When Sparks FlybyRedHairedandFriendly©
The sound of a bell jingled as Melissa stepped into the diner. She smirked, taking in the white floor, counter tops, wall and retro furnishings. "Leave it to Sally," she muttered, before making a scan of the room. Several booths and tables were already full of local gentry, as were the bar stools that lined the chrome accented bar.
Melissa Blackburn turned toward the sound of her name, and smiled. Her old college friend, Sally Tuttle was sitting at a corner booth, waving furiously. As Melissa approached she couldn't help but notice that Sally still looked like the college chum from days gone by. Her blonde hair hung in curls to her shoulders, her cheeks were slightly pink – indicating she'd most likely been out for her morning run and was just chillin' with a tall glass of water with lemon.
By the time Melissa reached Sally, the young woman was out of her seat, arms extended. They embraced, held hands, stepped back and took a quick look at each other. "Oh wow!" Melissa exclaimed taking in the obvious baby bump on her friend. "Maybe that blush isn't from your morning run."
Sally laughed, "No, it is. I just don't run as fast or as far as I used to." Sally rubbed her stomach before sliding back into the booth. Melissa slid in opposite of her friend and grinned. The two women held hands for a moment, each giving a gentle squeeze before separating. "I can't believe you're finally here!"
Melissa laughed. "Neither can I. It's been what – eight, nine years?"
"Almost ten," Sally told her, before pulling a menu from the silver holder and handing it to her, "I know you like waffles, so I'm going to recommend the waffles and fried chicken. It's awesome!"
"I bet!" Melissa scanned the menu. "So," she glanced at her friend, "when are you due and why didn't you tell me online?"
"August 3rd, and I just assumed you had read my updates and looked at my photos once you accepted my friend request."
Melissa blushed. "Yeah, I should have, but honestly – I barely have time to log in, let alone read status updates and scan photos. I probably wouldn't have been on that day and seen your friend requests had it not been for the fact I was fighting the flu. I just don't have time these days."
Sally's smile faltered. "I guess, running your own business does leave you little free time, doesn't it."
"Yep," Melissa confirmed.
Before she could go into detail about her business, their server arrived. "What can I get you?"
Melissa and Sally turned as one. Sally grinned, "Hey stud. I didn't know you were in town." Melissa studied the waiter. He was a tall black man, his hair cut close to his head, and he wore a two, maybe three day growth of facial hair. His eyes were charcoal gray, and when he smiled at Sally, he did so with genuine heartfelt friendship.
"I'm helping dad this week. He's bound and determined to get that car up and running."
"His dad is restoring a old car," Sally mentioned to Mel, "Buick right?"
Melissa smiled politely, but already felt her eyes glazing over as Sally talked to the man about the coming and goings of the town's locals. "I think your friend is ready to order," the server said, bringing Melissa back to the task at hand.
"Yeah, I am."
Sally bit her lip, and blushed. "Well, you know what I like, so the usual for me."
"Alrighty and you miss?"
She glanced at his shirt, his name was written in red script. "Well, Lou – I'll have the waffles and fried chicken – white meat please."
Sally opened her mouth to speak, but stopped when Lou shook his head. "I bet you want coffee, black – no sugar," he said to her friend.
"He's got your number," Sally giggled softly.
"Hardly," Melissa muttered. She looked up at Lou. "Sorry, headache. Coffee will be fine."
He walked away, tucking his pencil behind his ear, order in hand. He felt Sally's apology in the air, and the sting of being insignificant in her friend's eye on his back. There was no doubt in his mind, the newcomer didn't belong in their town. Her manicured fingers spoke professional, not home-kit, and her hair looked as if only the finest salons were allowed to caress their ruby curls. She probably spent more on her make-up than he did on his monthly car payment. The shoes, skirt, tank top, and pearls she wore screamed money and when she had dismissed him without a second glance he found himself hoping that Sally would eat quick, so she and her friend could leave. He liked Sally – so why the young perky blonde was having breakfast with Uptown Girl, was lost to him.
"Order in," he called to his father, who was behind the giant stove scrambling eggs and flipping sausage patties.
"So is that bitch as hot as she looked?"
Gray eyes turned to look at Bryon, a local teen who had a way with words. "She's only looks hot, Bry. Inside, she's all ice," he answered.
