The small diner at the end of the street was open twenty-four hours. It had a bell over the door so every time a new customer walked in, it was annoyingly announced to the whole shop. But the people who dined there were used to it, maybe even enjoyed it. The food was usually flavorless and cold but there was always a homemade pie ready to be served, and hot coffee to be poured.
"How many today?" The waitress behind the counter asked as a girl, about twenty, walked in. She had on a bright green dress and her brown hair had been curled: she was meeting someone.
"Two, please." She was gingerly holding a dripping rain coat and a black umbrella in her hand, careful not to drip on her dress.
"Table or booth?" The waitress asked, grabbing two menus and coming out from behind the counter. The girl looked around the diner: it had the classic black and white checkered floors, but the white had turned beige from years of people walking in. All the chairs and booths were covered in red upholstery that matched the neon Cappuccino sign above the coffee machine.
"Booth, please." She smiled at the waitress who led her to a corner booth in front of a window and placed a menu in front of her.
"Can I get you anything while you wait?" The waitress, whose name tag said Emily, asked the girl in the green dress.
"No I'm alright, thank you." Emily walked away, back towards another table where a young family was ready to order. The girl looked out the window, at the darkening sky. It had been a long, rainy day. The streets were slick with water, and lines and lines of umbrellas bobbed past the window.
The world grew black and the streetlamps came on, still, the girl waited. Emily came back, with a sympathetic look on her face.
"Can I get you anything?" The girl started in her seat, she had been gazing out so intently, she hadn't noticed Emily approach.
"No." She said plainly, "How long have I been here?" She asked Emily,
"Almost an hour and a half..." She looked up from her watch at the girl. She had deep brown eyes with flecks of gold in them, and her face flushed with embarrassment.
"I guess he's not coming, is he?" Her voice was quiet, Emily shook her head.
"I'm sorry, you're more than welcome to wait." The girl nodded and resumed her position of staring out the window while Emily brought her a coffee and slice of blackberry pie.
"Thank you," the girl said,
"It's on the house." Emily added, before heading back to the register. Another half hour passed and finally, the girl pulled her raincoat on and picked up her umbrella. She stopped at the counter and handed Emily some cash, then with a sad smile, turned towards the door.
The bell let out a loud DING as a hooded figure came crashing in, nearly slipping on the floor. Emily and the girl both gasped, but the figure removed his hood and there stood a boy with tan skin and dark hair. He had dazzling blue eyes that lit up when they fell on the girl:
"Are you Sophie?" He asked, his breathing was ragged like he'd just finished a long run. Every inch of him was dripping with water, leaving puddles around his feet.
"Yes." Sophie said shortly, meeting his gaze with anger. The boy took a deep breath.
"I'm Sam and...I can't believe you're still here! I--I'm so sorry I'm late!"
"Thirty minutes, is late. We were supposed to meet two hours ago." Her voice was clipped, the boy swallowed nervously.
"I know...I know, I--my car broke down driving in from the city, and I got on a bus, but then the bus got in an accident! And...I ran here from the highway..." He sighed and gazed at Sophie carefully, "If you're willing, would you like to eat with me...still?" Sophie started to laugh, clearly amused by his troubles.
"Yes, Sam, I'll eat with you. Could we take the booth?" She asked turning to Emily, who was so delighted by the situation, she barely heard Sophie's question.
"Of course!" And they resumed their spot in the corner. They had coffees and Emily convinced them not to order the stew, and instead they shared pie. Their laughter and conversation filled the small room, bringing a new warmth to the old diner. And they stayed until late in the night, then Sophie held her umbrella above the two of them, and bidding Emily good night, the young couple returned to the rain, the door closing with a ding.
Two Years Later
Sophie smiled as the familiar ding of the door rang out when she stepped inside. Emily was delighted to see her favorite customer back. She seated her at her usual booth and handed her a menu,
"How was Europe?" Emily asked, Sophie set the menu aside, not needing to look at it.
"It was wonderful, and Sam proposed!" Emily noticed the shining ring on Sophie's hand and a wide smile broke out across her face.
"That's amazing! Congratulations, when he gets here, pie is on us." Sophie laughed and thanked Emily, then pulled out a book she had brought with her. Emily kept a careful watch on the door, waiting for joyous Sam to come sauntering through with the wide grin on his face.
Almost an hour went by, and Sophie was growing restless. Emily brought her a third cup of coffee,
"When was he supposed to be here?" She asked cautiously,
"An hour ago." Sophie sighed, setting her book down on the table, "He always does this, he's always late..." but there was a hint of worry in her voice, what if it was different this time? Images of a car crash started racing through her mind when the familiar ding and racing footsteps graced her ear.
"I'm so sorry Soph!" Sam yelled as he slid into the booth opposite her, patting Emily on the shoulder as he did. She crossed her arms across her chest, and Emily took this as her cue to leave. The young couple argued for a few minutes, Sam kept saying "I promise" and Sophie kept shaking her head. But eventually they dissolved into their normal conversation and laughter. They ate their apple pie and thanked Emily, then headed out into the night hand-in-hand. The door shut with a ding.
Four Years Later
It was a rainy night, there hadn't been customers for hours. Emily was mopping the tile, trying to scrub away at the years of dirt that was now ingrained in the floor. The pounding of the rain against the windows was comforting to her, it made the diner seem less empty. But then, there was the ding.
Internally, she groaned, furious that someone would come in on such a waterlogged evening. She set the mop down and turned, coming face-to-face with Sam.
He looked just like he had that night six years ago. His umbrella was bent at an odd angle, clearly having been broken by the wind, so his hair was windswept and drenched.
"Oh! Sam, hi. Take a seat, I'll bring you a menu," she smiled, but Sam was looking wildly around the diner.
"Sophie isn't here?" He asked,
"No, no one's been in for hours. It was a light day, because of the rain. I'm sure she'll be here soon, take a seat." A grin crossed his face,
"I'm even early this time. Her interview must've gone well if she isn't here yet," A look of pride filled his face and he sat down in the usual booth, opposite where Sophie usually sat, waiting for him. Emily placed a menu in front of him and poured him a cup of coffee.
At around ten, they were both worrying.
"What time was she supposed to meet you?" Emily asked, looking at her watch.
"She was supposed to be here at 7:30 for dinner..." Worry flashed through his blue eyes which quickly darted back to the window. Sam lurched every time an umbrella bobbed past.
"Maybe she's at home and you had the date wrong?" Emily offered softly, refilling his cup and setting down the last piece of peach pie in front of him. Sam shook his head,
"No, we were meeting here because she had a big job interview in the city, and we were gonna eat here--" his voice broke, "t-to celebrate. I-I promised I wouldn't be late..." Emily set a gentle hand on his shoulder,
"Don't worry, Sam."
They both jumped looking to the door, but it remained closed. Instead Sam pulled out his ringing phone, and with a shaking hand, answered it.
"Hello?" Those were the last words he spoke. He sat there all night, until the sun came up.
But he would be waiting forever.
Forever for the girl, in the green dress, who would never come.