7: Carols and Cocoa

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C H A P T E R    S E V E N

Carols and Cocoa

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                  THE CLOCK ON the wall beside the doorway to the dining room mocked Harry every time he brought an order back to the cooks. Only thirty minutes left, he told himself this time. Thirty minutes before he could go spend his tips at Gibson's and keep a watchful eye out for that little man with the blue eyes and cheekbones.

                  God, what Harry wouldn't give to know Cheekbones' actual name. It was probably something otherworldly or poetic, perhaps even royal. He looked like he could be a prince...or a cat. It could go either way.

                  A tall ginger called Ella – Harry's favorite coworker – spun into the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes then. She blew a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail away from her face and glanced at Harry. "Table five is gone."

                  Nodding, he glanced at the clock once more before heading back out to continue doing his job. Twenty-eight minutes.

                  Table five was a generous older couple who had adored Harry. He returned the sentiment easily, especially because they appreciated his inability to stop humming holiday tunes whenever he wasn't speaking. And he liked them even more now that they hadn't left an enormous mess for him to clean; he picked up their napkins and piled them on top of their emptied plates, stuck their tip into the pocket of his belt apron, and brought everything to the sinks in the kitchen. He returned to the table with a rag and two new table settings, and then he was finished.

                  The other table he was currently waiting on needed refills on their drinks, so he did that quickly. And once he was back in the kitchen with nothing to do for the moment, Ella appeared again, this time with nothing in her arms and no hair in her face. She crossed her arms across her chest and leaned against the counter beside Harry, huffing a tired sigh. They'd both pulled a double shift that day – Harry because he needed the money, and Ella because another coworker hadn't showed.

                  "I hate this job," she stated, watching the cook prepare the food for Harry's table.

                  Harry shrugged. "It's not that bad."

                  "You don't think anything is that bad."

                  "That's not true. Sometimes I burn myself on the shower water here," he argued. "It's always a lot hotter than I expect it to be. So, I think that's pretty bad."

                  Ella began laughing, and though Harry wasn't sure what was so funny, he was glad he'd managed to get this kind of reaction from her. He smiled while she continued giggling. When she was finally finished she sighed again, but this one was happier than the last. "Alright, you win. Hey, I have a question."

                  One of Harry's table's meals were finished. The other two looked like they were just about there. "Sure. What's up?"

                  "So, we have a really lame tradition here every year where the employees put on a little Christmas concert on Christmas Eve. Only half the employees ever do it because, like I said, it's kind of lame – "

                  "It's not lame," Harry said.

                  Ella blinked at him for a moment before continuing. "And, uh. Anyway, sometimes we even do caroling to the hotel rooms if enough of us are up for it, and I think one time we had enough people that we went caroling other places too. So," she smiled, "think you'd be up for it?"

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