"I got somethin' that'll melt her." The young man reached under the counter and grabbed his crotch. He laughed hard, and grinned.
"You keep rubbing that thing, it'll fall off. Finish your soda and get out of here," a girl muttered, as she stepped behind the young man and moved to take a seat next to him. "Your mom just called and you're supposed to be at your grandfather's – so get."
"Aw man, you told her I was here? You're no friend of mine Bridgett, no friend at all." Bryon finished his drink, grabbed his hat from the counter, pushed it on his head and dropped some dollar bills by his plate. "So you gonna let me take you to the dance tomorrow night?"
Bridgett sighed. "I guess, but don't you be late and don't bring that dumb dog of yours. Make sure my seat is clean too. Last time I rode in your truck, I was covered in dog hair."
"You know you like Spike and he likes you."
"Go on," Bridgett laughed, "your Princess is over there waving you down."
They all glanced at the new person in town and Sally. "Good luck with that one," Bryon said, before making his way toward the front door.
"Fuck, I forgot her coffee."
Bridgett laughed. "I'll serve it, you get her food."
"Thanks – black, no sugar."
He watched the teen waitress pick up the coffee pot and make her way past several of her friends and family. A part of him wanted to stare at her, to make sure she left the table with her pride intact. If the ice princess was as cold to Bridgett as she had been to him, he wasn't sure he'd be able to maintain his professional demeanor.
The steaming plate of fried chicken, with a side of fried potatoes, lathered in sausage gravy and a plate of buttery waffles coated in maple syrup stood ready to be devoured. Along with it was a bowl of oatmeal, with a side of wheat toast, and two hard boiled eggs. He grabbed a serving tray, stacked the dishes, and passed Bridgett on the way to Sally and her friend. He noticed her rolled back eyes and annoyed expression and wasn't surprised when she stuck her finger in her mouth and pretended to gag. His smile was genuine as was his chuckle when he reached Sally and Uptown Girl's table. "There ya go miss and you – you need to eat more."
Melissa glanced at her order. "Uh..."
"Something wrong?" Sally asked her friend.
"What's all this stuff on my food?" Melissa asked, picking at the gravy with her fork.
"Sausage gravy, fried potatoes," Sally answered, "it said on the menu what the sides were."
Melissa sighed. "I know, I just assumed it would be on the side, not oozing over the sides and soaked in butter too."
"I can take it back," he said.
"No, I'll just scrape it off. Thanks," Melissa answered, and proceeded to push the thick gravy and butter from her potatoes.
"Sorry," Sally whispered.
"It's not your fault," Melissa muttered, not bothering to look up to see whom Sally had addressed. When they were left alone Melissa looked over at her friend. "So besides becoming a mom, what have you been up to?"
Sally grinned. "Trent and I just finished building our dream house. He's working at the local steel mill, and I'm working from home selling auto insurance. I love working at home, the job is boring, but it keeps me busy and," she patted her belly, "I'm going to be there for this little one – every step of the way."
"Good for you," Melissa answered. "I'm sorry – I can't eat this." She noticed Sally's smile fade. "It's not your fault. I took what you recommended and went with it. But I'm not that girl any more. I'm not really all that hungry either. You go ahead though and he was right – you should eat more, you're eating for two – isn't that how the saying goes?"
Sally laughed. "Oh believe me, this is what I eat after a run, but during the day, at lunch and at supper, there isn't a refrigerator in this town that is safe."
Melissa smirked. "That was me in college."
"You do look good," Sally admitted. "If it hadn't been for the few photos I saw you tagged in, I wouldn't have recognized you as Melissa Blackburn."
"High school made me that chubby girl with the glasses, college made me the chubby geek who was dependable and easy to please – real life, made me see that fat girls get no where and if you want something you have to become the glamor girl from Cosmo."
"I hear ya, but you're healthier right? I mean happy too? Aren't you?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "I'm content. I'm running my own accounting firm, we've taken on some well known clients and I'm just about to sign the papers to the keys to my first home."
"You've come a long way, baby."
The two women laughed and Melissa felt herself relaxing. When she had walked into the diner and spotted her friend, she immediately felt like the chubby kid from college. Her freckles stood out from under her make-up, her stomach suddenly felt fifty pounds heavier, acne appeared at lightning speed, and her glasses hung close to her mossy green eyes. In reality though none of those things happened, and she was really sitting across from the one girl who had always been her friend, until Melissa had decided to cut herself off from her past and all that had known her as Mount Melissa.
