At Mel’s Diner, Adam Mason sat alone contemplating a once in a lifetime tragedy. Going out into the world was his way of taking a leap of faith. In the crystal shards of sunlight shining through the window, he caught a glimpse of himself and quickly turned away. It was the first time in years that he had seen his reflection. Sure, he would look in the mirror to comb his brown hair and to make himself look presentable, but he didn’t really look at himself.
Reaching down, he took another sip of his black coffee and listened to all the hustle and bustle that was the morning rush. People would order their food and quickly hurry on their way. An old tube tv sat in the corner collecting dust, and it was always on ESPN. The place was a living breathing organism.
Adam noticed Lucy walking towards him with her order notepad. Her dirty blonde hair bounced with each step, and her beauty radiated throughout the entire diner. Lucy was his regular waitress, and she always had a cheerful personality. This was something that Adam found to be very troublesome.
“Good morning Adam. Can I get you some more coffee?” she asked.
Adam placed his right hand over the cup and said, “Lucy, you know I only drink one cup every morning.” His eyes rose up to meet hers. “Why do you always insist on this.”
Lucy pinched her lips together and rolled her eyes. “First of all, I’m just doin’ my job! Secondly, you always look so glum and miserable.” She flung her hand in the air. “You’re a very nice young man, and in all the years you’ve been coming here, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile!” Pointing at him like she meant business, she continued, “It’s my duty to aggravate you to no end!” She gave him a warm smile.
Adam raised his eyebrows and said, “I think you best tend those aggravations to someone else. I’ve had enough for one morning.”
“Whatever you say, Adam,” Lucy frowned, and turned away to wait on other customers.
Adam raised the coffee cup to his lips and took another sip. His thoughts came racing in like a tsunami. How dare they invade his private isolation.
Lucy means well by flirting with me, but there’s no way she could ever know that I’m a broken man. There’s no way she would know about the broken clock in my home that helps me sleep at night, because I’m trying to forget about time. There’s no way she would understand the loneliness that dwells in my heart, because it’s been frozen over. There’s no way she would understand about the locks I’ve placed in my head to guard myself from further heartache.
Adam took a deep breath and looked over at Lucy who was bringing a plate of bacon and eggs to the table in front of him. The sun reflected off the plate as she placed it on the table. Adam squinted his eyes, as the past came back to haunt him.
He remembered the car accident that claimed the lives of his wife and newborn daughter. What it felt like hanging upside down after the head-on collision with that eighteen-wheeler. Pulses of light blinking on and off in the darkness of night. His heartbeat pounding like thunder in his chest. How unfair it was that God had taken their souls to Heaven and left him there to rot. His whole world gone in an instant. The never-ending nights of crying - cutting himself off from the world.
A single tear rolled down Adam’s cheek and he quickly grabbed a napkin to wipe it away. Out of the corner of her eye, Lucy noticed that something was wrong. She decided to take her morning break and sat down across from Adam.
“What are you doing Lucy?” he asked.
“You look like you could use some company,” she said.
Shaking his head Adam replied, “I’m fine Lucy, it’s just my allergies acting up.”
Her eyes narrowed as she gazed into his eyes. “I don’t think so… I know the look of sorrow when I see it.”
Adam grimaced and said, “GO AWAY!”
He slammed his hands on the table - his eyes burning with aggravation. Lucy beamed with a glowing ethereal light that seemed to put him at ease. She reached over and placed her hand on his. She gave him a once over - taking in every detail in his face. She could tell he was fighting back tears. She bit her lower lip and then gave him a half-smile.
“Look Adam, you’ve been coming in here for a long time. I know we don’t know each other that well, but if you want to talk I’m here to listen.”
The color drained from Adam’s face as sadness clouded his features. He withdrew his hand from hers and folded his arms. He took a deep breath trying to compose himself. When his eyes met hers, he noticed a twinkle in her soft blue eyes.
Does she really want to know? Can it be that she really cares? I’ve kept this tragedy buried for far too long. Maybe I should tell her. If nothing else maybe she will leave me alone, he thought to himself.
He spoke in a somber voice, “A few years ago… there was this accident… my family… didn’t make it.” He took another deep breath and deeply exhaled. “I was driving my wife home from the hospital with our newborn baby girl. We crossed the intersection, and a big rig truck ran the light. He hit us straight on…”
Adam closed his eyes, and Lucy held her hands up to her trembling mouth.
“My wife and baby daughter were killed instantly. I was badly injured but somehow…I survived. I’ve been lost ever since…” Adam could no longer hold back the flood gates.
Lucy rose up from her seat and slid over to Adam. She placed her arms around him and they wept together. The warmth of her body against his sent a strange sensation to his heart. Adam thought to himself, Was this compassion, sympathy, or pity?
