FAR AND AWAY
"Order up Bella!" called the cook as I refreshed the coffee of one my favorite customers.
"Thanks, Bella," he said, looking up at me and smiled sweetly. I smiled back at him, giving him a wink.
I replaced the coffee pot back into it cradle and picked up the orders I had waiting for me in the window at the same time, quickly taking them to the customers who were patiently waiting.
I was so glad to have patient customers, especially since this place was packed this early in the morning. I must have been doing something right, I thought, smiling to myself, since no one has taken my head off yet!
"Here you go Mac," I said sitting the plates down in front of him. Mac was a deputy with the sheriff's department here in Corvallis.
"No problem." I replied.
The owner of this diner is great. Mandy, she and I hit it off right away. She hired me on the spot. She has an awesome personality that keeps us laughing with her constant sense of humor, mostly directed at our regular customers. They all love her. It was she that kept them coming back. She wasn't one of those bosses that sat on their butts ordering the help around, she would get out there working right alone side of you, as hard as you did if not harder.
When I first started working here it was part time, while I went to the University of Oregon. I worked evening and weekends while in school. The school had a program that after I graduated they would place me in my first job. I told them I would go anywhere, as long as it was in the United States.
I graduated weeks ago. I kept working here at the diner switching to full time until the university called with the information I needed to begin my career. I was surprised I hadn't heard anything from them. I thought teachers were in high demand? So, I'm still here at the diner slinging hash so to speak.
I walked back behind the counter to cash one of the customers out as John began to tease me again. "Hey Bella, when are you going to quit this dive and marry me?" he asked with a chuckle. I smiled at him kindly.
"Be careful what you wish for, John! I might just take you up on that offer one day!" I wagged a warning finger at him. His face lit up, and he let out a barking laugh. It made me feel good to see a smile on his face. He was an elderly man, and after his wife died of a heart attack two years ago, he'd started hanging out here at the diner. I'd caught him a number of times staring out into space, a lost look on his face. He still spoke of her often, and while I knew he loved her unconditionally, that didn't stop that wily old man from proposing at least twice a week!
When his stories about his late wife first began, everyone seemed sympathetic, but as time went on, they started to disappear. They would tire of hearing the same old story from him reminiscing over times long since past. But it didn't bother me. I saw how his mood would change after he would tell me those stories. He would be in a much lighter, caring and happy mood. He would start cutting up with me, like asking me to leave this place and marry him.
John was having one of thosedays today. I saw him staring out into space again. I walked up to him and patted his hand gently, and when he looked up at me, he didn't start with a story, but just went straight into a proposal of marriage. I just smiled at him, filling his coffee cup with decafe.
I heard the bell over the door ring, alerting me that someone else was coming into the diner. I looked up to see who entered. I gasped, at the sight of this man, but not because I recognized him, but because he brought back so many memories, that I would rather forget. The guy was very tall. He had short cropped black shiny hair. His muscles bulged through the tee-shirt he wore continuing down his arms. His bronze colored skin reminded me of a time not long ago of a man I missed more than I cared to admit. This guy was just as gorgeous.
The woman under his arm was a lot shorter than him obviously. Her hour glass figure left nothing to the imagination, for her clothes didn't hide anything at all.
I could tell he was a player by the way he looked at her, because his gaze was purely sexual. They sat in the back of the diner in the last booth, their hands roamed all over one another. I was hoping they were enjoying themselves, for they were surely putting on a show for my customers. As everyone watched, I thought about telling them to get a room. I also wondered how long it would take Mac to wonder over and tell them to tone it down a few notches.
"I wonder if they're going to order any food or eat each other," John said with a chuckle. I giggled in agreement. I picked up my ticket pad and pencil and made my way to their table carrying two glasses of water. I hated having to approach this couple and I was sure my customers felt ill at ease having to watch this open display of affection as well.
I stood at the booth as they continue to paw all over each other, not even acknowledging my presence. I rolled my eyes and I cleared my throat loudly before finally slamming the two plastic glasses of water down to get their attention. The woman looked over at me blushing, which surprised me. Given what she was wearing I didn't think anything could have embarrassed her. But the guy just continued paying special attention to the woman neck. Finally, tired of waiting for him to notice I was even there, I spoke.
