The Waitress

By: Melissa Nathan

About the Book



Katie Simmonds want to be an educational psychologist. Last week she wanted to be a teacher, and the week before that a film director. Katie isn’t short of ambitions, but none of her ambitions are to be a waitress.

Hassled by customers, badly paid and stuck with the boss from hell, Katie’s life isn’t turning out as she’d planned. And a career choice isn’t the only commitment she has problems with. But just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, the café where she works is taken over by the last man in the world she wants to see again.

Maybe Katie’s been waiting at tables – and waiting for Mr Right – for far too long . . .





To Samuel Mark





Acknowledgements


It is a rare privilege to be able to genuinely thank someone for saving your life. Thank you, Alison Jones, for letting me see this year. Thank you all at 81, especially Marianne, Denise and Caroline, for making my visits as easy as possible.

Thank you Rosy Daniel, for making Samuel more than just a dream.

Thank you everyone at the amazing Waiting Rooms café in Palmers Green: Phillip Chard, who created its special, unique atmosphere; thank you Destina Philippou, who taught me how to make cappuccino and didn’t lose her temper when I burnt the toast, and also thanks to Angela Delusu and Nick Green. Please never forget that this is a work of fiction and the only thing that remotely resembles your café is the sense of fun and friendship at Crichton Brown’s.

Thank you Corinne Rodriguez, Sarah Sutcliffe and Rob Salter for your insights and anecdotes.

And, as ever, thank you to my fantastic team-mates in this team effort: Kate Elton, my editor, who doesn’t let her keen eye and business mind get in the way of her infectious excitement and warm heart. And thank you to all at Random house, especially Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, Rina Gill, Ron Beard, Susan Sandon, Rob Waddington and Faye Brewster.

Thank you Maggie for being more than my agent, and all at Ed Victor, for that perfect combination of professionalism and fun.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who make my life a joy. Thank you, as ever, to Andrew, Mum, Dad, Jeremy and Deborah for helping me keep body and soul together. And thank you Sammy Mark, for helping me keep going.





1




It was one of those parties that would live on in the collective memory, ripening over the years with significance and irony; a party that would launch a hundred favourite anecdotes and change lives. But to actually experience it was hell. It was full of tomorrow’s celebs and high-fliers, yesterday’s love affairs and embarrassments. The laughter was loud and the talk thunderous, the noise almost drowning out the din from the music deck but not making a dent in the clash of egos.

Katie sipped at her paper cup of sweet punch again because she’d forgotten how disgusting it was. Ex-boyfriend number three, Hugh, was bellowing at her over the thumping bass. She hadn’t seen him for four years, and was frowning so hard to hear him that she looked as if she was straining. Hugh did not have a naturally loud voice, but what he lacked in ability he made up for in motivation.

‘. . . but the annual bonus,’ he trumpeted, ‘you see, is a golden handcuff.’

‘A golden what?’

‘Handcuff. Uncouth to go into details, but they really know what they’re doing.’

‘Excellent. So, how is –’

‘I mean put it this way, we’re talking more than –’

And then he did an impression of a person whose trousers had been set on fire. Katie was impressed. He’d rarely been so interesting. As he re-landed, the grinning face of their hostess, Sandy, appeared beside him. It was Sandy’s engagement party and she was very, very drunk.

‘Hello everybody!’ she greeted them. ‘Hello Hugh-Poo. If I wasn’t a taken woman, you’d be in trouble.’

Hugh gave a tight smile. ‘Anyway, if you’ll excuse me.’ His voice was slightly pained.

‘Oh dear,’ said Sandy. ‘You’re not leaving on my account, are you?’

‘No, no,’ said Hugh. ‘I must just . . .’ As he limped off, Sandy turned to Katie.

‘It’s so hard not to do it to him,’ she whispered into Katie’s left eye.

‘I know.’

‘It’s his face.’

‘I know.’

‘How am I going to be mature enough to get married?’

‘Show me the ring again!’

Sandy extended her hand in glee and Katie ooh-ed at the beautiful diamond in its platinum setting. As she did so, Geraldine, Sandy’s flatmate appeared as if from nowhere.

‘Oh my God,’ she muttered. ‘You’re not still showing that thing off are you?’

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