Lemons

Clare looked at her aunt. “I told you, I’m starting a new job next week. I’ll be able to help out on weekends, but I need the money.”

Sheila shook her head. “I know I didn’t pay you a full wage. But this business will be yours one day.”

“What about your kids?” Clare thought about her cousins. It seemed unfair that they should be left out. They worked just as hard as her, and she had long suspected that they had been given the same promises.

“They have their own lives,” Sheila said quickly. “Come and have a look at this. I thought we could open for the breakfast crowd. It wouldn’t be too much extra effort.” She thrust a large basket of lemons into Clara’s hands. “Bring these with you.”

It wouldn’t be too much extra effort for her, Clara thought resentfully as she trailed after her aunt. “I’ve promised them I’ll start on Monday, and I’m looking forward to it. I know it’s just a receptionist’s job, but…” Clara trailed off. “What is this?”

“It’s a concept.” Sheila said. “Look!” She flung open the door to the tables with a flourish.

“What is this?” Clara stared at the assortment of ingredients on the tables.”

“Like I said, it’s a concept.” Sheila looked smug. “Assemble your own breakfast, or have it created for you for a nominal extra charge.”

Clara’s heart sank. “What are the lemons for?”

“We can’t have Eggs Benedict without hollandaise sauce, and you’ll need lemons for that.”

Clara stared at the scattered assortment on the tables. When she had been unwillingly dragged into this business, her aunt had served bacon butties and strong tea. It had been Clara’s hard work that had added fresh baked cakes and proper fry ups to the menu, with some decent home made soups and more than just tea on the drinks board. It had given Clara immense satisfaction and she had thought for so long that if they just turned a corner, if they just got the extra tables, if they just opened a few hours more then she would get her reward. She turned and looked at her aunt who was watching her with a calculating eye. Life was giving her lemons, and she was damned if she was going to make hollandaise sauce at 6.30am with them. “I’m not coming back,” she said softly. “Goodbye.” She picked up some lemons on the way out, ignoring her aunt’s outraged protests. When life gives you lemons, you make lemon meringue pie.   

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