This story primarily features stories involving women. If it is illegal in the state, province, or country in which you live; or if you are under the age of 18, please find something else to read.
Language - Violence - Hurt/Comfort:
- There are elements of strong language, violence, physical and/or mental, as well as emotional hurt and discomfort in this story.The events portrayed in this story are fictional and any resemblance to actual events and/or people is purely coincidental.
Jennifer shook her head. I know I’ve seen her before, but where? Maybe since she is a friend of my parents I knew her as a kid. She felt her face form a partial frown. Nope that’s not it. Like many things, her memory refused to dredge up exactly who or where she’d seen her. She pulled her stare away from the unknown woman and looked closely at the drink in front of her - her third vodka with a twist. It was a chore to make small talk with her brother’s wives since she literally had nothing in common with them. She wasn’t a homemaker shackled by kids and they certainly didn’t have any interest in her profession as a cartoonist. I’ll bet my nieces and nephews would understand me better. Fortunately the two women only stayed around her for fifteen minutes, most of which was in silence, before they pretended there were other people they really needed to meet. Jennifer rai sed her eyes to the heavens and said, “ Thank you God, thank you,” silently as they walked away. She lifted her glass, took a long drink and smiled. Hmm after three drinks, I’m finally beginning to chill out a little. Her eyes drifted back to the woman and once again tried to place where she had seen her. Three more and I might actually begin to relax and enjoy the evening.
“Penny for them Sis,” Eric Finch said with a friendly grin as he eased his bulky frame into the seat opposite her. Of her two half-brothers, Eric had been the one who was good natured in his ribbing of her. Larry, who was only four years younger, had been so malicious that whenever she was in his company she smarted from the old jibes.
“Hardly worth it Eric. How are you doing these days?” Jennifer nodded in his direction when she arrived but now she was glad to see him. The upside of three drinks.
“I’m good little Sis, what about yourself? We haven’t seen you in a while and weren’t sure whether you would grace us with your presence tonight or not.”
Jennifer held her breath waiting for the criticism she had experienced as a child - it didn’t happen. For once, he sounds as if he is actually interested in how I’m doing. “I’m good too. I had a promotion last year, which is why I didn’t make it for Christmas…maybe this year,” she said with a shrug. “Mom tells me that you’ve branched off on your own.” She gave her brother a curious look. “That must have been a blow for old man Torrance?”
Eric glanced around as his eyes rested on his wife. “Well, Trixie’s dad never did rate me as a worker and even less as a son in law, it was time.” He smiled slightly recalling his father-in-law Jack Torrance’s face when he’d told him he was setting up competition in town.
Jennifer’s eyes bulged at the comment. I didn’t know he had any trouble with his father-in-law. She had always thought he married Trixie to get a foothold on the man’s company. You live and learn it would seem. “I didn’t know you and old man Torrance had any issues. I always figured…well you know…,” she lamely finished downing her drink quickly.
Eric let out a belly laugh and shook his head. “You and everyone else in town…until recently anyway. At first Trixie was peeved but she’s getting used to the idea and I think she enjoys having more time to herself. A bit like our mother is my Trixie,” he said indulgently.
“I’m glad you found something you enjoy doing Eric. It works for me.”
Eric grinned, stood up and pointed at her glass. “I understand completely now Jenn and I’m gonna buy you a drink. It’s the least I can do after all those horrible things we said to you over the years.” He left for the bar not waiting to hear her answer.
Am I actually in the bosom of my family or have aliens invaded their bodies Jennifer wondered. Her mother had been unusually nice to her since her initial call several weeks earlier and now her older brother was actually nice to her. What next…is Larry going to come over and kiss and make-up too? Hell would have to freeze over before he does that. Just like a leopard, he will never change his spots. She felt some of the old anger begin to creep in. Back then, Larry was a little shit and now has probably developed into an even bigger one. She looked up and saw the woman who she was sure she had seen before, if not met. Who is she?
