Six-thirty a.m. It was saturday morning and most normal people were still tucked up in bed. The sun had not yet risen, but the restaraunt was already bustling with the first patrons of the day. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, hot buttered toast and sizzling bacon invited early risers inside. The fireplace created a welcoming warmth as people steadily filtered in.
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Harmony darted between the crowded tables, clearing plates to create space for the new arrivals. She loved this time of day but hadn't yet had her own morning cup of coffee. She just couldn't function without a strong brew to start the day. A waiter dashed past laden with a tray of cappuccinos and lattes. The waft of the rich beverages almost unhinged her. She busied herself and tried to think of something else.
Quickly appraising her section of the dining room, she attempted to remember who had and who hadn't been served. A young couple sat quietly at a table in the corner. The pair were deep in conversation, holding hands intimately. The woman lowered her eyes, laughing at something her partner said. They had wanted a few more minutes to look over the menu. A large group of elderly women sat at the long table over by the far wall. They had been the first to arrive that morning and now, having finished eating, were gossiping over hot cups of tea. Nothing to do there.
The family of four by the window were up to their eyeballs in scrambled egg. The two young children had managed to get more egg on the floor than in their mouths. Harmony dreaded cleaning the mess beneath the baby's highchair. The egg there had somehow become a puddle of slippery goo embedded in the royal blue carpet. She noticed the angry looking businessman sitting near the family. Had he ordered? He was dining alone and appeared to be brushing egg from his hair.
"I'm terribly sorry," the children's mother apologised. She wiped the baby's little hands and face furiously with her handkerchief.
"Can't you control those brats," the man muttered. He caught Harmony's eye and beckoned her over. Sighing, she made her way to his table. Someone else who's missed out on their morning coffee, she thought.
"I ordered my eggs more than twenty minutes ago," the man complained.
"I'm sorry, sir," said Harmony. "It's been rather hectic this morning."
The man looked her over from head to toe, ignoring her apologetic smile and flushed cheeks. "What's your name?" he asked rudely.
"Harmony," she answered.
"Harmony, is it? Well, Harmony, I don't like your attitude. I don't care how hectic it is. I want my bloody eggs."
The man continued to ramble as Harmony withdrew into herself. Her world suddenly became surreal, as though she were watching the scene in slow motion at a movie theatre. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to have turned on her in anger. The young couple were yelling at her with angry, distorted voices, as though they were running on batteries which had long gone flat. The elderly women mouthed their words of rage, and a solitary elderly gentleman shook his walking stick at her. The other waitresses stood with their hands on their hips, shaking accusing fingers at her, their angry words distant and indecipherable.
The rude businessman spoke to her in the same distant, distorted voice. "Are you listening to me?" His mouth moved, but the words could not be distinguished.
Harmony frowned, the sweat beading on her brow.
"Are you listening to me," the man repeated angrily.
Harmony came back to reality with a start. "I'm sorry --" She looked around fearfully, realising the patrons were blissfully ignorant to her and her troubles. The only angry person here was this one, god-awful man.
"What are you doing out there -- trying to catch the damn chickens? I'll be reporting you to management."
Harmony stood mutely, her temper beginning to simmer.
"Well?" the man demanded. "Are you deaf AND dumb?"
"I'm sorry, sir," she apologised again, "let me drop everything so I can get you your bloody eggs." She left the flabbergasted man to disappear behind the swinging doors leading to the kitchen. She returned a few moments later with a plate of eggs, which she promptly threw down in front of him. He looked down in horror at the two raw eggs floating on the plate. "There, eat up and be on your way," she said. Before the man could respond, she added, "The manager will be in around nine. It's the first door on the left as you come in through reception."
With that she took off her apron and tossed it onto the table. It landed in the eggs. She stalked out of the dining room, slamming through the swinging doors and into the kitchen. The kitchen itself was no safe-haven. It was, in fact a place of pandemonium as staff tried desperately to keep up with the demand of the customers.
"Harmony," a flustered waitress called out as she buttered multiple stacks of toast. "The people on table four asked for Earl Gray not English Breakfast. Can you take them a fresh pot?"
Harmony ignored her.
"Harmony," one of the chefs barked. "I've got meals here getting cold."
Harmony ignored him.
A blur of voices were ignored as Harmony made her way through the kitchen. She grabbed her jacket from the coat rack by the back door and left the restaurant without a backward glance.
Outside, the fresh winter air was crisp and full of promise. She took a big breath of freedom as she put her jacket on. She was unemployed. Tomorrow she would be pouring over the jobs section of the daily classifieds. But not today. She laughed softly to herself. It was only seven-fifteen and she had a whole day to do whatever she wanted.
She ran all the way home, thinking about the freshly ground Columbian gold blend she had sitting in her pantry cupboard.