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Order Up – Part 2

Laurel is about to apparate back to the dreaded alley by the  diner when a large grey owl taps on her window. She slides open  the window and takes the rolled parchment and gives the bird a  small treat from a jar she keeps for such moments. She unrolls  the note

Dear Ms Haggwood,

 I would love to meet with you to discuss my research. I’ll be  in town the next 2 weeks caring for a friend’s cat while they’re on holiday so perhaps we could have a drink at the Hag’s Hat pub in Hogsmeade. I’m sure you get this all the time but are you a relative of the late Artemis Haggwood? I was quite a fan of his books. Please let me know if you might be free next Tuesday  evening or perhaps the one after.

 Mortimer Sheffield

Laurel takes a deep breath and nods before slipping the note into her purse. This is an owl she’s been waiting for all week. She apparates to the alley behind the large rubbish bin. It’s a surreal moment when she walks into the diner as it has been almost frozen in time. The decor, the uniforms, the smell of the food is   all the same as so many years ago. She feels herself tensing up   and finds a quiet booth in the farthest corner and sits down with   her back to the wall. Henri has not arrived yet so she is alone with her anxiety. Perhaps this was a bad idea.

Laurel sees two waitresses circulating, one young and blonde in  her early 20s and one perhaps just past 50 or so with dyed burgundy hair piled up on her head. Thanks fully she spots no sign of Frank or Miriam. There is a jovially attractive man behind the counter who looks like he could pass for an aging Elvis impersonator. The Elvis man keeps chatting with the woman sporting the burgundy updo and Laurel quickly comes to  the conclusion they must have a thing from the overly friendly nature of their exchanges. Maybe the place changed hands and this  nice couple runs it. That would be a fitting change.

The burgundy haired waitress approaches her “Hello there. Can I get you a drink?” she asks cheerfully. There is something familiar about her voice but Laurel just can’t quite place it.

“Just a coffee please. I’m meeting someone.”Laurelsays politely but quietly.

The woman smiles broadly and nods “Sure thing.” and walks off   confidently to get the drink.

Laurel stares after her thoughtfully and furrow her brow. Some time passes and she grabs a newspaper from a nearby table and decides to read while she waits. She takes a pen out of her purse  and works on the crossword eventually as the place slowly empties  from the earlier dinner rush. A radio plays 50s music in the   background layered with the soft clinking of dishes, laughter and  the quiet buzz of conversation from various areas of the room.

Laurel sips her coffee and looks out the window and smiles. Henri   grins as he spots Laurel waiting for him…oblivious to the fact  that he might be a little…or more than a little late.

Laurel waves casually and folds up her muggle newspaper   “Hello handsome.”

Henri replies “Hello love! Bloody underground. It’s been a nifflers age since I had to navigate the tube. You haven’t been waiting long I hope?” Henri is known for his love of a fully authentic muggle outing complete with travel by non magical means  to get immersed in the ambiance.

Laurel giggles “Not terribly no. I did the crossword but didn’t   make it through all the classifieds.”

Henri exclaims “Oh wonderful… I love a good crossword. It took  me an eternity to figure out all the muggle clues though… then   when I went back home I couldn’t do a wizard crossword to save my life.”  He chuckles to himself at the last bit.

The burgundy haired waitress comes up with a charming smile at Henri “Can I get you a drink luv?”

Henri winks at the waitress and says “Oh yes please… coffee, black!”

The waitress nods “Yes sir and I’ll come back   with it for your food orders.” she winks back and walks away with  a sassy swing.

Laurel sees the waitress then begin to flirt with the Elvis man and looks a tad relieved “So, how has it been at the ministry   this week?”

Henri says offhandedly “Oh you know…same old, same old.  Shipment of cursed hairbrushes that turn a person’s hair grass green as it’s brushed. The statue of Winston Churchill on the parliament grounds singing show tunes; nothing to write home about.”

Laurel laughs and says dryly “Winston Churchill and show tunes?  Next it’ll be the portrait of Margaret Thatcher in the National Gallery belting out Jane’s Addiction.”

The conversation goes on with Henri sharing some choice lyrics at random and telling a few more odd tales of the Misuse of Muggle  Artifacts office.

Just before the food arrives Henri gestures around the place with   a hopeful look; “So… do you love this place, or do you love this   place!!??”

Laurel begins to laugh and then lowers her voice significantly “You’d never believe how well I know it actually. I used to work here.”