Larry Finch, leaning against the wall idly, watched his little sister. His wife Sara had called Jennifer boring with no apparent social skills adding she is a cold fish too. In his estimation, Jenny was all of that and more. I know she is my stepfather’s favourite after all she is his flesh and blood. He relished every opportunity to ridicule his sister. Stupid girl allowed me to do whatever I wanted and never once told on me or anyone else that joined in menacing her. He was happy the day she went for the city for he became the only child left at home and his mother spoiled him rotten. He casually let his eyes drift in the direction of what was totally engrossing his sister. A malicious thought went through his mind and he laughed as he pushed himself off the wall and headed for his sister’s table.
“Hi Jenn, I was expecting you to say hello earlier or aren’t we small town folk good enough for you anymore?” Larry said sarcastically. He was the opposite of his older brother. Where Eric was soft and mushy, Larry was lean and athletic. When he was in college there had been optimistic talk of him as a professional football player, but after an Achilles injury in his last semester all his dreams were shattered. After that he joined his dad’s firm as a clerk and now ten years later, he was senior sales manager. He felt he deserved a place on the board of directors and knew if he played his cards right that’s exactly where he would be in a few short years.
“When did I ever do anything you expected Larry?” Years of practice had prepared Jennifer for a personality like his. In many ways, she should applaud her brother the education early in life for it had proved immensely useful when she moved to Railston.
“True” he said with a smirk. “Are you still committing your life to that crap dad’s father told you about when you were a little girl?” Oh how I love to rub it in. “Or have you finally joined the rest of the world in real life?”
There it is the jibe, and he did it so well too. How he has managed to maintain a long-term relationship with anyone amazes me. “Real life depends on your point of view Larry. I can assure you I live a full one.”
A sneer crossed his lips as he concentrated on the blue eyes in front of him. She was always the one to turn the other cheek even when she was six. Back then, I could see the hurt in her expression, but today all I see is a blank stare from a stranger – that is all she is to me. “I saw you watching that woman at mom and dad’s table. Anything you care to share with us about this full life you lead?”
The words themselves appeared to be harmless and from most people, Jennifer knew they would be. This was Larry and his tone was enough to alert her to his maliciousness. “Are you suggesting something Larry?”
“Me?” he said touching his chest. “Why Jenn, if you have a guilty secret or, should I say, a skeleton rattling in a cupboard, perhaps you might want to share it with your family. I’ve always felt that there were… inner depths you didn’t share with us.”
Jennifer felt her hackles rising as she glared at her brother. Every time he came within a foot of her, she wanted to punch him in the face. I’m not a kid anymore! I’m a grown woman and even if my choices aren’t what he or the others in my family want, I have a right to live my life as I see fit. Brother or no brother my privacy is my own business. “Secrets Larry, why don’t you elaborate? You have called me one or two short of the deck often enough in the past so surely I won’t understand your brand of subtlety.”
Larry snorted his irritation and was about to say more but stopped when Eric arrived with two drinks. What has Larry been up to now? “That’s my seat Bro,” he said nodding to the chair. “I think Sara is looking for you. I heard her say she wants another drink…you better go keep the little woman happy.”
Jennifer watched her brothers face each other with stances that were positively primitive. To her knowledge it was the first time they ever did that over anything to do with her. Perhaps I’ve misjudged Eric…maybe, with the exception of Larry, the rest of the family too.
“She has money she can buy her own drink,” Larry remarked sullenly. “I was talking to our sister here. Did you know she’s a dyke?”
Jennifer’s eyes almost exploded in the sockets at the description - this is a first! She wanted to refute the accusation but decided she had nothing to explain. It’s nobody’s business but mine and has nothing to do with him.
“Take your filthy mouth outside Larry or I’ll take you out there personally and make sure you’re not in a fit state to re-enter,” Eric angrily responded with a deep crimson face.
For Jennifer, it was an interesting situation and she didn’t know quite how to take Eric’s protection of her private life.
Larry waved his fist at Eric but backed off. He left muttering, “Dyke bitch,” heavily under his breath. “Bunch of loser shits.”
Sitting down in the now vacant chair, Eric passed his sister her drink. He snaked a hand through his hair and shook his head at the retreating figure. “Damn him. He never was one to keep his filthy thoughts to himself.”
“He doesn’t bother me Eric.” She shrugged. “He never has.”
“Well it should. You know what it’s like in a small town when they gossip. You can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as Larry talks with Sara it will be buzzing around the damn hall.”
