John Paul had been at The Bee’s Knees Diner for two hours when he finally ordered his dinner. It was a sad plate of overdone meatloaf and lumpy mashed potatoes. He even had to ask for extra ketchup since there was barely any sauce on top of it, which is not a proper meatloaf. He wasn’t really all that hungry anyway but couldn’t think of anything else to do to pass the time. Counting the cracks starting to form in seat cushions was getting old. The waitresses were starting whisper while looking in his direction; he assumed they were not saying the kindest things. Maybe he had overstayed his welcome but he didn’t plan on staying that long. By ordering dinner, he felt he could buy a little more time. Yes, time, that is all I needs he thought. When he first arrived he had ordered a cup of coffee, drinking the obviously old, dark bitter contents slowly, taking small sips to make it last longer. When that was finished, he ordered another, added two sugars this time and drank that cup even slower.
He had asked for a window seat so that he that could see her when she pulled into the parking lot. He didn’t look at his phone, she wouldn’t call anyway, and he didn’t bring any magazines or books to read. The window is all he watched, like a television and she was the main event.
A silver Toyota pulled into the parking lot and his dark green eyes widened thinking it was her. But his excitement was extinguished when he remembered her dad worked for Ford and that is all she ever drove; he couldn’t remember if it was a silver Fusion or Fiesta, whatever it was it started with a F. A middle aged man with long, unkempt hair and loose, dirty clothing sloshed into the diner, he fit right in with the rest of cliental he thought. “Linda, where are you?” he said no more than a whisper to himself. He pursed his lips and straightened his back resembling a marine at attention and thought, for only a moment, what if she didn’t show but then, shaking his head he realized how silly of a thought it was. He relaxed his back into a slouch again; of course she would show, she picked the place, an obscure little diner off the interstate that he had never heard of, where they all wore 50’s maid looking outfits and was only half full on a Friday night. How did a girl from the suburbs even know about this place? He had to admit she wasn’t the girl next door but she knew her limits and how to keep herself safe. Or did she? No, he thought, another silly thought. All this waiting was starting to disturb his mental health he was sure. If only she would just show up right now then all his irrational thoughts would be put to a halt.
A young waitress with a missing tooth approached the table and startled him with her abrupt speech, “How’s the food?” she asked loudly not really caring, but he wasn’t listening.
“What?” he asked. He knew she said something but his mind was too distracted.
Annoyed, she put her hand on her hip and repeated “How’s the food?” but she could tell by the two bites of meatloaf and spread around the plate mashed potatoes that he wasn’t interested in the food.
“Fine” he answered politely with a smile. He didn’t owe her an explanation. He was a paying customer and it’s not like they were waiting on his seat anyway but he wanted them off his back.
“Could I have the check please?” he smirked.
“Sure” the thought of him finally leaving had her smiling as she walked away. When she returned, she made sure to place the check directly in his hand like he wouldn’t notice it otherwise and barked “We close at 10” and then she was back to gossiping with the other waitresses. He placed the check next to his plate. How long had he been there? He looked at the clock hanging near the door: 9:10 PM. So it had been a little over 3 hours but there were still about three other tables full. Why did they care so much about what he was doing anyway, he thought.
He went to run his hands through his dark hair but was caught by a morsel of sweat pooling on his forehead that he didn’t notice before. Shoving his clean hand into the napkin holder, he pulled out about 15 napkins, more than he wanted but he didn’t have a choice with how packed in they were. It was either none or a ton. He rolled his eyes at the thought of waitresses stuffing the napkin holders to the very brim thinking that this would stop them from having to do it so often. “How dumb, this way, they’ll have to do it just as much but now with the amount that’s coming out it’s just wasting the napkins” he thought. With only 3 napkins, he wiped his forehead and his hand and left the others on the table. He decided he’d let the check sit a while after that debacle; besides, they were too busy talking about where they were going out after their shift ended.
He looked at the clock again: 9:22 PM. How was time going so quickly now when it seemed to go so slow earlier. He wanted time to stop so he could wait just a little bit longer. He would wait all night if he could but she wouldn’t meet him anywhere but inside the diner and that was closing soon. The two cups of coffee have been urging him to go to the toilet but he didn’t want to miss meeting her. But…it would take her some time to enter the parking lot, park and walk in and besides he would be really quick, he told himself. To make sure it didn’t look like he was leaving his meal unpaid, he place a credit card on top on his check and hurried to the restroom. The waitress noticed and let out a sigh of “finally” and ran over to pick up the payment. They processed his card quickly and hoped that he’d leave a “big tip” for all of them since they all served him at some point and he had been there for “so long”.
As he left the restroom, he caught the eye of same toothless waitress smiling at him as she placed his card back on the table. Now she wants to be nice, he thought. But this thought was quickly distracted by two headlights, shining like cat eyes in the parking lot. It was dark and it was hard to see the make and color of the car, but it looked small and he knew her car was compact. The car decided on a front spot off to the side of the diner. The Bee’s Knees half lit sign gave enough light to shine down on the car to reveal its make. A Ford Focus! Now he remembered; it was her. Adrenaline raged inside of him and he didn’t know whether to sit, stand or run out to the parking lot. “Calm down, you don’t want to frighten her” he said taming himself.
Much to the waitress’s dismay, he sat back down in his seat, tapping his leg up and down to keep himself from getting up and pacing. Now he panicked. With his card still sitting on the table, it looked as if he was about to leave. He didn’t want her to think he was leaving her so he pocketed the card and tried to look natural. Would she think it was weird that he sat all this time without a drink? “You’re thinking too much, she’s not going to care about any of that” he assured himself. It could have been possible that he was late too. He felt a little better about his setting.
Then, he saw her. She was wearing a dark grey trench coat; the wind had pushed part of her collar upwards so that it was covering half of her neck. Her blonde hair was equally disheveled; stray strands lined across her face, she tucked them behind her ears, revealing her beautiful face. He watched her check her appearance in the side mirror of her car, admiring every part of her. Her eyes and lips were of perfect proportion that complimented her Roman nose and high cheekbones. She could have been model, and she knew it too but she was not the vain and shallow type. She craved more in life than approval of her good looks.
Watching her calmed him and he noticed that he wasn’t tapping his leg anymore. “She looks just like the pictures she has sent me”, he acknowledged, relieved and impressed at the same time. He’s heard too many catfish stories lately and he had hoped that he didn’t become part of one of those stories.
She walked toward the entrance confidently but as she put her hand on the slightly peeling red door, she paused and looked behind her as if she might expect someone there and look relieved when there wasn’t. Relaxed, she entered the diner looking left and right. At this moment, John Paul decided that he should stand and wave. She smiled when she recognized him and explained to the waitress that had just greeted her that she was “meeting someone” while pointing in his direction. Upon seeing the “someone” the brown haired waitress could only walk away in disgust, eyeing the other waitress and then eyeing John as to say, “Can you believe this guy?” John and Linda didn’t notice.
John remained standing as she walked rapidly in his direction. Standing in front of him she apologized “I’m sorry I’m so late” while reaching out for a hug right away. Her apology was sincere and he couldn’t help but accept it right away.
Still hugging, he answered “It’s ok, I understand” he comforted her. He was good at doing that. He had been doing it for the last 2 months. Wanting to see her face up close he unlatched himself from her embrace to look at her.
“Does he know?” he asked with an expression of longing, looking directly in her eyes. She looked down, somewhat ashamed.
“No…not yet that is. I just needed to see you first to know…”
“That I’m real?” he finished her sentence.
“I suppose so” she agreed with laughter.
The ice was broken.