Sweetheart (Busy Bean #1) - Sarah Mayberry

1

Haley

Starting a new job is like starting a new relationship—for weeks you’re on your best behavior, smiling your brightest smile, laughing at every joke. Pretending you don’t burp, fart, and have occasional moments of stupidity like a normal person.

All that effort. All that niceness. That’s why I was braced for an exhausting day when I arrived at the Busy Bean for my first shift. I really needed this job to work out for me, and I was determined to be my most sparkling, eager, and diligent self to show my two new bosses they had made an excellent choice when they gave me the job of barista-waitress in their bustling coffeeshop.

But I hadn’t been prepared for my first day to start with absolute mayhem. I walked through the door to find one of my bosses with a mop in hand, doing battle with a tide of water creeping across the wide pine floorboards. I could hear my other boss letting loose a stream of expletives from the kitchen area, with the deeper register of a man’s voice occasionally chiming in. Chairs had been stacked haphazardly on tables, and a wad of soaked dishtowels formed a soggy barrier in front of the kitchen doorway, funneling the water out toward the seating area and away from the refrigerated display cabinets.

“Haley, thank God. Grab this while I run over to the apartments to steal all of Ben and Alec’s towels,” Zara Rossi said, shoving the mop handle into my hands.

“Okay,” I said stupidly.

“Water pipe broke under the kitchen sink. This place was inches deep when I opened up,” Zara explained before disappearing out the front door.

I mopped like crazy for the next few minutes, wringing water into the bucket over and over, fighting what felt like a never-ending battle. Then a cheer sounded from the kitchen.

“By all that is holy, yes!”

Seconds later, my other new boss, Audrey Shipley, exited the kitchen, her blond hair dripping. She was wearing an old, faded T-shirt and what looked like pajama pants, both of which were soaked through.

“Water is off. Finally. Any sign of the plumber?” She pulled up short when she realized she was talking to me and not her business partner. “Haley. Hi. Where’s Zara?”

“She said something about stealing towels from her brothers at the Gin Mill,” I explained.

“She’s a genius. I was just wondering how we were going to get this place dry enough to open for business.”

“Can you open with the water shut off?” I asked tentatively. I was no expert on managing a coffeeshop, but running water seemed like it might be one of the basic requirements.

“The plumber said he’d be here— Ah, there he is.” Audrey dashed toward the door, opening it to greet a burly, bearded man hefting a battered toolbox.

They disappeared into the kitchen, and I went back to mopping. A few minutes later, Zara came back with an armful of towels, and together we threw them on the floor and started skate-drying, shuffling back and forth across the floorboards with towels beneath our feet. Early morning sunlight was streaming through the leaded glass windows, painting the hodge-podge of antique and vintage chairs and tables with bars of golden light as we shuffled up and down, up and down.

“Okay, Haley, I think we’re done,” Zara said after a strenuous ten minutes. She pushed her dark hair off her forehead and let out a laugh that sounded more than a little embarrassed. “Welcome to the Bean. What a great introduction.”

“Hey, at least we know the floors are really clean,” I said, because I am a pro at finding the silver lining in every cloud.

“This is true,” Zara said.

I started gathering the towels together. “What do we want to do with these?”

“Let’s throw them in a trash bag. I’ll take them home and wash them.” She checked her watch. “Okay, we’ve got thirty minutes until we’re supposed to open. Audrey.”

It took a couple of seconds, but Audrey emerged from the kitchen, a dusting of flour on her cheek, eyebrows raised as if to say, Why the hell are you screeching my name?

“Go home,” Zara ordered. “Haley and I have got this. I only called you because I knew Griff would have a pipe wrench handy, and you’d get here faster than the plumber.”

Audrey started to argue, but Zara simply pointed a finger toward the door. “Begone, wench.”

Audrey’s mouth kicked up into a smile. “Okay, fine. Whatever. See you at one.”

Zara turned to me once her business partner was gone. “Baptism by fire