Jennifer placed her fingers around her glass, ah so that is how it is, He doesn’t want any gossip about the family. “If it’s true what Larry implied, would it be so very wrong Eric?”
Her brother stared up at her as if he was seeing a stranger. “Are you serious Jennifer? You lived in this town for twenty years you know what it’s like. Mom and dad wouldn’t want that type of stigma following them…I know I don’t. Hell I’m just getting started in my business I can’t have anything wrecking my plans.” Is she mad? I don’t care what she does in Railston and if that is what turns her on so be it, but, she needs to stay in the closet as far as this town is concerned.
“Okay, let the subject rest Eric. I’ll be back in Railston tomorrow evening and away from spoiling anyone’s life. Will that make you happy?”
For a moment, she allowed her composure to crack a fraction and her brother saw it. Eric reached across the table to place a hand on hers. “I don’t mean to sound cruel Jenn…why did Larry say that anyway?”
Jenny heard the sincerity in his voice as she noticed for the first time that he had honest brown eyes. “I haven’t a clue… okay I was staring at the younger woman at mom and dad’s table. You know when you see a face but for the life of you, you can’t remember where. Larry as usual decided there was something more behind a look. He always did have a trashy mind.”
Eric laughed loudly. She is right of course; Larry does have a trashy mind. He is also a devious cunning bastard at best and the devil incarnate at worst. I’ve seen all the angles from him, he’s probably more like our real father, who is rotting in prison for murder. “The only way to solve the question is to go over and be introduced. Dad has been sneaking looks over at this table since you came in. I think he’s dying to speak to you but… being the star for the night others have whisked him away.”
Jennifer already knew that her father probably wouldn’t have much time for her that evening and she hadn’t a problem with that. “I know that. I have been summoned for lunch tomorrow… mom said it is a family get together.” People don’t know that we hardly speak or see each other. That’s probably another taboo subject around here.
“Great. Trixie and I will be there too with Calum and the twins,” he said with a smile. “Unfortunately, Larry and Sara will attend too,” Eric reluctantly admitted. He stood and motioned towards the table in question and he set off in that direction.
Jennifer half heartedly followed the bulk of her brother who received an enthusiastic greeting. When Jennifer came into full view of her mother she got the critical once over and as she noticed that her daughter’s outfit and general appearance came up to scratch, she smiled warmly. Her father saw her seconds later and stood up, engulfed her in a large bear hug and whispered, “You look wonderful. I love you.”
“Dad, congratulations you deserve it.” Jennifer whispered into his ear as she kissed his weathered cheek. For those few moments, she felt like a child again relishing the security of being in his arms. Memories of the wonderful hugs he gave her when returning from trips nostalgically flooded her senses.
George Finch released his daughter and gently smiled. The woman standing in front of him was a vision of poise and confidence so unlike the stubborn, awkward young woman who left five years earlier. The years in Railston had been good to her and he was grateful. As he turned towards the other guests at the table, he spun Jennifer around tenderly to face them. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce my daughter Jennifer. Since she moved to Railston we don’t see each other as much as we would like so this evening is a double treat for me.”
The faces of the three men and two women around the table acknowledged her with differing degrees of warmth. “I wouldn’t have missed this night for anything Dad.”
George cleared his throat of the emotion her felt before he spoke again. “Let me introduce you to everyone. Eric, find a couple of chairs and I think another round of drinks is called for.” George swiftly introduced Jennifer to the retiring president of the company and his vice-president. Jennifer saw his face filled with a broad grin when he said, “And this is my dear old friend from my college days Reese Black and his wife Chloe.” Jennifer waited holding her breath as he came to the woman she was sure she knew but still hadn’t remembered from where. “Jennifer, this is Reese and Chloe’s daughter, Carolyn, Doctor Black to give her formal title...”
+ + +
Carolyn had been amused at the frequent looks she had been receiving from the woman now introduced to her as the daughter of her father’s old friend. She cheerfully said, “Hello,” to the woman who didn’t look at all comfortable. The glazed eyes had her wondering is drink responsible for her uneasiness. Should I ask her why she seems so interested in me? Her ability for total recall made her certain they had never met before. The newcomers sat down flanking Carolyn on the right with the man two seats down and the woman seated next to her.
