A deafening cacophony escaped the kitchen as countless pots and pans crashed to the floor. Andria plugged her ears until the ringing subsided. A high-pitched “Aye aye,” squeaked from her lips.
She replaced her fallen utensils and started again. Filling the mixing bowl, she began to whisk. The oven beeped. Cranking up the music, classic strings and operatic singing flowed even louder from the speakers, turning the café’s kitchen into an Italian theatre. She spun on her heels, diced some vegetables, then dropped them into the soup stock. Her hair was shamrock green this week.
Andria screeched. The tomato in her hand squeezed to mush. Her glare darted over towards the doorway.
“Clayton? What are you doing here?”
“Forgot my wallet,” he said.
Clay marched in, a big man with arms twice as thick as hers and standing two heads taller. He went to the staff lockers and pulled his forgotten wallet from his chef’s coat.
“I thought you went home?” he said.
“I did, then mom called,” Andria answered.
“Lunch tomorrow, right?”
“How’d you know?”
“You’ve been talking about it for days now,” Clay said.
“Yes well,” Andria went back to stirring. “Turns out mom just got out of the hospital yesterday with a broken arm, so she won’t be cooking. All of my sisters are coming from out of town with their plus one’s, and so are my grandparents, three aunts, two uncles, six cousins and their plus one’s; not to mention all the kids. So, instead of just doing dessert, now I have to cook everything… for over forty people.”
“Well, can’t—” Clay started.
The boiling water on the stove began to bubble over.
“Aye aye,” Andria shouted. She nudged him out of the way, slid the pot off the heat, burned herself a little and cursed madly. Clay wrapped a cool cloth around her hand.
“Can’t the other guests do anything?” Clay suggested.
“Coming from out of town,” Andria reiterated. “They’re picking up drinks and some other odds and ends, but of course mom said she could take on the whole meal by herself. I’m the family chef, so of course she called me. I begged Kaitlyn to let me use the cafe’s kitchen since my place is too small. I promised it would be clean by the time we open at six. I need to leave by then anyway; it’s a long drive.”
“Why didn’t you just — go to your mom’s first and cook from there?”
Andria slowly got up, placed her head against the fridge door and then bonked it repeatedly. Clay pried her away. He rolled up his sleeves, sharpened his knives quickly and started chopping.
“Come on, we have work to do.”
The orchestral music continued nonstop, changing artists every hour. The pair worked furiously to be finished in time. At some point, when putting the bird in the oven, a flour handprint mysteriously appeared on her thigh. Clay was snickering to himself. Taking a sip of his second cup of coffee of the night, he spat it out furiously, the salty taste clinging to his tongue. Andria laughed behind her hand.
A dollop of whipped cream appeared on her forehead.
“Hold still,” he said.
Clayton tossed grapes at her face until one stuck, then cheered. Unimpressed, she crushed the grape with her teeth.
Instead of a small grape, a slice of ham flung like a Frisbee and slapped against his cheek. They both laughed.
Around five AM, while Andria was working on dessert, Clay started a little project of his own. Spinning dough into a disk, he sang along with the operatic music, though he didn’t know the real words. He danced around her, a grin forming on her lips. Clay painted on tomato sauce and spread cheese atop the disk. Andria drizzled olive oil and sprinkled spices, finishing off their masterpiece. With their pizza now in the oven, Clay hoisted her up under the arms and twirled her around effortlessly, still singing terribly. She couldn’t help but giggle — and blush. When the oven dinged for the last time, Clay removed their meal and displayed it to her.
“Pizza for breakfast?” he asked.
At sunrise, Erika pulled her truck around the back of the cafe and tossed Andria the keys. Clay loaded the food containers into the back seat and belted them in.
“Everything tight and secure?” Andria asked.
“It shouldn’t shuffle.”
Andria thanked Erika for letting her borrow the truck and hopped in the driver’s side. Clay was about to wave her off when the passenger side door kicked open.
“Oh no, I couldn’t—” Clay started.
“You helped with most of it, so you should get to try some, and besides…” Andria twirled her hair. “I — I need a plus one.”
Creator of the Acazia series, a world traveler and blogger, Patrick Knight is a new author trying to break into the business. Knight has been writing since the age of 14, and has a fondness for fantasy and romance stories. Kaitlyn’s Cafe is a group of 12 short stories surrounding Gloria, a junior in university, and her friends as they find love. “Coming up with new ideas isn’t hard, deciding what order to write them in is the tricky part.”