Lucy waited patiently for the young bus boy to clear the table she wanted in front of the plate glass window, and then slipped into the booth, the better to survey the highway and the hilly landscape that stretched out beyond it. And here came the same waitress with the friendly face who greeted her when she stepped into the diner.
“Here, darlin’, let me wipe off that table for you,” she said while her sinewy right arm worked a wet bar rag in loose circles. Only, the word ‘wipe’ came out more as ‘wap.’ Lucy’s ear needed more time yet to acclimate to this peculiar ‘hill’ dialect. The woman carefully placed a paper napkin and flatware on the table in front of her and handed her a menu. “I’ll be back shortly to git your order, but can I at least brang you some coffee?”
Lucy nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, black, thanks.” Moments later the waitress returned balancing an old-style stoneware cup upside-down on its matching saucer, dingy with the patina of age and wear. She flipped over the cup and dispensed the piping hot coffee into it and then left the carafe on the table. “Need another minute?”
“No, thanks,” quipped Lucy. “I’ll have whole wheat toast and a scrambled egg, please, with a side of fruit.” The waitress nodded as she scrawled the order on her pad. “Wait—not fruit. Make that a side of bacon, please.” The woman smiled and plucked the menu from the table, and disappeared behind the counter.
Lucy had every intention of maintaining her squeaky-clean lifestyle and habits, even now, in this chapter of upheaval, but decided impulsively they could wait: when in Rome, she concluded. Or wherever this place was on the map. While she sat there and waited for breakfast she looked out onto the foggy early spring morning, wondering what awaited her in Bran’s old cottage. She was excited about the possibilities, giddy about reconnecting with old friends. She turned to survey the crowd in the diner and watched the waitress talking to a short-order cook through the kitchen window, admiring the musculature in this woman whose frame would never suggest ‘waitress’ in street clothes, Lucy guessed. What was her story? Her aging face looked out of place on top of her rather more youthful figure. Was this little roadside diner the end of her road? Lucy enjoyed this kind of detective work, sizing up strangers and imagining their lives. She wondered how the other people in the diner who noticed her had sized her up by now, or whether they cared at all.