“I remember my first time,” Darcie said. She slid her black canvas backpack on and gave Linus a sly grin. Once the bag was secured on her shoulders she pulled her green apron off and handed it to Linus. “I didn’t get the same training you did. They just plopped me right on the A. Shift without a heads up or anything,” she chuckled. “I freaked out when a knight walked in wearing full plate armor. I think Mundo realized she should have said something when I screamed and hid in the walk-in.”
Linus joined in the laughter as he undid her nametag from the apron. He handed it to her then affixed his own tag before slipping the apron over his head.
“You’ll be fine,” she added. “Ninjas, gunslingers, samurais…,” Darcie shrugged. “…they’re people like you and me. They’re here for the food just like everyone else. If you get any troublemakers let Mundo know and she’ll take care of it.” She meandered toward the back door as she gave him her last bits of wisdom.
“Thanks, D,” Linus said. He nodded at her as she leaned on the door to open in. She returned the gesture then stepped out into the midnight darkness.
“See you later,” her voice said from the darkness; then, the door closed. Linus had just enough time for one deep breath before a jingling bell notified him of his first customer.
“I’m ready,” Linus mumbled to himself while he traveled through the kitchen to the front. “Whoever or whatever they are, I can handle it.” He expected to see almost anything except for what he found. A young girl with long blond hair sat at the counter eyeing the display of pies. She could not have been older than nine or ten. Linus looked around the rest of the restaurant for her parents, but there were no other patrons.
Mundo’s cafe was technically closed between midnight and 4:00 a.m.; the A. Shift. Linus did not know all the details yet, it was only his second week on the job. Mundo, his boss as well as the cook, gave him the impression that only certain people could enter the cafe during those hours. The shift was meant for the likes of travelers and adventurers from other eras and other worlds.
“Hi,” Linus said from his side of the counter. She turned her attention from the pies to him and smiled. “Ready to order or should we wait for your mom or dad?” he asked. The girl’s smile evaporated and her face settled into a neutral expression. She did not seem hurt as if it was a sore spot; Linus felt like that was the moment she decided she did not have to be nice to him.
“I’m by myself,” she said with full confidence. “I’ll take a slice of chocolate pie.”
“Sure thing!” Linus said with is best customer service smile. “Geeez I already offended someone,” he whined internally while he plated the dessert. Once he put the slice in front of her the door jingled again and someone else walked in. The new person was closer to what Linus expected. It was a woman wearing all black. A black leather trench coat obscured the rest of her dark clothing. Her purple hair was styled in a short crewcut. Linus gave a slight, involuntary shudder when he noticed her tattoo. A large, hairy tarantula was inked on her neck; a ’33’ showed on its abdomen in golden numbers.
The newcomer in black walked straight to the counter and sat on the stool next to the blonde girl. She glanced at the girl then at the pie.
“I’ll take some of that,” she said with a nod at Linus. The little girl looked up at the woman and smiled at her.
“Yes ma’am,” Linus nodded and prepared a slice for her. While his back was turned, the door jingled once; then again when he delivered the slice. An armored knight and a gunslinger entered separately and found seats. Linus went to the knight first; then the gunslinger. After their orders, more patrons came in and Linus was kept busy for the rest of his shift.
The four hours passed by in what seemed to be the blink of an eye. Once he got busy, Linus focused more on doing his job and less on who he was serving. He served hamburgers to samurais and milkshakes to cyborgs. What surprised him most of all was the fact that the blonde girl and woman in black chatted together for four hours. He served them each more slices of pie and a couple of milkshakes each. From the bits of conversation he heard, the blonde girl seemed to want the woman to play with her. She mentioned a “team” several times. They were the first two to arrive and the last two to leave.
At 3:55 a.m. the blonde girl paid her bill, left no tip, then walked out of the cafe.
“That was not the night I expected,” the woman in black said while Linus wiped the counter where the girl was sitting.
“Well, she seemed to like your company,” he said. She nodded and stood from the stool to put her coat on.
“I came in here ’cause I was hungry,” she chuckled. “I ended up joining a guild.”
“Oh, wow. I didn’t know guilds accept children that young.” The woman nodded.
“They normally don’t without a parent’s permission. She doesn’t have any though.”
“Oh,” Linus felt bad again and tried to look on the positive side to cheer himself up. “Well, I’m glad she found a guild that took her in even though her parents are dead.” The woman shook her head.
“They’re not dead.”
“But.. you said-“
“I said she doesn’t have any parents…,” the woman sighed. “…because she never did.”