Chapter Eleven

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“But Dad! You can’t just leave us here!”

            A look of despair crosses my face at the information my dad has just relayed to us. Ava and I are standing in the middle of the restaurant kitchen, in amongst the hectic mob of chefs and cooking equipment. Usually, on a Wednesday night, the place is fairly quiet – quiet enough to mean Ava and I can spend most of our time gossiping behind the cash register – but thanks to an overambitious mother and the seventh birthday of her spoiled child, that’s no longer the case.

            “I have to!” Dad shoots an apologetic look in our direction. “I’m sorry! You’ll be able to cope for a couple of hours, won’t you?”

            The news that he has to take off to sort out an “emergency” at one of the suppliers and is leaving us alone to deal with twenty hyperactive kids is, to say the least, unwelcome.

            Sure, we won’t actually be forced to cook anything – we wouldn’t want to give whole of Parker Elementary’s first grade class food poisoning, after all – but Dad’s usually the over-looker, ensuring everything runs smoothly and that no one storms out with the intention of filing a lawsuit.

            I’m not sure if Ava and I are qualified lawsuit avoiders.

            “What about the kids’ party?” I protest.

            “It’ll be fine,” he assures me, offering me what is supposed to be a convincing smile as he unties the knots of his apron. “All you’ve got to do is take their orders, bring the food out and make sure they don’t run around. Oh, and if they break anything, get the mom to write a check.”

            “But–”

            “You haven’t got to do anything that you wouldn’t normally. It’ll be fine. I should be back in an hour or two, anyway. Then you can get off early. Okay?”

            “That’s fine, Mr. Howard,” Ava interrupts, flashing him her signature “perfect employee” smile that she’s spent way too long practicing. “We can handle it.”

            It’s all very well sounding convincing, but I’ve got a feeling we just can’t handle it. I mean, twenty screaming, sweaty, seven year old kids? All demanding platefuls of chicken nuggets whilst fueling their sugar levels with ice cream and birthday cake? Considering my past experience with babysitting the neighbor’s kid, I don’t think our chances are looking too great.

            Ava’s memory – and common sense – seems to have failed her, and before I can bring her back to her senses, she’s already waving goodbye to my dad as he heads out of the kitchen.

            “Ava!” I squeak, when his distance becomes out of earshot. “What on Earth are you doing?”

            “Calm down, Georgie,” she says soothingly. “It’s fine. We can cope. It’s just a kids’ party, right? We’ve had this job for almost a year now. I think we can handle the restaurant for a couple of hours without your dad.”

            “No, we can’t!” I insist. “What about the lawsuits?!”

            A stuffy room containing a crowd of unruly kids is practically the recipe for a legal disaster. And I am not in the mood for sending myself to law school right now.

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