Until It Fades(8)

By: K.A. Tucker

“Don’t matter what they saw, as long as you don’t admit to anything. It’s none of anyone’s business,” Lou tells her. “Misty, you’ve got tables to take care of. And you keep your trap shut about this if you’re a real friend, got it?”

Misty offers me a sympathetic smile and then ducks out of the bathroom.

“Okay, let’s get some saltines and water in you to settle that stomach, and then you can sit down with the menu. It’s big, but the sooner you learn it, the faster you can move from hosting and bussing to waiting on your own tables.”

Wait . . . I stare up at the woman who hovers over me in the tiny but clean staff restroom. “You want me to work?”

She shrugs. “Better to stay busy than to leave free time for regrets, I always say.”

“But, I mean, you’re actually giving me the job? Why?” I can’t help sounding incredulous.

She twists her lips. “Well, I’d say you need this job more than you did when you walked through my door twenty minutes ago, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, but . . .” Dr. Perkins’s words come to mind. “Aren’t you worried what your customers will say?”

She snorts. “I don’t have any use for those kind of customers. They’re the same kind who think I shouldn’t be married to my husband for the color of his skin. Besides, anyone who can’t see how that teacher used you for his own needs is a damn fool.” She rests her hands on her hips. “So, do you want the job or not?”

“Yes.” I furiously wipe the tears from my cheeks with my palms.

“Well, all right, then. And no more cryin’. Leroy doesn’t allow cryin’ in the kitchen. Gets him all flustered and then he starts droppin’ pancakes. Ask Misty, she’ll tell ya.”

I force a smile and pull myself to my feet, trying in vain to ignore that voice in the back of my head, screaming at me.

Telling me how badly I’ve fucked up my life.

Chapter 2

May 2017

Tonight is a night of firsts.

And lasts.

As in, I will never agree to a blind date ever again.

“So I says to the guy . . .” Gord’s fleshy hands wave over his dinner plate—he’s a hand-talker—“I says, ‘Walkin’ out that door without buying this car would be a travesty I can’t allow you to suffer.’ ” He pauses and leans in, to build suspense, I guess, before slapping the table. “He drove off the lot with a mighty-fine Dodge that same afternoon.”

Gord Mayberry, future owner of Mayberry’s New and Used Vehicle Dealership when his father croaks—information he shared three minutes into our date—is a self-proclaimed master car salesman. The doughy thirty-five-year-old has regaled me with countless dealership stories while sucking the meat off his rib bone dinner, and I have smiled politely and nibbled on my french fries, struggling to keep my gaze from the prominent mole perched above his left brow, the two dark hairs sprouting from it begging to be plucked.

I wish I didn’t have to drive so I could drown my disappointment in a bottle of cheap house chardonnay.

Why Lou thought her nephew and I would mesh, I can’t figure out. I’m trying my best not to be vain, to get beyond the utter lack of physical attraction, and focus on the positives—the man owns a house, he has a great job, he’s educated. He has all his teeth.

He’d provide well for Brenna and me. A helluva lot better than I can do on my own.

And seeing as I’m a twenty-four-year-old truck stop diner waitress with a tattered suitcase’s worth of baggage in tow, who hasn’t so much as kissed a man in over three years, maybe I don’t have a right to be judgmental.

The server comes around to set a dessert menu on the table and clear our plates, earning my soft sigh of relief that I’ll be going home soon. “Can I get you something else?”

Gord yanks the napkin out from where he tucked it in his collar and rubs his sticky BBQ sauce–covered fingers against it. “I’ll have some of that divine blueberry pie of yours. How about you, Cathy?”

“No, thank you. I’m full.” I stifle my groan. He’s one of those people who assume Catherine and Cathy are automatically interchangeable. Maybe I’ll tack on a “Gordy” to see how he likes it.

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