Ruby walked into the diner after her date that night… She couldn't go home… not yet… not now. She sat in a booth in the darkened diner and put her head in her hands. She didn't even realize she had been crying until she heard the knock on the door.
She looked up and saw the Sheriff. She knit her brows and wiped her eyes quickly before she got up and walked over to the door, "Sheriff? What can I do for you?"
"Actually… I was thinking more… what is it I can do for you?"
Ruby sniffled, "What do you mean?"
"Well, Ruby… you see, you've put me in a tough spot here… I was on my way home and I looked in the window, like I usually do just a cautionary check I guess… and I saw you in this sad state… Now, while I try to avoid people—especially those crying, I couldn't help but wonder what you were crying about and why you were crying alone… I figured the least I could do was offer my services and let you know that you don't have to tell me, but I'd like to know how I could help…"
"Wow, Graham, that was quite a mouthful…" Ruby said as she stepped aside, the sheriff already lightening her spirits.
"Yeah well… You know I talk and talk when I get nervous…"
Ruby turned around and gave him a stare and a smirk, "Do I make you nervous?"
"You don't make me not nervous…" Graham said as he shut the door and walked with her over to the table she had been. He shook her shoulder before she sat down, "Come on… what's wrong?"
"Why do all men suck?" Graham stood there for a minute, "You know… I don't know if I'm the one you should be having the conversation with after all…" He gave her a joking grin as he walked to the coffee pot and turned it on.
"Seriously!" Ruby said as she turned to him. He laid her arm on the table and her head in her hand, "What is it about men that makes them automatically think that I will sleep with them on the first date?... Before it's even over? I mean… I'm not a whore! Though apparently I dress like one…" She mumbled the last sentence under her breath as she turned back to the table and started picking at her fingernail polish.
"Excuse me?" Graham turned around, "What happened tonight?"
"I went on a date with Braden… that guy with the sandy blonde hair that works across town at the bowling alley." She started, "You know who I mean?" She looked up to Graham as he nodded, "Well… He took me out to the drive in, and he…" She looked down, "Tried to… drive in…" She pursed her lips, "The previews hadn't even started. When I pushed him off and told him that he wasn't gonna get any, he told me that he would because sluts like me don't not put out on the first date." She looked up and saw Graham gritting his teeth, "Graham, are you okay?"
"Yeah." He nodded and stiffly turned around to the coffee machine.
She stared at the back of his head for a moment, not sure if she should continue as he clanked around, but her words got the better of her and started flowing out, "I mean… I guess I had it coming… I do dress… like I do… and—"
"You don't deserve to be treated like that! No one as good as you deserves to be treated like that. Why do you go out with assholes in the first place? All they've ever done in the end is left you licking your wounds… having to pick yourself back up…"
"What good guy is going to go out with a girl like me?" Ruby retorted, "I mean… I don't see any around that would, do you? The way I dress draws everyone's eyes, sure, but I guess I only get asshole's attention…"
Graham stared at her a long moment, "Then don't dress like you do."
"I can't not dress like I do…"
"Because this is the only thing that makes me feel beautiful." She wouldn't look at him. She refused to.
"Ruby you are beautiful." Graham put his mug down and walked over to her slowly, "You'd be beautiful in a burlap sack… I mean… you'd be beautiful in big baggy clothes that show none of your figure… you'd be beautiful without your make-up… you'd—" He shrugged, "You'll always be beautiful… Because no matter what you wear in the day, the only thing that's the same at the end is who you are…" He took her hand, "You will always be beautiful…"
Ruby swallowed and looked at him, "See? Why can't guys treat me like you treat me?"
Graham knit his brows, "You know… I don't know if you've noticed, but… I'm a guy…"
"Yes, but you're Graham. It's different."
"Why is it different?"
"Because you're my friend… You'd never want to go out with me…"
"…How can you be so sure?"
Ruby stared at him, "Are you saying that you want to go out with me?"
Graham looked down and nodded without looking at her, "I've always liked you, Ruby… always." He still refused to look at her, "I hope that my telling you that hasn't changed anything… I'd rather pretend nothing happened and stay friends if you don't want me to like you."
Ruby sat there a moment, staring at the top of his head, studying his curls, "You can't take back something like that… It's out in the open now Graham…" Graham looked up at her worried, "Have you really always liked me in that way?" He nodded, "Why didn't you ever say anything?"
Graham shrugged, "I don't know… I guess I just figured you'd find someone better than me and I didn't want to fall so hard that when you broke up with me I wouldn't be able to come back up…"
Ruby scooted to the edge of the booth and took his face in her hands, "You know that there is no better guy out there than you, right? I mean… you're the town Sheriff, all you do is fix people's problems, catch thieves and solve crimes… And you gave Emma a job when probably no one else would… Honey, all you are is good… So why would you not be good enough for me?"
"Because you're perfect… nothing is good enough for perfect." He whispered.
Ruby had tears in her eyes for the second time that night… this time though, they were happy tears, "How about you let me decide if you're good enough or not, alright?" She leaned down and kissed him.
It was a simple kiss, but there more power behind the simple gesture than either of them had felt in their lives.
Three weeks later Ruby was wearing a red v-neck with jeans… she was completely covered from head to tow. She had her hair pulled back in a low, loose ponytail, and wore no make-up.