“Doctor Black, what area of medicine do you practice?” Eric asked breaking the ice in hopes of finding out if the woman knew his sister.
“I’m a doctor of social studies, not medical. If you have any ailments I can’t help you out sorry.”
Eric digested her answer for a few moments. Is she being sarcastic or a straight to the point, factual kinda gal. “If you don’t mind me asking where do you work?”
Interrogation was something that Carolyn loathed and under any other circumstances, she would have told the person to mind their own business. This man is lucky that I promised my parents to be friendly this evening …or as friendly as I can be with strangers. “Railston University…for now anyway.”
“Ah, my sister lives there too, perhaps you’ve met.” He touched his sister’s arm. “Jenn, think you’ve met Doctor Black before?” His eyes tracked to his wife who was waving at him. “Please excuse me I can see my wife needs me.” He touched Jennifer’s shoulder and smiled fondly. “I’ll see you both later,” Eric said before he shot out of his seat.
Carolyn arched an eyebrow as she watched the man cross the small dance floor. And, my dad chastises me about manners! She diverted her interest to the woman to her left when a hand settled gently on her forearm.
“I’m sorry about my brother he never did understand the subtleties of social interaction. But at least he’s better than my other brother Larry,” the woman next to her said in a quiet voice.
Grey eyes stared into the pale blue ones. She doesn’t appear to be too impressed with her own family. Then again, I haven’t much room to speculate on that point. This was the first time in years that she had been at a function with her parents for they were usually in another part of the globe. They had called her to tell her they would be in the area and when she’d explained she was still on sick leave, they had insisted she meet them for the weekend. Some weekend get together! They stay with their old friends and I get a hotel room. Although they had muttered something about having lunch with her the next day, she would do her level best to head for home as early as possible. Maybe we can have breakfast.
“You’re staring at me.” Jennifer finally blurted out. She felt uncomfortable at the regard of the clear intelligent eyes that made her feel like an object under a microscope.
Carolyn wiped an apologetic hand across her face. “I’m sorry I was miles away. I hope you don’t take offence, but I would have rather have stayed home.” She gave Jennifer a half smile. “Before this evening I’ve never met anyone here.”
Ah, there’s my answer…we haven’t met. So why does this woman seem so familiar? “Yeah, I know what you mean. I was hijacked into this by my parents.”
Carolyn smiled and nodded her head, “I’ve been sick recently and since they were in this part of the world my parents decided they wanted proof I was on the mend.” She saw the looked of puzzlement and explained further. “My parents are career diplomats. I think we’ve spent about three days together in the last ten years.” She lifted one shoulder and pursed her lips. “I guess they love their work more than…” She trailed off realising she was being wistful. Really, what has gotten into me?
Jennifer could easily finish the sentence for the woman…they love their work more than me. Maybe that’s why I feel an affinity to her. In a diverse way, we have something in common. “You know, this may sound strange but I swear I’ve seen you before, yet you say we haven’t met…”
“No, we’ve never met. I’d remember…call it a photographic memory or something along those lines.”
“Hmm, maybe you have a twin and you remind me of that person,” Jennifer said somewhat lamely. She picked up her drink and again swallowed more than she intended.
“Do you usually drink that fast?”
“No!” Jennifer turned indignantly towards the woman. Is she implying I drink too much.
“What do you do for a living in Railston?” Carolyn asked diverting the conversation back to what she thought would be neutral territory.
“I’m a cartoonist and I work for the Press.”
“I see, interesting occupation…I suppose someone has to do it.” Damn, I’ve made a faux pas and I promised I wouldn’t do that tonight. She didn’t need to see the woman’s face to know she’d put her foot in her mouth. Why are people so sensitive? I was only stating a fact.
“Thank you for your insight Doctor Black,” Jennifer said coolly. “Perhaps maybe you should retake the lesson in social graces. A refresher would do you good.” Jennifer stood up, walked over to her father and sat in the chair vacated by her mother.
When Sally returned from making the social rounds, she was more than happy to sit next to the doctor and converse. This is going to be one long and horrible night. Jennifer thought as she listened to her father’s conversation with the elder Black.
