Brigid Evanna Pine
I approach the table where my ex-boyfriend and his father wait and hand them menus. The string of my apron clenches tight at my waist. My eyes drift to the yellowed masking tape labeled 3C. I wish someone else could take their order, but there’s no other wait-staff here. My hands tremble, but I force them still, entwining them in front of my apron like a silent prayer.
“Would you like to hear the specials?” I ask them.
My ex-boyfriend’s father harrumphs. “What do you have for soup today?”
“It’s split pea,” I say.
“We’ll have that then,” his father says, “with crackers.”
I pull my pad and pen from my apron’s pocket. I don’t need to write anything, but I stare down at it and pretend I have a faulty memory and wish it were true.
“Drinks?” I ask.
“I’ll have a coke. What’ll you have, Son?”
“Mountain Dew,” my ex says. I glance at him for a moment, and he smirks, his small green eyes fixed on my face as if he dares me to shed my facade.
A wave of nausea sweeps through me. I ignore it and finish writing their order. “I’ll be right back,” I say as I leave them.
My fingers shake at the soda machine. When I grasp the tall plastic cups, I grip them death tight. I recall my ex, bringing strawberry wine to my house with two cups—just like these. Where he got the wine, I don’t know—he hadn’t been old enough to buy it yet.
I fill the cups with ice then pop, and my ex passes by to use the restroom. He squares his shoulders. I let out a slow breath, thankful he won’t be at the table when I bring his food and drink. That is, if I hurry. The pop spills over the top of my hand, jerking my attention back. “Shit,” I say under my breath and wipe my hands with a rag. My heart thuds in my ears.
I set the cups on my server tray. The ice sloshes around in them. I scramble to the cauldron, ladling the pea soup into ceramic bowls. Burning my fingers, I let out a short yelp. I grab silverware rolled into napkins and lift the heavy tray.
I walk to 3C and set their food and drinks on it. My ex has not returned yet.
“You know, you aren’t a very nice person,” my ex’s father says to me. His cold gaze burns my face.
Rain trickles down the window outside. My jaw clenches. I will not let him see me cry. Crossing my arms, my hand brushes against the edges of the paper straws, and I remember to set two on the table.
“You broke his heart, you know? But what do you care? Such a careless girl.” He clicks his tongue.
My face burns. Watching the bubbles in the soda come to the surface, I don’t dare reply. Who knows what will come out of my mouth if I open it? Let his son be perfect and blameless in his mind.
I turn to leave but he continues:
“I don’t know why he even dated you.” He wears a thoughtful expression for a moment and then shrugs. “No worries. You’ll get what is coming to you. He deserves far better than you. He’s going to be somebody someday.”
At that I walk away, tears well in my eyes. Like father, like son, putting me down, talking about what they deserve.
I pass my ex on his way back to the table. Hiding in the kitchen, I look over at the father with his bald head, scraggly strands strung across, and the son with his angular cheeks and pale olive eyes, skin sanguine.
The cook says, “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I say. “I’m fine.”
One glance around the floor, and I know I don’t have to wait on anyone else. Thank goodness.
The cook and I sit down and have a cup of coffee together. It’s bitter and dark but warms me. The cook’s calm demeanor soaks into my bones; I sink into my chair.
After several minutes, the father waves me over.
I sigh. “Better go finish up,” I say, tilting my head toward 3C. The cook lifts an eyebrow.
I stride to their table. “What else can I get you?” I ask.
“We’d like some dessert. Do you have any pie?” The father asks.
“Apple,” I reply.
“I’d like some of that,” the father says.
“Me too,” says my ex. “Ala mode,” he adds.
That’s how it is with him, I suppose, always wanting more than I offer. Always looking for something sweeter on his tongue.
After they leave, I clean up their scraps, scraping what’s left into the trash. I bring a bucket of hot soapy water to their table. I dip the nubby washcloth into the suds, squeezing out the excess water. The smell of bleach pricks at my nostrils and I scrub the table harder than I need to, trying to wash it all away.
Brigid Evanna Pine is a writer based in Minnesota, where she lives with her family. She loves drinking vanilla chai tea, reading fantasy novels, and writing nonfiction. She can be found on Twitter @brigidpine