I walk into the twenty-four hour diner located on the corner of Holly Close and Moonwell Crescent. I’ve been coming here for months, and it’s my favourite place to be. The décor is very 1950’s American, with shiny chrome and red pretend-leather seats. The booths are my personal favourite. Sunlight fills every corner, reflecting on the shiny tiled surfaces. I take a seat. I watch everyone.
I have ordered brunch. I am trying to pace myself as I will be here a while, but I am absolutely famished. The place is already heaving. I’ve finished off two cups of coffee, and the young waitress with the blonde curls and the bored expression goes to top me up again before shimmying off to get my order. The light that streams through the huge glass windows illuminates everything, like a church. I watch, and I wait.
The waiters and waitresses are a flurry of red and white stripy uniforms, dealing with the busy morning rush. People come and go. No seat is empty or occupied for long. I am the only constant, it seems. It is as if everyone else is operating at double speed, whilst I sit in my usual place, and all the activity rushes around me like a river. I am untouched.
I am finishing off a beautiful brunch, and it is the best I have had. My coffee is steaming fresh, and I am sipping fresh orange.
I’m just finishing my last mouthful of mushroom, when the first one enters the diner. I recognise him immediately – it is as if he is surrounded by a glow. He sees me and comes straight to my table. A couple of day’s dark stubble growth lines his attractively creased face. His dark eyes look tired but well-humoured. “Hello sweetheart,” he says.
How we had talked and talked. I had done him wrong, sought affection elsewhere. We had never quite recovered from the betrayal, not just the betrayal of my actions, but the cumulative betrayal of secrets that we had kept from each other far too long. Feelings that went unspoken, resentments and fears that stayed locked inside. In being afraid to open up to each other, we had never given ourselves the chance to be truly intimate. We had both been afraid to fall, and in doing so, had destroyed something that never had the chance to really grow. How I had loved him.
He was now married to Sandra, they had two children.
We had never managed to have our own children, and it was lucky really, as they would by now likely be from a broken home. My heart ached, even after all these years, for what could have been.
I was so glad John had turned up. It had not always been easy sitting down together after all this time, but we had reminisced over ice cream sundaes topped with a cherry, and clinked together coffee cups. John was happy now, and for that I was grateful. Grateful that I hadn’t ruined everything for him, and that he had found real love after me.
John has gone now. I am alone once again, lost in thoughts of him and our previous love.
The diner’s ongoing customer traffic is at a slight lull, which isn’t saying much when most of the day it is absolutely heaving. They are coming to the end of their lunchtime rush, and several staff members are ending their morning shifts, being replaced by the next lot of workers. Jackets are grabbed and goodbyes said, pleasure on faces as they leave to enjoy their freedom. It is in contrast with the resigned looks on the faces of the new shift, as they begin what their colleagues have finished.
I’m given another coffee refill, by an older waitress. I’ve seen her here many times before, and she is always nice. “You’ve been here a while,” she smiles as she pours for me, the older woman. “You killing time, honey?”
I look up at her face, lined from nicotine and too much sun, but with kind, blue eyes that shine out of her tanned skin. Thick, black hair is piled up in a beehive on top of her head. “Kind of,” I reply, watching her. “I suppose you could say that I’m getting my affairs in order.”
She looks at me sharply, concern showing on her brow. “Hope you’re not sick, honey,” she tells me, giving the table a courtesy wipe, buying herself a few more seconds so that she doesn’t have to rush straight off.
I shake my head. “Not exactly,” I say. I can’t tell her any more than this. I can tell she is troubled by what I have said, and I want to give her something to smile about. Gently placing a hand on hers, I smile appreciatively, telling her that this is by far my favourite place to come to. I want to say so much more.
She smiles and pats my hand. “This is a good place for many,” she says. Then: “I’ll be back,” and she is off in a flurry of activity.
What a kind woman, I think to myself.
My next meet comes in suddenly and surprises me; I was lost in thought and somehow wasn’t feeling ready. I look up and smile as he stands before me. He has barely changed all this time. Still tall, striking, except that those blonde waves that used to curl slightly around his ears have been cut a little shorter and are flecked with grey. “Teddy,” I say with feeling. And my old heart flutters a little.
I cry a little when he leaves. Teddy always did know me far better than I knew myself, that gorgeous smile that could light up a room, those shrewd, watchful eyes. He guessed that I am ill, and of course I couldn’t put him straight, but I also couldn’t completely deny his words. The truth would not be believed of course; either that, or it would destroy him, and I don’t want that because I love him too much.
