Chapter 49 - At what cost
"Just two signatures left and you'll be all set."
The lady that had to have consumed too much caffeine today said as she pointed to the last two lines with a little more enthusiasm than was necessary.
My hand ached from all the signing, but it was done.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked out of the building. I drove around for an hour wondering what I should do next until I pulled into a random parking lot and killed the engine. I let my head fall back onto the headrest and I closed my eyes.
My mind was exhausted but I wasn't anywhere near finished. I still had so much to do but I wasn't sure how much time I was working with. It should've been around three more years but with the way things were going, it would be impossible to wait that long.
I reminded myself that I have had good intentions from the start, that they were always geared toward the best choice for her.
But at what cost?
I was drowning half the time. It was a mixture of anger and sadness that was impossible to shake and I could only imagine how much worse she felt. My stomach stayed in a twisted knot at the thought of her being miserable for even one second.
I flipped down my visor and dared to look at my reflection in the mirror. The bags under my eyes were pretty bad and my hair was too long, I'd have to find somewhere to get it cut between now and Monday. I put the visor back in place and started my Bronco. I drove straight to my destination without any effort, I had memorized this route.
I scanned the area as I pushed the door open and an old school bell chimed above me.
"Sit wherever you like dear."
A middle-aged woman called out from somewhere near the back.
I sat in the booth just to the left of the front door and picked up the menu. I couldn't tell if I was hungry or not but I figured I should probably order something anyway since I wasn't completely sure how long I would be sitting here.
"You're back. Same order or are you planning on trying something new?"
The same lady from before asked while she pulled out her notepad and pen.
"A cheeseburger and fries please. And a coke."
"You got it."
Over an hour later my food was long gone and the waitress was eyeing me again.
She seemed nice enough but she would probably still kick me out. I was just about to give up on today, just as I had been doing every day for the past week when I heard laughter coming from the other side of the room.
River walked behind the counter, her wavy hair was longer and I watched as she pulled it up in a ponytail. She smiled at the lady who had been waiting on me all week the waitress squeezed River's shoulders in return.
Her gaze shifted slightly, probably because she felt someone staring at her. She slowly turned toward me and I watched as her smile fell.
She looked away and busied herself with drying some glasses. I stood up and walked toward the barstool that was directly in front of her.
When I sat down she looked up, but only far enough to stare at my hands as they rested on the tabletop.
I watched her chest rise and fall and smiled to myself. She turned around and power walked to the back, pushing the kitchen door open.
The waitress cleared her throat and I looked her way.
"So that's why you've been lingering around this past week?"
I didn't answer her so she continued.
"She's a tough nut to crack, don't take it too personally."
She patted my hand then grabbed a rag and started wiping off the counter.
River eventually came back upfront and I watched her as she took orders and brought food to the different tables. She never looked back in my direction but that was okay. I was content with just being in the same room for now.
I stood up and walked over to the table she was cleaning and she turned around slowly.
"What time do you get off?"
She stared at the dirty plates and took a deep breath before answering me.
"I'll see you at ten."
I walked out of the diner too fast for her to refuse. I'd been sitting in the same booth every day for a week waiting for her to show up. Jackson had mentioned she started working here and showing up was creepy enough, I wasn't going to ask him to find out her schedule for me.
Maybe this last year had caused me to lose my mind, I wasn't sure but I knew that I needed to do something about it. I needed to do something else so we could figure this out.
I drove to the few places that I knew about in town and stopped by a couple of new spots to kill time.
At 9:30 I parked in front of the diner and walked inside, it was empty other than River and the waitress from earlier.
I sat at the counter while River actively ignored me until Lydia, I learned her name when River whisper screamed it, pranced to the back shutting the door behind her.
River gripped the edge of the counter clenched her jaw.
"Can I get a cup of coffee?"
She finally made eye contact with me and although she meant for her stare to sting, it did just the opposite. It felt so good to have her eyes locked with mine again.
She poured the hot liquid into a cup and placed it in front of me.
I asked, hoping the subject would make her forget she was mad at me. She just looked at me blankly and blinked a few times.
Lydia was right, River was a tough nut to crack. But I had time.
For River, I had all the time in the damn world.