The last thing that I asked Henri and my father in law before I left for my early afternoon class in taxes was "Are you sure that you don't need me to stay here and help earlier than usual ?"
Henri told me : We have it covered- most of the diners tonight are by reservation.
Jean Paul reassured me " We have done this forever. The truffles are boxed and marked. We have everything prepped . What could possibly go wrong?"
So I took my accounting text as well as the M R Sellars novel that I read on the bus. Henri usually picks me up after class but I had made arrangements for my Aunt Liz , a gorgeous tall blonde with a perfect figure , to pick me up and bring me home, as I do not drive. I had intended her to come into our flat downstairs for a cup of coffee before she went home to my Uncle Andrew.
We drove down Whitman to Poe , thinking that she could park out back. It was a wonderful idea. I hadn't counted on every parking spot on Poe being filled , people walking towards Hawthorne and Alcott. We were bombed. I was flabberghasted.
"Need help? "she offered. I evaluated the situation. There was the problem of parking.
" Let me unlock the gate, you can park in the yard where Henri parks. There is room enough. "
She parked her Prius next to out Buick, running behind me into the flat , bolting upstairs. I thrust the bus pan at her " Would you mind? We are going to need tables as fast as we can get them." She threw an apron over her clothes and cleared at an inhuman speed.
Jean Paul retreated to the kitchen as I took over the register . I went to the door and called out names of those with a reservations. The line moved forward.
" No shows lose their reservation after 30 mins" called Henri from the kitchen. Dishes clattered , saute pans hit the sink to be precleaned for the dish machine. There was constant buzz of human chatter from the dining room.
" Yes, Chef," I answered. From four o'clock to almost eleven we were swamped. I looked around about seven , seeing a tall thin man with a coffee pot making the rounds. I knew him. My uncle had come looking for Liz and jumped in when he saw the situation. It took the three of us working to return the dining room to readiness for the next day. The partners broke down the kitchen , steam from the dish machine made the air humid .
I brought a carafe of coffee to the table that our family uses near the pass, where orers are placed and picked up. We were done, the door was locked. We had somehow pulled it off .
"Excuse me " A petite dark haired woman stepped from the hall which lead from the rest rooms.
" I am sorry , Miss. But the kitchen is closed. " Henri was exhausted.
" I know, "she returned, walked over to Jean Paul , handing him a single red rose. " Happy Valentine's Day."
Jean Paul explained " Caroline got dumped by her exboyfriend in the cafe about two weeks ago. I comped her meal and we talked about the louse. She works for Hewlett Packard in Boston . "
The young woman pulled a chair to the table. " Did you guess that it was me? Sorry for the confusion , I did not realize that there were two Mr Copain here. You were so kind to take me home so I didn't have to take the late night bus. "
Henri smiled " My father is nice like that"
"How old are you? " I asked her.
" Twenty two. "
" I dropped her off and there was nothing more," Jean Paul faced the waiting table.
" But there could be, I think" Caroline added. All eyes turned back to my father in law. "After all , you are what? Sixty? "
"Something like that" coughed Jean Paul. "You are very sweet, let me call you a cab. I am way too tired to consider anything as serious as this tonight. "
"Could be just what you need to pick you up," offered my uncle laughing.
Jean Paul glared at him." There is the question of boundries to be considered. Someone else knows that she is here, I am sure. "
" Only my friend, Julie " the young woman added.
" There , you see."
"Well, I am pooped," Henri announced. " Coming ? " he asked.
" We have to be going anyway ," added Liz as she pulled Andrew from the table.
" You have keys, lock the door behind you" replied Henri , giving his father a meaningful look.
" Nothing is going to happen ,"defended his father.
"Uh huh. Whtever." Henri turned to me
" Coming? "
I kissed Jean Paul good night. I followed Henri downstairs as he whispered " I told you that it wasn't me."