The next morning, Willow woke up feeling restless, yet invigorated.

“Hey, Lucy,” she said, as she fumbled with her phone while scanning the contents of her cupboard. “You free today? It’s been a while since we just hung out when the restaurant is closed, and I need to let my hair down.”

Lucy chuckled at the mental picture of Willow with her waist-length, springy curls in a tight bun. She cast her eyes over the mountain of paperwork spread out over her bed. Willow’s right, she thought, I should rest on deep-clean Mondays. “How about a trek to the beach? My eyes could do with something sweet.”

Willow grinned at the thought of ogling lifesavers and buff bodies, while they enjoyed the last days of summer. “It’s a date. I’ll pick you up. That should give you time to hide the work you’re busy with.”

“I wasn’t wor–”

Sure you weren’t. And tomorrow Christian McPutrid and I are getting married.”

Lucy snorted as she laughed. “It could happen.”

“Ag, shut up. See you now-now.”

The sun’s rays danced on the ocean’s mirrored surface, while a handful of bathers lay sprawled on their beach towels, soaking up the summer sun.

Lucy and Willow spread out their towels close to the lifesavers’ watch tower. Willow gazed lazily across the white-gold sands. “Weekdays at the beach are the best.”

Lucy nodded. “For sure. We practically have it all to ourselves. Our own little corner of heaven. Ooh, and look,” she said and jerked her head to the left of the watchtower at three surfers who’d prodded their boards upright into the sand. “The angels have come out to play. Yum, yum, eye candy.”

Willow gazed at their bronzed, sun-kissed bodies. “Sure, they’re easy on the eyes, but I bet they’re a bunch of heartbreakers.”

Lucy propped herself on one elbow and peered at Willow. “When did you become so pessimistic?”

“When I dumped cheating Chad. And remember Henry, the jealous control freak? He didn’t even want me praying in silence because he wanted to know what’s going on between me and Jesus!”

Lucy flopped down on the towel and kicked her feet as she laughed. “That still cracks me up.”

“Ja, ja, I’m the comic relief. But you’re solidly in the lead for the spinsterhood award. When was the last time you had a boyfriend?”

“Food is my boyfriend, husband, friend, lover, and skelmpie.” Lucy lay down and closed her eyes. “It understands me and it listens to me.”

“Hmmm.” Willow folded her hands beneath her head and squinted at the bright blue sky. Her mind ticked back to her encounter with Christian. Naaah, he wasn’t coming on to me. Better not share it with Lucy. He was probably just being kind.

* * * * *

At work on Tuesday morning, Christian flew into Lucy’s office. “I need help! I had to send a few of the kitchen staff home ― there’s a stomach bug on the loose. And I’ve got a lunch reservation for 18.”

Lucy reached for the phone on her desk. “Willow,” she said as she cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder, while she pinned up her hair.  “We’re needed in the kitchen, in our whites.”

Five hours later, when the waitresses announced the dining area empty, Lucy sighed with relief. “Good job everyone. Thanks.” She patted Christian on the back as she headed back to her office.

Christian and Willow slumped against the serving pass. Willow grabbed a bottle of water and wrestled with the top. “I so do not miss this heat and pressure.”

“But you were awesome. You cooked and plated as though you were born in this kitchen.”

Willow wiped the perspiration from her upper lip. “Guess I will never forget my culinary training, and I did help create the menus. But today was a one-time thing, okay?”

Christian turned toward her and studied her face. “Why did you re-skill to the management side, when you’ve clearly got what it takes for the kitchen?”

“Ag … I love cooking and all, but I get more satisfaction from working directly with people.”

“Now that’s interesting. If you’re such a people person, how come us guys weren’t invited to your birthday party?”

“Like you woulda come.” Willow raised an eyebrow. “Anyway, I decided I wanted a girls’ night out.”

“I would have been there. It’s the only way I could have kissed you without getting slapped.”

Willow averted her eyes from Christian as she tucked a tendril of stray hair, that suddenly bothered her, behind her ear. “You need a doctor. It’s serious.” Willow said sarcastically as she turned away from Christian and walked to the kitchen doors. “You’ve started talking through your bum.”

Yes, I need a love doctor, Christian thought.

***

Tell us: Do you think you have the right temperament to work under pressure in a busy restaurant kitchen?