The old wooden door creaks as I push it open. I wouldn’t describe myself as a person with overly low self-confidence, but the way all eyes turn to me in a split of a second causes my anxiety levels to fly over the rooftop.
The man, who helped me move in, warned me this would be a regular occurrence for at least the first couple of days. A price for moving into a small town where everyone knows everyone.
I stop my hand from an attempt to brush through my hair. Instead, I raise my head high and try for a welcoming smile.
Fake it till you make it. Right?
I walk a path along the row of tables put on both sides of the room, trying to get to my main target - the bar. I can’t see the waitress anywhere, but with the number of people here, it is not surprising that she or he is busy.
As it usually goes, there are a couple of tall chairs in front of a long counter and the extensive amount of alcohol behind it. I am much more intrigued by the coffee machine. One welcoming change is that the leather seats, people are seated on, aren’t the usual red colour, but a refreshing purple one.
Some guests have the common decency to lower their gaze at least as I am passing. Some on the other hand stare even more intently.
A wave of whisper rises along with them. I catch a couple of words like “lucky bastard” or “what would I give to have her”, but my brain is way too coffee and food-deprived to try to encrypt them.
Choosing Sunday as a move in a new town day turned out to be a grave mistake. Not only have I survived the whole day only munching on snacks I packed with me on the way, but the only shop in town greeted me with the closed sign.
Lucky for me, before I had a chance to do something stupid like selling my soul to the devil for a plate of warm food and a cup of coffee, one kind person directed me here.
A content sigh escapes me as I sit down on one of the chairs. Not only because I am one step closer to my stomach getting filled, but also because my back is now facing the rest of the room and I am free of all the prying glances.
“Long day?” A waitress shows up out of nowhere, smiles at me and puts down a menu.
I am instantly prompted to smile back. She has this kind of friendly aura all around her and on top of all that, she is also drop-dead gorgeous.
It is hard to say what one notices first when he looks at her. Is it the piercing attached to the left side of her nose, or the deep chocolate-brown eyes you can get lost inside? Her hair is an even darker shade of brown and is cut to just barely reach her shoulders.
And the make-up she has on only completes this work of art. The yellow eyeshadows combined with thick black eyeliner perfectly match her slightly darker skin tone and the whole look is finished with a nude pink lipstick.
I definitely have to ask her for some advice, but first I have to stop starring at her like a total creep. I not so much fake a yawn: “You don’t even know a half of it.”
Spending the majority of the night travelling and a bigger part of the day getting to know my new house while unpacking all the things I brought with myself, took a toll out of me.
A steaming cup of espresso lands on the counter in front of me.
I look up at her and before I have the time to protest that I haven’t ordered anything yet, she explains: “I saw your longing gaze, so I took a chance. But if you are more of a sweet coffee type of girl, I can prepare you something else.”
She reaches out a hand to take the cup, but I am faster: “Nooo. This is perfect.” I shield it away from her.
She chuckles and nods: “Tell me when you are ready to order.”
I smile a shy smile and open the menu. The pages are a bit worn out from the constant opening and closing, but that’s the least of my worries right now.
Food. So much food. I could cry.
Pancakes. Seafood. Hamburgers. Roasted potatoes.
I simply cannot choose.
The rational part of my brain concludes that we need something that will keep us full throughout the night, and I find just the thing. Not the healthiest type of thing, but it will do.
I push my gaze away from the menu, only to find the waitress already looking back at me. I smile at her and say: “One hamburger with French fries, please.”
To the surprise of my judgmental ass, she is not armed with a pen and paper, but she holds a tablet in her hand. She types down my order and then she says: “It shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.”
This information surprises me because the place is jampacked. I expected I would have to wait for at least an hour.
She must notice my confused glance because she explains: “Most of these people are regulars. Some order the same food over and over again and for the rest of them, we have this opportunity where they can choose what they are going to eat tomorrow if they are sure they are going to come. It gives the cook enough time to prepare the food.”
I have to admit it is a smart idea. But it would never work in my hometown. There are times when you can’t even remember which restaurant you dined in because the place is so huge.
“Good to know,” I say.
The door creaks open with the arrival of a new guest. The waitress takes one look at him and starts preparing another cup of coffee right away.
I am amazed by her memory. I know it gets easier to memorise certain things as you do them over and over again, but my sorry ass would still manage to mix up all the orders.
The coffee machine beeps, and she picks the cup up. Before she leaves, she turns back to me and says: “My name is Lena, by the way. Call me if you need anything.”
I don’t even have enough time to tell her my name.
Twenty minutes pass in a blink of an eye. I lose my talking buddy as Lena gets busier and busier carrying away empty plates. But at least I had enough time to tell her my name.
