September 2020 Prompt: Eggs & Roses
The first prompt I have written for September. Here is my take on Eggs & Roses. It went in a direction I hadn’t expected from it. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write until I sat down before a blank document, and then with the magic of 5am (more accurately it was probably 5:30am when I started) words began to flow. This prompt is written in the first person, something I rarely do, but have been compelled to do twice for prompts, interesting! At least, interesting to me. Anyway, please enjoy the prompt. As always, very minimal editing (mostly a read through or two).
“He has been coming every day for the last two years,” May pointed out, with a nod to the older gentleman at one of the booths near the back of the restaurant.
“He always orders the same meal too,” added April, who had been walking by with a stack of plates balanced precariously on her arms. She shot her twin a look just before she entered the kitchens.
“She doesn’t like us gossiping about him. She thinks he’s sad,” May explained, pausing a beat before adding, “but you saw how quickly she jumped in to talk about him.”
“Do you think he’s sad?” I asked, doing that held tilt that always made May laugh. She said it reminded her of her puppy. I liked to make people laugh, it was a compulsion of mine. It didn’t matter if people were laughing with or at me.
May didn’t laugh but her lips quirked up into an amused smile before she shrugged her shoulders. She gave the old man one more look, and I couldn’t quite read the expression on her face as she studied him.
“I don’t think that he’s just sad,” May said slowly, “there’s more to it.”
I wanted to ask May what she meant by that, but April had come back out from the kitchens, and the withering look she had given the two of us, had been enough to spur us into action. There were tables to attend to.
I had been working at the diner for over a month now. It was my first waitressing gig. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the work, but it paid the bills. April and May were a few years older than me. Fraternal twins who looked nothing alike. April was tall with long blonde hair that was always pulled up into a tight bun. She was the more serious twin. May was shorter with hair so dark it looked black, she kept her hair short and buzzed at the back. She had been the one tasked with training me, but May was easily distracted and had a tendency to wander off mid-sentence or training. April seemed to have a sixth sense about that, though, and she would swoop in to save my ass by explaining what her sister had not.
It was a family-owned diner, and it was rare that they hired new staff. Everyone made me feel welcomed, my coworkers, and most of our customers too since they were regulars. I still felt a bit like an outsider, though. Accepted only on the surface level. I had no intention of staying at the diner for years and years like most of the wait staff, and maybe, that was why I felt like I did not quite belong. Maybe everyone else sensed it too, even if they were nice, I never quite felt a real connection with anyone there.
If I managed to make everyone laugh at least once a shift and I got decent tips, then I considered that shift a win.
“What can I get you today, sir?” I asked, and as I looked up it dawned on me who I was finally waiting on. The older man who came in every day, and sat at this booth. He was dressed nicely, way too nice for what the diner actually was. I noticed, for the first time, that he had a bouquet of roses. He must have seen me looking at the roses because he smiled.
“These are for my daughter, she’ll be joining me. I’d like some scrambled eggs, and an orange juice, please.”
“Should I leave a menu for your daughter, then?”
“That would be nice.”
I left a menu with the man and walked back towards the kitchen. I did my best not to peek over my shoulder at him. I couldn’t remember if I had seen him with roses before, but something told my gut, that he probably always came in with them I had just never noticed before. I had never gotten close enough.
I was distracted for the rest of my shift. I kept glancing at the old man, his table, and the door. Other patrons made jokes with me because they were used to me joking back, but everything felt kind of flat to me. Every time I checked on the old man, to bring him his food and then refill his orange juice, he smiled and seemed happy. Excited even about the prospect of seeing his daughter. But after a few hours, he had gotten up and left. His daughter had never come. He left a decent tip and the roses behind.
“He’s always waiting for his daughter?” I asked May.
We were seated outside of the diner. May’s back against the wall, and an unlit cigarette perched in her lips. She was not actually smoking it, she never did. She just always kept one on her for smoke breaks. I was on my fifteen-minute break, timed just so I could bother May with my questions.
“Always,” May replied, pulling her cigarette out of her mouth and pretending to exhale.
“And she never comes?”
“Never,” May stuck the cigarette back between her lips and squinted at me.
“No one knows anything, Bev. He just comes every day, and orders his scrambled eggs with orange juice. He gets exactly one refill of the orange juice and eats his eggs. He eats them slowly and after two or so hours, he leaves. Always leaving the roses and a nice tip behind. No one wants to ask, no one knows what to ask. April is right, you know? It isn’t our business.”
May then stood up as I said nothing. Mulling over everything she had just said. Wondering if maybe I should be the one to break protocol and just ask those questions. May studied me for a few minutes, her eyes narrowed like she could read my thoughts. I could feel my face beginning to grow warm under the scrutiny of her look.
“Don’t forget about the trash,” was what she said instead, before walking back inside. She stuck her unlit cigarette into her apron pocket, next to all of her pens.
I ended up working at that diner for just under a year. I waited on the old man with his eggs and roses a couple more times. His daughter never came into the diner and I never worked up the courage to ask him anything. I guess, I realized, it was not my place or my business to ask. Or maybe I could always just feel April’s laser-like eyes boring into my back. I really did not want to deal with her quiet wrath.