We had been married, a long time ago, and I loved him more than I had ever loved anybody. When he sat down and the dark-haired waitress poured him tea and gave me a squeeze of the shoulder before she departed, it was as if nothing had changed, that I was transfixed by him. He always was a beautiful man, but also, he was charismatic, and extremely kind. I had never known him judge another human-being.
We laughed lots, and we talked about old times. I wasn’t hungry but he was, and he ordered a chicken salad. His manners were, as usual, impeccable. He was surprised that I had contacted him after all these years, but once I made it apparent that I was ‘making peace’ with certain things in my life, he seemed to accept that. I asked him if he was happy, and he thought for a bit. “I was, with you. And I have been since, with a lady called Rebecca. We were together a long time, nearly twenty years.”
Teddy told me about the course of their relationship, about the passion they shared and the luxuries they enjoyed together. However, she had never been able to have children, and over time it destroyed her confidence. “In the end, she met someone else,” he told me. “And they adopted, I believe.” He looked thoughtful.
We were holding hands across the table; I hadn’t even realised. He asked if I had ever had any children, and I nodded. “A daughter,” I confided. “I was very young, only 16 when I fell pregnant, and back then, it was looked on shamefully. My mother forced me to give her up for adoption. The father didn’t want to know either. I had no choice. But there’s not been a day goes by when I’ve not thought about her.” I wiped my eyes furiously.
Teddy said, “I’m so sorry. Have you ever thought about tracking her down?”
I nodded as my eye met the eye of the dark-haired waitress as she tended to her jobs. “Yes, I have. I actually found her a few months ago, but I haven’t plucked up the courage to tell her who I am yet.”
He held my trembling hands. “Why?”
“Oh. I think she might hate me, might reject me. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much. It feels safer not to, somehow.”
Teddy was leaning in close, looking into my eyes. “My darling, since when have you ever played it safe?” I laughed. Like I say – he knew me better than I knew myself.
Teddy had to go and run some errands, but he would come back. He asked how long I would be here for, and would I be going back home?
“Not anytime soon,” I told him with my heart quietly breaking inside. “I’ll be here until 10pm tonight, putting things right.” He looked at me as if I were crazy. “My darling, you can’t beat yourself up about the past forever, and you have to sleep sometime…”
I was shaking my head frantically, his hands felt so comforting at this moment, as I said that I would only be here until 10pm, and to please come back and see me again before then. All the old feelings were there, exactly as before. He nodded and stood, stroked my lined, weathered face briefly. “I love you. Now and always,” he told me, as if it had never been in question.
“I love you too, Teddy,” I whispered.
I’m watching her across the diner, and I know that I have to do it, I have to tell her, I have to be brave. I am running out of time. We are all running out of time.
I call her over to my table. I tell her there is something important I need to talk to her about, and she looks like she understands. I see suddenly the likeness between us, the same sharp blue eyes and easy tan. The same difficult mass of wavy, coarse hair. It feels suddenly impossible to me that she cannot know. She must know that she is my daughter.
I have told her, and it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. She was aware that she had been adopted, and though she loves her adoptive parents dearly, she had always wondered about me. We both cried and cried, and held hands over the table. Somehow a hug didn’t yet feel right. But it would. Another waitress kindly brought a box of tissues over, and we shredded the lot.
We got to know everything about each other, and we laughed, and we cried so much it was ridiculous. Everything was complete. My daughter was pleased to see me; I had made things right.
We hugged, and I thought my heart would burst. Steph talked about the future, about all the things we would do, about me meeting my grandkids. About BBQs and family days out. I couldn’t have felt happier.
And then at 22:00 on the dot, the tremors were felt under the ground, and everything started to shake and groan. People screamed, and there was blood, as the ceiling began to come down in chunks, and glass shattered. It was chaos. Everyone was screaming, but I wasn’t, because I had known it was all going to end. I had seen it, clear as day, in my dreams. Today was the day I had needed to make everything right.
As the world ended, I saw Teddy, my love, racing towards me, blood pouring down his face. I felt my daughter’s hand in mine, and Teddy put protective arms around me, as we all embraced, in this diner, which had become my favourite place to be.
About the Creator
A mum, a friend to many and I love to explore dark themes and taboos in my writing. I am an optimist with a dark side...
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