Close To Home (Westen Series)(10)By: Suzanne Ferrell
“Your uncle and Gage picked her up right on time. Sometimes she reminds me of a schoolgirl going out on her first date when those two take her to the movies. I even helped her put her hair up tonight.”
Emma paused a moment. “You helped her do her hair?”
Rachel shrugged. “She was having a little trouble getting it pulled into her usual roll in back.”
“Thanks for helping her,” Emma said. For the first time in her life, concern that her mother couldn’t do her own hair nagged at her.
“No problem,” Rachel said. Chomping on a piece of gum, she went into the kitchen to hug her mom then returned with a tray laden with glasses of water for a table.
Emma pulled the reserved sign from the two counter stools next to the cash register. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, days when Mama had regular plans, the boys always ate at the café with her. She routinely set two stools aside for the boys when she started her shift. Rachel, who watched the boys at the beginning of the evening, usually brought them in for dinner while Emma took her break.
The boys climbed on their stools, each bracing their arms on the counter.
“So, what’ll it be tonight, guys?” Emma loved this part of her night, getting to take dinner orders for her two favorite customers.
“Cheeseburger and fries, mom,” Ben announced.
“Cheeseburger and fries for me, too,” echoed Brian.
“Okay, two burgers and fries, coming up.” Emma laughed. They ordered the same thing each time. Usually she convinced them to have something a little healthier. Tonight, however, cheeseburgers might be the easiest for them to handle one handed—especially if she cut them into small pieces.
While they ate their dinner, Emma spent her time between the counter and register. She let each boy have a turn helping her make change while they ate their dinner. Lorna always arranged her relief so she could spend her time with her sons.
“Now, if you can tell me how much change I get if my meal cost six dollars and seventy-five cents, and I give you seven dollars, then you may keep the change, young man.” The elderly Mr. Weaver held out his money to Benjamin.
Emma hid her smile as her older son concentrated on the task.
“That would be twenty-five cents, sir.” Ben glanced at her for reassurance and Emma nodded her head. He grinned then pushed the buttons on the antique register. The drawer popped open. He placed the bills in their proper place, extracting one bright new quarter and handing it to Mr. Weaver.
“Oh no, young fella. You earned that quarter yourself.” He patted Ben on the head, then handed each of the boys another quarter before escorting his wife out into the night.
“Look, mommy.” Brian held up his quarter. “Mr. Weaver gave me one, too. That makes five quarters tonight!”
“And I got six.” Ben nudged his brother with his hip.
Emma pushed the money drawer closed, then looked at her sons. “And do you know what you’re going to do with that money?”
“Put it in our piggy banks.” They recited it from memory. Their faces matched their voices in total lack of enthusiasm. Emma studied them for a moment. She wanted to teach them to save their money, but maybe letting them spend it occasionally might not be such a bad idea. All work and no play made them all a little unhappy.
“How about tomorrow we go out for ice cream after the T-ball game and you can spend your money then?”
The boys jumped up and down then ran around and around their mother. Emma grabbed them both and hugged them tight.
“And what is all this excitement about?” A deep voice asked from the counter behind them.
Emma cringed as she turned. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Clint sitting on a vacant stool next to where her sons’ plates still sat.
“Doc Clint!” Both boys raced around the counter to scramble onto seats flanking the doctor. The joy drained out of Emma, anger quickly replacing it. So much for keeping her sons out of the good doctor’s radar range.
“Hey guys, what’re you two doing here?”
He seemed genuinely happy to see her sons. For that she’d cut him a little slack—maybe a centimeter’s worth.