Columbine looked over the room and then at the oldest of her five younger siblings. “Mind the place while I’m gone,” she said. “Everyone is old enough to tell you what they need, if you just ask. Don’t forget to eat lunch. I’ll be home before bedtime.”

“It’ll be alright?” Grais asked softly. He glanced around for a moment. The house was spotless. The leftover ham from the night before had been sliced for lunch. Bread was cooling on the windowsill, also for lunch. Soup was simmering on the stovetop for supper. Everything was ready. That wasn’t what he was asking about.

“We’ll be alright. Do your chores. Read your school assignments and don’t let the soup burn. When Mama comes home from the clinic, you’ll be able to show her how well you can take care of the house,” Columbine assured him.

She nodded at his confident smile and headed out the door. Word had gotten around town that the tavern on the edge of the village, now known as the Tilting Tankard, was hiring. Already they’d hired a server, chef, barkeep and kitchen helper. She hoped they had room for more.

It didn’t take her long to reach the bustling place. Unlike previous times she’d passed the building during daylight hours, the seats were all filled. With just one server, the wait was long however and Columbine hoped that this boded well for her.

When the owner had a free moment, Columbine approached him. He was leaning on a side door and fanning his flushed face. “Excuse me,” she said softly. When he looked at her curiously, she asked, “I wonder if you might be interested in hiring another server.”

The man nodded once and said, “We have roast beef with garden vegetables or country stew. Both are served with bread and a drink of the patron’s choice. Think of it as an interview. Take the tables on the left side of the room.”

Following his gesture, Columbine nodded and scurried off. She was her usual friendly cheerful self with the patrons. With the pace of the common room, she was able to leave behind the stress and worry of the household that usually followed her all day long. In the back of her mind, she realized that the job would do more than give the family much-needed income.

Soon everyone was served and the other waiter looked at her with a grin. “Thanks,” he said softly. “Arthur,” he added, extending his hand. He gestured at the barkeep and said, “He’s Baxter. The chef is Alair and his helper is Celeste.”

“Columbine Carolle,” she replied. “The proprietor is?”

“Bergren Shadowmoon,” the man in question said. “You’re hired Miss Carolle. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you sir,” she replied.

“Thanks indeed,” Baxter added. “Maybe now I can stay here and keep an eye on the drunks.”

“Maybe,” Bergren agreed with a smile.