Observations: Today was an “oops” day, meaning what I wrote today was actually written after midnight, which really feels like yesterday.
However, it made up for today being an “oops” day so my word count is still good.
I’m posting late because:
there’s so much to do!!!!! yooooowwwwwww
The writing continues to flow, although I’ve got that short fiction mindset of feeling like some scenes are throwaways, although they’re needed for character development (if that is indeed what they’re doing 😉 ; let’s hope anyway, right? ).
Disclaimer: Even though I have read this over to make sure that after midnight I was still “somewhat” coherent (I figure that “somewhat” is all that’s needed…haha), there will still be typos, etc. that I missed as well as lapses in judgement. This is a draft; it may for all intents and purposes be worse than a draft…it’s a draft written Under Pressure…cueing Bowie and Queen.
Total word count: 7564
896 words ahead.
You can read previous sections here.
Nikki and I grab a booth at Ed’s Diner with its orange plastic-like upholstery that never seems to age although it has been through a lot of abuse. Can something like this even be called upholstery? Considering the number of destructive teenagers, me and Nikki included, who’ve sat in these booths, I think the material must be something that the Marine Corps. dreamed up. It will probably outlive all of us. I wonder if I should check into it for Soup’s On, except with the current situation, I don’t even know if Soup’s On will still be, well, on.
Despite the fact that I haven’t eaten in Ed’s Diner in what feels like a decade because I’m always at Soup’s On, and on the Sundays when I’m not there because we’re closed, Mom expects me to be at family dinner also known as interrogation time and do not lie to me because I am a human lie detector time. That’s my mom, which made it hell being a teenager and for that matter being an adult.
The comforting thing is that Ed’s menu hasn’t changed. It’s comfort food to end all comfort foods with deep fried and butter laden dishes. I’m still considering the possible choices when the little bell over the door jingles, and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I glance at Nikki whose eyes have rounded and her mouth forms an “o.” I just know I’m about to hear an English accent.
Heath stands at the side of our table, his hands clasped in front of him, and a devilish smile playing on those full lips. “May I join you ladies?”
“No, we like being separated,” Nikki says while removing her silver ware from its napkin cocoon.
Heath frowns at her while I smirk. “Fun evening?” he asks.
I shrug. “It’s the diner, the place to be.”
“I meant a little earlier.”
Nikki glances sharply at me and then her eyebrows raise meaning she’s got nothing. Fortunately, I doubt Heath is my mother so I don’t mind tossing out a lie or two or however many will get me out of this situation.
“We were bowling,” I say quickly.
Nikki mouths the word “bowling” and then glances at her manicure as if she’d never even risk ruining it by bowling.
Heath nods and then reaches toward my head. I instinctively jerk back, but his fingers have already latched onto a stubby piece of twig with a few azalea leaves attached. I stare at it before looking up at him. I bite the inside of my cheek.
“So strange. How did that get there?” I ask.
“We parked near the azalea bush at the bowling alley,” Nikki supplies, while tearing off bits of her paper placemat.
“Not to mention the leaves on the back of your hoodie. They look at lot like mimosa leaves. Like maybe you were rolling on the ground under a mimosa tree.” He glances from Nikki to me, taking in her navy blue watchman’s cap and our black attire.
“Have you two gone goth?”
“As if,” Nikki says at the same time I say: “yes.”
He lowers himself on the narrow remainder of bench seat next to me, which forces me to move over. “I know where you were this evening.”
“How?” Nikki asks.
“I waited in my car until you all pulled away and then I followed you.”
“But you weren’t wearing a shirt,” she says. “Didn’t you have to run inside and get a shirt?”
I slap my forehead into my palm and shake my head, which actually hurts a bit from the fall. I can feel Heath’s victorious grin without ever seeing his face. Glancing at Nikki, I see that she still doesn’t understand what she just confessed to.
“How did you know that?” he asks.
Nikki twiddles with her fork, looks at me, and then realizes that she has no good explanation.