I am the chosen one next. A plate of mouth-watering food is put in front of me just at the right time. I don’t know for how long I would be able to hold my belly from growling.
I thank her, but before I have a chance to dig in, Lena stops me: “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you would be more comfortable eating behind one of the tables.”
She is right. Even with my poor hundred and sixty-eight centimetres, I have to lean a long way down to get to my plate.
I turn my head to glance around the room, but almost all the tables are filled. A supporter of stereotypes or not, I don’t particularly fancy the idea of sitting next to an old lady or someone of the opposite sex. From what I can see, it leaves me only with a young girl trying her best to murder her plate.
She can’t be more than thirteen years old and there is a really good chance she hasn’t visited a hairdresser yet. The auburn black curls of her hair reach all the way down to her waist and her eyes fully concentrated on the target in front of her are the shade of electric blue. She is dressed in black jeans and a simple white t-shirt, which hides the majority of the golden necklace that decorates her neck.
To my horror, Lena points at her and says: “There.”
“Are you sure?” I mumble. The girl doesn’t seem very welcoming.
“Hundred percent. She is an absolute sweetheart.”
I have my doubts, but I don’t exactly have much of a choice. I say another thank you to Lena, grab my plate and walk over to the girl.
Her backpack is occupying my potential spot and I find myself asking: “Mind if I sit down?”
She looks up from her plate and stares me up and down. I expect her to send me to the depths of hell, but she only reaches her hand to take the backpack away and says: “Sure.”
I push the plate down on the table and follow its example. To my dismay, I realise that I lost the comfort of sitting with my back against the room. Now I can once again see all the prying eyes. There are not as many as before, but still enough to make me uncomfortable.
“Don’t mind them. I promise we do have manners, it’s just that you are new here. They will get over themselves in a couple of days.”
With my brain focused on another thing, it takes me a hot minute to understand that the young girl is talking to me.
“We can switch places if you want to,” she offers.
I am tempted to take her offer, but I think better of it. I won’t leave this place looking like a coward. And the more of them end up disgusted by the way I eat, the better for me.
“Thank you,” I smile at her. “But it’s fine. I was already warned this would happen.”
She nods and turns back to her original activity.
I chew on the fries and a hamburger for a while, but the curiosity grows in me with each passing second.
What is so interesting about those fries? Are they any different from mine? The ones I got taste pretty decent. They are warm and chewy, with just the right amount of salt sprinkled on them. So why is she starring at hers like they are her worst enemy?
I can’t hold it in any longer: “Can I ask you something?”
She agrees, but her eyes stay glued on their target. It’s my next question that finally gets her attention: “What’s with the fries?”
“What?” She glances at me, a questioning look on her face.
“Well, you have been staring at them very intently for quite some time.”
A red blush creeps on her cheeks and she sighs her answer: “It’s Lena’s fault.”
“The waitress? What did she do?” My eyes find Lena, but she is still as busy as ever.
“She knows I am not supposed to eat fries,” the girl explains. “But she put some on my plate, anyway. And now I feel this urge to stuff my face with them, but I can’t.”
“Are you allergic to gluten or something?”
She shakes her head: “No, but my mum has strong not buying unhealthy food policy.”
Except for fries, her plate contains only some not very appetisingly looking green substance and a reminder of what once were mashed potatoes. It looks exactly like something my best friend would eat.
“So let me get this straight. You can’t eat those fries because your mum forbids you to buy them?”
She nods and my brain comes up with a perfect solution: “Do you want some of mine then?”
“Well, you weren’t banned from eating non-healthy food, just from buying it, right?”
It seems like the best idea ever. At least, until she laughs out loud and says: “That’s so stupid.”
“Never mind, then.” This time it’s me who blushes.
I push my plate closer to me, but she strongly disagrees: “Hey! What are you doing? Those are my fries now.” Then she smiles, showing all her teeth on display, and steals a handful of them away.
The hamburger is almost gone when she speaks again: “My name is Corinne. Corinne May.”
Hello :) This is a new story I will be working on from now on. Due to life being a little biatch I can not promise any set in stone schedule as of now, but I will try to update 2 to 3 times a week. Please, try to swallow all the grammar mistakes. Also a small warning: this will probably be turned into a series.
A bit of a shameless promotion: the very first story I wrote is called Broken Bonds and you can also find it here. It would mean a lot if you gave it a chance.
As this story goes, I decided to do a little bit of an experiment and end each new chapter with some questions I came up with. I will be very glad if you comment an answer to them as it will be really cool to see where your theories are headed.
I know it is too early in the story to know much, but based on the synopsis my first question is: What do you think happened to Corinne? Is she really missing? Any wild theories are welcome.