As he turned I let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. It wasn’t Clay. I don’t know why I thought it might be. There was no reason to think he would find me there.
Continuing to the office supply section I was disappointed to discover there were no journals. Settling for a simple spiral notebook, I grabbed a pen to go with it. Then as an afterthought also picked up a pack of Post It notes before heading to the register.
As I paid for my items I asked the clerk what was nearby for dinner. He suggested the diner next to the Citgo station, since that was the only place that served hot food for miles. I thanked him then headed back across the street.
Entering the cramped restaurant, a pleasing blend of aromas assaulted me. I couldn’t believe that such an unremarkable hole in the wall would smell so amazing. My mouth watered as I waited to be seated.
As the waitress walked by carrying a tray loaded with food she said with a smile, “Take a seat anywhere. I’ll be with you in just a sec.”
There were 15 tables crushed into the small space, about half of which were filled with patrons who were obviously enjoying their food. As I watched them devour their meals I was reminded that I hadn’t eaten since early that morning. My stomach growled loudly at that thought as I sat at a table for two against the wall.
Almost immediately the waitress was back, her wide hips swinging as she bustled about in a pale blue dress protected by a clean white apron. Her dark brown hair was teased so that it was standing up around her head, making her appear taller than she actually was. Her face, free of makeup, was lined around her mouth, the only indication she was older than a high school student.
“Well hello! I’m Alice. Can I bring you something to drink?” Her warm greeting was sincere, as if she were welcoming me into her home. She appeared sweet and kind and I found myself wondering if I would be here long enough to get to know her.
“I’ll have water please, with lemon if you have it. What smells so good?”
“Ah that’s our house special, chicken pot pie. It’s to die for,” she responded enthusiastically, her eyes rolling upward as if she were savoring a bite of the pie as we spoke.
I laughed as she giggled at her own antics. “Sounds like I need to try that!”
“You won’t be sorry,” she told me as she scurried off.
I was about to open my notebook to begin writing down my thoughts when she returned with the water. “Your food will be out soon,” she informed me as she leaned one hip against the edge of my table. “Is this your first time here?”
“Yes,” I replied cautiously, unsure I should be sharing my story with a stranger.
“Well I won’t pry, but I hope you stick around for a bit. There’s not much to do besides hiking and hunting but there are some great trails not far. If you’re interested I can make you a list of my favorites.”
I grinned at the suggestion. Hiking in the woods might be exactly what I needed to clear my mind so I could focus on solving the problems that seemed to be cropping up at every turn. “That would be great. I’m not sure how long I’ll be here but I’d love to do some hiking before I go.”
“Sure thing. Let me go get your dinner,” she said as she turned to leave.
As she walked away I opened my notebook and started making a list. At the top of the list was Clay. I would need to figure out what was going on there. Could he really be dangerous? Surely I would have noticed before now, wouldn’t I?
Shaking my head, not ready to answer those questions yet, I added Lilly’s name beneath his. She had been my friend through thick and thin. Why was she abandoning me now that I needed her?
My thoughts were interrupted as Alice brought my chicken pot pie. I breathed in deeply, savoring the delectable scent. It smelled fantastic. I thanked her briefly as I dug into my meal. With the first bite my eyes rolled with appreciation just as the waitress had mimicked earlier. She had been right.
As she passed the table again she chuckled, “I told ya. Best thing on the menu, although the meatloaf is pretty good too.” She winked as she placed the check on the table without slowing down. “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready. No rush,” she said as she darted off to another table.
Underneath the check I found a list of trails neatly written out, directions to each carefully detailed. When had she had time to do that? Did she keep this list on hand for tourists? It seemed unlikely she could have completed the list in such a short time while serving all these customers.
Still amazed at her efficiency I stood and walked to the cash register by the door, hoping to make things easier for her. I rarely saw anyone working as hard as this perky woman.
“How was everything?” she asked as she ran my credit card through the register.
“That was the best chicken pot pie I’ve ever had!” I told her enthusiastically. “I hope your breakfast is as good.”
She grinned. “Best in town,” she replied enthusiastically. With a snort she added, “The only one in town!”
I laughed. “I’ll see you in the morning then,” I declared as I turned to leave. Just then I noticed a white magnolia blossom on the counter. I was about to ask her where it came from but she had already left.
Shaking off my anxiety I returned to my room at the hotel, noticing as I passed that the woman who had checked me in had been replaced by a pimply-faced young man who seemed to be in his early twenties. He waved as I entered the elevator, my responding gesture cut short by the closing of the doors.
As I opened the door to my room the lively sound of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 greeted me. Searching, I found the source to be the radio on the bedside table. Unable to figure out how to turn it off I hit the snooze button and was rewarded with silence.
Looking around, I could see that the bed had been turned down. Could this be a service provided by the hotel? That felt improbable given the practical nature of the hotel, but the alternative was incomprehensible.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompts Symphony and is part of something longer I’m working on.
This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after I Need to Figure This Out One Problem at a Time.