Kelly Anne, a woman who Nikki and I graduated from high school with and who’s pregnant with her third child, comes to the booth with her pad in her hand. “Hey y’all, look at you two. What have y’all been doing? Looks like rolling around in the bushes…together?”
She bounces her pencil against her lip. “There were rumors in school,” she says gazing off into the distance before focusing on Nikki. “But you were all hot and heavy with Dicky Fergusson so I never paid any attention to them. But, you, Sophie. You hardly ever dated anyone. Oh, maybe I’m thinking of that Dexter girl.”
“As fascinating as this trip down memory lane is, Kelly Anne, I think we just want to order,” I say.
“Do you want to know our specials?” she asks.
“Sure,” Nikki says.
“Spaghetti and meatballs.”
Nikki stares at her, waiting. “That’s it? But spaghetti and meatballs is on the menu.”
Kelly Anne frowns. “Maybe it’s meat sauce. I can go find out if that’s what you want.”
Nikki shakes her head. “I want meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy and sweet tea.”
“You only get a ladle of gravy.”
Kelly Anne turns to me.
“I’ll have mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy and unsweetened tea,” I say.
“Don’t you want meat?”
She stares at me. The second stare of the day suggesting that I am the devil incarnate. “Alrighty then.”
Her gaze transfers to Heath and her eyes widen. Did she really just now notice that he was sitting there? She places her left hand, the one holding her ordering pad, on her hip and then smiles at him, while tapping her lips with her pencil and then pointing it at him. “Well, now. Who have we here?”
Heath’s eyes twinkle. I don’t know if it’s because of her come-hither batting of eyelashes or the sudden octave drop in her voice or maybe he really, really is attracted to very pregnant women. “Heath Lawrence. Mrs. Quinton’s—”
“Grandson. I remember you. You used to be all pale and skeleton-like. I thought you were sickly. Mama said you were probably dying from a contagious disease and I should stay away from you. I always figured it was because you hung around these two. And you still do. Weird, right?”
“Very weird,” he agrees.
She nods and grins. “But you’ve grown into quite the man.”
“Thank you for that.”
“You’re very welcome. More than welcome. Welcome anytime.”
I roll my eyes. I promised I wouldn’t but couldn’t help myself. Unfortunately, Kelly Anne notices and I wonder if she’ll spit on my mashed potatoes before she serves them. I hope not, although it would be just my luck considering the past two days.
“I’ll also have the meatloaf, mashed potatoes and veg,” he says, and then adds with a smile. “and a ladle of gravy.
She holds his eyes for a few seconds longer than normal, her eyes crinkling with her coy smile but then scowls at me before walking away. Oh, there’s definitely going to be spit on my potatoes. But you know what? I don’t care.
Before she makes it to the kitchen, she turns around and part scurries and part waddles back to us. She pokes Heath on the shoulder with her pencil. “I forgot to ask you what you want to drink.”
“Just water,” he says.
“So, ladies,” Heath begins.
Nikki kicks me under the table, for what reason, I have no idea. I glare at her, but she just rolls her eyes. Evidently though we’ve been best friends since the dawn of time, we still can’t communicate without words.
“Why were you all climbing around my tree? Just to see me naked?” he asks with a quirk of his eyebrow.
Nikki’s smile widens, and she slowly nods her head and then evidently really likes the idea and nods more vigorously. “That’s exactly it.”
Heath frowns. That was obviously not what he was expecting. I sigh inside. I love Nikki like a sister, but sometimes…
“You know peeping is against the law.”
“Peeping,” Nikki repeats. “Peeps? Like the Easter candy?”
Heath glances at me, again with that cocked eyebrow as if to ask if she’s for real. I shrug. I never know what she’s going to say. She makes life interesting to say the least.
“Spying on people when they’re naked without their permission is against the law.”
Nikki waves her hand and laughs, rolling her eyes. “I didn’t actually get to see you, but Sophie did, and I really wanted to because she seemed to be really impressed with what she saw and what with the lack of new blood in town, I really wanted to see too, but, well, that didn’t happen because we both fell out of the tree.”
“Impressed, eh?” It figures he would latch onto that word.
