Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Eight

Max Drake pulled into a Starbucks drive-thru not wanting to go inside to order, which is what he usually did. He glanced at his watch, 6:30 in the morning, “shit” he said in a whisper. There were four cars ahead of him in line, which at this time in the morning irritated him since he worked most of the night.
“If these people would just order a black coffee this line of cars would move faster. No, they have to order some frothy, foamy caramel crap that would make my teeth hurt.” He said out loud to himself.
Finally, he got up to the window, and a young woman wearing a headset looked at him and smiled. “Good morning, my name is Hallie, what can I get you?”
She seemed pleasant and that made him feel better.
“Good morning, I would like a large black coffee,” Max said.
“Would you like anything else, sir?”
“Yeah, do you have any blueberry muffins this morning?” Max said.
“We have blueberry scones, not muffins. They are freshly made early in the morning. I’m sure they are still warm from the oven.” She smiled.
“OK, I’ll take one of those scones, thanks.”
Max watched through the window as this beautiful young woman moved quickly around helping the staff filling orders. She grabbed the large cup and filled it with coffee. She came back to the window.
“Sorry, I forgot to ask, cream or sugar?”
“No thank you, Hallie. Black is all I need.”
Her smile seemed genuine. “Be right back.”
She spun on her heels and finished the order in less than a minute. “Here you go,” she handed the coffee through the window. “Careful it is hot and can burn you. Then she handed him a Starbucks bag folded at the top. “And one blueberry scone. That will be $6.28.” Hallie smiled.
“Oh, dang it I should have collected the money before I handed you your order.” Hallie seemed a little nervous; Max could see it in her expression.
“Not a problem, here is ten dollars. You keep the change,” Max smiled.
Hallie looked over her shoulder then leaned forward into the open window. “I’m new here and feel slightly nervous. Thank you for being honest. I was trained that if a customer gets their food and drives off we have to pay for the loss.”
“Is that a Starbucks policy?”
Hallie shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, but I know it is here.” She smiled, “Thank you, and please come back soon.”
Max Drake pulled the car slowly down the narrow driveway to the main street. He turned right without signaling, drove about a mile and turned left into a city park. He pulled into a parking spot in the middle of the lot. With a clear view of the whole parking lot, He switched off the car and stretched his legs around the pedals.
Max picked up the cup of coffee from the console holder and took the first sip. This time of the morning there was nothing more relaxing than that first taste of coffee. A slight headache made him close his eyes while rubbing his forehead. In the days when he was married, his wife would say he did not get enough sleep. Thinking of his wife, Susan, made him smile. He thought, ‘she probably was right.’ Max told no one of his pain watching her die a little each day from cancer. After she passed away, he almost went over the edge. He drank too much and came close to losing his job. He always thought of her and being tired this morning deepened the depression.
Max spent over thirty minutes in the parking lot enjoying the coffee and the blueberry scone. Finishing, he laid his head back on the headrest. He fell asleep and woke up about twenty minutes later. Checking his watch, it was 7:40 a.m. It would be a long day.

*****
Max Drake’s shift ended at four o’clock in the afternoon with no emergencies or phone calls. Something to eat and a beer sounded great right now. Max pulled the car into Donte’s Bar and Grill. He parked and went in and waited at the host stand. A young woman came towards him at a fast pace holding several menus. She looked familiar. They had not made eye contact yet as she bent over and stuffed the menus on the shelf of the stand. Max watched her movements. She stood up and their eyes met, she smiled. “May I seat you, sir?”

Max noticed her nametag. “Hallie?”
She looked slightly confused and she tilted her head, “Yes, do I know you?”
Max chuckled, “You were at Starbucks this morning and served me.”
“I did?”
“Yes, I never forget a face. You sold me a black coffee and a blueberry scone.” He playfully said, “You forgot to collect the money first and you were worried.”
A large smile spread across Hallie’s face. “Oh, I remember you. Thanks for not driving off with the food and not paying. Moreover, I should mention thank you for the tip. If I got more of those, I wouldn’t have to have this second job.” Her smile was genuine and seductive at the same time.
Max Drake met new people every day in his job. He prided himself on having a great BS meter. This afternoon the meter told him this young woman–she seemed honest, hard working and worked long hours–was pleasant. He decided he would like to get to know her better.
He slid into a booth and Hallie handed him a menu. “What can I get you? Sorry, I never got your name.” Hallie said.
“My name is Max, Max Drake.”
“My name is Hallie Cook-Knowles.”
“Well, Hallie Cook-Knowles I would like a beer and something to eat.”
“What kind of beer would you like today Mr. Drake?”
“I prefer IPA’s, what would you recommend?
“Sorry, I don’t drink beer, but I see a lot of people drinking Firestone.”
“Let’s go with that, sounds good. Firestone it is.” Max smiled.
“I will bring you an Easy Jack to start. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it and you can try something else.” Hallie smiled. “I’m a betting woman, are you game to try?”
“Absolutely, I’ll try an Easy Jack.”
Hallie headed for the bar while Max watched her. He guessed she was about fifteen years younger than he was. She was mysterious, there was more to her, which intrigued him.
Max sat back in his chair and his attention followed a football game on one of the monitors. His mind wandered back to thinking about this young woman. He wondered if she was married; she wasn’t wearing a ring. He deducted that her diamond stud earrings were cubic zirconia. Her makeup was fresh, especially since she was working her second job that day.
Hallie moved around the empty tables with a small tray. She came up and put a napkin in front of him and sat the beer on the napkin. She smiled.
Max looked up at her, “well try the beer. I need to know if I have to pay for it or not.”
“Oh,” Max tasted it. “This is a good choice. Hallie Cook-Knowles you do not have to pay for it. Outstanding.” He raised the bottle up in a salute before taking another drink.
Hallie smiled, then laughed.
“So what would you like to eat?” She asked.
“I’ll tell you what; let me finish this beer first. When you come back, I’ll have another one and I’ll be ready to order. How does that sound?”
“Sounds great. I’ll be back in a few minutes, enjoy your beer, Mr. Drake.”
“Max, call me Max.”
“Okay, Max,” Hallie smiled and turned to walk away. She thought to herself, “Hmmm.”

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