing for me to follow him. 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!
When I have wrapped the dark fabric around my waist 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 climbing up in the corners and it has a small terrace, that’s closed now because of the cold weather. I get introduced to the chef, a balding guy named Alexander, who is wearing a white apron over his expanded belly. He looks exactly the way you’d expect a chef to look like. He tells me he makes the best omelettes in Great Britain. I take his word for it. He seems nice.
Jack give a quick but thorough explanation on how to use the cash register and hands me a menu to memorise the specials.
“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. Around ten a young woman with a lovely smile enters the shop. 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.
“I’ll have my usual.” Is her answer.
“ Excuse me, miss, but I don’t...” I begin, but she raised her hand to silence me.
“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.” I wonder what she’s got.
The clock strikes eleven and as if this is a sign for the shopping people in the street the lunchroom becomes steadily more crowded. All tables are soon filled with people.
I have to work my harder than I’ve remember ever working in my life. Running around with big plates and dishes. I try my hardest but still people have to wait far too long for their food and drinks. It’s so busy I screw up some of the orders, handing a very 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 wait just by looking at it.
It’s well passed four in the afternoon before the bustle starts to lay off.
I wipe my face on a tablecloth, fanning my flustered cheeks with my hand I look around. There are only three tables occupied right now. All customers provided with the right food and drinks.
“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 honestly. 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. Now that I have a moment I realize that I’m really tired. I guess that’s what a real job is.
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 pennies! That’s a nice sum for your first day.
“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 t’day.”
That’s really nice. I can go buy food with these tips. I think I’m eating out tonight!
“Don’t you want any tips then?” I ask Jack. He shakes his head. Hah, more for me, how egoistic of me to think, but still, it is 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 for a bit.
“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. “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!
In my head I tick off a list of things I have to do today, it’s not a long list, but it has to be done.
1. Buy groceries,
2. Make dinner,
3. learn for that test about poisoning.
I stifle a yawn with my hand. I secretly wish that when I come home my mom is there with a perfectly fine meal. I know she wont be, she’s far away in Ireland, cooking for my father, Amy and Owen. Oh, man I am tired!
Then next morning, half past six my alarm rings again. Half asleep I go through the motions of waking up and getting ready for another day of waiting tables in The Beanstalk. It’s only when I enter the lunchroom that I remember that I will have help today. 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 pick up my pencil to put it behind my ear when the door opens with the soft tingling of the bell. In walks a girl, but not just a girl: a very pretty girl. Her long red hair is pulled back in a ponytail. I stare at her small form and thin face. Her cheeks are highly freckled and her eyes are sparkling bright. She’s wearing a blue pair of very nicely fitting jeans and a white blouse. Her apron is already in place, it suites her wonderfully. Her brown eyes fall upon me and she smiles.
“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 a perfect smile, the kind that won’t ever fail to make a guy swoon in her presence. 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. 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. She’s just 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 very aware of the fact that I’m staring at her. But 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 day off for you 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 look at her confused, she looks barely older than eighteen. She can’t be married, right? I let my eyes travel down to her hand. She’s not wearing a ring, so it wasn’t her wedding. 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?” It’s out before I can stop myself.
“My cousin Dominique’s. She married this Greek guy she met on a holiday.” Lily rolls her eyes, it looks like she does that often. I want to introduce myself but just then the first customer of the day walks in, effectively ending 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, I decied.
“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. I feel 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.
“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, I see a customer raise his hand. “One second, ” she says, she’s 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.
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 grows quiet. I watch Lily put 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.
When Jack turns the door sigh to ‘closed’ 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.
Now that I have got the time I can’t help but let my eyes 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 thin and petite.
Lily suddenly turns to me, looking a bit amused. Did she catch me staring?
“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. I’m very much tempted to spend my share of the tips on take-out food. I shrug and tell her my plans. 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.
Lily looks around as we leave the lunchroom, she seems confused to a second, but it’s such a brief moment I could just as easily have imagined it.
We start of along the street. Cars are humming past, the streetlamps are lit, glowing orangey. We walk for a while, 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 me lack of response.
“Here we are.” Lily suddenly said, 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. 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 the living room, that also functions as a kitchen. A small round table perks 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.
I suddenly feel 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?
I sit down on one of three chairs at the small table and look around. Every centimetre of the kitchen counter is littered with stuff. Little bottles, magazines, some metal bowl and lots of other things. It sure needs a good clean-up. The whole house looks like a girl’s apartment, with pictures of flowers dotting the walls. But it’s nice and warm, somehow.
Lily takes her lasagne form the fridge and takes out some plates.
“ I’m in my first year of medical training.” I tell her, answering a question she asked earlier. 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. 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’s 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 over my lasagne. We’re sitting in her slightly-bigger-than-mine kitchen, enjoying a very nice piece of Italian food. (I am a big fan of Italian food.) Lily gives me a smile and nods.
“I’ve 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. 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. Her brown eyes are sparkling with mirth. I don’t get what’s so funny, but that okay. 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.
“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 to 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. “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.
I’m surprised how easy it is to talk to Lily. She starts rambling from time to time, but she’s genuinely interested when she asks questions. I soon discover she likes laughing a lot. I quite enjoy her company.
A/N: I do not own anything that you recognize.
I played around with the words again. 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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