Maxine’s home was interesting no matter where you looked. She must have been some kind of collector with how much stuff covered every surface. Sandy wandered in awe through the rooms in back and picked up a small brass figurine from a table with a dozen others like it. It looked like an oversized chess piece, so Sandy busied herself trying to see if the whole set was still there.

Do you remember where this one came from? Not right now, darling. Teatime is an art one shouldn’t ignore! Blueberries or strawberries? Strawberries! Thank you!

Sandy had to look. She nearly tripped over a small tower of decorative jeweled eggs and swiveled around an old suit of armor as she made her way back to Maxine’s kitchen, which was a wonder all on its own. Baskets hung from the ceiling full of picked fruit and every counter had tall transparent jars of everything from rice to flour. A small pile of potted herbs was stuffed into the corner near the sink by the window.

Maxine was slicing strawberries on what was likely the only available counter space here by the soft glow of the evening sun, which was growing more orange while Sandy explored. What had a special place of honor was Maxine’s kettle, which was a bright copper with a handle over top like a bucket. It was large enough that Sandy would have needed both hands for the handle, yet Maxine could manage it with only one of her big paws. Sandy had to politely protest as she saw how much effort Maxine was putting into all of this.

Mmmmhmm… Hmm! Oh my goodness. I didn’t know you were going all out. It’s the only way I know. Let me help. Certainly. Batter the bread, will you? Oh, you know how! Not your first french toast, I can see. I technically wasn’t a chef… But everyone does their part in the kitchen every once in a while. And even apart from my old job, I love french toast! Show me someone who doesn’t and I’ll show you someone with no joy in their life. The pans are in the… Nevermind. You certainly know your way around. Please tell me this cream cheese is for us? What part of “all out” was not understood?

The sun set outside and the stars became their tea-time companion. Despite it being so late, Sandy and Maxine sat down for a very welcome meal that Sandy had not enjoyed, nor could afford, for quite some time. Stuffed french toast, dripping with strawberries was simply not on the menu in Low Point. She spent most of her time commuting, waking up before she was ready and rushing out the door to catch the train. That’s when Sandy had to pause mid drink of the amazing lavender tea that Maxine had prepared. She was quick to notice Sandy’s sigh.

Something not to your liking? No, it’s just that I remembered why I was here. I was having trouble with my last job. My manager asked me to come back tomorrow and tell him if I wanted to keep my job. Something of a power trip? Hehe! Maybe… But it wasn’t all his fault. I was having trouble there. If I may ask, assuming money was no object, what would you tell him? That I was never, ever coming back as long as I live. All that ever mattered was that they got every last cent out of us. Pay us as little as possible. Work us as hard as possible… Restaurants and cafes are super competitive in the city. And then tell you they need a team player when you don’t like it. But, you know, money is a thing and- I guess I sound immature, don’t I? Oh, no. Not at all. Immaturity is to expect something for nothing. That is a childish way to see the world. But to be upset because you feel your life is unfulfilling? Or there is no goal? That is a much more legitimate concern. So you were a waitress? Yes. I have been for a very long time. I’ll likely look for another job once I get ba-… You have that look in your eyes again. Have I got a deal for you.