Theo leaned his forehead against the wood molding of the doorway to the kitchen. His feet ached from darting about and his face felt hot from exertion. The white button down shirt itched and the formal black shoes had soles like rocks. The night was in full-swing; the dining room stuffed with patrons in suits and dresses, their polite tones humming above the clinks of plates and glasses.
One of the other waiters brushed by carrying a tray laden with big plates displaying tiny bites of brightly-colored gourmet cuisine costing exorbitant amounts. Theo leaned his body into the corner by the kitchen entrance. I just need a moment. A moment away from this place.
Closing his eyes, Theo leaned back against the wall and wished he was back in his tattered apartment with Beth cooking up something simple and Beast grouching at the keyboard typing up a newsletter. He almost smiled. Yah, that’s home, those two weirdos. It wasn’t always like this. Five years ago when he first showed up at Beast’s door he had no job, almost no money, and barely a prayer that she’d take him in.
He did smile a little then, remembering how concerned she’d been. It’s a long ride by bike from their home town...almost 400 miles. She offered him her own bed and ordered him not to even think about moving until she said so. She was just as bossy back then. That was back when she was living in that sketchy basement under the old law office. That place reeked of mildew and flooded all the time, but at least it wasn’t with his family. It wasn’t until a year and a half later when Beth begged a place that they moved into their current place. Things began to look up; he found his second job here, Beast got a promotion from Martha and began her freelance work, and now with Beth at the cafe and selling commissions on the side…. He smiled a little wider. Those two were his family now.
“Theo,” a voice growled from in front of him. His eyes snapped open to his manager practically vibrating with righteous fury in front of him. He was a little man, five-three...on a good day, but his bald head practically glowed red with his frustration. “What are you doing lazing about?” He snapped, his beady eyes narrowing. “Get on the floor!”
Theo didn’t bother responding, he knew exactly what sort of response he’d get if said a word. Rolling off the wall he mumbled a ‘yes sir’ and stepped around the little man to get back to the floor. As he entered the main dining room he plastered his working smile on and glided as smoothly as he could over to the nearest of his tables.
“Are you enjoying your meals?” He asked the couple eating, both of them barely starting the main course he brought just before collapsing against the wall earlier.
“It’s very good,” said the woman with a smile as she paused cutting her duck.
“Very good,” echoed the man as he finished chewing and swallowing his steak. His shoulder turned away from Theo and he leaned back towards his date, silently dismissing Theo.
Theo retreated as tactfully as he could, moving down a few tables to a group that looked about ready to leave. “Are you all finished with your desserts?” he asked as he approached the table edge.
“Yes,” said the man in the middle of the group with a smile.
“How were they?” asked Theo as he began to remove the scraped plates from in front of the one lady and the man with a well-trimmed beard.
“The lemon pie was fantastic,” said the woman, “Best I’ve ever had!”
“And the drinks were quite good,” said the man with graying hair, obviously just on this side of tipsy.
“Well we always like to hear that you enjoyed it!” said Theo with enthusiasm that he didn’t feel. “Would you like your check now?” he asked as he produced a black leather fold from the black apron tied around his hips.
The first man to speak motioned for Theo to hand him the fold. Snatching up the rest of the empty plates, utensils, and glasses and retreating hastily back to the kitchen where he dumped them in the dirty dishes window.
“Got more for you, Marilyn,” he said ducking his head to look through the window over the dirty dishes he just put down.
“Thanks Theo,” said Marilyn, ducking down to glance through the window at him. Her dark eyes met his for a second and she smiled tiredly before pulling the dishes towards her and moving over to the dishwasher again to refill.
Moving over he scanned the pick up bar to see if any more of his orders were out. Not yet, time to go out for another round and collect the bill from that group.
Thanks for the tip.
Theo finished clearing the table and slipped the leather fold into his apron before he glided over the next table. “You ready to order?”