City Lounge: Paris (Book Two, Chapter Eleven: Cafe Work Day)

Chapter Eleven: Cafe Work Day:

The next day, I awoke to my cell phone buzzing. I grumbled to myself as I reached around for it. Oh come on! It’s my day off. Can’t you let me sleep in and call in someone else to work?

“Hello?” I asked.

“Will!” a familiar voice filled my ears. “We’re in big trouble! Come down and help us out!” I sat up with big eyes.

“Simone?” I asked. “What’s the problem?”

“We have a full lunch shift at Mama’s cafe today,” she said. “We’re going to need all of the help that we can get!” Just like that, I was under her spell.

“How bad is it?” I asked.

“We’re about to be packed today,” she said. “Mama called all of us to help. Emilie already called over some friends to help. And now I’m calling you.”

“I’ll be right there,” I said. Within in minutes, I was out of bed, dressed, and out the door.

———-

When I got down to Cafe de Marie, the place looked packed. I had to stand on my tip-toes and look around. Can I even see the door from here? I noticed a hand sticking up and waving me down. That’s Simone. I quickly pushed through the crowd.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Excuse me. Excuse me.” I panted when I made it to the front door. Simone had to grab me by the arm and pull me inside.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said in between breaths.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I said.

“Quick, get inside, we’re about to open,” she said. Simone put her arm around my shoulders and led me into the cafe.

———-

Emilie and Charlotte were waiting for us in the kitchen.

“We’re all here,” Simone said. Emilie clapped her hands together.

“Oh thank goodness,” she said. “It’s going to a busy lunch hour today.” I raised my eyebrow.

“Is there a festival or something?” I asked. “Why are there so many people here today?” Simone and her sisters gave me strange looks.

“Are you stupid?” Charlotte asked.

“Be nice,” Simone said. Her little sister stuck out her tongue. Emilie smacked her in the back of her head.

“Ow,” Charlotte muttered under her breath.

“But seriously, what is going on today?” I asked.

“Bastille Day is coming up,” Emilie said. “This is the busiest time around the cafe for us and Mama in the summer.” I nodded as I pretended to understand.

“Ah,” I said.

“Anyway, grab an apron and get to work,” Emilie said. “We have to get right to work now!” We looked up when we heard the kitchen doors opening. Marie walked in, barely panting. I stared at her with big eyes. That alone told me how professional she was at this.

“Is everybody here?” she asked.

“Yes,” we said.

“Good, we need to get to cook and when we run out of ingredients, which I hope we don’t, I will need two of you to run out to the markets,” Marie said. “Understood?”

“Yes!” we all said.

“Mama, I sent out Pierre, Edouard, and Antonie out to get what else we needed,” Emilie said. Marie squealed and kissed her oldest daughter on the forehead.

“You are a great daughter!” she said. “Your husband and your friends too!” We all got straight to work. I had no idea how tough working in the food business was. My feet were sore and I felt like passing out from the heat in the kitchen. Marie did the main cooking and dealt with the customers. She ran a tight ship in the kitchen. We could talk as long as we didn’t get distracted from our tasks at hand.

“No, no, no, Will,” Emilie said. “You have to cut them like this. Here, let me show you.” She shoved me aside and began to chop up the carrots.

“Are you paying attention?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am!” I said. Emilie’s husband, Antonie, would come in and help with the meat while Pierre and Edouard supply us with ingredients. I had to admit, Antonie was good with knives.

“Does he do the cooking at home?” I asked Emilie.

“Of course,” Antonie said. “My honey doesn’t have time to come home and cook dinner. So the cooking falls to me.” Emilie giggled as he kissed her on the cheek. Simone smiled like a cook as she finished arranging the crepes. Charlotte and her school friends served the customers in the cafe. I have to say, I was impressed at how efficient they were at this.

“How long has Charlotte been working for your mom?” I asked Simone as we were cutting up vegetables.

“About a year and half now,” she said.

“She started when she was twelve?” I asked.

“Emilie and I helped her out for the first few months,” Simone explained. “She just now started working on her own.”

“Wow,” was all that I could say.

“Are the vegetables ready?” Marie asked.

“Yes!” Simone and I said. We carried them over to her at the stove.

“Excellent,” Marie said.

“Hey, William, come over here and help me tenderize this chicken,” Antonie said.

“Yes, sir!” I said. I rushed over to his station to help. I admit, I didn’t learn more cooking techniques. I didn’t know you couldn’t stop learning how to cook every day. Heck, I think I had enough skills to enter into cooking school. I wiped the sweat off of my forehead and carried the chicken over to Marie.

“Thank you, Will,” she said. Charlotte poked her head into the kitchen.

“Are the next set of dishes ready?” she asked.

“Yes!” Marie said. Charlotte and a girl with blonde hair about her age walked in and took the next set of trays with fresh food to the hungry customers.

By the end of the day, I collapsed on the cafe floor, panting. Charlotte tilted her head as she gave me a funny look.

“Oh, get up, you wuss,” she said. “This is nothing. You should see this place around Christmastime! I work through my breaks from school and I don’t complain once!”

“You used to,” Simone said. “My feet hurt. When get I have my break? Are we done yet? I’m so tired!” She sounded like a whiny child at those last sentences. Charlotte folded her arms across her chest.

“I don’t do that anymore,” she said. She stuck out her tongue again. I covered my face to hide my laughter. Despite the long, hard work and feeling like I was going to day, today was pretty fun.

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