Chapter One

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29/08/12: This chapter has been edited.

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“Spillage over at table three.”

            I resist the urge to groan as Dad throws a checked dishcloth in my direction. By now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the people over at table three are determined to make my shift hell. The chubby seven-year-old boy has already spilled his drink three times, and seems incapable of keeping his food inside the rim of his plate. It’s only made worse by the fact the parents seem to find his antics utterly hilarious, continually laughing and cooing over him as I run around their table, cleaning, wiping and refilling.

            What is it this time? Upon glancing over, I realize that the family of three have now moved onto dessert, and in front of the spoiled boy lies a huge chocolate sundae – one that will probably end up on the floor before he gets halfway through.

            “Do you want me to get it?” my best friend, Ava, offers from a few tables away. Ever the good employee, her arms are full of serving trays and she’s skirting through the labyrinth of tables expertly. “After I’ve brought this stuff over to table six.”

            As tempting as her proposition is, I don’t want to load my own work onto her. “No, it’s fine... I got it.”

            The restaurant is bustling – with it being seven o’clock on a Friday evening – and there are only a couple of vacant tables. Mainstream pop music plays over the speakers, which mixes with the chatter of customers and various noises from inside the kitchen area, where Dad’s at work. For obvious reasons, this shift is one of my least favorites. Not that I particularly enjoy any of them, but there’s something about walking into the place on a Friday that brings with it a feeling of dread.

            Sighing, I head over to table three, where the parents are now giggling hysterically over their precious son’s latest masterpiece – in other words, the smeared ice cream trail he’s left over the table. However, at Howard Grill, “service with a smile” is guaranteed, so I’m forced to suck up my irritation and grin at the customers with (false) enthusiasm.

            “Can I get that for you?” I ask through gritted teeth.

            “Thank you, dear!” The woman beams at me as I lean over to wipe away the melting chocolate trail. She squints at my name badge. “You’ve been a great help... George.” She frowns. “Hmm. That’s an unusual name for a girl.”

            “It’s Georgie,” I correct her. “You know... it’s short for Georgia?”

            Her perplexed expression is enough to tell me she doesn’t get it. “Well, whatever your name is... you’ve done a good job. Do you like working here?”

            No, I hate every minute of my shift with a burning passion and would rather be anywhere but smiling at irritating customers all evening is the most truthful response I can come up with. However, I don’t want to do anything that might damage my chances of a generous tip, so I fake a smile.

            “Of course,” I answer, scrunching up the cloth in my hand. “It’s great. Um, can I get you anything else?”

            She glances at her husband for a second before turning back to me. “No, that’s fine. We’ll just take the check now, please.”

            “Sure thing,” I nod and smile, but the moment my back is turned, my face twists into a grimace. I head over to the cash register like the good employee, ready to total up their order and print the receipt, but Dad intercepts me before I can get there, beckoning Ava too.

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