T W O
The sun is at its highest point in the sky as I make my way around the lively cafe.
Men and women talk amongst themselves while eating their delicious meals. Refilling coffees and taking plates has become mind-numbing as I circle through my designated section of the restaurant.
Oakdale is a small town in the middle of Virginia that is populated with less than one-thousand people.
There isn’t much to talk about, however, gossip tends to spread like wildfire around here so everyone knows everyone’s business in this town.
Scandals are never kept secret for long.
I thought today was going to be the usual talk about the weather or if relatives were coming down to visit for the summer, but as I walk to the kitchen, my arms filled with empty dishes, it seems another topic is sprinkling through the air.
“Did you hear the Mountain man is in town today?” Betty, an older lady of the town says to her husband, Henry, across from her.
I stop in my tracks, not believing my ears.
“I heard he’s become more of a caveman since his last visit. ” Said Dave, our town mailman, to Diane, a mother of two, as they sit at the bar. “Hear he likes to follow children after dark and snatch them to his secret place up in the mountains.”
My eyes widen. That doesn’t sound like him at all.
Diane’s hand flies to her mouth as she gasps. She turns towards her son and daughter next to her and grabs their attention.
“You will not go anywhere near this man nor will you leave the house after five pm, do you understand me?” She states to her children, seeming a little hysterical to me.
Before I can hear the children’s response I go through the swinging double doors that lead to the kitchen.
Entering, I see Claire helping Ms. Belle bake chocolate éclaires as flour stains their face and aprons. Gosh, the kitchen always smells delicious, it’s hard not to eat on the job.
I’ve had to limit myself as I have gained a few extra pounds due to how many pastries I take home with me.
Ms. Belles been trying to fatten me up. Saying things along the lines like, “How will you ever please a man if he doesn’t have any love handles to hang onto?” Or my all-time favorite, “I’m surprised you haven’t been blown away yet since you got no meat on your bones to hold you down.”
She’s a very charming woman once you get to know her.
“Hey Dani, how’s it going out there?” Claire nods her head towards the eating area, her hands holding a large mixing bowl, which I assume, contain whipped cream for the freshly baked goods.
I ponder on how to answer as I place the dirty dishes on a rack.
“It’s alright.” I shrug my shoulders. “The locals have gotten it into their head that Alexander is coming back today and that he’s turned into a “caveman”,” I say with air quotes.
Alexander, or Alex for short, isn’t a very social man, which is why he lives in the mountains.
He comes down every few months with supplies, such as wood and fur, that we sell with neighboring towns, and in return, he gets paid and can stock up on food or anything else he needs.
He’s also a giant of a man, standing roughly around 6 feet 4 inches, and a good 250 pounds of pure muscle. His dirty blond hair reaches mid-back and his honey-colored eyes intimidate almost anyone who looks into them, including myself.
It’s gotten better over the past few times we’ve met. He usually comes to the cafe early in the morning, right after I unlock the doors, and we’ll sit and chat as he drinks his coffee or eats a warm pastry.
I slowly stopped thinking of him as the mountain man and just thought of him as Alex, a non-social giant who liked to live in the mountains. I shake my head, getting out of my own thoughts.
Ms. Belle scoffs as she continues baking the éclaires.
“That boy has been anything but trouble and because these looney townspeople have nothing better to do with their lives, they create him into a bad guy. Can’t the poor boy be treated normally even though he lives in the mountains?” Anger seeps from her tone.
Claire and I look at each other, wondering why she’s so sensitive about the subject.
She sighs. “What am I saying? Don’t listen to me, I’m just a crazy old lady who doesn’t even know what she’s saying half the time.”
“No Ms. Belle,” I say, countering her statement and step closer to her, “you’re correct, I mean, whenever I interact with him he seems like a wonderful person. It’s not right that people are making rumors about him when they don’t even know him.”
He doesn’t deserve to be seen this way, and, if anything, this would just push him more away from wanting to be close to people.
“I think he’s really intimidating,” Claire interjects in the conversation, turning around to look at me as she wipes her hands on a white cloth. “I mean have you seen his eyes? I swear, that man never blinks,” she states and tosses the cloth beside her on the steel counter.
“That doesn’t mean people should be rude to him. Jesus, I know if-”
“Language!” Ms. Belle yells at me without turning around. She’s a very religious person.
I roll my eyes behind her back. “Sorry. Like I was saying if that was me I’d probably be depressed throughout the whole year. I don’t think I could ever survive a day in his shoes.”
“Shouldn’t the two of you be workin’?” Ms. Belle states as she finally turns and looks at me from her baking. “I don’t think I pay you two to chit-chat, now do I?” she questions, glancing from Claire and I, one eyebrow raised higher above the other.
“Sorry,” we both say mumbling, quickly getting back to work.
I make my way out the double doors and into the eating area. However, instead of the wild gossiping I heard before, everything’s quiet except for the hushed whispering buzzing back and forth between the townspeople.
Just as Abbey, my tall co-worker is about to pass me I quietly say her name.
“What Dani?” She says, snapping at me.
“Why is everyone whispering?” I ask in a low voice while gazing around the restaurant looking for anything unordinary.
She scoffs. “The tall guy from the forest walked in about 5 minutes ago. Maybe if you were doing your job you would’ve seen him come in.” She turns abruptly and walks into the kitchen.
Alex is here?
I walk out from behind the bar and swivel my head left to right, searching for him. I walk around the corner, hoping he was seated at his original booth near the window, but it was empty.
Abbey told me he was in here but obviously, he must’ve left once the people started talking about him behind his back. With a sigh, I go back to working and check in with the customers.
I reach the far section of my designated area and without looking up I take out my notepad and a pencil. “Hello, I’m Dani and I’ll be your server for today. Can I get you anything to drink?”
A husky voice lightly laughs in front of me sounding oddly familiar. “Hello Dani, long time no see.”
I look up into honey-colored eyes and gasp.
I’m guessing you can already tell who the mystery man is. Wink Wink.
Hope you had a wonderful day in Joker’s Basement.