Emily reached the inn to find some of the local customers sitting outside on the tables.
“You’re late,” one of them smiled.
Emily sighed, “I’m so sorry, Elizabeth was ill.” She was searching for the right key to open the door, “the usual?”
“Yes, but no rush,” he reassured with a smile, “you look like you ran halfway across the city.”
“It’s all those stairs,” she complained, “not all of us can fly you know?”
The dragon laughed, his fangs visible, “fair enough.”
Emily finally got the door open and made her way to the kitchen, turning on the coffee machine and kettle, preparing a neat line of mugs with the right amount of milk or tea leaves in them.
She then turned on the oven, preheating it, the baker would arrive any moment with her daily order of croissants and muffins.
She poured the water into the mugs of tea, poured the coffee into the rest and piled them all on a single tray.
“Breakfast,” she announced, giving each customer their corresponding drink. “Keneth should be here any moment now,” she reassured, “can I get any of you some fruit or biscuits in the meanwhile? On the house of course, for your patience.”
“I’m good,” he leaned back, “so, what’s up with that wife of yours?”
“Oh,” Emily blushed, “we’re not married. Nothing too serious, a couple of bad nights, she’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Oh,” the dragon frowned and tilted his head, “you humans always seem to move so fast. How long have you been together?”
Emily snorted, “just a month or so, even by human standards that’s not too long.”
“Well, you’re happy together though?”
Emily smiled, “definitely.”
Keneth soon arrived with the day’s order. He had his messy brown hair held up in a ponytail while he pushed the cart from across the square. They were neighbours. And had a special bond. Keneth, like Emily, was one of the few humans living in Aerradra.
He’d moved here a little bit later than Emily, moving straight in with his girlfriend, a dragon. Like Emily, he struggled to be accepted at first. But like Emily, he was good and passionate at his job and soon he had the busiest bakery in town.
“G’morning,” he greeted as she opened the door to him.
“Good morning,” Emily began to unload into the oven.
“So, you prepared for the day?”
“Yeah, you always know what’s going on. You could of warned me?”
“I woke up to like a hundred orders or something.”
“Oh, that’s great, why?”
Keneth smiled, “you don’t know! Oh, you’re not prepared for today.”
“It’s a holiday!”
“No, it’s not,” she walked over to the calendar. “It’s a Monday, Mondays can’t be holidays!” She stared at her calendar, crossed her arms, and nodded.
“Everyday can be a holiday Em, ‘specially when you least expect it.”
“This is fine.”
“Day off, didn’t you know it’s a holiday?” Emily headed towards the larder to check on her supplies, “your moneys behind the counter as always.”
“Thanks, best of luck.”
“See you tomorrow,” she pulled out a series of ingredients, doing some quick calculations before going outside to the blackboard, wiping it clean.
She picked one popular meal that she knew she could make in mass and had the ingredients for. Sauté including a drink, a coffee and a dessert for ten coins.
“Nobody is going to want anything other than that,” the dragon who was finishing his coffee commented.
“Exactly,” Emily smiled, “oldest trick in the book.”
He laughed, “well, I have to go, the twins are desperate to see their mother in the sky today.”
“Of course,” Emily smiled, “your wife is one of the guards. I bet she’ll be stunning; wish I could go see.”
“Oh, you’ll see some of it from here, they tend to fly around the whole city.”
“In between taking orders and cooking,” Emily laughed, “oh well. It’s good for business.”
He nodded, “don’t exhaust yourself too much, I expect you to be open on time tomorrow for my coffee.”
“I’ll do my best, say hi to the twins from me.”
“I’ll bring them round sometime later this week so you can see how much they’ve grown.”
“Oh, I can’t wait,” Emily smiled.
Now that breakfasts were over Emily had a small amount of time until lunch. She cleaned all the vegetables placing them on the chopping board ready to go. Lined up all the bowls and made up all the cutlery. She’s already worked this holiday last year and knew what to expect.
The bright side was that with the guards doing a flying routine above the city, most people’s focus would be on the sky and not where their food was. Emily could expect mostly patient customers.
Usually, people didn’t start showing up for lunch until one, but today some people would be planning to eat before the show. Which inevitably meant others would be coming after the show. Just like Emily hoped they ordered the sauté. She took orders got drinks out fast and disappeared into the kitchen to cut vegetables. She chopped enough for about ten meals while only cooking enough for the current tables.
When she got out with her tray of food she was both surprised and unsurprised to find another three new tables. Pleased and disappointed. A mixture of emotions she didn’t have time to consider as she handed the first table their food with a smile and went to take more orders.
“How long would say a pie take?”
“We haven’t pre-prepared any pies today so at least an hour I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I’ll just go with the special then,” she pointed to the blackboard.
