Chuck has us using an X meets Y table this week. I have pulled up 'Gilmore Girls' and 'Friends'... tried my best, but I'm tired and haven't had much sleep. I hope this turned out better than it looks and reads.
I don’t know if it’s the 4am starts that make my life worthwhile, or that I meet so many unusual and interesting people with so many different tastes in food, or that there’s always the same groups of people who sit at the same tables week in, week out to catch up with each other’s lives – as though they’re family – really they’re friends.
But I love working here.
However, this time of the day is my quiet time. I get to pull the chairs down, clean the tables, put out the menus and the salt’n’pepper on the tables and then I go outside and wash the windows twice a week. The floor is continuously getting washed, whether there’s customers around or not, and I put up a little sign showing a stick figure sliding around to show the floor is wet.
I often have to deal with our Mayor, who is also my next door neighbour and my tenant (I bought the whole block and now he’s constantly coming in to pass something by me and sucks up to me to get something done). Most times, I’ll pour him a coffee and tell him to write me a letter through his lawyer and I’ll get in and look at it. He snorts, rolls his eyes and walks out the door with his toupee just staying on his head.
Then, there’s one guy who comes in looking like he’s drunk all the coffee in the state and he asks me for a coffee. I reluctantly pour him one, and he takes three mouthfuls as he chats to me – at me – about his day ahead. He’s sweet really, a lovely man, but can’t get his life together in any way. Luke just seems to have the worst luck with women, but it’s because he’s constantly trying to please his parents (they’re rich) by making it alone without their money. He normally asks for a Danish and so while he’s talking, I grab one for him pack it up and hand it over without him saying anything.
He gives me the most adorable look, “Hey, thanks, Lulu, how did you know?”
“You always get a Danish with your coffee, Luke. And on weekends, when you bring Jess in, you guys stuff yourselves full of pancakes, bacon, eggs and other greasy crap – as well as coffee.” I smile.
“You’re wonderful, have I ever told you that?” he takes another sip from the large mug of coffee and drops a five-a on the counter before rushing out the door with the bagged Danish in his hand.
After Luke takes off in his pick-up to go to work, there’s the usual breakfast crowd which takes over the café. I’m flat out for about four hours serving up food, coffee, tea and fruit juice between 6am until around 10am when the crowd thins out and people come in dribs and drabs.
The sun shines through the front window and makes the place look so nice. I don’t notice it until it’s empty, until people have finished their breakfast and I’m walking around picking up after them. This little town is really pretty – but it’s not the place to be a strange person, or a person to do something out of character. Fortunately, I rarely do that. This might make me out to be boring, but really, I just want to make a living through this café and that’s it… oh, here comes my early lunchtime group: six people who have known each other for their entire lives. You’d think they would be boring, they’d know too much about each other, but really, they know each other so well, they are constantly finding out more and more about their own lives and each other’s lives as they get older.
They’ve been coming here for almost five years now, and through that time, two have become engaged to each other, one of them got married to some crazy woman on the other side of the country (when he was in love with his childhood sweetheart in the group) and there’s one who has the douchie pick-up line of ‘How ya doin’?’
He never seems to get any girls, but they think he’s good looking until he opens his mouth.
I take their orders (which have been the same things for the last five years) and call them through to Kirk in the kitchen. We’re both thankful that this lot come early, as they eat so much food and go through so much coffee it’s unbelievable.
But they talk about everything for that week – which is wedding arrangements for the engaged two. The husband-to-be tries to take part, only to be told what to do by his fiancé and he ends up just sitting back, smiling and saying, ‘Whatever you want, honey, after all it’s your day.’ And the good thing about this group is that while they’re here, only two other customers come in for coffee and some Danishes and that’s it; then the lunch rush starts just after their meals have been served up.
My day doesn’t end at sunset. I have people coming in for coffee after movies in the bookstore across the square. They’re all rugged up (as it’s starting to get cold at night now) and it’s good to have them come in and settle in for some hot chocolate and something sweet to eat after going there. Babette doesn’t like anyone bringing anything more than popcorn into the store as it attracts mice and they’d eat all the books. Anyway, if they come here, I make more money off them for two hours or so if I stay open until 9pm.