"What can I get you?" I said, loud and clear. A few minutes passed before he answered.
"We'll call you when we're ready," he replied without looking at me. "Look, this is a diner, not a motel, so either order something or get the hell out!" I demanded. I was getting more agitated the longer I stood there.
The man finally raised his head and I swear I heard him growl.
"Look Bitch!" He snarled. But I didn't care. He had pissed me off to no end. I was ready to tell him off and if that didn't work I had Mac sitting across the room who I'm sure wouldn't mind arresting them both for being a public nuisance. But as soon as our eyes met, he froze. His face became softer and his mouth hung open. As he sat there staring at me, his eyes never left mine.
"Look, if you don't want anything to eat, I suggest you leave. If you want to give me any trouble, I'm sure Deputy MacDougal would love to escort you out," I told him sternly. Hoping he would chose the latter, Mac stood up, resting his hand on his firearm. I was so pissed. I never realized the man was sitting there staring at me.
What the hell is he looking at? I thought as his date elbowed him in the chest to get his attention.
"Huh?" he said, looking back at the blonde.
"What do you want to eat?" she asked getting irritated at the man.
"Oh…um, yeah… sorry…tell her what you want, baby," he said talking to the blonde.
After the blonde ordered bacon, scrambled eggs and coffee, the guy proceeded to order half the breakfast menu. As I walked away from them, I passed Mac and gave him a wink. He shook his head, smiled knowingly at me. He took his seat once again but kept an eye on the couple.
I walked behind the counter, shoving the ticket in the wheel and spinning it around for the cook, Arnold, to prepare. I picked up two cups and poured coffee into them taking them to the couple. The man smiled at me, thanking me politely. I shook my head, disgusted with the man earlier performance as I walked away, picking up the coffee pot to do a coffee refill around the diner.
I walked over to John to fill his cup. He smiled at me proudly. "You did good sweetie," he cooed. I patted his hand in thanks.
I looked over to where the couple was sitting. The man had moved to the other side of the booth. He was now facing the woman he was pawing earlier. She looked angry, as she sat there with her arms crossed over her chest. The man was now sitting watching my every move. I walked over to John who was watching the couple as well. He looked at me smiled.
"I think he likes you, sweetheart," he said pleasingly nicely fondly with a chuckle.
"Puh-lease!" I replied, not quite believing what John had just said. "I wouldn't give that player the time of day," I told him, as he let out a howl of a laugh.
I looked over at the man who looked to be pouting. He looked as though his feelings had been hurt. I wondered what the woman had said to cause such a reaction from him, I felt kind of sorry for him in a way. The look on his face was heartbreaking. He didn't look like the type to take any crap from anyone, especially the woman that sat across from him.
"Order up, Bella," Arnold called. I walked over quickly, pulling the large order from the window before carrying it to the couples table. As I laid the food out before them, I looked into the man's eyes and smiled, thinking maybe it would help take away that hurt look on his face. He did look better with my little gesture, and he gave me a half smile in return.
"Can I get you anything else?" I offered, still looking at him.
"More coffee please," he asked nicely. I nodded and before I had a chance to head back to get the coffee pot to fill their coffee cups once again, I felt a warm hand grab my arm. I felt a charge of electricity run through me at his touch. I turned to see what the man wanted.
"I didn't catch your name," he replied.
"Bella, I told him, as I pointed to my name tag.
"No, your last name," he asked quizzically. I didn't know if I should tell him. Could I take the chance of someone from home finding me? I had never seen this guy before, but that didn't mean he didn't know people from home. I was done with school, yes. I was waiting to hear where they were going to place me, yes, but I still feared someone from home would find me. I looked at him, sighing. Oh, what the hell, I thought to myself. But before I could reply a voice came from the front of the diner.
"Swan!" Mac called as he stood in the doorway. "I rolled your car windows up; it's starting to rain," He informed me.
"Thanks, Mac," I yelled back. He waved his hand and left. Mac knew my dad Charlie. I kept in contact with Charlie through him when I didn't have time to call home.