“I don’t recall saying I was impressed,” I say and am relieved for the interruption when Kelley Anne arrives with our beverages. I wonder vaguely as I take the plastic glass (is that an oxymoron?) of iced tea whether she would have bothered to spit in it. I never spit in the food I serve. But what with this week, it’s probably obvious that I don’t have to.
I take a long sip of iced tea, hoping that Heath will drift on to another subject like what is he doing in Rosemead? Why doesn’t he like the blond tower? And what has he done to my soup? But he’s the proverbial dog with a bone and refuses to relinquish the current discussion.
“So what part impressed you most?” he asks, the sound of laughter at the edge of his voice.
“The part where we didn’t continue this discussion?”
His knuckles rap on the table. “Okay. We’ll discuss that another time. I want to know why you were climbing the tree outside my bedroom.”
“I wanted to play Romeo and Juliet?”
“Then why was Nikki along?”
“Threesome,” Nikki says, nodding as she smiles brightly, until she realizes what she just said and frowns into her iced tea.
Heath shakes his head once. “I think you were spying on me.”
“Are you a spy?” Nikki asks. “Mrs. Pilchard says your grandmother says that you do covert stuff like that woman did with affairs in that TV show.”
He grins but doesn’t answer. Kelley Anne arrives with our dinners deftly balanced in her hands. She practically drops my plate of mashed potatoes down in front of me. I can’t help but examine them.
“Why are you looking at the potatoes like that?” Kelley Anne asks, her tone offended.
“Oh, don’t bother about Soph, she probably thinks you spit on her food. She’s kind of obsessed with that,” Nikki says with a rueful grin.
Kelley Anne’s mouth drops open. “I don’t do things like that although I guess you do. I heard about the poisonings at Soup’s On. I’m surprised you’re showing your face around town. You ought to be glad that no one got hurt. Although I hear Mitzi is threatening to sue you.”
Great, just great. That’s just what I wanted to hear at the end of this truly awful day and courtesy of Kelley Anne Perry no less. I lay my fork down, my appetite, even for buttery mashed potatoes, gone.
Nikki spears a piece of meatloaf and bites off a corner then proceeds to talk around it. “I wouldn’t believe that. Mitzi’s close with your Aunt Lea. I don’t think she’d sue you. Kelley Anne just wants you to feel bad because Evers always had a thing for you.”
“Who’s Evers?” Heath asks.
“Kelley Anne’s hubster. They got married because she said she was pregnant, but she wasn’t, but she has been ever since,” Nikki says.
Nikki and Heath eat their meatloaf dinners while I swirl my fork through my potatoes wondering how my life could have turned around in just two days. My perfect, well, almost perfect life went to hell ever since I ran into Heath and the blond tower. Regardless of what direction I go in, I just come right back to them. Nothing else has changed in my world, has it?
I tap my fork against the side of the white plate, watching as the spots of mushroom gravy spread.
“You really should eat,” Nikki says.
I should but all I can think about right now is the fact that if I have to close Soup’s On, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do with my life. I probably couldn’t even get a kitchen job if my reputation followed me. My life would be over.
Feeling at the end of my rope, I lean back and rest my head against the booth. “Are you responsible for my soup going to hell, Heath?”
“Me?” He almost chokes on the piece of meatloaf in his mouth. “Why would you think I’d have anything to do with it?”
“Because bad things didn’t start until you got here.”
“And when Yuri got here. So why blame me and not him?”
I fold my arms against my chest and set my jaw. “Oh, if it’s not you, he’s next on my list.”
Heath wipes his lips on his napkin and then places it back on his lap. “I don’t think that’s wise. I think you should leave Yuri alone. Keep a good distance between you and him.”
“He’s bad news.”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s my job.”
“To know that guys like him are bad news.”
I smirk and shake my head. “I’m just supposed to trust you?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“God, I need to sleep for a week.”
“Is that an invitation?”
I wince. “Really? You had to go there of all places?”
“Yep. The man code.”
Save me, someone, save me.
end of day 4