Henri’s eyes go wide “You’re kidding! ? That’s awesome! It must  have been a lark working in a classic old greasy spoon like this!” He shakes his head “Imagine that I would stumble upon the same place… what are the odds?”

Laurel sighs after sipping back some coffee “It was the  worst job I ever had and …yeah pretty strange odds….It was   when I was Gillian. Thankfully, though it seems to have changed hands. They look sweet those two who run it. Not like the couple   that owned it before..”

The burgundy haired waitress stands with her head on her hand  flirting with the Elvis man short order cook while he fixes up  the last touches on the food.

Henri frowns as Laurel bursts his idyllic fantasy job bubble   “Oh…I’m sorry to hear it. Erm… I shouldn’t have assumed.”   He’s pleased to switch focus to the couple that Laurel indicates   “Do you really suppose Elvis and Burgundythere run the place? I suppose they must. I’m pretty sure they were both here last time   I came around… the day I stumbled upon this place.”

Laurel nods “I saw her instructing the other blonde waitress before she went off shift. She wasn’t here when I was although there’s something familiar about her…must be the east end thing. Maybe I’ve crossed paths with her before when I lived out here. Anyways I think they are a good thing for the place. I’m glad I came back to see this. Thank you Henri.” she reaches across and gives his hand a squeeze with a loving gaze in her eyes.

As their evening reaches a close, Laurel takes one last look around the diner as she begins to stand to leave. She casually glances down at the bill before exiting and sees scrawled on it “Have a Nice Day! Miriam.” with a smiley face drawn under it. A big grin creeps acrossLaurel’s face as she looks towards the counter and notices the happy Elvis man taking Miriam’s hand and kissing it sweetly. Sometimes Karma works like it’s supposed to.

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Order Up – Part 1

Laurel looked at the portkey lying beside the note Henri scrawled to her asking her to meet him for dinner. It was a stainless steel tall rectangular napkin holder. She smiled to herself thinking about his love of muggle paraphernalia and let her eyes fall to the note. “Laurel, You need to see this place. It’s absolutely brilliant. I have to work late but I’ll meet you there at 7 and we’ll have some dinner before the movie? Love Henri” She looked at the clock on the wall. It was 5pm. Her curiosity got the better of her and she took the portkey to sneak a quick peek at his latest find. When she reoriented herself she found herself in an alley and had an odd sense of déjà vu. Laurel walked around to the front street and gasped. Of all the cafes in London; Bloody hell! She hurried back to the alley and apparated home and put the portkey back on her coffee table and collapsed on the couch. Could she do this or should she suggest that sushi bar in Soho and hope he’d go for it? Her pensieve glowed from its corner of the room as if to taunt her. She gave it a dirty look “Oh sod off I’ll give you your treat!” She slowly got up and walked over pulling a silvery strand from her temple as if her wand met with great resistance getting it out. It began with a young woman with short brown hair and wide facial features wearing an orange pinny style uniform over a white blouse in a terrible rush.

Gillian Poole dashed out the door of her flat and hurriedly locked up as she balanced her recyclables precariously under one arm in a bin. She was late again to leave for the restaurant and she knew it would not go well for her. She began to jam the boxes and cans into the larger receptacle that sat in the lane and to her horror it all toppled over on her. “No please not today! I don’t have time for this.” she muttered aloud.

A soft polite voice from behind her with a lilt of a South East Asian accent mixed with British almost made her jump out of her skin “It’s missing a front wheel. You need to put the tins and jugs in the back or it tips every time. Let me get it for you Miss Poole. You look like you need to go.”

She turned, her heat racing “Kiet right? I’m so sorry. You’re Rima’s grandson? You startled me. And yes I’m really late.”

Rima was her tiny Indonesian landlady. She was in her early 60s, stood barely 5 feet tall and smiled often despite her only having exactly seven and a half teeth. She had cloud like soft curly grey hair cut in a wispy bob and kind almond shaped deep brown eyes. Her clothing consisted of a crocheted cardigan over an obnoxiously bright housedress and small flatfooted slipper style shoes. The colours of the housedress and cardigan varied but the ensemble was always the same.

Rima also spoke rather broken English and knew only the phrases she needed to get by. If you caught her tired or off guard she would respond automatically in Balinese. When Rima had taken the rent money from Gillian the first time she had cheerfully chirped about her liking the “quaint compact bedsit.” She also frequently inquired about Gillian’s love life saying she should “meet nice man, marry and have babies.”