She had just served Archie and Marco when Emma, Mary Margaret, Henry and Graham walked in. She smiled as she walked over to them, "Hey guys." She said in greeting as she placed her hand on the back of Graham's neck, subtly playing with his curls.
"Good morning, Ruby."
Were the three responses she got from Emma, Henry and Mary Margaret.
Graham looked up at her and smiled, "Hi Honey." His smile grew to a grin.
"Hi Baby." Ruby scrunched her nose at him before she leaned down and pecked him when she felt his arm wrap around her waist.
"You know, Ruby… I have to say that you have been dressing… quite different lately…?"
Ruby turned to Mary Margaret, still playing with her boyfriend's hair, "Is that an observation or a question?"
"Both I suppose…" The black haired woman looked up at her.
"Well, let's just say that someone made me realize that I don't have to show skin to feel beautiful."
Emma and Mary Margaret grinned at her before Henry started talking, "Was that someone Sheriff Graham?" He asked.
Ruby laughed, "Yes… it was."
"I thought so… 'cause you just kissed him…" He provided.
"Yes I did." She laughed a little more, "What can I get you all?"
She took their orders and went to place them. When she turned around, Braden and a couple of his unruly friends were there. Caught, she knew she had to talk to him. She rolled her eyes, "What can I get you?" She asked.
"Ruby?" Braden physically was taken aback.
"Yes, Braden… what do you want?" She spoke monotone.
"You don't look like yourself… You feeling okay?"
"I'm fine… food. Tell me. Now."
"Where's your usual little outfit?" He turned to his friends, "I do mean little."
Ruby breathed a calming breath, "You gonna order something or are you gonna just sit there and talk… bare in mind we loitering is not permitted."
Braden turned back to Ruby, "Oh I'm sorry, Baby… I was just coming in here 'cause I wanted another chance. Come on! I can be a gentleman, I promise."
Ruby grinned, "My, my… for some reason I just don't believe you. And even if I did, I wouldn't go out with you. You're too douchey too late, Braden…" She leaned in with a smile, "And I'm not your baby." She started around the counter, then turned to him, "Oh, I'll be back to check on you sometime."
Braden grabbed her arm, "Ah, come on, Rubes… I thought we had something. Something special!"
"Braden let go of my arm." Ruby warned him.
"Not until you give me another chance."
Graham's hair on the back of his neck stood up when he saw Braden grab her arm. He knew the guy wasn't hurting her, but he was capable if Ruby ran her mouth like she was prone to do. He was up and over there in a split second, "I suggest you do what the lady asks."
"Alright." Braden saw who was speaking to him, "Sorry Sheriff." He raised his hands in surrender. As Graham turned to Ruby to see if she was okay, the other man continued, "But she's not a lady."
Graham raised his brows and stared at the man before him. He couldn't believe what he just heard, "Excuse me?"
"I think you heard me, Sheriff…"
Graham stood there a moment in a stupor. He shook his head and powered through, "So… let me get this straight… She rejects you three weeks ago because you tried to unabashedly get in her pants. You come in here begging for her to come back to you and when she rejects your sorry punk ass again, she's not a lady?"
Braden stood from his stool and with no warning, punched him in the face. Graham grinned and nodded… everyone else in the diner was frozen solid. Graham actually chuckled as he wiped at his mouth, "Thank you… for that. That means that I can do this." he lunged at the other man, taking him to the ground then punched him back.
He heard Ruby's words and stopped himself from giving another blow. He got off of Braden after telling him, "You're not worth a fight; you're not worth the scum on my shoe."
He moved over to Ruby, who was immediately looking at his face checking to see if he was okay. Emma got up to make sure that Braden and his friends left the diner. She told them that they might not want to come back for a while… like… ever again.
The next day just before the lunch rush, Braden came back. Ruby looked up from her magazine then looked right back down, "I'd walk right back out that door. The Sheriff will be here soon… wouldn't want another brawl to happen… in my diner."
"Yeah, I'm real sorry about that. Was there any damage done?" He asked wringing his baseball hat through his hands.
Ruby stared at his nervous hands then up to his face. She knit her brows, "No. Everything's been taken care of." She waited a moment then said, "Goodbye, Braden."
"…" Braden turned to leave then turned back once more, "I'm sorry…" He said.
Ruby looked up at him. She could tell from his face the words he didn't say… that he was sorry for treating and calling her a whore… in front of the diner. "Alright." She nodded, telling him to leave again. Once he was at the door, she spoke again, "You know… I'm a damn fine catch. You could have had me, but you let my appearance cross your judgment… Well now I'm with someone who never saw anything but through my appearance… Now I'm happy, and I'll never have to deal with the real trash again." He swallowed a visible lump in his throat, "Think about me the next time you try to get a girl, 'cause Sweet Pea? Even the 'easy' ones are complicated."
He nodded then left the diner and stalked down the street. Graham and Emma were coming over for their lunch break when they saw him leave.
"Hey, hey… is everything okay? Did he do anything?" Graham was immediately at her side.
Ruby grinned, "No, Honey, I'm fine. I promise."
They had a bit of a staring contest before he relented.
"Awwwwwwwe!" Emma said as she sat at the diner, "Aren't you two just the most precious thing in the world!"