I figured if I had something planned for the afternoon, my day at hell might go a little faster. But instead, it was the opposite. Time was going by so slow that part of me wondered if I died in my sleep and was now trapped in a never-ending hell. Eventually, I was freed from that nightmare when the last bell rung.
I returned home for a brief moment and quickly changed into my work uniform; a simple black short-sleeved button-up tucked in with a pair of black slacks. Once properly dressed, I checked my phone’s battery to see if it was good enough to keep me cruising through my shift.
“Damn it,” I huffed as I saw it was on low.
I quickly dug around in my desk for my portable charger and then plugged it into my phone, hoping that will save me. As I left the house, I topped up Chirps’s water bowl and gave her some needed loving pats. She chirped at me as I left, which I heard as ‘have a good day at work’.
I don’t know how other people feel about working at cafes, but for me, it’s chill work. You see, for my parents’ 10th anniversary, my dad was at lost with what to get my mum. He wanted something special and something she would never guess. Somehow, he figured using his entire life savings to buy her a cafe was the way to go. Needless to say, she loved it, especially when he decided to name it after her - Scarlett's Cafe
So with my dad as my boss, I’m pretty much guaranteed to never get fired. And trust me when I say this, I have tried numerous ways to but all that got me was a deduction from my pay.
Like any other day, the cafe was busy with customers seated around the store and a couple more were lined up at the counter. I stepped inside, inhaling coffee and raisin toast which just triggered a craving for a good cuppa.
I quickly went into the back, finding Dad in his office looking over his paperwork. I knocked twice on the open door and gained his immediate attention as he looked at me through his glasses.
“Oh thank fuck you’re here,” he said with a sigh of relief. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you.”
“Sounds like you’ve been busy,” I replied, looking down at his desk.
“No more than the usual,” he said, taking his glasses off so he could rub his eyes. “Just done with today.”
“Mood,” I commented.
“Oh yeah, do you think you can scout out a replacement for John?” Dad asked, shuffling through what seemed to be resumes. “I would like someone young.”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. “I’ll get Trent to spread the word.”
“Perfect,” he smiled. “He’s a walking billboard, I swear.”
“He really is.”
I left the office and headed to the locker room which was really just a small storage room with a cubicle unit to put our belongings in. Dad had labelled each cube unit with the names of the employees, including myself and Elliot, despite the fact we rarely work here.
I grabbed my short waist apron out from my unit and tied it on as I noticed John’s name sitting above his one. I tucked my phone into the front pocket of my apron and then ripped off his name with a great feeling of satisfaction.
I walked back out to the front, finding Shelby at the till as she brightly served a customer, looking as if she’s enjoying her work.
Once she saw me, she quickly took her leave and I took her place at the counter. I served the next lot of customers that came in through the doors, half of which were students, while my other co-worker, Ebony, handed out orders and cleared off the tables. A lot of the orders were coffee ones, so we were constantly switching from the till to making drinks and handing them out.
We were busy for a while but soon the cafe emptied out with only a few stray customers lingering about. I watched Ebony as she continued to tidy and restock everything. Seeing how she had everything under control, I made myself a coffee and then took a seat at one of the empty tables.
I pulled my phone out, texting back and forth with Max while playing a game in order to kill some time. Dad came out a while later, spotting me at the table. He let a very audible sigh and then walked over to me with his hands on his hips.
“Oliver, could you do some actual work?”
“I did,” I replied without taking my eyes off my phone. “I cleaned.”
“You cleaned or Ebony?” he asked.
“Both,” I answered.
“He wiped a counter,” Ebony ratted me out.
Dad rubbed his temples as he let out another sigh.
“Just get back to work, Oliver, or else I’m considering this a break.”
“Yeah yeah, whatever,” I muttered, not budging from my spot.
He went to the tills, skimming the cash as he spoke to Ebony about her studies. I didn’t really know much about her, other than her being studying nursing and being a big ol’ snitch. We only worked once or twice together but neither of us ever attempted to start a conversation.
“Oliver, off your phone, now!” he said to me in his strict dad tone but I just him waved him off.
Once Ebony finished her shift, I moved from the table to the counter and rested my forearms on the surface while continuing my game. Now that Ebony was gone, I had to at least look like I was working.
The door chimed but I was too distracted by my phone to even bother to greet them.
“Kids these days,”
The familiar voice caught my attention as I shot my eyes up to spot Mrs Palmer, wife of the shaved Coconut. She was dressed in a blue denim jumpsuit that was splattered with dried paint, and her unruly mess of dark curls was held out of her face with a bright purple headband.
“I expect better of you, Oliver,”
At first glance, you’d assume she is an artist. But if you look closer, you can see the dried baby vomit and fruit juice stains all over her. The natural look for parents and kindergarten teachers.
“Mrs Palmer,” I smiled back, putting my phone down immediately.
Like Mr Palmer, she works with bratty kids. Except her kids are much younger.
“How’s Kindergarten?” I asked her.
She chuckled, shaking her head.
“Colourful,” she grinned, showing off her pearly whites. “We had a huge painting activity today and it got extremely messy.”
“Ah, I miss those days,” I sighed. “Where you could make a mess with paint and get a gold star for it.”
“I bet you do,” she replied. “Greg told me how you made a getaway on your first day back.”
I chuckled, sheepishly smiling at her.
