Who: Audrey Singh, AJ Singh, and Xavier Orpington
Where: Jewel of India
When: 21 April 2001, evening
AJ had the day off work at St Mungo’s, for once, but that just meant more time to revise and to pitch in at the restaurant. He usually tried to do both at once — standing behind the counter with a book in his hand, only glancing up when someone came in and needed to be seated — but tonight had been unusually busy for a Sunday. He’d been kept on his toes refilling water glasses and running hot plates out to the tables, but now the crowd had started to thin out and he could he finally give the study on the latest treatments for adult-onset dragonpox the attention it deserved.
He still glanced up at the end of every paragraph, scanning the room to make sure no one was trying to flag down their waiter. He’d been keeping a particularly close eye on Xavier Orpington, “The Sexiest Wizard Alive,” who had the waitstaff grumbling. Apparently he’d sent his entree back to the kitchen twice, with a different complaint each time, and AJ had a feeling he wouldn’t leave so much as a knut for a tip. But AJ also thought this “minor celebrity” might be part of the reason they’d drawn a crowd tonight, so he wasn’t about to rush him out the door.
“Poultice of murtlap…” AJ mumbled to himself, starting over at the top of the page. He never made much progress when he tried to study amid the restaurant’s noise and bustle.
It was a busy night in the Jewel, that was for sure. It was lucky that Andrew was around to man the counter because Audrey didn’t think she could have done that and waited this many tables. They tried to keep the staff small for budgetary purposes, but if things kept on like this they would need to think about hiring another part time waitress. Of course, it wasn’t always this busy, but Audrey did lik to think the crowd had more to do with their fine cuisine than Orpington’s presence.
She wasn’t happy that he was here again. She didn’t like him or his wandering hands. And, of course, she was serving him. She was hardly going to submit someone else to his behavior. This was her family’s business and she would deal with the more troublesome clientele. After dropping off a few mango lassis for some giggling girls in the corner, she went to check on him.
“How is everything, Mr Orpington?” she asked with a smile. Hopefully his curry was finally to his liking.
He waved a hand as if to say that it was fine, but neither it nor she was worth him actually using his voice over.
Trying not to scowl, Audrey turned to return to the kitchens, which was when she felt the very distinct feeling of a large hand groping her bottom.
AJ had just flipped the page and glanced up for another cursory scan of the room when his eyes fell on Orpington and — his sister. From his viewpoint it was unfortunately quite clear what was going on. He felt an uncharacteristic blaze of anger and before he even knew what he was doing he was bursting out from behind the counter and striding towards the offending customer, knocking a pile of hard-bound menus down with a clatter behind him.
But even as he barreled toward Orpington, he noticed a few heads swiveling in his direction, and his more rational side kicked in and held him back from creating a scene in the restaurant. Instead he stopped short, clenching one hand in a frustrated fist as he clapped the other on Orpington’s shoulder — rather harder than necessary. “Alright, you’re out of here,” he said, speaking quietly, but in a tone that didn’t invite disagreement. And he couldn’t resist grabbing the collar of Orpington’s robes and giving them a rather forceful jerk to encourage the offender onto his feet.
“Unhand me,” Orpington sneered at the brash little brown who didn’t know his place. When the boy didn’t immediately reply, Xavier attempted to shrug him off with force. “I am enjoying my meal and the entertainment of the delightful waitstaff. I don’t think that it is in your establishments’ best interests to disturb me.”
Audrey was staring rather dumbfounded at how this was playing out. It was like both men had completely forgotten that she was there!
At the word “entertainment,” AJ gave up all pretense of keeping the peace in the restaurant. He “unhanded” him alright, but only so his hand was free to slug Orpington across the face. Before Orpington could recover — it seemed he wasn’t used to people actually reacting violently to his comments — AJ had him by the collar again and was slamming him, hard, against the wall by the entryway. He didn’t even notice the restaurant fall silent as everyone watched the drama unfold.
“There’s the door,” he said, panting a bit as he nodded to it. “You can use it, or we can both wait here while my sister sends for a Hit Wizard.” He kept a firm grasp on his victim, tensely watching to see if Orpington would reach for his wand or take a swing himself, but he was confident he had the upper hand. After all, as he’d pointed out to Lavender, Orpington was nearly twice his age. And he was running on the adrenaline of Big Brother Rage.
“Andrew,” Audrey said sounding very agitated and grabbing his elbow. “Stop it! This is ridiculous! Just lt him go.” This was not going to be good for business. Orpington held a lot of sway around here!
Her words were drowned out however, as Orpington used the leverage of the wall to shove her brother backwards into her, knocking her off her feet. Before Andrew had a chance to regain his footing, Orpington caught him with a right hook to the jaw.
Andrew tried to duck but didn’t entirely avoid the blow — it glanced him but he bounced back quickly. He grappled with Orpington, trying to pin his arms behind him, while also sparing a moment’s attention to glance toward his sister and see if she was okay. “Aud—?” Orpington tried to swing at him again and he didn’t have time to wait for a response.
Fortunately for AJ, by this point he was far from the only person in the restaurant who wanted Orpington out. Two other young men rushed up beside him and helped him restrain Orpington long enough to frog-march him out the door and turn him loose on the sidewalk. And, wisely, they pulled AJ back in before he and Orpington could take another swipe at each other. “I don’t want to see you back here, you hear me?” AJ shouted after him, as he was pulled firmly back in the door. He didn’t listen for Orpington’s reply — who cared if he was going to threaten to get the law involved, or say he didn’t want to come back, anyway. AJ looked around concernedly for Audrey and dragged a sleeve across his sweaty brow. “Chubs? You alright?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Audrey said, not even bothering to glare at her brother for that stupid nickname. Someone had helped her to her feet, but she’d managed to scrape her left palm quite badly and probably needed some disinfectant and an Episkey charm.
Pushing her hair out of her face with her other hand, she gave Andrew a rather rueful look. “Are you okay? That wasn’t very smart, Andy. You know what kind of pull he has.”
“The last thing I was thinking about was—” AJ started, then glanced around and realised that all eyes were still on them. It was hard to say whether their guests were disapproving or merely alarmed, but either way it was definitely not the noisy, happily buzzing place it had been just a few minutes before.
AJ cleared his throat and turned to address the dining room. “Sorry, everyone. We’ll send out a round of butterbeer on us, yeah? So sorry to have disturbed your meals.” He caught Audrey by the elbow. “Let’s go get cleaned up in the back,” he said quietly, and winced as he rubbed his jaw. “I’ll need to put something on this.”
“Sounds good,” Audrey murmured, following her brother into the kitchen. She was not looking forward to getting back there and hearing her father’s reaction to this ruckus, if she was honest.
It was going to be a long night in the Singh household.