The slight teenage boy smiled at her, his black hair falling a bit over his own almond shaped brown eyes. He wore a royal blue hooded sweatshirt and black jeans that hung a bit too low revealing blue plaid boxers to be seen on purpose over the pants with tapered ankles paired with black skater style trainers. “Yes that’s right. I’m home from school and I live with my grandmother in the summer. I’ve got this. You go Miss Poole.”

“Bless you and please call me Gill.” She gave him a grateful wave and broke into a run, praying she hadn’t missed the second train.

Gillian slipped into work when she got there and tied her apron as she made like she had already been on the serving floor as both Frank and Miriam Gordon, her bosses seemed to be in the back. She grabbed a coffee pot and casually made the rounds.

Gillian stood refilling a coffee in the small dingy diner for an elderly woman sitting across from her husband reading the paper.

“Thank you dear. They’re got you run off your feet today.” The woman said offhandedly.

Gillian nodded looking harried as the order bell wrung again “Yeah, one of those days.” She said as she approached the counter with a grimace.

A short red faced balding man with beady sickly green eyes stood behind it with looking irritated as he gestured down to two plates “We don’t keep customers if we serve cold food Gill. Get a move on. You’re late again and I’m taking an hour off your cheque.”

Gillian protested “An hour? I’m not an hour late. Please Mr. Gordon I missed the first train. They run on the quarter hour.”

“You want me to make it two?” he threatened as Gill took the plates and glared at him. She served up the meals with a polite smile and then came back towards the counter. Miriam was now cleaning the grill and gave Gill a slight nod.

God she hated this job. She had applied and got it when Frank was away with the flu. She thought it was this kitsch little diner style cafe with an American retro vibe that had delighted her when she set foot in it.

Frank’s voice barked “Garbage Gill.” He gestured to the pile of bags by the back door.

She silently trotted off to collect them and put them out. As she came back in he was at the door with his stumpy sweaty hairy arm barring her way and his beady little eyes roving over her body.

Frank was a notorious letch. The diner had a hard time keeping waitresses because of it and his wife was a meek little mouse of a woman with salt and pepper grey hair and hunched over posture who Gillian wished she could just buy a one way plane ticket to the other side of the world for so she could escape her marriage to him. If he was awful to the waitresses it was nothing compared to how he spoke to Miriam.

Gill shuddered, repulsed by his proximity to her “Excuse me please.”

He chuckled and eventually moved just enough for her to get past but not without brushing by him. He had yellowed perspiration stains in the underarms of his threadbare short sleeved button up shirt. “Why were you late? Hot date last night?”

“My personal life is none of your business. I missed the train.” She said curtly. There had been no hot date but she wasn’t sure if saying yes or no would make Frank’s line of potential comments more or less inappropriate so she dodged it.

“You’re cranky Gill. I could cheer you up you know.” He said in a low voice.

“Perhaps you should focus that attention on your wife Mr. Gordon. She seems to be the only woman patient enough to put up with you. Have some gratitude for that.” Gill retorted as she grabbed a box of coffee to take to the front. Her temper was beginning to boil and she wished she had a wand on her more than anything. She pushed through the door before he could say anything else and handed the coffee to Miriam with an offering of a sympathetic smile. Miriam Gordon looked tired as she always did.

“Thank you Gillian.” She replied quietly and set to stacking it while Gill went to take an order. As her back was still turned she heard a clatter of dishes behind her as Miriam had collided with Frank on his way from the dishwasher with a tray of cups.

“You stupid clumsy b****!” Frank yelled with a menacing look at his wife. She was cowering from him and stuttering trying to respond. Gill put down her order tray and walked over with an intense look in her eyes. The whole restaurant was staring too.

“Leave her alone Frank.” She said in a tone of dangerous calm.

Frank laughed at her and then gave Miriam one last look of disgust before he went in the back. Gill had enough and followed him ready for anything.

“Just where the blazes do you think you get off?!” she began, her eyes flashing.

Frank turned his sleaze on full blast “You turn me on when you’re mad. Why don’t you come with me to the back office Sweetie? The door locks.”