After a few moments, they released each other from their friendly embrace. Everyone in the diner was staring at them with eyes wide open. Adam placed his hands on his face to avoid the judgmental glances. His heart started to pound like a big bass drum, and he wanted to run away.
“Shows over folks!” Lucy shouted. “Go about your business!”
After a moment of silence and a few awkward stares, the hustle and bustle of the diner returned to normal. Tears shimmered in Lucy’s eyes and she grabbed a napkin to wipe them away. She reached over and held Adam’s hand.
She really does care... I can’t believe it. I thought everyone in this hateful world only cared about themselves, Adam thought. A glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“I know how hard it is to face this world after a tragedy like that,” Lucy said. “A couple of years ago I lost someone special. My husband died from a brain aneurysm.” She lifted her eyes to Heaven and continued, “One day he was completely fine… and the next day he was gone.”
“I’m so sorry Lucy, I had no idea…” Adam said.
Her face brightened, and her smile returned. “It’s not something I talk about much. I lost my whole world that day, but I knew deep down in my heart that he would have wanted me to move forward in life.”
Recognition filled Adam’s face as he asked, “How did you get through it? What did you do?”
Lucy raised her eyebrows and clenched her jaw. “I decided to move on with my life. I started working here during the days, and at night I go to school. I have a silly dream to become a nurse. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.” She raised her eyes again, “I think he would’ve been proud of me…”
Adam nodded his head. “It’s not a silly dream, and I know that he would be proud of you.”
Lucy smiled again and said, “The tragedy you went through wasn’t your fault. Stop blaming yourself. I know deep down that your wife and daughter wouldn’t want you to live a life full of misery and grief. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try this thing called living.”
Adam blushed, and a single tear fell from his eye. “I think you're right… Maybe I should try to move on.”
Lucy stood up and said, “I know I’m right. It won’t be easy. When times get hard, and there will be some hard times...remember that you have at least one friend to help you along the way.” Lucy looked down at her watch and said, “Well… I need to get back to work. Can I get you anything?”
Adam gazed down at his coffee cup and said, “I think I’ll take that refill now.”
Lucy smiled and noticed the corners of Adam’s lips turn up…
He was smiling.
Daniel R. Hayes
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This is a very sweet story. I love the uplifting message. Your characters are very relatable. The story has great pacing and flow. I especially liked how you handled Adam's internal monologue. I'm always impressed how you handle heavier themes and realistic emotionality. Nice job.
Thank you so much Michael, I'm so glad you liked this story. It felt really good to write this. It was like a breath of fresh air. I really appreciate your wonderful comments!!
I like your symbolism, very thoughtful, and just how it came to a close. Of course some stories are more beautiful when they take their own natural path Happy Today
I worked really hard on this one. A really good friend of mine inspired me to write this. So, I'm really happy that you liked it! :) :)
This was inspired from real life?
Not from my own personal life. A friend inspired me to write some sad stories, and I loved the thought of it. This one was the first one I tried that was really different. :)
Where your smile has lost ?
This was a really good story. I thought you balanced the tragedy with the uplifting ending really well, and I liked the symbolic use of the second cup of coffee, taking more from life etc. Really cool, well done :)
Thank you so much Lizzy! This was different to write that's for sure, but I'm glad I did even though it was a sad story :) Thanks for your wonderful comments!!
I loved this story. I think you really captured his emotions, it all felt very real. Well done.
Thank you Rachel :) Even though this was a sad story, it felt really good writing it. It was a different story for me, because most of my other stories are action based, so this was something I wanted to try. Thanks again :)
I think it's great you tried something different and you did it really well!
Thank you very much!
This was a great study of grief - one person stuck in it and one person moving forward. As well as what some comfort can do to help. It seems that now is a perfect time for such a story with all the tragedy the world is experiencing. Great job, Daniel!
Thank you so much Kristin :) This one was really different for me to write. You know my stories are more action based, but this one felt so good to write even though it was a sad tale. I'm really glad you liked it, thanks again for your wonderful comments!
I thought the internal monologue in italics isn't really needed there. I would let the reader build their own vision of the character based on the dialogue and his behaviour instead.
Thanks for the feedback.
Great story, loved it.
Thank you so much Gerald, I really appreciate that!
My absolute favorite of your stories (so far!)... The tragedy feels so real and these characters are so relatable. 2 similar, awful events, and 2 characters processing their tragedies differently...only to meet and befriend and support one another. How seemingly insignificant, a smile. But also, how possibly momentous... Brilliant, my friend :)
Thank you so much Kelly! This story was very different from my other ones, and I'm so glad that you liked it. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but I'm glad I took the time to write it. I'm also happy that this one is your favorite. As always, your comments made my day! Thank you so much :)
It's so awesome to see how your stories only improve and strengthen as you submit these prompts. I'm so impressed by you! :)
That is very high praise, and I really appreciate that!! Thank you :) <3