If you haven’t read January 5 yet, you can do so here.

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Nothing was going right for Poppy Johnson. She’d woken up late because her phone hadn’t charged meaning her alarm didn’t go off, she had no time to do anything more with her hair than pull it into a tight bun, zero time for makeup, and she couldn’t find any clean clothes. When she finally made it out of her room, the elevator seemed stuck on deck 7 forcing her to dash up the stairs which might have been okay except that she was eleven decks from her destination. All of that resulted in her making it to deck 7 approximately ten minutes late. 

“You look like hell.” Jessica Madden.

“Not helpful, Jess.”

“You’re also late,” Jessica pointed out.

“Also not helpful.”

“Fine. Get to work. That helpful enough for you?”

Poppy sighed. 

“Don’t worry. I’m on it.”

“Great. You can start with a lime milkshake, chicken and avocado focaccia too.”

Poppy glanced over. Lime milkshake, she’d only made two on the voyage so far, both for the same woman. Beautiful, always had her head in a book. Poppy searched the cafe but didn’t need to look far. A shy smile from the woman left Poppy feeling like the day was about to get better.

“How’s Middle Earth?” Poppy asked as she set about making the milkshake.

“Well, saved for the moment. Looks like things might be going to hell soon, Gandalf just showed up.” 

“His appearances rarely signal good news.”

Cleo laughed. “No they don’t.”

“You grab a table and I’ll bring this over to you.” She gestured vaguely to the milkshake and display where the focaccias waited to be heated.

“Thanks.” Poppy watched as the girl began searching for a table. It was only then that she realized how busy their little cafe was. Most had coffees and cakes or pastries as they enjoyed the leisurely sea day. Almost every seat was filled. 

“You like her.” Jessica wandered up next to her, an iced chocolate and slice of carrot cake in hand. 

“No. We just like some of the same books.”

“Pity she’s off limits. You guys would be cute.”

Poppy glared at Jessica, turned back to the display and slid one of the avocado and chicken focaccias into the warmer.

“Shit. She’s going in. This isn’t going to end well.”

Poppy looked up and saw Cleo standing next to one of the few tables with a spare seat. A woman with a laptop sat with an empty coffee cup. She looked familiar but Poppy couldn’t think why.

“What do you mean?”

“That’s Adrienne McCoy.” At Poppy’s blank look Jessica continued, “The owner of the ship.”

“Oh, shit.” Poppy watched as Cleo approached the table, willing the woman to go in some other direction. She’d never really seen their boss, but she had to admit the woman had a certain swagger to her and probably had no trouble with the ladies. 

“Didn’t you work on her personal crew for awhile?” Poppy asked.

“Yeah, and the woman does not like to be interrupted. Practically bit my head off one day when I went to serve her lunch.”

The pair looked over, Adrienne was chatting happily with Cleo. They watched as she gestured for Cleo to sit down and the conversation seemed to continue for a few more moments before Adrienne returned to her laptop and Cleo cracked the spine of her book.

“Better get over there quick, before she gets too into her work.”

Poppy nodded. She hastily plated the focaccia and squeezed a generous portion of whipped cream onto the top of the milkshake then drizzled it with extra syrup. 

“Oh, you really like her.”

“Shut up,” Poppy replied. Her stomach fluttered as she balanced the two items and moved across the cafe. She could not afford to get Adrienne McCoy on her bad side six days into the cruise. Poppy needed the job and she knew she was good at it, however, she also knew that one does of bad luck or good luck could change everything. She was not about to let bad luck ruin this opportunity.

“Here you go, one lime milkshake and one chicken and avocado focaccia.” She slid the plates onto the table in front of Cleo. For a moment she debated whether she should say anything to Adrienne.

“Is there anything I can get you ma’am?” Her hostess training took over.

“Can I get one of these spectacular lime milkshakes?” Adrienne tossed a charming smile to Cleo who grinned back at her. “Also, one of those ham and cheese croissants.” 

“Of course.” Poppy’s stomach roiled, something about Adrienne rubbed her the wrong way.

“A milkshake? She wants a milkshake?” Jessica didn’t try to hide her shock. Poppy wanted to get the milkshake made and talk about anything except their boss.

“She’s lactose intolerant.” Jessica continued.

“Should I make it with almond milk?”

“No, the almond always sits funny in milkshakes. Just give her what she ordered.”

Poppy nodded. She tried to replicate the milkshake she’d made for Cleo but found her heart wasn’t in it.

She managed something resembling the first milkshake then added just as much whipped cream to it. 

“One lime milkshake, and one ham and cheese croissant.” Poppy slid the two plates onto the table, disappointed to see Cleo and Adrienne chatting animatedly.

“Thank you, Poppy is it?” 

“You’re welcome. And yes, I’m Poppy.” 

“How is everything?” she asked Cleo.

“Great. Just like I was telling Adrienne. Best milkshakes on the ship.”

Adrienne smiled and took a sip of her own.

“I’m not usually a milkshake fan, but this is delicious.”

“Well, let me know if you need anything else.”

Adrienne nodded and Poppy realized a split second too late that she’d been dismissed.

“I think our boss might have her sights set on your little Arwen over there.”

“Her name is Cleo.”

“Either way. Nobody can compete with that. And if you plan to keep this job, I wouldn’t try.”

Poppy sighed. Maybe it wasn’t such a good day after all.

Read January 7 here.

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