Emily threw in the rest of the already chopped vegetables, handed out the meal got the receipt to the first tables and took the orders for the next tables. A cycle of orders, drinks, food, receipts.
Her hair was in a tight bun as she was working kitchen. The constant switching between outside breeze and kitchen heat was causing it to fizz up.
“I must inform, we’re rather busy and short staffed so orders might take a while.”
Most people were okay with that. At this point no customers were in a hurry to get anywhere, they planned to watch the show from their tables at the inn. But like everything some of them were less pleasant.
“Are you sure you can handle that order?”
“Of course, Sir, as long as you’re okay with a slight wait!” Emily smiled.
“Hm.” The man sat back, “good.”
Emily rushed into the bar area, drinks, then cooking. Chop, chop, chop, the sharp knife cut through the vegetables and hit the board. She scraped the knife across the cutting board pushing the pieces into the pan, stirring and adding spices before going back to cutting.
She realized the monotone sound and movement was causing her to lose focus and if she wasn’t careful she would end up cutting herself.
She plated the current meals and ran off back outside again to serve.
“Took you long enough.”
Emily tried her best to look apologetic, “I’m so sorry Sir.” She held back the ‘I did warn you’ comment.
At around three, things began to slow down. There were still a couple of new tables who had seen the show and were eating late. But most of them were just happy Emily was still serving and not bothered by the wait.
Allowing Emily to slow down a bit and finish off.
It was five by the time the last table left and Emily made an executive decision. Wiping the blackboard clean and announcing she was only serving drinks.
That was more than enough for the day.
She let her hair lose of the bun and her head ached. She made herself a coffee while trying her very best to not look into the kitchen at the terrifying mess she must have made. She sat down outside to enjoy the peace and quiet while there were no clients.
She was so exhausted and unfocused she didn’t hear the newcomer’s approach.
“You look terrible,” Charlotte had a wide smile.
Elizabeth who was behind her looked upset.
Emily rushed to sit up, “oh, I’m fine!” she reassured, sipping her coffee, “just needed some caffeine!” She sounded way more enthusiastic than she looked. “What can I get you two?”
“Coffees but I think I can handle it,” Elizabeth reassured.
Emily nodded, “thanks,” she leaned back. “I forgot today was a holiday.”
Charlotte laughed, “it’s my favourite holiday, Flying Festivities are always the best. Oh, I wish I could have competed this year,” her hand went to her stomach.
“Oh,” Emily smiled, this time it was soft and genuine, “you’re getting so big, are you excited?”
Charlotte sat down, nodding, “Elizabeth says I need to learn to cook if I’m going to feed it.”
“It?” Emily laughed, “and Elizabeth’s right. They won’t live off of peanut butter sandwiches or I will take them away from you,” she raised her finger, “for a couple of hours a day to feed them.”
“And how’s Elizabeth?” she whispered.
“I flew her into town first thing to buy more medication. She took it with lunch from the roof where we could see the show. I made her take a nap after that. Much better compared to this morning.”
Emily nodded, “that’s good. She was really… this morning…” Emily sighed before turning towards the inn. “She’s taking an awfully long time to prepare those coffees…” she stood up, “I’m going to be right back.”
The coffee machine was turned on and ready to go behind the counter, but Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen. Emily sighed, opening the door to the kitchen, where Elizabeth was scrubbing at the pans.
Emily coughed to draw her attention, putting on her very best stern expression with a raised brow and everything.
“I didn’t know you were goign to be so busy, I would have come.”
“I handled it.”
“This is not handled,” she gestured to the kitchen as a whole, “and—” she noticed and turned off the oven, gesturing to it, “how long has this been on?”
Emily blushed, but she maintained her stern expression. “You needed the rest, I handled it fine without you last year, I handled it fine this year.”
Elizabeth turned around and kept cleaning.
“Elizabeth, go sit at the table with Charlotte.”
“I said no.”
“I’m your boss.”
Elizabeth frowned, “I’m not doing this as an employee. I’m doing this as your partner. You look exhausted, I’ve spent the whole day resting, let me help you.”
Emily shook her head.
Elizabeth turned to look at Emily, “please.”
The tone, the expression. Emily finally broke feeling tears fill the corners of her eyes. “At least come sit down and have a coffee with me first?”
Elizabeth hesitated but nodded, leaving the pans to soak and grabbing Emily’s hand. “One coffee, then we’ll clean this and you’ll come back to mine for an early night?”
Emily kissed Elizabeth with a nod.
“I’m going to cook you the best supper you’ve ever had,” Elizabeth promised.
Emily smiled, “I don’t know how I managed without you.”
Elizabeth grinned, “well, that’s over.”