“You gotta give that man a break, Oliver, his poor heart won’t keep up,” she softly laughed. “He was ranting all night to me about you but then he goes and tries to find more ways to make you happier at school.”
Mr P, you’re too good to me.
“Afternoon, Thelma, how are you doing?” Dad popped out of the blue, giving his most sincere smile.
He went over to her and gave her a tight hug.
“Oh, I’m doing just fine,” she smiled back at him. “Busy day with the kids.”
Dad just sighed in response, giving her a concerned look.
“I heard, Thelma,” he said.
Mrs Palmer pulled a tight smile, and then shook her head, looking away as if she was hurt.
“Of course you did,” she replied. “I’m sorry, Will, I really didn’t want you to know about this."
“What are you talking about?” Dad looked offended.
“Well, with Scarlet and all, it’s still a recent wound,” she sighed. “I didn’t want to bring anything up.”
Holdddd up, what the hell is going on?
I focused on them both, trying to figure out what was wrong. My mind jumped to all sorts of conclusions, which started to make me feel sick again.
“I understand but all the more reason for me to know,” Dad said. “I want to be here for you, to support both you and your husband.”
He took her hand, holding it between his as he smiled reassuringly.
“Thank you, Will,” she smiled softly back. “He is having a hard time, processing all of this.”
“He needs some time,” Dad replied. “Regardless of your stage, it’s a terrifying thing.”
I felt my heart drop, gaining confirmation that it was cancer.
God, no wonder Mr Palmer was in a bad mood.
“Oliver, get Thelma a latte with a slice of carrot cake, okay?” Dad told me and then turned to lead Mrs Palmer to a table.
I did as he told and quickly started on her latte.
“Don’t you go giving me special treatment, Will,” she frowned at him. “I’m going to be just fine.”
“Let me do this for you please,” Dad softly said to her. “I know how expensive the trips to the hospital, the treatments, everything can be. It’s just a coffee and some cake.”
“William,” she gave him a stern look. “I will not be coddled.”
“I couldn’t do much for my wife when she was sick, Thelma,” he spoke quietly. “Please let me do this for you.”
Mrs Palmer sighed, letting out a ‘tsk’ sound and then nodded at him.
“It’s not fair when you do that, Will,” she pouted. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” he kissed her hand and then came back to me to pick up her coffee and cake.
I watched him place it down for her, while my heart was racing a like a horse as I tried to process what I just picked up. I focused back on my game but the idea of Mrs Palmer being sick like my mother was absolutely terrifying.
I thought back to my dream, then to memories of my mother’s treatment and her worsening condition. I became overwhelmed with those sickening thoughts that I just had to get out of there. I rushed out to the back and straight into Dad’s office as I tried to calm down. I took a seat and focused on my breathing, inhaling through my nose and exhaling out of my mouth.
Dad clearly noticed something was up, entering the office not long after I did.
“You okay, kiddo?” he asked, kneeling down in front of me.
“Mrs Palmer has cancer?” I asked him in a squeaky voice.
“You didn’t know?” he looked surprised.
“No, no one told me,” I shook my head. “I mean, Mr Palmer was in a bad mood this morning but I didn’t think anything of it, you know? I just assumed he was pissed with me for being late or something, I don’t know.”
“Calm down, Oliver, it’s okay,” Dad said. “Thelma got tested last week for breast cancer. I found out this morning and just assumed you would’ve heard about it too since no one is being subtle about it.”
“Of course, no one knows how to mind their own business,” I snapped. “Is she going to… You know?”
“She caught it early and is expected to make a full recovery, no mastectomy needed,” Dad smiled up at me. “Just surgery to remove the pesky little bastard followed with some chemo and a little bit of radiation.’
“You make it seem so simple,” I sighed. “That’s not simple - it’s hell, the treatments and everything, it’s horrible.”
“She’ll be okay, Oliver,” Dad comforted.
“But it’s not fair,” I shakily said. “She does so much for everyone around her, she helped us with mum and she is such a big support for this stupid town.”
“Maybe this is a sign for her to take a break on being superwoman,” Dad suggested.
“And what was the sign when mum died?” I asked, watching him stiffen up.
“Thelma will be alright, Oliver,”
I sighed, shaking my head.
“Well, is there anything we can do?” I asked. “You said stuff about expenses, so maybe we could arrange a fundraiser to help support her and reduce her stress?”
“Wow, that’s actually...” Dad looked surprised. “That’s a really good idea, Oliver.”
“We could make some cupcakes and set up a coffee stand,” I suggested. “And we could ask around town and maybe even set a huge event in the park or something.”
“Yeah, that’s great. We could also use Lily and the drama club for entertainment, and I’m sure the musicians at your school would like some limelight too.” Dad added.
“Yeah!” I agreed. “They’ll all love that, and Trent could get his team to help out as well.”
“God, times like these you remind me of your mother,” he stood up and then bent over to kiss my head. “She would be so proud of you, Oliver.”
I felt stunned, hearing him say those words. It was something I needed to hear, even if I didn’t completely believe it.
“I’m going to go convince Thelma to let me do this,” he said. “You come out when you’re ready.”
I nodded as he left the office, quickly heading back out to the front. I turned to look at his desk, where the photograph of mum was sitting.
It’s from when Elliot and I were kids, as she’s holding me while Elliot was hugging her from behind. All of us laughing like idiots, completely and utterly clueless of what was to come.