Twelve short stories wit.., p.8
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       Twelve Short Stories With A Twist, p.8
 

           Mario V. Farina
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The Woman In The Diner

  11On this day, I did not go to the diner at the usual time. I had overslept and it was about nine. The Liberty Diner was a little less crowded than usual. I strolled toward my favorite booth and was unhappy to see a young woman already sitting there. She was reading a book while having breakfast.

  There was an empty booth on the other side of the aisle. I selected one where I could keep the woman in view. She had caught my interest. First, she was reading a book. Nobody read books any more! I was a teacher of English Literature at Linden High School and no one knew this better than I. Second, she was attractive, but seemed lonely. Though not actually beautiful, there was a kindliness in her face that more than made up for that. Third, I was lonely too. At thirty, I had let love and marriage effervesce by being too preoccupied with academic affairs. These interests had taken their toll with wasted time. When the magic number of thirty arrived, I felt something should be done about catching up. I couldn’t tell what the woman’s age was but it seemed to be in a range that I should find acceptable.

  The woman had not noticed me. There would have been no reason for this. She seemed thoroughly engrossed in her book. Every so often she would take a bite of food as if she had suddenly remembered to do it.

  She had dark auburn hair. I couldn’t tell how tall she was since she was sitting. I would have guessed about five-five or five-six, perhaps a little too tall for me since I was shorter than average. She was thin and I was a little overweight. I found myself feeling ashamed of my thoughts. I was here to eat, not to evaluate the availability of a chance personal sighting.

  The server came and took my order. It was the usual sausage and eggs over easy, home fries, English muffin instead of toast, coffee. “You’re late today, Ben.” Trudy knew my name since she had served my breakfast for, at least, three years. My name is Benton Harris. I don’t think she knew my last name. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. She attended to another table for a few seconds then disappeared into the kitchen. I turned my attention back to the young woman.

  She had captured my thoughts! There was something special about her. I knew not what, but it was something I could not ignore. How could I meet her? I wondered. From outward appearances, she seemed to be the kind of woman that my mind had always pictured as being a perfect wife, kind of face, studious, physically appealing. Another person might immediately have gone to her and introduced himself. I’m not demonstrative. This activity would have been too bold for me.

  She appeared to enjoy reading. I didn’t think she’d appreciate being disturbed while immersed in a book.

  I could try bumping into her as both of us were leaving. No, there would simply be two excuse me’s and that would be the end of the encounter.

  I could send her a note. No, she’d think I was a masher.

  I might ask Trudy to introduce me? No, Trudy might feel this was not a role she should be expected to exercise as a server in a restaurant.

  I couldn’t let the woman go. I might not see her again. Trudy had brought coffee but not my meal yet. I could go to her booth and ask what was the book she was reading. I was mulling over that idea when my food was delivered. I slowly began to partake.

  The meal didn’t go well. I kept scolding myself for having been so ineffective. Now, she would finish eating, and I would finish eating, and we’d both leave, and that would be the end of today’s opportunity to meet the woman I found myself so strongly attracted to. Yes, I could come back tomorrow at the same time but there was no assurance she would be here again.

  Shakespeare, through Brutus, had expressed my thoughts better than I could when he wrote something like,

  There is a tide in the affairs of men.

  Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

  On such a full sea are we now afloat,

  And we must take the current when it serves,

  Or lose our ventures.

  This might be the day I would remember as the day I had let the girl of my dreams turn my dreams to a sea of regrets.

  I continued eating and kept glancing at the woman from time to time. Once she looked in my direction and I quickly averted my eyes. I didn’t want to let on that I had been watching her. I resolved to be more careful.

  I berated myself for having failed so miserably. The only plan I could formulate for the future was to come back tomorrow and embroil myself in the same ordeal. I ate without enjoying the food, or even being aware that it was being consumed. I saw Trudy bring the young woman a check. She paid her bill and left some folding money on the table. I returned to my food seething inwardly.

  “Pardon me, may I sit here with you?” I looked up. It was her! It was her! I felt myself flushing in several colors. “N-no, n-not at all,” I stammered. “Please do!” She sat at the opposite side of the booth.