If you’ve ever seen the moment when a bull sees red it was the look on Gill’s face. She hadn’t made magic happen by accident since she was a small child but a vat of hot soup suddenly flew towards Frank with his crotch as the target. It hit and he started wailing as he fell to the floor. Gill almost felt bad, enough to call an ambulance before she donned her coat. Miriam was in the doorway staring dumbfounded at her husband.

Frank had found his words again and called her every offensive thing one could ever say to a woman before sputtering out “Some kind of crazy telekinesis…..bloody freak!” He managed to scream at Gill.

She exchanged a look with Miriam but no words could quite cover it for either of them. Suddenly she heard the familiar pop of apparition. Dammit she couldn’t get caught for this! She was violating her contract with the ministry using magic. She could not be found. She bolted out the door hoping the Obliviators would have enough to do with Frank, Miriam and the patrons and not notice her exit. Her heart was in her throat as she ran at top speed once she was a block or two away. Gill looked back just before turning a corner and dashing to cross the road to her tube station. Suddenly she saw the front of a delivery truck inches from her and then everything went black.

Laurel dove back into her couch again curling into the arm like it would offer her comfort and strength. She had been a different woman then, with a different face even and her hair dyed brown. Her curiosity got the better of her and she stood up and got ready to go meet Henri and face whatever the old haunt had in store for her.

Sour Lemonade

In a sunny garden in the countryside of Chester England larks grace the light breezy day with their early afternoon song. In a corner in the back of the garden two little girls are sitting at a small table surrounded by dolls and bears, all in their best bonnets. One is seven and one is five. The older girl has strawberry blonde hair that falls in waves past her shoulders and is sporting a pretty blue dress. The younger one has her ginger hair cut in a blunt bob and wears grey cords, a striped sweater and a hat with kitten ears. The taller girl pours the imaginary tea and offers imaginary cakes to the toy guests.

“You really must have more Mr. Fuzzywig. One lump or two Miss Lilac?” she says in a terribly proper tone as she makes her way round.

The younger girl smiles mischievously and all the dolls and animals suddenly turn standing on their heads as her sister passes them. Finally when the taller girl reaches the end of her offerings she turns around and looks exasperated “Laurie why?!”

“Oh come on Vera they’re bored and so am I. Let’s play something else!”

The one she called Vera sighs “What do you want to play?”

“Mud ball?” The one called Laurie answers hopefully.

“No way! Mum was furious the last time we did that. We need a game where there’s a hope of us staying clean. How about cricket?”

Laurel sinks back into her chair, dejected “Oh all right. I don’t see what the big deal is about mud, we’re herbologists after all.”

Vervain goes to a shed and gets the equipment while Laurel sneaks off and makes a few mud balls because she just can’t stand it. She hides them behind a willow tree for when it’s her turn to pitch. As Vera begins to set up a gigantic sheep dog comes bounding across the yard towards the girls.

“Uncle Alfie!” Laurie shouts out and runs to him. Vera drops the bat and joins her and they chase him around the yard and eventually they forget cricket and the three end up playing hide and seek until a kindly faced woman with soft blonde hair comes out carrying a pitcher of lemonade and cups on a tray.

“Girls? Alfred?” she calls out as she sets it down. She looks around the garden briefly and then wanders over to a small greenhouse and gives it a tap and waves to a tall man with a shock of ginger hair clipping a shrub that seems to be fluttering in all directions. He waves back and puts his clippings in a rough cloth bag before joining her with a kiss hello.

“Alfie’s here…somewhere…and the girls.” She says.

“Well at least he keeps them amused. Is that lemonade I see Rose?”

“Yes it is darling…but do wait for the….” She’s cut off as a now muddy sheepdog chases an almost as muddy Laurel out of the trees.

“No fair Vera told my spot!” She yells indignantly.

Vervain emerges from behind the shed and rolls her eyes “All I did was say get out of the mud Laurie.”

Rosemary Haggwood frowns “Laurel honestly. How many times a day do I need to scourgify you?”

“But Mum….”Laurel is interrupted by her mother’s dragging her aside and cleaning her up in a way that suggests complaints about telling hiding spots will not be heard at this time.

The sheep dog shakes and becomes a gangly looking man with ginger shaggy hair and a messy ginger beard and moustache and then goes to clap the tall ginger haired man on the shoulder.

“How’s the Flutterby shrub today Art?” Alfie says jovially. He looks a little dizzy as he stands up fully and sways.

