21 - Four and sure

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"Whatever chains are holding you back, don't let 'em tie you down."

There are four minutes until four pm. 

Four minutes until Luca arrives and four minutes until I have to pitch my sabbatical speech.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. The man is a hard shell to crack, and as Penny found out - the personal lives of his employees is not his topic of choice. 

I've cleaned the store from top to bottom and even ordered replacement napkin holders for the two that met their untimely death. I know Luca probably won't appreciate the buttering up but I'm not entirely sure what more I can do to strengthen my case. I'm well aware that I could just hand my notice in and leave altogether, but, despite working with Australia's biggest gossip and biggest pain in my arse - I genuinely like this job and would be sad to go. 

There are three minutes until four pm. 

I haven't touched any of the gelato today, not even for an anxiety pick-me-up or a pre-speech boost. I don't want Luca to see the narrow, singular scrape lines of my trusty teaspoon. I need his focus to be on what I have to say... plus I really don't want to be suffering from brain-freeze during my big moment

I've not spoken to Harry yet, not even to acknowledge the arrival of his gift. I only want to contact him when I know for sure. When I know for sure that I'm going to spend thirty-eight days in his company. Thirty-eight day as Harry and Juni. Juni and Harry. Just the thought gives me goosebumps and makes my heart constrict in a way that I can't explain. 

The bell above the door chimes, snapping me out of my reverie and leaving me gaping at my boss as if he's an unwelcome intruder. Never mind the fact that I've got an urgent question to ask him - all I can focus on is the fact that he's now two minutes early and I've lost out on two whole minutes of preparation time. 

"Juniper." He says in greeting, already making a beeline for the staff room with his leather brief case bumping against his leg. I've never actually witnessed any of the work that Luca supposedly carries out here; not once have I seen him fill a waffle cone or restock the sprinkle jars. 

He certainly doesn't mop the floors because when I open up shop the morning after his evening shifts, the linoleum is still sticky from spilt Blue Heaven syrup and melted Cherry Ripe shavings.

Luca's already behind the counter with his free hand resting against the staff room door when my brain decides it's finally time to kick into gear.

"Um, Luca." He pauses and my mouth dries out. Luca has always liked me, mostly because I turn up to work on time, work hard and go home without a fuss. I'm not like Penny - I don't talk his ear off or spread my school revision supplies across the staff room on my lunch break. I certainly don't wave gossip magazines under his nose first thing in the morning or ram the staff room door into the refrigerator.

I just hope Luca still likes me in five minutes time.

"Um, Juniper." He mimics. I think he might be in a good mood. I hope he might be in a good mood.

"Could I speak to you quickly, please?"  
It feels like hours pass before he finally turns from the door and decides to actually look at me. There's a deep set groove between his eyebrows.

"What's Penny done now?" He asks nonchalantly and then his eyes drift towards the fridge. "Please tell me she didn't leave the door open overnight again?"

Three months ago, I spent a whole Sunday morning pouring curdled milk down the sink. And then a whole Sunday afternoon ridding the store of the resulting smell. Luca had been so angry that Penny was convinced she was going to lose her job.

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