Cara sat in the torn, plastic-covered mini-booth at the oddly ever-crowded “better days gone by” diner and sipped at her bitter coffee. She thought about asking one of the over-worked waitresses for a fresh pot, but didn’t know if she’d be there long enough to drink it – the pot, not the cup.
She looked around and sighed, then rolled her eyes at the appropriateness of it all: what a traditional place for a traditional purpose. The place was the perfect boulevard of broken dreams, a great place for greasy food, and a mediocre place to waste time.
The tv blaring in the background was on some annoying show that she really hoped would end soon. She glanced out the window at the night sky, and hoped someone would just switch the channel to the local news.
Bored, and still not sure what she wanted to eat, Cara dug a note pad and a pencil out of her purse. As she began making a list, her favorite “eating alone” activity, her mind wandered past the paper towels, milk, and coffee filters she needed.
Her favorite author had just released a new book, and it was supposed to be somewhat controversial in nature. She snorted…to some idiots everything was controversial. Ah, well, little minds led to little lives, and little lives served little purpose.
That thought sparked the memory of her first visit to this particular hole-in-the-wall. Jeremy. Why in the world she’d ever thought hooking up with a guy whose name she subconsciously pronounced “germy” would be a good idea, she’d never know. Well, he was hung, and he did have a gorgeous face, but, as has been proven time and time again, that combo generally meant the owner of such had a higher-than-normal chance of having a shitty personality.
Her latest and, she hoped, last proof had waltzed in like he owned the joint, but had crept out with his proverbial tail between his legs. Apparently he hadn’t expected Cara to actually be upset that he’d been seeing mother of his child on the side, especially since he’d never told her about seeing the mother…or that there was a child.
As always, Cara had been in the right place at the wrong time and had seen them with her own eyes. Her only two thoughts at the time were that she wasn’t surprised, and that the kid was cute. She’d always sensed something just “off” enough about him to wonder about his fidelity, and while she’d never wanted offspring of her own, she could appreciate a cute kid when she saw one. She was just sad that he or she got stuck with Germy for a dad.
Well, “he” was what she got for being bored and not listening to her instincts…again.
She rolled her eyes at her last romantic endeavor, then nodded to the waitress for her section, Lana, to let her know she was ready to order. A few minutes later she surprised Cara with a fresh cup of coffee.
“I got a good whiff of that old swill an’ tossed it. What’cha want tonight, sweetie?”
“Can I get a double grilled cheese, an order of 4-minute fries, and some pickles, please? Oh, and thank you so much for the fresh cup. That last batch melted my spoon.”
The waitress barked a laugh, then grimaced. “Honey, you shoulda said som’thing – I’da brought you a new cup.”
“Meh, I didn’t want to say anything since that load of construction workers all decided to ahoq up at the same time.”
She shook her head and was about to reply when the bells on the door jingled to announce another customer’s arrival. Instead Lana patted Cara on the shoulder and went to seat the new customer.
Cara liked that particular waitress. She’d been working the night of the infamous breakup, and had witnessed Jeremy’s temper tantrum at having been caught and given the boot.
Lana and two truck drivers had been the ones to haul Jeremy off her when he’d let his temper over-rule his better judgment and left her with a black eye and a bruised jaw. As the two men had corrected Jeremy’s manners in such a way that he’d barely managed to walk out the door, that waitress had been the one to bring Cara an ice pack for her eye and some ibuprofen for the swellings. She’d been the one to commiserate with Cara one night a week, every week, since then.
A tender-hearted liberal just like herself, she and Lana had enjoyed many a conversation when there was a lull in the diner, and many a shared eye roll when it was busy but some asshole decided he needed better service.
As Lana headed for the kitchen after seating the new customer, Cara automatically glanced toward the newcomer, and wondered why the tiny lady, who looked so pale and perfect, looked so…bitchy. Huh. She didn’t understand it. She was short like Cara, but tiny, with dark eyes and darker curling hair, and a sneering expression on her face that said she’d rather be anywhere else but where she was.
Cara sighed as she leaned the ketchup bottle over on its side. Ah, well – the world’s problems weren’t hers to solve, she didn’t guess. Nail polish remover! She laughed to herself in relief that she’d not only finally remembered that she needed it, but that she’d remembered when she was actually making a list! SCORE!
She whipped out the note pad and pencil and hurriedly added the item to her list. Success! She sat there and happily added several more nearly-forgotten items before stowing it away again in her purse.
Out of habit, she glanced around and suddenly caught the tiny woman staring at her in a rather odd way. Not wanting her unexpectedly happy mood to tone down, she beamed a happy grin to the woman and shrugged her shoulders. The woman cocked her head sideways a bit in confusion, and Cara tried not to let that particular movement remind her of a confused doggie.
At that point Lana returned with her food, and, suddenly hungry, Cara dug in. Several times during her meal she could sense that the woman was staring at her again, and while she noticed it enough to “know” it was going on, she wasn’t bothered by it enough to be concerned. Eventually curiosity got the best of Cara, however, and she peeped around long enough to notice with relief that the woman was avidly watching the tv instead of herself.
Ahh, finally, someone had changed the channel…VAMPIRES?
As one, everyone in the crowded diner had turned to the tv. Thankfully someone had raised the volume loud enough for Cara to hear some woman on the tv saying that she was a vampire, and then she saw the woman poking some fangs out of her mouth.
For some reason she glanced immediately over to the tiny pale woman, and wasn’t surprised when she looked her directly in the eyes as she slowly popped her own fangs out. Cara did her own sideways confused-doggie expression, then shrugged with a grin. To each their own, she supposed.
Those fangs looked painful popping out like that, she decided as she bit into another fry. As she listened to the lady on the tv, Cara wondered about this miraculous blood substitute vampires were supposedly able to live on. While she wasn’t sure she totally believed all that, she figured that if vampires had always been real before showing the world that they existed, they’d probably just keep doing whatever they did after exposing themselves to the world at large. They’d probably just keep being quiet about it all, too.
Vampires. Who’da thunk it.
She took another bite of her grilled cheese as some of the surprisingly shocked and scared customers started grousing and bullshitting about “damn vamps”, and rolled her eyes at their stupidity. Did they REALLY think humans were the ONLY sentient inhabitants of the planet? How selfishly unrealistic and small-minded!
In her own life Cara had come across some very odd people, and while she didn’t know who or what they were, she knew they weren’t just plain ol’ human. Some were nice, some weren’t, and most just casually ignored her, although she’d gotten a strange nod from a couple of them a few times. At least most of these odder whatevers had treated her just fine, and she was glad to note that the majority of the people in the diner were handling this news fairly well. They were surprised, yes, and a few were shocked, but for the most part they just seemed curious more than anything. People of whatever species just needed to get along. Life was just too short to spend all your time pissing your pants in fear.
After a particularly loud outburst from one orange-haired dude with flabby arms sticking out of a stained wife-beater, Cara could barely contain her laugh. Again, her eyes for some reason met those of the tiny dark-haired lady who might be an actual vampire – according to her fangs at any rate, and while she did manage to stifle her giggle, the merriment must have shown brightly out of her eyes because the possible-vamp-lady’s mouth twitched in response.
Suddenly the mood in the crowded diner seemed to change indefinably, and the vamp-lady must have heard something that Cara didn’t because she motioned with her head for Cara to leave. Never one to look a gift-hint in the mouth, Cara plopped enough cash on the table to cover the food and a generous tip, and left.
Meh, it was about time for her to get back to her packing again, anyway. She wondered if there were any vampires in North Carolina.
*Just a wee peek into Cara’s past…so, what’d you think?*