It was a little before noon and Kepa stood in front of the bar again, though Iratxe was no where to be found. He heard some bustling coming from the back as he waited patiently for Iratxe, or anyone really, to pop out front. Some fifteen minutes must have passed as he waited there, quietly.
Suddenly a face peaked from behind the curtain separating the bar from the kitchen.
“There you are!” barked Iratxe irritatedly. “Get your ass back here.”
Kepa looked around and quickly made his way through the dining room and into the kitchen.
“Barkatu…” he began as Iratxe took off the apron she had been wearing and threw it at him.
“Dammit,” she said, shaking her head. “We are already behind. The first customers will be showing up any moment. Tortilla, now!” She disappeared behind the curtain.
Kepa pulled on the apron and grabbed three pans. He was glad he had the test run yesterday as that gave him just enough familiarity with the kitchen that he didn’t have to go asking Iratxe where things were. She had already peeled and sliced a bowl full of potatoes. Not quite the way he would have done it – while Iratxe’s potatoes were cut up into almost perfect cubes, he preferred very thin slices, almost like coins. He just thought they cooked better. He threw her potatoes into one of the pans after the oil got hot while he sliced up his own.
Soon, three perfect tortillas sat plated and ready to pass to the bar. Almost as soon as he had finished, the plates came back empty. He could hear the ruckus on the other side of the curtain. He had no idea how popular this place was. And here he had hoped to find a nice quiet place to work with no stress.
But, he didn’t stop making tortilla. Another cook was in the kitchen working on the various lunch items. Kepa wasn’t sure if he should help her, but she didn’t ask for any help and he figured he should just keep making tortilla until he was told to stop. Both he and the other cook worked silently for hours. Only once did Iratxe peak in to eye things, but saying nothing, she disappeared behind the curtain. A young man appeared, taking plates of food prepared by the other cook to the dining room. Still Kepa made his tortilla.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Iratxe walked through the curtain, her forehead glistening with sweat.
“I think we’re good,” she said, looking at Kepa. “You can help Belen now.” Iratxe gestured to the other woman in the kitchen, who barely looked up and gave Kepa a brief nod as she gestured to some pots in the sink.
Right, Kepa thought to himself. I get to help wash…
Kepa had always known that working in a bar was hard, he’d seen enough of his friends doing it. Particularly Maite and her parents. They were up in the earliest part of the day, getting ready, and one of them was always up way past midnight, serving drinks to the last few patrons. And he had done a few stints himself, helping out with a parttime job here and there. But this was a bit different. The enormous crush of the lunchtime crowd just overwhelmed him. He wasn’t sure he could do this every day.
“How do you do it?” he asked as he scrubbed a pot.
“Eh?” replied Belen as she flipped a steak. “What do you mean?”
“How do you do this every day?”
Belen shrugged. “It’s my job,” she said. “It’s what the boss pays me for.” She paused before letting out a little smile. “But, today was about as rough as I’ve seen. A big wedding party booked the whole bar. It won’t be like this yesterday.”
Kepa looked stunned. “She could have told me!” he stammered.
“Would you have come?” asked Belen, her smile widening.
“Maybe not,” Kepa admitted.
“Don’t worry, tomorrow will be a lot easier.”
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