I don’t write a lot of real-world fiction, I mostly stick to fantasy, but I really wanted to write a story in a cliche diner setting. That sparked the first several hundred words of this piece. Then I realized I needed an actual plot. So I brainstormed some more and came up with this piece.
I hope you like it. 🙂
It was Tuesday, broccoli cheese soup day. Theo sat at the counter in Alice’s Diner with his book, his coffee, and his broccoli cheese soup.
Alice’s should have been hosted by a middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun and a checkered skirt with a frilly apron who was someone’s mom. Instead, it was run by a big sweaty lump of a man named Dale. Dale was always sweating and greasy and was a horrible conversationalist, making him an overall unpleasant man. The food was terrible too, everything except the soup.
Theo only came to Alice’s because it was walking distance from his apartment and he liked to people watch.
Theo sipped a spoonful of soup and the texture and warmth of it on his tongue distracted him from his reading.
Theo doubted Dale made the wonderful soup from scratch. He probably bought it in giant condensed cans and set it in a big warming vat all day. Theo wondered if he could walk into Gordon Foods and buy a giant condensed can of the broccoli cheese soup, or perhaps something more sophisticated, like creamy tomato bisque.
Then he’d never have to make small talk with Dale again.
But then he would have missed the Tuesday a beautiful young woman named Kendra came into his life.
The bell over the door jingled and a woman staggered in, nearly tripping over the threshold. She shook like a dog, drenched from head to toe. Her blonde hair lay plastered to her face and her thin sundress clung to her lithe form.
The past few days had been hot and oppressively humid, but heavy rain had been in the forecast today. The woman had obviously been unprepared. She hadn’t checked the weather like Theo had.
She sat heavily on one of the stools at the bar, and Dale looked her over, wiping his hands on his greasy apron. “What’ll you have?” he asked in his gruff, unfriendly voice.
“Do you have a menu?” Theo admired her pleasant voice in the wake of Dale’s rudeness.
As she looked it over, Theo said, “The broccoli cheese soup is very good.” He gave her a genuine smile, nervously worrying the corner of a page in his book and hoping she didn’t notice.
The woman glanced at the thick book in front of him, laying open on the formica counter thick with words and worlds, and gave him a smile in return, but it barely twisted her lips. It didn’t reach her eyes. Theo knew that smile, but he didn’t let it dishearten him.
Instead, he chuckled, to himself more than anyone, realizing he was the only one of the three of them not dripping wet. That would have been unfortunate, as it surely would have ruined his tailored suit coat and new custom leather shoes.
Neither Dale nor the woman laughed. So Theo took a sip of his coffee. It was now cold and thick and gritty, making it extra bitter.
“I’ll have the breakfast special. Eggs over easy.”
“Ain’t breakfast no more,” Dale grunted.
“But it says here ‘breakfast all day.’” She pointed at the menu.
“Yah, but not for cheap.”
“So if you serve eggs at 3pm, they’re more costly than at 9am?” The woman gave him an innocent smile with just a hint of sarcasm.
Dale pressed his lips into a thin line, not replying.
Theo chuckled into the crease of his book. Both Dale and the woman looked at him, less amused.
“Breakfast special. Regular price is fine. Over easy eggs. And a water.”
Dale went to the flat griddle and scooped a big spoonful of lard onto it. It melted and sizzled.
“You know, you could just have Dale bring you a glass and squeeze the water from your hair.” Theo chuckled again, picturing it, but he was still the only one laughing.
“I think we’re distracting you from your book,” the woman said.
Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “Nah, this is the Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve read it several times before.”
The woman nodded. She picked the menu back up and held it close to her face.
“You know, Dumas got paid by the line, and his books were released in serial. That’s why they’re so long.”
The woman didn’t answer. She studied the menu. Theo shrugged and went back to reading. He glanced at his coffee and wished Dale would have topped it off.
Dale returned with the breakfast special. The plate shimmered with grease and everything slid around on it as he dropped it to the counter. The eggs quivered. Theo’s stomach lurched.
The woman smiled. “Thank you.” She picked up the plate and her glass of water and walked to a table at the other end of the diner, near a window.
He went back to his book but watched the woman from the corner of his eye. As her hair dried, it began to spring upward in large blonde curls that fascinated Theo. She ate slowly and silently, her phone out and her thumb sliding across the screen.
