I am embarking on an A-Z challenge, this one featuring short pieces of fiction. Today’s letter is D for Diner.
Molly and Brian sat across from one another at the diner, checking out the menu, as if they didn’t already know what it was that they were going to order. They had eaten at this same diner so many times that it was a foregone conclusion that he would order the turkey and swiss sandwich, on sourdough, and she would get the number three special, the veggie sandwich on whole wheat, except that there was also cheddar cheese. When Brian went to grab the wine list, she abruptly mentioned that she was skipping the wine. Surprised, Brian said, “Fine, but just in case you change your mind, I’m going to order a bottle of Carlotta Zinfandel...” Again, they always seemed to settle for a local wine, and he figured she would see him swirling his wine, and have a glass herself.
The diner was designed to look like a railway car, complete with a jangling bell, that signaled some lucky table’s food was ready to be delivered. Something was up with Molly, and Brian could not figure out what it was. She seemed preoccupied and wouldn’t make eye contact with him, which was unusual. He loved her rich, deep-chocolate-colored eyes, which reminded him always of Van Morrison’s song, “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
But today, he hardly had the opportunity to see them. This was not like his girl, who was the most open and honest person he had ever met. He had been thinking of their future together a lot, lately, wondering how she would respond to a marriage proposal. He did not want to take anything for granted.
From her perspective, Molly was worried. She had been seeing Brian for slightly more than two years now, and had moved in with him only three months earlier, the first guy she had ever taken this step with. They had talked about kids a lot. Both were totally into the idea, but Brian kept insisting that before he could take that step, he would need to be more financially secure.
What did that look like? Financially secure to her simply meant that bills could be paid and food was on the table. What else was there? A fat bank account? Not according to Molly, who was not a materialistic girl. She dressed simply, and was not into makeup-or glitter, as she referred to it. She had a great insurance package from the school district, and that seemed like half that battle right there.
Well, there was only one way to get to the bottom of it, thought Brian. Taking her hand, after they had placed their orders, he asked, simply, “Where is my brown-eyed girl this evening? You seem as though you are miles away.”
“I do? I mean, I guess I do. I’ve been thinking about kids again...” Her voice trailed off, as she thought about the best strategy to break her news.
“Of course you have,” he laughed. “After all, working with kindergartners is a guarantee that you will be thinking about kids. I’m not surprised.”
“Well, yes, those kids too. But I meant more along the lines of having a child. We’re both working I’m going to be twenty-four in only three more weeks. My mom was only twenty when she had me.”
Instead of squirming, Brian leaned forward and took her hand. “As my friend, Ken, used to say, ‘The first one comes anytime; the rest take nine months.’” He laughed at his own wit.
Molly gave a little giggle of appreciation, but it didn’t block the shadow that seemed to cloud her countenance. All he can do is joke about it, she thought. What does he think, really? “Come on, Brian. Seriously, don’t you think this is as good of a time to have a baby, as any?”
“Oh, are you saying that you are getting a raise? The last time I checked, our bank balance was still sitting at three figures, and we’re going to have to scrounge to pay our taxes, again, this year. You know I’d like to build up that bank account before we have a kid. Kids cost.”
Is he using that as a reason to avoid the whole thing? She couldn’t help thinking that all men were queasy when it came to starting a family. “I know they cost, but right now we spend a lot of money on things that we would not, if we were expecting a baby, like eating out and drinking wine.”
Brian knew how she felt about babies, and he thought he had done a good job of letting her know that he wanted kids too. Just...not...yet. “Oh, is that why you’re not drinking wine? You want to save the loot?” When he saw her blush, he once again had the impression that something was not right, and if something was not right, it must be wrong.
“Actually, no, that’s not why I’m not drinking wine.” Why couldn’t he just understand that money was just something she did not want to interfere with the whole process? Money was something you had to have-it was as simple as that.
Brian was starting to sense some kind of hidden agenda. Why was she acting so snarky? She was usually right up front; it was a quality that he liked about her. “Well, what is it then? You don’t like Carlotta wines anymore?” Just come right out and tell me what’s what.
“Just let it go,” she finally burst out. You’ll know soon enough was all she could think.
“Let what go? I don’t know what it is that I am letting go. You’re being very evasive. I can’t stand that. You act as though something’s up and I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Why don’t you give me a chance?” Help me, help me, he thought. What is going on with this chick?
“Brian, I’m going to...” Her voice trailed off.
“You’re going to what?” He had a sudden premonition. All this talk about kids and money. No wine. Was she...?
“I’m going to pick up a puppy when we get done here. It’s a golden retriever, and they’re great with kids! I figure we’re going to want our child to have a dog. That’s why I’m not drinking wine. I need to drive out to the farm where the puppy is at. Wanna come?”
“A puppy? Is that what this is all about? All this fuss over a puppy? I’m ready for action-ready for danger.”
Oh, well, Molly thought to herself. He’ll know soon enough.