Three Days Later
“I’ll ask you again, what’s your deal?”
“Ir vay agan - I dun haf vun.”
Annie laughed, leaning backwards but remaining precariously balanced at the breakfast bar. I blushed, gulping my mouthful down before trying again. “I’ll say again – I don’t have one.”
“Seriously?” Annie mocked, sipping apple juice. “I find you crumpled in a heap at the side of the street, bring you back here. You were completely incoherent, had no idea about anything – pretty much the same as you are now-“
“Hey! I’m better… a little…”
“Yeah, well, you were and are a complete amnesiac, or you’re hiding something from me. And its almost like you’ve never really… lived? I mean, you’ve acted like you’ve never slept in a bed before.”
I couldn’t help but break into a huge grin. “It’s like lying down on clouds that aren’t wet.”
Annie shook her head and dumped the rest of her drink into the sink. “Honestly, you’re an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a problem wrapped in a pancake” she giggled.
“What’s an enigma? Or a riddle? They sound tasty, can I try them?” I thrust my last pancake forward eagerly, and then let it drop slightly as I processed the last part of what she had said. “Am I a problem?”
“What?” she covered her mouth as she laughed, then sobered as she looked at me again. “Oh, no no no no no sweetie, not at all.” She stepped forward and wrapped me up in a hug. “It’s lovely having someone else in the flat, even if he’s as clueless as you.”
She pulled back and grinned down at me – something that made my cheeks flush once again.
“All I’m gonna say is that your probation period is over. You gotta work today.”
My shoulders slumped as I groaned. “You mean with that hot, putrid, sickening stuff?”
“That’s an impressive vocabulary for an ‘amnesiac’ – but yes. So here’s one word to add to it – coffee.”
“I’ve drank nectar and tasted fruit from the trees that once grew in Eden.” I whispered under my breath, fighting with the coffee beans. “I’ve protected the heavenly realms for countless millennia. I witnessed the birth of the Christ. I even battled that arch-demon once. I should not have to deal with this *cough*.”
The overly portly gentleman in the turtleneck rang the bell on the counter for the nineteenth time (I’d kept count) and shouted at my back. “What’s taking so long? I want my freaking latte!”
“It’s coming, sir!”
“Yeah, well I should be going!”
“Just please be patient, he’s a noob.” Annie cut in, filling her tray with cakes to take to the elderly couple (apparently regulars – Annie knew their order off by heart) at table six.
“He’s new. Today. Like, three minutes ago. So lay off!” Annie scooped up her tray and stormed off, while the gentleman muttered something (all too audible to me) about someone who should be laid off – or just laid.
By the time Annie came back, I was still staring blankly at the row of knobs and pipes. I turned to her, cringed and whispered feebly. “Help.”
“You’ve done the actual coffee part?”
I held up the paper cup triumphantly. “Done.”
She handed me a jug of milk, and pointed to one of the pipes. “Hold it so that’s in the milk, and turn the knob above it ‘til it’s frothy.”
“Frothy, as in with bubbles?”
“Frothy as in with bubbles.”
I jammed the spout into the milk and turned on the steam, watching with wonder as bubbles erupted all over the surface. Annie put her tray back on its stand and went into the back, talking over her shoulder to me about needing to bake more croissants. Outside the sky had been grey all morning, but now the heavens opened (not literally, I think I still might have been able to feel an event as majestic as that happening) and the rain started pouring down. I saw the angry man getting even more annoyed, and the old couple smiling as the clutched their umbrellas.
Everything going on around me distracted me from what was going on right in front of me – by the time I looked back at the milk the froth was ready to burst out of the jug and overflow.
The portly gentleman sniggered and pointed at the jug. “Careful, you klutz – guess you don’t want white stains on those black trousers.”
“ANNIE!!!” I’ll admit it. I panicked.
She came rushing back through from the kitchen, taking in everything at a glance. “Get the milk away from it!”
So I did. Without turning it off.
As I moved it away and turned to put it down, the vent sprayed steam all along my arm as I moved. There was an inward hiss of ‘ooh-that-had-to-hurt’ from all the onlookers, while Annie dashed forward, turned off the steam, and plunged my arm into the ice bucket.
She turned back to the waiting customer and handed him the coffee I had made with an angry glare.
“There’s no milk in it…” he said dumbly.
Annie took hold of the over-frothed milk and poured the whole thing into the paper cup. It sloshed up and over the edges, and the man backed up to stop it dripping onto his shoes.
“Hey! What the-“
“£8.50. Service charge” Annie demanded, a dangerous edge all too present in her voice.
The man dropped a tenner on the counter and left without a word.
“Are you alright?” I asked quietly.
“Forget me, is your arm ok?”
“Yeah, I think it was always ok but I didn’t want to argue with you when you pulled that face. Now it just feels tingly from the ice.”
“What face? Wait, what?” Annie stepped over and pulled my arm from the ice. It was slightly pale from the cold, but was otherwise unblemished. No burns, no scarring, no trace that it had even been touched other than gently.
Annie was speechless, but only for a second. “You are an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a problem wrapped in a pancake double-dipped in mystery. And I’m moving you to cake duty.”
I like cake duty. I like it a lot.
This ‘completely essential and very important job’ (her words, not mine) involved me sitting at one of the tables – near to Annie so she could keep an eye on me – with a notepad, trying out all the current cakes and snacks, and a few new ones, and writing down what I thought of them. So far none of them had received less than an eight out of ten. The cherry cheesecake got fourteen.
It was still raining really heavily outside. I was sitting by the window, so I was choosing what slice of cake to eat next my assigning them to raindrops and seeing which one reached the bottom of the window first. It wasn’t exactly the most logical way of choosing, but it hadn’t steered me wrong yet. I was so distracted that I didn’t see the four men come in until Annie shouted at me.
“Nate, can you serve them? I’ve got my hands full at the moment.”
“No problem” I shouted back, then winced as I heard plates breaking. “I’ll come help in a sec” I added.
I pulled a small notepad from behind the counter, and glanced at the specials board, before putting on a smile and walking to the table.
“So, what can I get you… guys?”
My confident air vanished as I realized that all four of them were staring at me like I had fallen out of the sky (which I had, but not just then). I waved my hand in front of their faces, and it took them a moment to regain their composure.
“Erm… on second thought, we’d best get going” the man nearest to me said, pulling on his coat and standing to leave. The others mumbled something similar and almost ran out of the shop.
“Did you get their order?” Annie asked, coming out of the back covered in a mixture of cake mix and assorted liquids.
“No, they just took off. Like one of them had left the steam on.”
“Ha.” Annie laughed, then sniffed and grimaced. “Do you smell wet dog?”