Dale had retreated to a corner of the counter where he could read the day’s newspaper. The only sound in the diner was soft adult contemporary drifting down from the speakers and the occasional clink of the woman’s fork against her plate.
She finished her food, threw down some cash, and ran back out into the rain. Theo almost missed her. He left exact change for his meal with a twenty percent gratuity and shook out his umbrella. He opened it outside as the diner’s door jingled closed and took up a leisurely, long-legged pace.
She walked the opposite direction of Theo’s apartment from Alice’s Diner. No wonder he’d never seen her before. She ran down a street with a line of townhomes and sprinted up a set of stairs and onto a porch out of the rain.
Townhouse number 796.
Theo kept walking, holding his umbrella low.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For two weeks, Theo did his homework.
Her name was Kendra Hendricks. She worked as a legal secretary for Hughes & Hughes. She had a grey tabby cat named Georgie. She’d lived in her townhouse for almost two years and visited her mother monthly two towns over. Her favorite flower was daffodils.
There were a few times that Kendra noticed him and they made eye contact. Theo smiled and waved before she continued on her way.
Thursday, Theo sent her a bouquet of daffodils and lilies. The look on her face when she received it at her desk made it worth every penny.
Friday, Theo got distracted by an exceptionally shoddy piece of code from one of his fellow programmers that almost derailed everything. It was already after four when he found the errors and Theo thought to leave it until Monday.
The thought made his pulse quicken.
Theo sighed and rolled his chair back from his desk.
Frank was laughing at something on his phone when Theo came around the cubicle wall. Frank jumped and nearly dropped his phone when Theo said, “Hey, Frank.”
“Jesus, Theo. You scared the shit out of me.”
Theo thought to comment about swearing being a sign of low intelligence but held his tongue. Instead, he manufactured a smile and dropped a stack of paper on Frank’s desk. The number of red marks almost matched the black on the page flipped to the top.
“It’s juvenile, like mixing up ‘accept’ and ‘except,’” Theo said, pointing, “but the way I always remember it is…”
“Thanks, Theo. I’ll take care of it.”
Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “Have a good weekend, Frank.”
“You too, Theo.”
Theo was already walking away. He snagged his jacket off the back of his chair and pushed it under the desk in one motion. Then he hurried out of the office without speaking to anyone else.
He grabbed some groceries on his way. It was a special night and worthy of a special dinner. No soup, no greasy eggs, no bitter coffee. Tonight, he made a casserole his mom had made many times throughout his childhood.
The whole place smelled of casserole by the time the door opened at 5:45pm.
Theo was on the couch, petting a very content and purring Georgie.
Kendra’s mouth dropped open, but no words came out.
“I’ve rendered you speechless, it seems.”
“I’m calling the police,” she said. “Get away from my cat!”
She raised her phone. As she started dialing, Theo was already across the room. He took both her hands lightly but firmly in his own and smiled at her. As he flipped her phone from her hands and into his pocket, he held them with just enough effort to keep her from pulling them away.
“Kendra, tonight is just for us. No interruptions. I’m glad you liked the flowers yesterday. They make the perfect centerpiece to dinner.”
Kendra’s eyes widened with realization. “How do you know my name? And where I work? And where I live?”
“So many questions!” Theo chuckled.
A timer sounded.
“First, dinner. We’ll talk over food.”
Kendra tugged her arms to no avail.
Theo looked her in the eyes, his whole face lit with his smile. “Please, come sit at the table.”
Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “I’ll help you to your seat.” His hands tightened on her fingers until Kendra whimpered.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Monday came too quickly, as it always did.
Patting Georgie on the head as he left, Theo locked the front door of townhouse number 796 behind him and headed to work.
It was a typical Monday of meetings and code and fixing the mistakes of others, but Theo wouldn’t let anyone bring him down today. He’d had a lovely weekend with a lovely woman.
Tuesday came around again, broccoli cheese soup day, and Theo filled his regular spot at the counter in Alice’s Diner. The weatherman had warned it would be hot and humid, and several patrons came in to enjoy the air conditioning and escape the heat.
Among them, a young woman with short brunette hair, dark eyes, and a low top with short shorts. Theo smiled at her from down the length of the counter and she avoided his gaze.
He took a sip of his coffee. It was now cold and thick and gritty, making it extra bitter. But the woman down the counter kept his attention until she left, when he grabbed his jacket, left exact change including a twenty percent gratuity, and followed her away from Alice’s Diner.
He had to know her name.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.