"Hey – Earth to Mel..."
Melissa shook her head. "Sorry, I spaced out on you."
"I was asking if you could stay the weekend. There's a town festival this week, celebrating the founders of the community. A bunch of craft shops down at the local 4-H barn and a dance, other things too - a carnival, games, rides. You know – the usual."
She sighed, and chewed on the inside of her mouth. "I don't know Sally. I've got a new client on Monday and I really shouldn't..."
"Please, Melissa. I can tell – you really need a break. If you want we can call your boyfriend and ..."
"I don't have a boyfriend."
"Your profile said in a relationship."
Melissa chuckled. "I put that there so I don't get harassed. I've not had a relationship in three years, maybe four."
"Oh, that sucks."
"Eh, not when you have a frequent buyer card with your local adult novelty store."
Sally giggled. "I hear ya! Trent and I are gold club members," she joked. "So, will you stay the weekend?"
Melissa sighed. "Okay, I'll stay the weekend." When Sally squealed, Melissa jumped back in surprise, and her laugh was sincere. Maybe Sally was right and she did need a break.
"I'll need to stop somewhere and buy some clothes though."
"No problem, we can go shopping before we head back to my house. We've got an awesome guest bedroom."
The two friends continued talking and Melissa eventually pulled her plate back to her. When Sally deemed it time to go, she was shocked to find she'd eaten all of the chicken, and sopped up most of the gravy off her plate. Sally said nothing, just winked and took the tickets from the table. Melissa plucked them out of her hand. "My treat. You're letting me stay at your house, which means I'll be eating your food, so when we go out to dine, I'm covering the bill."
"Hey, I'm not going to argue with that. If you keep eating like you just did, I may start suspecting you're pregnant too!"
Melisa's jaw grew slack. "Oh Mel, it was a joke! I'm sorry." Sally pulled her close for a hug. "You really are sensitive about all that – Mel it was so long ago, and I can tell you're a different woman. Please, please forgive me."
"It's okay, but you're right. I'll have to pace myself." She winked, and pushed pass her friend, and stepped to the counter where the cash register stood. "Thanks Lou," she said as she passed the tickets to the man who had served them.
"Everything alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, I apologize for earlier, usually I'm not so rude."
He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and handed back her credit card. "You had a headache, so you're forgiven."
Melissa looked back at him, and smiled. "Thanks."
She turned back to Sally and the two women left, arm in arm. Melissa felt the man's eyes on her back and wondered if there was something stuck to her skirt; she turned her head, glanced down and swiped at her ass, then looked toward the black man. She caught his eyes and blushed, before following her friend out the door and dismissing him from her mind.
"Stop gawking and wipe the drool off your chin," Bridgett muttered, and pushed at his shoulder.
"I can appreciate a fine piece of ass, just as much as the next guy. Nothin' tying me down."
"She's so out of your league," Bridgett said, then handed him a stack of tickets and a credit card, "here these are from Mayor Hosferd's table."
He thanked her, and went back to work. The image of a redhead in a sleek white skirt disappeared from his mind as the routine of diner life slipped back to the forefront. He was thankful his dad only needed him for the morning shift, he ached to get back to his own work.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
The auto shop was just what Melissa expected from the quaint little town her friend lived in. They had spent most of the morning walking in and out of various stores, finding Melissa just the right outfits for the weekend. She had jeans, blouses, shoes, a dress for the dance, as well as a jacket in case the night air turned cool. Several accessories had found their way into her hands, as had some trinkets for her new house. When Sally was caught stifling a yawn, Melissa had deemed it rest time. She followed her friend to her house, got a quick tour and then insisted Sally head to bed. Melissa had unpacked her new things into the dresser, in the guestroom, then changed out of her clothes and pulled on a pair of jeans , tossed on a blue blouse with a black ribbon belted under her breasts.
