Ellie Fletcher tapped the eraser of her pencil on her lips as she loosely held the pad of paper she used to take orders. As the man sitting at the table peered at the laminated menu and pursed his lips in thought, she found herself growing more and more agitated. She tapped her foot, trying to make the man make up his mind quicker. Her rushing, however, only seemed to make him move slower.
"I think I'll have…" he started to say, his deep voice rising towards the end as if he were asking a question. Ellie brightened, happy that he seemed to have made up his mind. "Oh wait, this looks good too…" Ugh.
That routine had been going on for over five minutes, and Ellie was too jittery and hyped up on various coffee-like drinks to be content standing around waiting for the man to make his order. "I suggest a blueberry muffin," Ellie said, smiling as only a waitress can, "They're made fresh every day and, if I do say so myself, they are amazing."
The man smiled, seemingly unaware of Ellie's impatience, and nodded. Ellie took the menu from him and practically ran back to the kitchen, writing down his order as she went. She pinned the piece of paper to the close line hung across the window to the kitchen with a clothespin, thought she knew it was unnecessary. Mimi's Café, were Ellie worked, wasn't very busy. There were only five people inside and only three of them were actually ordering anything, the other two were just there for the free internet connection.
Ellie skipped over to the glass counter where all of the day's food was stored and opened it up, grabbing a blueberry muffin. She placed it on a napkin that read 'Mimi's Café: est. 2011' in cursive writing, before going back to the man who'd ordered it and handing it to him. He thanked her, and handed her a five dollar bill.
"Sir, the muffin only costs three dollars," Ellie told him, handing him the money back.
"No, no. Keep the change as a tip, thank you for suggesting this. It's wonderful." He said, standing up and leaving through the glass panel door. She watched him, unable to help the creeping sense of guilt she felt crawling up her spine. He had to have noticed that she wasn't being patient with him.
Ellie shrugged it off, stuffing the crumpled green bill into the front pocket of her apron. She asked the other patrons if they would like anything, and was met with silent no's and the shaking of heads. She made her way back to the counter, placing the money into the register, before grabbing up her coffee cup. It was a clear plastic cup filled to the brim with coffee, chocolate syrup, and lots of whipped cream. Ellie placed her lips on the straw, sucking some of the sugary and caffeine laced liquid into her mouth.
Ellie had nightmares, pretty much every single night. Well, they weren't nightmares in the sense where she woke up from a bad dream where someone had been trying to kill her. No, she could never quite remember the contents of the dreams, but she always woke with a thick sense of fear and loneliness. It got to a point, where she didn't want to sleep because she knew the dreams would follow. If she stayed awake as much as possible, she wouldn't have the nightmare and she wouldn't have to deal with the crushing loneliness.
Caffeine and loads of sugar kept her awake for a long time, so she made a point to drink almost nothing but the sugar filled mocha lattes at Mimi's. Good thing Ellie loved coffee, and everything tastes better with chocolate.
When the few people eating breakfast and typing away on their computers eventually left, the café was quiet save for Ellie's tapping pencil and Theresa, the woman who baked everything, humming softly to herself. Ellie was beyond bored and had far too much energy to allow that. She looked around the empty serving area and her heart started thumping at a faster pace. She knew she wasn't alone in the café, but she didn't see anyone, so she felt as if she were alone. She hated being alone.
She jumped from the spinning stool she'd been sitting on and made her way to the kitchen where Theresa was working.
Theresa was a woman in her early thirties with hair dyed a bright red and she always wore a warm smile. To Ellie, Theresa was somewhat of a motherly figure as Ellie's own mother lived out of state and they rarely ever spoke. "Hello Mrs. Theresa, how are you?" Ellie asked, watching intently as the older woman stirred some kind of batter in a red plastic bowl.
"Good, good. And you, El, how are you?" She replied, not taking her eyes from whatever food she was making at the moment.
"Same as always, bored out of my mind and ready to get off work." Ellie said airily, tugging on a strand of her curly hair that had fallen free from her bun.
"Still drinking that coffee like it's going out of style?" Theresa asked as she raised a pencil-lined eyebrow knowingly.
Ellie laughed, nothing got past Theresa, "Yes ma'am, I sure am."
The woman made a clucking noise with her tongue as she poured the batter into a muffin tray and placed the metal tray into the oven. Then she turned to face Ellie, who was now staring longingly at a plate of cookies that had recently been baked. "Now, you know that coffee is no good for such a young girl. Wait until you're old and gray like me to drink that stuff." Theresa didn't know about Ellie's sleeplessness. No one did, really. Ellie's brother Archer, who shared an apartment with her, might have an idea but he never said anything on the subject.
The rest of the day, Ellie filled people's orders with a smile on her face and some form of chocolaty coffee drink in her hand. After the lunch rush had died down, she didn't really have much to do anyways. The café closed at five, so they didn't get many customers for dinner and when they did they never stayed too long.
Ellie clicked open her old flip phone, glancing at the time as she spun on a vinyl stood and waited for her shift to end. 4:57 . Three minutes. Those three minutes ticked by slowly and painfully like hours, because time always moves the slowest when you're waiting for something to happen.
"Okay, Ellie. Time to close up." Theresa called from the kitchen, "I'll stay and clean, you go home and rest up. Oh, and feel free to take any of the leftovers home, I'll make everything fresh again in the morning."
Ellie grinned, yelled a quick thank you, and stuffed a few chocolate chip cookies into a paper bag. The skipped to the glass door and flipped the switch that turned the flashing light out front off. She called out a goodbye before rushing out of the café and into the cool autumn air. Her night had begun and the freedom she felt was her idea of heaven.