+ + +
Carolyn had discreetly watched Jennifer. Though the woman might not think her socially accomplished, she was. Watching people who didn’t realise her observing them was one of her many talents.
“Darling we’re leaving now. George has invited us to have lunch with his family tomorrow. Jennifer is staying at the hotel too so she will bring you with her to the house in the morning.” Chloe bent, kissed her daughter’s cheek, whispered “Good night,” and left before she could reply. Typically selfish…oh what’s the use? My feelings or thoughts don’t matter.
She glanced in the direction of Jennifer amazed that the pale blue eyes stared at her with malevolence. Her eyes diverted to her club soda before shaking her head and standing up. At least I can go to my room now. She made her way to George and held out her hand. “Mr. Finch, thank you for inviting me this evening. It’s been a long day and I think I will retire now.”
“Carolyn my dear, I am so glad you were able to join us,” he said as he ignored the proffered hand and hugged the woman. “Jenny will bring you over for lunch so we’ll see you around noon.” George smiled warmly. “Good night,” he said as he made his way to some other departing guests.
Carolyn had no choice but to focus on the woman who was still shooting daggers in her direction. “Look I can make my own way if you’ll let me know the address?” Carolyn remarked in a matter of fact manner.
Still smarting from the earlier comment, Jennifer wanted nothing more that to take up the woman’s offer. I don’t want to be in her company any longer than is necessary, but my folks will not be happy if I do that. It’s only a short drive and I’ve tolerated far worse things in my life. “No point, I’m going there anyway and my father did ask me to bring you with me. If you tell me what room you’re in I’ll call you when I’m about to leave and we can meet in the lobby.”
Carolyn smiled slightly at the clipped forthright words. A woman after my own heart. “Room two-twenty, I’ll be ready when you call. Goodnight Ms. Finch.”
Jennifer watched the woman walk away - her gait confident and controlled. Being sober will do that to a person. I, on the other hand, have drunk a full year’s supply of alcohol. Stumbling slightly she followed the woman who was now lost behind the doors of the elevator. As she pushed the elevator up button, she realized that she was in the room across from Carolyn. Weird!
+ + +
The ride to the house had been quiet. In fact, if Carolyn didn’t know better she’d think that she was actually alone in the vehicle. Since Jennifer looked slightly jaded she hadn’t pushed for any conversation. It must have been all those drinks she was knocking back as if there was no tomorrow. The thought amused Carolyn and not wanting the woman see her smile turned her head towards the window. Fifteen minutes later, they were heading up the drive of a two story house with immaculately kept lawns.
When Jennifer finally spoke, her voice had a low husky tone that Carolyn found very attractive. Wish we’d spoken sooner. “This is it. My mother thinks she’s feeding the army so be warned if you’re a light eater she might take it as an insult.”
Carolyn smiled. “Thanks always better to be warned about these things.” Looking at Jennifer’s slim figure she wondered if the woman was a big eater or had to face the wrath of one of her parents each time she ate. “I don’t mean to pry but do you have a headache?”
Jennifer gave Carolyn a swift look of consternation. How does she know? “I’m not use to late nights.”
“Me either, here take one of these and I promise before you begin lunch it will be gone. Had a similar problem this morning,” Carolyn said as she handed over a small white pill. She noticed Jennifer’s brow crease. “I can assure you that it’s nothing that you can’t purchase over the counter.”
Jennifer stared at the tiny white oblong shaped pill in the woman’s hand and decided that it couldn’t make her head feel any worse than she did. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Carolyn smiled and followed Jennifer’s lead into the house. Perhaps this lunch date might not be as irritating as I expected. Her eyes scanned the house as they entered. I can always focus in on Jennifer’s voice and that will sooth anything away.Even, a mountain of cooking.