When I turned back to the man, his eyes were closed. I heard him say my name, but it seemed he was speaking more to himself than to me.
"Bella Swan," he replied.
I looked at him with a furrowed brow. "Do I know you?" I asked nervously.
The woman grunted out. "I can't believe this, I'm out of here," she chided, as she got up storming out of the diner. I looked at the man. He didn't even acknowledge the fact that his date was leaving him in the middle of their meal.
"Are you going to let her leave just like that? You're not going after her?" I replied, silently cursing myself for butting in, knowing it wasn't any of my business, and left me wondering why I even cared.
He shook his head. "Yes, no and no. Yes, I'm letting her leave without me, no, I'm not going after here and No you don't know me, but my name is Paul… Paul Lahote," he greeted, Instead of returning the greeting, I rolled my eyes, before turned to walk away.
"Hey, Bella," John called, getting my attention as I filled the sugar and salt dispensers.
"Yeah, John, what is it? Do you need something?" I asked, as I walked back to him.
"I think you have an admirer," he whispered when I got closer. He cocked his head in the direction of the man who called himself Paul. He was still staring at me. I looked back at John.
"Please! John," I said, rolling my eyes. I picked up the coffee pot and walked over to where Paul sat. I proceeded to top off his cup, sit the pot on the table, tore off his ticket, and lay it on the table, all while his dark eyes continued to study me.
"Can I get you anything else?" I asked politely, hoping he would say 'No' and leave already.
"No, Bella, thank you though," he replied, with a smile reaching from ear to ear. I nodded, turned and walking back behind the counter to finish filling the condiments. I talked to John a little more, as I waited for Paul to leave. A few minutes later Paul got up walked to the cash register.
"Excuse me, John, let me cash him out," I replied.
"Sure Bella, he said. I walked to the cash register pushing a few buttons, took his money, gave him his change closed the drawer without looking at him once.
"Thank you for coming. Have a nice day. Please come again," I replied, as I do all customers as they leave the diner.
"Thank you, Bella, you have a nice day too," he said. I smiled at him before walking back over to finish filling the condiments and continue my talk with John. I looked up to see Paul stumble out the door. He was still staring at me with a silly grin on his face. I felt a little creeped out with how he kept watching me, but finally, he disappeared. I shook my head and looked back to John, who had doubled over with laughter over my situation.
I walked over to the table where Paul had sat for the past two hours and cleaned it off. When I went to pick up my tip, I stared down at it and then at the door, not believing he would leave me such a large tip. Most customers leave me two dollars at most, but Paul left me a twenty dollar bill. I tucked the money in my pocket, still feeling confused as I quickly completed my tasks.
After my shift I drove home to my tiny little apartment which was only two blocks from the diner. Yes, it was small, but I didn't need anything much larger. It was only a one bedroom. The living room, dining area and the kitchen all ran together, with a bath that sat between the bedroom and living area. I didn't cook much. I usually ate at the diner before I came home. Although, I loved to cook, I didn't have any reason too.
I grabbed a pair of sweat pants and a huge tee-shirt before jumping into the shower. Afterwards I slipped them on and got comfortable on the sofa. I checked my messages on the answering machine, not surprised when the mechanical voice explained that I had no new messages. Charlie and Renee usually called my cell, but I couldn't help but hope to hear about a new job from the university.
I picking up my copy of Pride and Prejudice and began to read.
I must have dozed off, because when I opened my eyes, the sun was coming up. I looked at the clock; it was 5 a.m. I sighed, and got up to make some coffee. As I waited for the coffee to brew, I stood staring off into space, thinking of home again. I missed Charlie. I had promised to come home for a visit, but I never did. I was always afraid Jake would find out I was home.
I didn't want to face him. I didn't want to hurt him any more than I already had. May be he had imprinted. But it had been four years, so maybe I was worrying unnecessarily. I'd kept to myself all this time, but that was out of choice. Oh sure, I've been on a few dates, but nothing serious. I wasn't ready for that type of commitment. I wanted to get my life in order, including a career, before I could even think about settling down with one man.
Despite my desperate rationalizations, I couldn't help but remember the last day I saw Jake.
Let me know what you think...huggs