She hands me an order slip.
“Is Adrian here?” I ask as I read the order. He puts up with me calling him Addy, but to everyone else, he’s Adrian, and I respect that.
“Yes.” She picks up the order I’ve just finished preparing, but instead of turning around and going to serve it, she stares at me.
“You knew Adrian was here based on his order?”
“He always asks for the same thing—a cheese and tomato toastie. No cucumber, extra radish. I bet he asked for peppermint tea.”
“You’re so cute.”
“You just are, that’s all.” She smiles at me and then leaves the kitchen with an extra spring in her step.
I’m left metaphorically scratching my head. I can’t do it because I’m preparing food. What on earth was that about? I shrug and get Addy’s order ready, then take it out to him. He’s wearing his work clothes—heavy-duty combat trousers, boots with steel toecaps, and a fluorescent vest over a thick woollen jumper. He has to wear a hard hat when he’s working up high, which has left his brown hair mussed up. He’s starting to go grey at the temples. Although the hair on his head doesn’t have any warm tones in it, his beard and moustache are streaked with auburn.
“You didn’t say you’d be popping in today,” I say as I put his food in front of him.
“I finished a job early, so figured I’d come to say hi before I have to be at the next job. Plus, where else am I going to get a mountain of radish with my lunch?”
I laugh. “I don’t know how you can eat that stuff.”
He picks up a thin slice of radish with his thick fingers and pops it into his mouth. “It’s delicious. You’re busy today.”
“Lunch rush. It’ll get quieter in about an hour. Then we’ll get the afternoon tea rush around three.”
“Make sure you take a break.”
I’ve made a joke of it, but I do appreciate his concern. We’ve been looking out for each other for twenty years now.
Even when we went our separate ways to university, we used phone and email to keep in touch and support each other. Addy did a degree in arboriculture near Preston, whereas I went to culinary school in London. I loved every minute of my course, but those three years were lonely. As kids, we’d popped over to each other’s houses to hang out, but that was impossible to do while living almost two hundred and fifty miles apart. I’d looked forward to every holiday when I could see him in person.
Unlike most of our friends—okay, my friends—Addy has always been a bit of a loner. We both ended up back in our hometown after uni to be close to our families. As a bonus, it meant I got to hang out with my best friend again.
Funny that I should think about that now.