This bit of flash fiction is the continuation of a previous post, Friend, so my writer friend will stop glaring at me. Momentarily. Yes, you, Lee! And maybe Carol, too. 🙂
“So you’re here.” Mr. Arthur Patton stopped at his usual table and looked her up and down before he took off his hat and placed it in the usual spot, the one Fiona had been sure to leave empty. Her notebook and pen were on the other side, waiting. She looked up at him, sure that he could see her heart quaking beneath her sweater.
“I said I would be.” Fiona said, hoping he hadn’t changed his mind after all.
“I thought your pals would have talked you out of it.” He tilted his head toward the group by the juke box as he sat down in his usual seat.
“Not my pals, I’m afraid,” Fiona responded.
“Oh, so then it wasn’t a dare.”
“Not at all.”
“Well, the way you smiled and waved at them yesterday, I thought it was. I apologize.”
“I see. Understandable. No, none of them has had time for me since I moved here, but I was trying to discover how to fit in. They just needed to know I don’t much care anymore.”
“Well Miss Hatchett, you and I may get along better than I thought we would. What are you having today?”
“I’m not hungry really.” Truth was, her stomach was in knots. “Probably just a lemonade.”
“Lemonade was Pearl’s favorite. You would have liked Pearl.”
“No, my daughter.”
“She lives far away?”
“Can we start the interview after I eat, please? Have you ordered? They know what to bring to me.”
“I work my way down the entree menu. They know.”
“That is cool. I wondered if you called it in or what.”
“Nah. Standing arrangement. They generally do their menu updates after I’ve been through the list two or three times. Works out nicely for all of us. Not much of a cook, so this is my one real meal of the day. I am not a patient person. Hate to wait. Hate the telephone, too. ”
“And the internet, I imagine.”
“Actually, no. The internet has kept my brain working, I think. Ah, here it comes.”
Arthur shook out the napkin as he always did and placed it on his lap. But instead of bowing his head for a few moments, the step that usually came next, he said, “Bea, a glass of lemonade for the young lady, today, please. On my tab.”
“Right away, Mr. Patton.”
Bea threw a wide-eyed glance at Fiona before she headed back to the kitchen. Fiona couldn’t quite tell if she was trying to say, “What’s this about?” or “Are you crazy?”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I know I don’t. I want to. I am impressed with you Miss Fiona Hatchett. I have been coming here for years now and not one person your age has offered to sit down with me. They think they already know me, so they think they shouldn’t.” His eyes–ice blue–met hers directly and made her shiver but she didn’t look away. “They don’t know me at all.”
“Are you trying to scare me away?”
“I don’t quite know. You make me nervous. You mean things are changing and change isn’t always…”
“Easy?” Fiona offered.
“Or pleasant. But, I have learned, it is inevitable. No use running from it.”
“I don’t want to be unpleasant or difficult for you. Honestly I don’t.”
“I am relieved to know that, Fiona. Relieved indeed.” He looked it too. He seemed to melt into his chair a bit before picking up his knife and fork. Before he cut into his pork chop he told Fiona, “Once your lemonade arrives, I will tell you about Pearl.”