Once she'd done another walk through Sally's home to familiarize herself, she headed outside to walk the grounds. Sally's place wasn't overly large, but it would be great for her and Trent's growing family. Melissa felt the sting of jealously in her chest, and sighed. Eventually she made her way back to her car and that was when she noticed the front tire seemed low on air. She looked around in the garage, but even if she had found an air compressor she wouldn't have known how to use it. The thought of bothering Sally about when Trent would be home, didn't sit well on her shoulders either. It was the decision to drive the car to the auto shop and have them look at her tire that brought Melissa to where she stood now – staring at the dirty workings of a small town garage.
"Excuse me," she called as she stepped over the threshold of the open bay door. "Anyone here?"
"Just a sec," a deep baritone voice called out.
Melissa glanced around, then noticed a pair of legs under an older model car. She immediately recalled the man in the diner and Sally's mentioning the restoration of a vehicle. Was this Lou's father? She wondered.
The legs started to push out from the vehicle's under-body, they were attached to a man that looked like the server from the diner, but this man was older. His eyes full of laughter and his hair speckled with white curls. His skin was the same dark chocolate that Lou's had been. "Hello there, what can I do for you?"
She looked at the man's shirt, it too had Lou written in script. So they were related and the waiter was named after the father, she found the trivia interesting, but nothing special and so she let the knowledge fade just as quickly as she'd discovered it. "I think my front tire is low on air. I don't know if I have a slow leak or what, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to have someone check it out."
"No problem, let me just take a look."
Melissa patiently waited while Lou went about his work. She glanced around, taking note of the old metal signs proclaiming oil for a quarter, and various makes and models of cars being the newest and greatest thing since the telephone. "You sure do like your antiques, don't you?" she asked once the man came back in to speak with her.
"Yeah, I collect them, my son usually brings me new things whenever he comes home to visit."
"Your son from the diner?"
The older man grinned. "You ate there, did ya? Was the food good – I cook it you know. Own the place, bought it from the original owners. I work the morning shift, and I got other folks to come in and work the rest of the day, evening into the night."
Melissa grinned as he chatted about the diner and the food, being fresh and homemade. "It certainly was delicious; I'd not eaten anything like that in years," she admitted with heartfelt honesty. "I'll have to work off all those calories come Monday."
He winked. "A little meat on a woman is a good thing, but you probably wouldn't believe me. Girls these days, they work so hard to stay skinny, a man likes to hold on to something when..." his words died, "I'm sorry, miss. Sometimes I forget who I'm talking to, and well...my son is always telling me to mind my tongue around pretty ladies."
"It's okay, no harm done. How's my tire?"
"Oh yeah, you got a small leak, so I'll patch it and take care of it. Twenty minutes or so and you'll be all set. There's a place to sit right through that door. My son's in there, working on some drawings. He's an architect, but he helps out in here when I need him."
Melissa lifted her brows and walked toward the small room that she assumed served as the lobby and office of the small garage. She stepped in and a bell jingled again. The man at the desk looked up, his expression one of confusion. "Well, wasn't expecting to run into you again."
She smiled at the man who had served her breakfast; her stomach rolled slightly as she recalled how rude she'd been. "My tire's low on air; your dad said it has a leak, so he's fixing it."
"Oh, alright. Have a seat and I'll go see if he needs help."
Melissa glanced at the sofa, noted the torn vinyl and discoloration. She chose instead to walk around the shop, and study the cork board that was littered with various ads and photos.
He rolled his eyes, noticing her displeasure at the furnishings in his dad's shop. "Headache my ass," he muttered, before pushing his chair back and leaving the Uptown Girl alone.
Twenty minutes later, the two men returned, and Melissa rose from the edge of the couch. She opened her purse and pulled out her wallet. "No charge," the younger man told her.
She eyed him suspiciously. "You sure?"
"Oh, okay. Well, thanks Mister..."
"Just Lou, miss. You can call me Lou and this is my son..."
"Oh we already met, remember. He waited on me in the diner," Melissa answered.
"Yep, that's right Dad."
"Well, you're all set and your tire is good to go. It was nice meeting you and hope to see you again sometime," the father of the young man said.
"I'm sure she'll not be around all that much dad. A friend of Sally's but I don't think we're her sort of people."
Melissa couldn't help but catch the condescending attitude behind Lou's words. "I'm actually staying the weekend, but you're right, you're not my 'sort of people'," she turned to the older gentleman, "thanks again, but I insist on paying." She pulled a fifty from her wallet and placed it on the desk. "Have a good day."