“Good. I think it’ll flower twice in one season, which was my plan.” Artemis Haggwood says happily “Lemonade? Alfie are you quite alright? You look like you’re about to tip over.”

“Please and thank you Brother.” Alfred Haggwood smiles as his brother passes him his cup and tries to look steady now as he discreetly grabs onto a lawn chair for support and sits quickly  “It ‘s this stupid vertigo. Healers can’t figure out why I’m still bothered by it. People will think I’ve been in the drink if it doesn’t let up soon.”

Artemis tries to tease his brother but looks mildly concerned too “Well you do look a bit the type you know.”

Alfred laughs and then sips his lemonade.

“Vervain dear can you please move the cricket bat so we’re not tripping on it?” Rosemary asks kindly as she pours lemonade for the girls after the men are done.

Laurel takes hers and sulks, glaring at her sister and slurping her lemonade on purpose.

Vervain glares back “Stop it that’s gross.” And then goes to fetch the bat from near the willow tree.

“Manners Laurel.” Rosemary says with a look that makes her stop.

Vervain reaches for the bat and then sees something behind the tree and goes around to investigate. She points to the mud ball stash and then looks furious with her sister “You were going to throw these at me weren’t you?!”

“Oh it’s just a bit of mud. Have a sense of humour.”Laurel says flippantly.

“I do but that’s not funny. Why do you always have to do the opposite from what everyone asks Laurie? I’m not playing with you anymore today!”

“Fine! Go be boring with the dolls and the bears then!”

Both were raising their voices now and Rosemary and Artemis stood up to run interference.

“Ladies please….come on now. Let’s take a little break and then try again hmm?” Their father pleaded. He then went to make the mud balls disappear with a flick his wand and came back.

The girls sat down in silence facing opposite directions and Rosemary said “I know you get on each other’s nerves sometimes but someday you’ll feel so lucky to have one another. Trust me.”

Both girls looked at each other briefly and then looked away. It was one of those things mothers said to guilt you and shut you up, even if in later life it was true.

Identity Crisis

A woman is lying in a hospital room slowly waking. Her facial features are wide and she has short dark brown hair with a tinge of auburn roots if you look closely. There are a few scrapes on her arms bandaged up and a more encasing wrapping across her ribcage. She has a nasty bruise on one side of her head. The room slowly comes into focus. Several nurses hover over her.

“Miss Poole? Can you hear us?” says one tall thin nurse with corkscrew blonde curls.

The woman blinks hard and says hoarsely “My surname is Hag….” She trails off as sudden dawning comes across her expression. The woman puts a hand to her head and then to her ribs, everything aches.

“It’s alright dear. You’re going to feel a bit disoriented. Take a few minutes and we’ll talk to you again.”

The nurses dash around hooking and unhooking tubes and fussing about. Slowly the woman tries to sit and picks at the IV in her arm with irritation. Her ribs feel like they’re splinched as she twists and there’s a dull ache in her left leg. She knows the questions that will be coming and tries to get her head on straight about what she’s supposed to remember.

A grey haired shorter plump kindly nurse pulls up a chair with a clipboard “We need to see what you remember. You’re in the hospital after an accident and you had quite a bump on the head. What’s your name?”

“My name is Gillian Poole. It’s coming back to me now. How long have I been out?”

“A few days Miss Poole. What’s your address?” She asks after scratching something down.

“I live at ……” She hesitates almost giving the wrong address and then recalling the proper one “I live at number 7 Farley Place in the Upper flat.”

The nurse looks pleased and makes another note. The rest of the standard “have you lost your marbles” questions are asked and answered appropriately and then the nurse says “Very good dear. Do you remember the accident?”

“Vaguely….I was going home from work. Damn I was fired that day….. I guess I was a bit distracted and then suddenly there was the truck right there… and it hit me…..and that’s it.”

“Miss Poole you have three fractured ribs, a gash on your leg which required 10 staples and came through a very severe concussion. Is there someone we should call to come be with you now?”

The woman’s eyes begin to fill up with tears and she shakes her head “There’s no one to call. When can I leave?”

“We’d like to keep you for another night or two for observation. Are you sure there’s no one we can call?”

“There’s no one to call.” Her voice was hollow now “I just want to go home.” She lay down and very painfully rolled to face the wall away from the nurse. She hears the scraping of the chair and footsteps leaving the room and closes her eyes whispering to no one who would ever hear it “I wish I could call you….I miss you…”