It was the worst day of the week. Possibly, thought Zoë, the worst day of the year so far. After all, it was only the day before that she’d said goodbye to the little blue Honda (a last-ditch attempt to pay off the overdraft) and today she had woken up with a sense of something missing. There was a hole in her heart where the car had been, much the same as when her boyfriend had dumped her.

She walked to work. This is good exercise. This is going to make me thin. I am going to drop a whole dress size (maybe two). I will be able to fit into that tiny size 8 prom dress I used to wear when I was sixteen. I am so glad I haven’t got a car anymore. The problem with walking is that it gives you far too much time to think. Rain clouds gathered above. Zoë didn’t notice them, because by then she was too busy thinking about how much she missed the little blue Honda.

At work she was shouted at by Paulo the evil chef. One waitress was off sick and another on holiday. Lunch came round, and the restaurant was full. She endured a long tirade of complaints by some obnoxious customer who took issue with Paulo’s speciality smoked salmon dish, and the wroth of Paulo who refused to believe that anyone would be in anything less than raptures of happiness at his cooking, and blamed the entire fiasco on Zoë. Obnoxious customer received a full refund. This put Greg (the manager) in a stormy mood for the rest of the afternoon. By now there was a full restaurant and only Zoë, Greg and one other waitress (named Jane) to deal with it.

Then came the trouble. Zoë knew that Jane was miffed off with the wages and sick of the unsocial hours. She had only taken the job to earn some extra cash while she was at college and it was now eating into her study time. She'd had just about enough. She was ready to hand in her resignation anyway. But did Paulo care? Not a bit. So when Jane dropped a chicken ceaser salad on the floor while attempting to leg it back out to her waiting customers with four full plates in her hands, explosions ensued. Expletives flew around the kitchen like hot sparks. It was the last straw. Within less than a minute, Jane had pulled off her apron and flung it in Paulo’s face.

As Jane strode angrily towards the door, Greg called out, “Wait!” and for one moment Zoë imagined he was about to save the situation (if such a thing could be done) with some eloquent speech about how the restaurant valued and needed her. She overestimated him. He replied with a lame, "You can't just walk out like this."

It wasn't good enough.

"Just watch me," said Jane.

Turmoil ensued. The restaurant was still full of customers. Paulo was still bouncing swearwords off the ceiling. The K.P. had gone out to smoke three consecutive cigarettes because he was having difficulty coping with the stress of it all.

“If this lunchtime is this bad what's dinner going to be like?” Paulo screeched.

Zoë strode out to the kitchen, and stood face-to-face with Paulo, who was demonstrating the rare phonomenon of male multitasking by simultaneously plating up his mains and swigging red wine out of a mug. The mug fooled no one. The kitchen usually used about three bottles of wine a day, far more than was ever needed for cooking.

Zoe was about to say something very momentous. She was about to call Paulo a drunken idiot. Or something along those lines. Perhaps in slightly ruder terms. Unfortunately, she never got round to it.

“Three lamb, two fish, one chicken -- TAKE IT!!” and the dishes came practically hurtling across the hotplate.

Later, she walked home. Greg was busy phoning different agencies, frantically trying to find a new waitress or two for the evening shift. Zoë promised she’d return at six, but secretly she wasn’t so sure. She stepped into WHSmith to buy a local Gazette, and checked out the jobs section.

It was mid-June. It just wasn’t supposed to be raining like this. Zoë was surprised and disappointed. She’d hoped for a summer full of sunshine and afternoons out in the park, and beach trips involving everyone piling into the blue Honda and Zoë driving them down to Lyme for the day. It wasn’t happening. Her picturesque summer came down to this, muddy puddles and a job she hated.

But Zoe was never unhappy for long. She believed she could have anything she wanted in life. It was just a case of discovering what that was.

The End

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