Star’s Hollow is nice at night. The square has fairy lights which switch on just as the sun is setting and – if it’s been snowing – the whole place seems to glow. I’m kinda glad I lived here when I was a kid, then moved away to go to school and came back. It made me appreciate what I had… what I missed when I was in another town with my folks; who missed this place so badly they stayed in New York for the time it took me to finish high school; then brought me back here. Dad opened his hardware store and within a couple of decades, he passed away. My Mum had no interest in running the hardware store, so I turned it into a diner and I’ve been working here for the past decade. Everyone knows my place, and yet they still see parts of my Dad’s hardware store around the diner as a reminder of how it used to be.
However it hasn’t been long since Mum died and this town and the diner has become my world. I don’t make friends that easily and Kirk is the only person I’ve let near – not even he knows how much I grieve over my parents as he’s just a friend; besides he’s married.
This little town is – and will always be – my home and Kirk knows I’d never leave it, so his job here as kitchen hand is secure.
The last customer left an hour ago. I have washed the floors, put the chairs back up on the tables, cleared the register and made sure the grill was turned off. The shutters are pulled down, door is deadlocked and the sign turned from ‘OPEN’ to ‘CLOSED’.
Kirk went home at 9:30pm after he cleaned the kitchen and organised the menu for tomorrow.
I went up the stairs around the back, along the landing and unlocked the door (which still has ‘Dean’s Hardware’ Main Office’ and below it PRIVATE. I’ve refused to change that in memory of my Dad) and walked into my flat where I’ve renovated it to fit with my life. It’s an old place, but I’ve made it look better – a little. It still looks a lot like my folks live here, but they’ve just left it the way it was and I’m house sitting.
I open the window and let the chill of the night air in, lean on the sill and watch the quiet stillness of Star’s Hollow for a few moments. This is my time to slow down after a full day of being on my feet.
I love this town.
I love this café.
I don’t think I want anything to change… ever.
But Kirk… he’d be the one I’d allow into my life if I really needed somebody, as he knows me the best. Or Luke… but he’s really manic and has a spark about him. He’s always on the go and I love the way he just talks to me (at me) and I always seem to know exactly what he’s thinking, what he wants and he knows I always have time for him.
But does he know I like him too?
Guess I’ll never know; as he keeps that part of his life a secret.
It’s 4am and I’m pulling down the chairs. The chill in the air is colder than it was last night. A tapping at the door makes me turn and I find Luke standing there shifting his weight from one foot to the next, trying to stay warm.
I open the door quickly letting him in, “What are you doing out at this time of the day? I’m not open yet.”
He nods, “Yep, uh-huh… I know. But…” he can’t eye contact with me and he’s still moving from side to side, “I um… I need to tell you something.”
“I’ll pour you some coffee…” but as I turned, I remember I hadn’t done that yet, “I have some upstairs.”
“You live here?” he looks up at me.
“Yes. Come on.” I walk past him and up to my place; where he’s never been and pull down some mugs from the cupboard, pouring him some fresh coffee I made only half an hour before, “Here.”
He walks in, looking around, “Wow… you really do live here.”
“Sit… talk.” I sit across from him at the corner of the old Formica table and mis-matched chairs.
He sits and takes a big mouthful of coffee, “Mmmm, that’s good.”
“I was really all over the place yesterday.” He says, “And there was a reason for it.”
“Oh? I didn’t really notice. You’re normally a bit static and run a million miles an hour – like you’ve drunk all the coffee in town before coming here.” I giggled.
His eyes stare at me, “What? Really? Oh… I wanted to tell you something, Lulu but didn’t know how to tell you. I didn’t know if you and Kirk were an item – I mean by the way he stares at you and acts around you, you’d think you two were an item.”
“Kirk’s married.” I said, “He just does his job really well and he’s protective of me because I’m on my own.”
“Oh… good.” He smiles and seems at ease, “This makes what I’m going to say to you a lot easier.” He takes another sip of coffee, as though it gives him Dutch Courage, and looks at me, “I find it hard to talk to people and since you’ve been in town…”
“I’ve been here for over a decade.”
“Yeah… since you’ve been here, we’ve been great friends. I can tell you everything – anything.” He pauses, “I wanted to know how you felt about… um… jeez this is hard.” He gets up and starts pacing from my bedroom to the living room, “I want to tell you how much you mean to me and how much I think about you and how much you’re on my mind when the end of the day comes, but I can’t seem to get the damned words out.”
I get up and stop him, taking his hand in mid-stride, “You just did.”
He smiles, “Yeah… I did.” Leaning down, he pulls me close and kisses me gently.