  “My name is Emily,” she said. “I couldn’t help noticing you. You seemed so deep in thought. I was over there reading,” she said pointing to where she had been sitting. “I couldn’t focus on the words in my book thinking about you. Are you a professor?”

  Now that she was closer, I could smell faint scents of perfume. “I-I teach at the high school,” I said. "In my spare time, I-I do a little thinking,” I said, realizing, with some humor, that this was as incongruous as stating that Fred Astaire danced a little.

  “I eat here every day at about this time,” Emily said. “I bring a book to keep me company but I’d rather talk to someone. Shall we sit together tomorrow so you can tell me what you think about? I would like that.”

  I readily agreed. Emily and I did meet for breakfast many times afterward. And for many years! Today, as I write this, we’ll be celebrating the thirtieth year of our marriage.

  Woman On The Phone

  "Hello Hildy, it's Millie. You were right! He admitted it to me last night. I'm calling from outdoors. I don't want Gerry hearing me. I'm not going to waste any time on this. I'm going to use the same attorney you did."

  "Good thinking," responded Hilda Ellis, Mildred's friend. "Lee Williams helped me a lot with my divorce. Lee bled that scoundrel of mine as much as anyone could. So far as Gerry is concerned, I think the quicker you get that worm out of the house, the better."

  "Thanks, Hildy. You're a good friend. I'll see if I can make an appointment for tomorrow. Bye."

  Mildred Olsen initiated another call.

  "Gerard, I'm making an appointment with a lawyer. Hilda gave me the name of the lawyer she had when she divorced Frank. I want a divorce as soon as possible."

  "Shouldn't we discuss division of assets before either of us sees an attorney. This way, each of us will make out better."

  "No, Gerard. I think the lawyers, fighting it out, will decide the best division. I'll be talking to my lawyer tomorrow, and I'll need to know the name of that bimbo of yours. Who is she?"

  "That's my business, Mildred. There's no reason to get her mixed up with this."

  "Well, we'll see what my lawyer has to say about that."

  Mildred was furious as she abruptly broke the connection. She decided to walk through the nearby park to cool down and think things over.

  She was about half an hour into the walk when her phone rang. She hit the Talk button and was assailed by an angry voice. It was Gerard.

  "Where do you get off talking to my lawyer?" he demanded!

  "I did nothing of the kind," she responded. "I don't even know who your lawyer is."

  "You talked to Lee Williams and made an appointment for tomorrow. Cancel it!"

  "I'll do nothing of the kind," declared Mildred. "Lee's name was given to me by my friend, Hilda. I have the right to be represented by any lawyer I want."

  "This would be a conflict of interest for Lee. Cancel the appointment!" He hung up.

  Mildred hit the buttons for Hilda's number.

  "Hildy, that snake is trying to steal my lawyer," she exclaimed.
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  "Lee Williams? He has the same lawyer?"

  "Yes, have you any idea how that happened?"

  "No, I don't."

  "Are you sure you don't. There's something sneaky going on here."

  "If there's anything sneaky, I don't know anything about it."

  "Hildy, I hate to ask you this, but you and Gerry seem to be a very cozy couple. Are you the one who's been having the affair with him?"

  "No," shouted Hilda! "How dare you suggest that?" There was a loud click at the other end and the call was ended.

  Mildred placed a call to Gerard. "You've been seeing Hilda, haven't you?"

  "Who?"

  "You know who! My so-called friend, Hilda Olsen, that's who! I just talked to her. She all but admitted it!"

  "That's crazy, Mildred. I hardly know her."

  "Who then?"

  "Go fry an egg!"

  He disconnected.

  Stewing, she sat on a bench.

  The phone rang. She hit talk. "Yes?"

  It was Hilda.

  "You told Gerry I was having an affair with him?"

  "I'm sure of it!"

  "You're out of your mind."

  She hung up.

  The phone rang again almost immediately. She hit talk and shouted, "If you're going to apologize, forget it."

  "This is Lee Williams. Did you think it was somebody else?"

  "Yes Lee, I apologize for the way I spoke to you."

  "That's all right, Mildred. We'll have to cancel our appointment for tomorrow. I
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