For Carolyn, lunch had been interesting. It had been a change to see a family interact. She was especially interested in Larry, the member of the family she had barely registered the evening before. He was a typical testosterone junkie I wonder how he manages to stay married. His wife was either dumb or couldn’t give a damn - on meeting the woman she chose the latter. Eric on the other hand, was what one would call the average person. He loved his wife and family and worked hard. Probably won’t amount to much more, but he seems to have everything he needs and who is to say that isn’t enough. Jennifer however, was the one who was on her own. Probably in her own way, she’s very uncomfortable here. She seems like a stranger here. How odd is that?It’s obvious that her parents love her and so does her older brother - the younger one is a different story but sibling rivalry is common. There was somethin g else in the room at work - an underlying problem never solved, she thought. Her analytical mind wanted to unravel the puzzle but now wasn’t the time and it wasn’t her business anyway.
Sally Finch spoke and Carolyn drug her mind to the present conversation. “Your mother tells me that you’ve been sick recently, are you quite recovered dear?”
“Yes. You don’t have to worry it’s nothing contagious although it did waste me for a few weeks. The new semester begins in three weeks and I’ll be champing at the bit to get back.”
“Wonderful news my dear. You must be very proud of your parents Carolyn and all their accomplishments?”
She bit the bottom of her inside lip. She wanted to retort that she barely knew her parents therefore it was difficult to make any kind of connection to them good or bad or to know what they stood for, but held her tongue. “I hear good things.”
The stilted answer surprised most of those listening while the Blacks remained stoically silent. They knew their daughter had always been a master of few words to explain herself and she was proving it today.
Sally was about to say more when Jennifer entered the conversation much to everyone’s surprise, particularly Carolyn. “I’m sure Doctor Black doesn’t enjoy extolling the virtues of her parents to strangers Mother. It would be like me waxing lyrical about you and dad, and it would embarrass you.”
A belly laugh erupted from Eric that helped ease the silence that followed Jennifer’s quiet comment.
“Quite so dear, quite so. How dreadful of me to embarrass you Carolyn, forgive an old woman we can be such an inquisitive souls.”
“Nothing to forgive Mrs. Finch,” Carolyn said softly. “I would like to thank you for the wonderful meal. If you don’t mind, my train leaves in a couple of hours therefore I need to make my way to the train station. Would you mind giving me the phone number for a taxi?”
“I will do that for you dear,” Sally said. Her eyes fixed on her daughter in question.
Fifteen minutes later Carolyn said goodbyes and stood at the front door waiting for the taxi to arrive. What she hadn’t bargained for was Jennifer pulling on her coat and heading in her direction.
“Are you ready Doctor Black?”
Blinking several times, Carolyn gave her a puzzled look. “Sure, why?”
“I brought you here the least I can do is take you to the train station. I’m on my way back to Railston myself anyway.”
“You are?” Carolyn’s brow creased as the walked out of the house. “Silly of me…of course you are. By the way thanks for the intervention earlier and for… well thanks anyway.”
Jennifer felt the woman’s composure cracking. After the quip about her profession the night before, it was fair going. “No problem.” Jennifer cranked her head to look at the woman. “If you want to share the petrol I’ll take you back to Railston?”
Carolyn blinked rapidly and wondered what she’d done to deserve the offer. She decided against asking for fear that she might end up walking if she said the wrong thing. “Sure that works for me.”
“Good, let’s get on our way then.”
+ + +
Jennifer needed to stretch her body and the arrow indicated that gas tank was low too, so she pulled into a service station with a small restaurant attached. Although they had eaten well at her parent’s home at lunch, it was now six-thirty and she felt her stomach rumble. We still have at least another hour, maybe an hour and a half and I’m hungry even if the good doctor isn’t.
“I need a break. I’m going to fill up then have a snack and coffee.”
Carolyn stretched her muscles that had apparently taken her lead and gone to sleep with the rest of her for most of the journey. Some company I’ve turned out to be. Not that she thought it a great loss to the driver of the vehicle. Except for the odd comment, Jennifer had been neither willing nor able to make small talk.
“Sounds good, do you mind if I join you?”
Jennifer, stunned by the question, looked at the woman curiously. Her previous dealings with Carolyn, although limited left her with the impression that she usually did what she wanted regardless of what others thought. “Sure, I’ll fill up with gas. Why don’t you find us a table?” She glanced at the small, dingy building with its flashing neon sign that only flashed in certain places. The paint, which was peeling, had definitely seen better days and she wondered if the place was in an equal state of deterioration inside. If it is, the food might be questionable.
