9: Lads and Louis

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C H A P T E R    N I N E

Lads and Louis

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                  HARRY SPOTTED OLIVIA in the back of the restaurant wiping down table eleven. They hadn't really ever properly interacted, but Ella had warned him of all the employees who would give him the most trouble and Olivia wasn't one of them. He proceeded with less caution than he'd had when he tried talking to Amanda, a woman in her late thirties who usually worked in the kitchen as a cook but has been demoted to dishes after burning one too many steaks.

                  For the record, Harry had been successful with Amanda. It took a little longer than he expected to convince her, but after he bought her a drink at the hotel bar, she agreed to join the holiday celebrations.

                  Olivia was around Ella's age, only a few years older than Harry. They didn't work together often, so Harry figured he might as well talk to her about it now while he had her in sight rather than wait for the next time they were put on the schedule together. There were still a couple months until Christmas, but the sooner a decent-sized group of employees was on board with the festivities, the sooner Harry could organize practices.

                  Oh yeah. He made a mental note to discuss a practice schedule with Ella. She never said that the employees did that in the past, but Harry figured it'd be a good idea. He could teach them how to harmonize and their caroling would be best caroling this hotel has seen in years. And hotel guests would feel more inclined to listen and enjoy what they were hearing if it sounded like the carol singers knew what they were doing. It was basically a science, and Harry was an expert.

                  As Olivia brought her dirty rag to the wash bucket on her bus cart, Harry approached her with his friendliest smile. She looked up at him with surprise.

                  "Hi," he greeted her. "I know I've been working here for a while, but I don't think we've ever really met. I'm Harry."

                  She dried one of her hands on her black jeans and reached for his with a half-smile. "Olivia."

                  "Did you want some help with that? I've got mean bussing abilities. It's like I was born to do it."

                  Olivia pressed her lips together as if she was unsure whether she was allowed to laugh at him or not, but Harry didn't wait for her to respond in any way. He took the rag from her, wrung it out, and then finished wiping down the table while she pulled out enough table settings from the bottom shelf of the bus cart.

                   "So," Harry continued while they worked together. "Have you heard about that employee Christmas thing?" It was hard to hold back his enthusiasm for the event, Harry found, whenever starting this conversation. But he learned that coming on too strong about these kinds of things, especially when it was only October, turned most humans off quickly.

                  Olivia handed him a stack of napkins to start laying out beside each setting. She followed behind them as he rounded the table, setting out the silverware. "I've heard something about it. I think they did the same thing last year." She shrugged. "It was a bust, I heard."

                  "You didn't participate?"

                  She made a face that answered Harry's question. "Eh. I don't really get into the whole Christmas thing, you know? Too busy for it. Too broke for it," she laughed. Harry didn't hear any actual humor in it, so he assumed Olivia didn't think it was funny either. "Why, do you plan on doing it this year?"

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