Willow shuffled into Lucy’s office a few minutes before 9am, slumped into the closest chair, removed her sunglasses briefly, then shoved them quickly back over her eyes.
Lucy, her nose almost touching the computer printouts on her desk, studied the latest sales data, while she scribbled copious notes.
“How the hell,” Willow’s voice croaked, “did you even manage to get here before me? You danced harder than me last night.”
Lucy held up a hand signalling ‘stop’, while she continued her note taking.
“You’re such a damn workaho–”
Willow stuck her out tongue at Lucy’s head, folded her legs under herself, and closed her eyes.
After what felt like just seconds, Lucy’s voice tugged at her lids. She’s losing her mind with all her working ― now she’s talking to herself, thought Willow.
“This dish isn’t moving, but I like it. Let’s see if we can drum up interest through a special or an amuse-bouche.”
“Why you talking to yourself, Lucy?” Willow yawned, her eyes still closed. “Next thing you’ll be booking tables for imaginary friends.”
“Oh, Wee-loo …”
“Ag man.” Willow’s eyelids fluttered but her eyes remained closed. “Stop making my name sound like a flippin toilet.”
“Good morning, Willow.”
The familiar voice ripped Willow’s eyes wide open and they jumped from Christian to Lucy. “Oh! You weren’t talking to yourself.” She jerked her shoulders into a slight shrug and closed her eyes again. “Wouda been better company.”
Lucy cringed at the words. Willow still kept Christian at arm’s length because of their history at culinary school, when he belittled, and even attempted to sabotage Lucy in their final practical exam.
“Thanks, Christian. That’s all for now.”
He picked up a stack of papers and flicked his head in Willow’s direction. “Want a breakfast special?” At the door, he paused, turned around and swallowed hard; his eyes softening. “Erm … belated happy birthday, Willow.”
Willow flicked a hand in acknowledgement. When the door clicked shut, she plucked herself from the chair and propped her hands on her hips. “You could have warned me Christian McPutrid was here. And since when does the maestro of fine dining prepare breakfast? We don’t even serve breakfast.”
Although laughter bubbled inside her, Lucy’s face remained a blank canvas. “When are you going to let go of all that, Willow? It’s been six years already, and we’ve been working together with him for over a year. I see him trying, but–”
“But nothing.” Willow dropped back into the chair like a sack of potatoes. “Just thinking about our experiences at Lyons gives me a headache.”
Lucy chuckled as she rummaged in her desk drawer. “You’ve got a hangover. Here” – she tossed the bottle of aspirin to Willow – “take two of these, but get to the kitchen first and eat something.”
Willow wrinkled her nose at the thought of eating. “Why am I the only one feeling like shit warmed over?”
Lucy rose from her seat and walked around to Willow’s side. “Let this be a lesson to you.” She hauled her up by her arm. “While you were downing Southern Comfort–”
“It tasted like cooldrink.”
“I’m sure it did, but you’re not used to drinking such strong alcohol.” Lucy rubbed Willow’s arm in comfort. “Next time drink soda water, like I did. Now go get something in your stomach.”
Every step Willow took magnified the percussive intensity of her headache. As she turned into the dining area, she collided with a human wall. Hands shot out to her shoulders, steadying her, as she rocked on her heels … and held onto her longer than she needed to regain her balance.
“I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” Christian peered into Lucy’s eyes as he pulled a chair closer with his foot. He held onto her elbow and guided her to the seat. “Please, sit down.” His voice overflowed with concern. “Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
Willow cradled her throbbing head in her hands. I’m never drinking again ― this kak feeling is so not worth it, she thought.
Christian returned with a tall glass of pink, frothy liquid. “Drink this.” He placed the glass in her hands, clasping his hands over hers, raising them to her lips. “It will help you feel better.”
Willow pulled her hands away, swirled the glass beneath her nose and sniffed at the mixture. “What’s in here? Dog’s breath and toad turds?”
A smile tugged at the corners of Christian’s mouth. “Apple juice, banana, ginger, grapes, and strawberries.”
Willow scrunched up her face. “Nah-aah. I don’t need it. Sounds like something that will make me hear colours.”
“Please, Willow,” Christian said and clasped his hands in front of him in prayer. “Drink it. It’s my special breakfast for the special birthday girl.”
“Oh, uhm …” Willow gawked at Christian over the rim of the glass before she took a tentative sip. “Tastes … okay.” She swallowed a few mouthfuls and smiled. “Pretty good, actually.”
“Nowhere near as pretty as you.”
Willow gulped down, before some of the drink somersaulted out of her nostrils as she burped, then she shoved the glass into Christian’s hand. “Thanks for that, I feel better already.” A fiery red blush rose over her pallid complexion as she strode away, her heart thumping in her chest.
Christian’s eyes remained glued to the spot where Willow took the turn, out of his sight, long after she’d disappeared.
Tell us: Are you the type who can let bygones be bygones like Lucy, or do you hold on to hurts, like Willow?