“Right, I’ll order coffee.” Carolyn marched over to the building as Jennifer stood watching her while mentally shaking her head. Maybe I don’t like coffee. She flipped the cap of the petrol tank and sighed before pressing the handle into the opening. While the gasoline flowed into the vehicle, her mind filled with thoughts of the stories her grandfather had told her. Her visit back home had regenerated her interest that had waned since reading the book she had spent years locating. She had hoped that it would hold the answer to the puzzle, but it had only created more obscure ones in her mind. What I need is a person who can put all my views into a perspective with the book’s findings. If I can do that, it will put me back on the path of vindicating grandfather in the eyes of our family…he wasn’t filling us with fictional tales I just know it.
Five minutes later, Jennifer entered the run down diner and found herself pleasantly surprised by the interior. It had been well cared for and although old, didn’t have the unkempt appearance of the outside. Along with the comfortable homely feeling, the smell of baked apple pie and the delicious aroma of fresh coffee assailed her nostrils. Breathing in the scents around her, she smiled in satisfaction as her mouth watered with the prospect of a delicious snack. She noticed five bistro tables, three booths and a half a dozen stools at the counter. Her eyes settled on Carolyn who sat at a booth that had a bird’s eye view of the car. The woman appeared so engrossed in the contents of her coffee cup she seemed unaware of Jennifer watching her.
Within seconds of sliding onto the faux red leather bench opposite the woman, a pleasant middle-aged woman placed a cup of coffee in front of her. A couple of menus were slid on the table and with a broad grin the woman announced, “I’ll be back shortly for your orders.”
“How’s the coffee…it smells wonderful,” Jennifer asked awkwardly not knowing what else to say. Because Carolyn had dropped off to sleep about fifteen minutes into the car ride their conversation was limited. At first, she had been annoyed in an odd kind of way with the woman. Once she noticed Carolyn’s pallor, she recalled that she was still recovering from a nasty virus and her irritation faded. She switched on some easy listening music and was glad when it hadn’t disturbed her passenger.
“Good, you wouldn’t think it would look like this from the outside would you?” Carolyn motioned around the room discreetly.
Jennifer chuckled softly. “No you wouldn’t…I thought the same myself. Are you hungry?”
“Wasn’t until I stepped inside the place, now I’m ravenous and could eat a horse.” Her pale grey eyes sparkled with what to Jennifer’s way of thinking could only be laughter.
It softens her face - it suits her she thought with an inward smile. “Guess we’d better decide before our waitress returns.”
A few minutes later, the server took their orders and both were surprised that they ordered exactly the same thing. The waitress grinned good-humouredly when she suggested, “you better share a side of fries. Our cook still thinks he’s feeding his army platoon with the portions.
Carolyn smiled briefly thinking that, feeding an army must be a common occurrence in these parts. Then she found herself lost in thoughts of what she was going to do before the term began. Maybe I’ll go back to the bookstore tomorrow and see if the professor has anything of interest for me.
Jennifer watched a closed expression cross the doctor’s features after the tiny thaw at the waitress’ comments. She wondered is it my company that bores the woman or is she always like this with everyone. “I never asked what section of Railston you live?” She waited for a response and wondered if the woman was ignoring her altogether. When the woman finally spoke, it surprised her.
“Sorry I was miles away… some travelling partner I turned out to be, huh.”
“You’ve been sick it’s understandable that you might be tired. Let me tell you I’ll be asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow when I arrive home.”
“Thanks for understanding, not many would. In answer to your question, I live on the eastern outskirts. You pretty much have to drop by my neighbourhood as you leave the highway.” Carolyn shrugged. “Where do you live?”
“Great, I work in that area… you know the paper… cartoonist… I know the area well.” Jennifer tilted her head. “I live near there too.”
“Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t mean anything derogatory about your profession. Call it my black and white way with words. My parents, I assure you, have told me repeatedly about my lack of tact. Is there any wonder I rarely see them. Bet you can’t imagine me at an ambassadorial function with a room full of big-wigs.” Carolyn did smile fully this time as she picked up her coffee and drank until there wasn’t a drop left.
Jennifer returned the smile and gave the woman a wry look, “I can see their point. However, mine barely acknowledge what I do. They are embarrassed about the work therefore I guess we have something in common.”
“More in common than you think.” Carolyn replied quietly as Jennifer glanced at her sharply. She waved in the direction of the server who was heading in their direction with a laden tray.
“Maybe we should have shared the main course as well.” Both women smiled at the food placed in front of them with their eyes bulging at the quantity. Sometime later, fully replenished after the wonderful snack, they settled back in their seats and breathed deeply. They would need to rest for a few minutes in the booth before setting off on the final leg of their journey.
Carolyn broke the comfortable silence by speaking first, “What do you do for entertainment? If you don’t mind answering, I am interested. Since you are in the entertainment industry I’ve often wondered what they did for relaxation.”
For the first time since meeting Carolyn, Jennifer didn’t feel it was a put down and smiled wryly. “Like most everyone I guess, television, cinema and books…all the ordinary everyday stuff.”
“As you obviously have such a remarkable imagination, what type?”
Jennifer stared at Carolyn closely before commenting. I wonder if she is going to be the object of discussion in one of her lectures. It feels like it. “I hardly think that my Missy Molly cartoon quite puts me in the remarkable bracket. What do you do for relaxation?”
She acknowledged the turn out with a nod. Fairs fair I guess. “I read, read and do more reading. Okay, perhaps the odd visit to the theatre about covers my life away from work.”
Jennifer, in a way already knew what the woman was going to say. Carolyn is obviously intelligent, but there is hardly a smile about her. She’s what everyone calls the serious type. Inwardly Jennifer laughed. As if I have room to talk…my life is one long quest for something that is only, until I prove otherwise, a feeble old man’s mind wanderings. “Do you mind if I ask if they are work related or serious volumes?”
Carolyn glanced up, caught her fellow journeywoman’s eyes and saw curiosity without judgement. At least that is a change from Richard’s usual critical appreciation of my reading material. “Some are, others are various subjects…I pretty much devour everything that I can get my hands on. There’s this wonderful second hand …”
“The bookshop that’s where I know you from!” Jennifer exclaimed excitedly. “Well not know you for we’ve never met. You were in the professor’s bookshop when I went to buy my book weren’t you? His assistant had given it to you by mistake.”
The enthusiastic interruption had Carolyn blinking rapidly with amusement not far behind. Interesting, I think I’ve smiled more in the last six hours than I have in a month or more. “I guess I must have been,” she said in confusion. “When was this? Better yet, what was I reading?” She leaned back in the bench seat to gaze at the woman she hadn’t recognised.
“About two weeks ago now, Waterfalls, Rainbows and Secrets…it is an old book. I’ve been searching for it for years.”
Stunned that the customer’s name she had regretted not finding out, was now staring at her, Carolyn could only shake her head. How remarkable is that? “I remember that book. I never saw your face only saw your back. No wonder I didn’t recognise you. Have you read the volume?” Carolyn’s whole demeanour took on a glow. Fortune had stepped her way and perhaps now she could read the book after all.
“Yeah, I read the book. It didn’t provide me with the answers I was looking for,” Jennifer’s voice filled with gloom. “Perhaps they were there and I just couldn’t see them.”
The change in the timbre of Jennifer’s voice immediately caught Carolyn’s attention. In an attempt to lift her travelling companion’s spirits she casually remarked, “On the way back why not tell me the background of why you wanted the book. Maybe if you loan me the book to read I might be able to help. What do you say?” She might not be able to help but at least it would afford her the opportunity to read the book. It’ll be worth the time it takes to discuss the matter with her.
“You would do that for me?” Jennifer asked incredulously. “You might say my head is in the clouds or something along those lines…everyone else does.”
For the first time Carolyn laughed loudly and Jennifer found the sound melodious. “I’m not everyone else. Besides, take it from me if you have ever read some of the stuff students write you would never worry about that,” Carolyn said scoffing at the nonsense. “Come on let’s go. You can tell me all about your theories as you drive.” It was a double bonus for her for she could listen to Jennifer’s voice and read the book. It is definitely worth the effort.
They stood up and left a generous tip for the server. With a bounce that hadn’t been there previously in their steps, they headed in the direction of the car.
To be continued...