Mom pretended to read the menu and ordered bacon and eggs, let the waitress lead her through the choices. Over medium eggs. Wheat toast. Orange juice, small. Mom let Mary fill her coffee cup to the top.
Aunt Arlene set her coffee cup down on the table, right next to the ashtray and tapped her cigarette on the edge of the small glass dish hard enough that a few stray ashes jumped over the rim into the coffee cup. The waitress frowned down at the cup, as if my aunt were a child allowed to color on the furniture. Mary said she’d bring another cup. My aunt blushed. She ground out her cigarette. Mary took both the coffee pot and the ruined cup away back toward the kitchen.
Mom leaned back into the booth, she let her neck roll so that her chin pointed almost to the ceiling. She sighed in a way that my aunt took personally. “Would you sit down? You’re making me nervous.”
My aunt leaned over the booth seat, fussed with her purse a minute. She patted Mom’s feet propped on the seat near her bag. Taking it as a reproach Mom put her feet down noisily, there was a distinct slap of the sandals hitting the tile floor. My aunt mumbled a soft “sorry” sliding heavily onto the bench seat.
The waitress returned with a cup of coffee filled to the brim, balanced on a fresh saucer. A few spots of black coffee dripping down the side of the egg-white cup. “You want breakfast too?”
“I’ll have a piece of that pie.” Aunt Arlene waved a careless hand toward the crowded space behind the counter where the industrial coffee machine brewed another pot.
“Which one? Apple or pecan?”
Aunt Arlene squinted at the cluttered space behind the where the men sat at the counter. There were two pies stacked in a display case. ”What do you recommend?”
Mary smiled, a warm practiced smile. Her turquoise eye shadow matched the blue of her uniform almost perfectly. “I find a warm piece of pecan pie, with a scoop of vanilla, a dab of whipped cream on top, mighty satisfying.”
My aunt tapped the tips of her right hand on the table top, with a soft click, click, click. “Sounds wonderful, but in the interests of my waist line I’ll just have the pecan pie, warm.”
Mom clicked her tongue softly.
The waitress shrugged. “Don’t know what you’re missing.”
Arlene smiled, and cocked her head to the side slightly. “Afraid I do.” As Mary walked away my aunt shot Mom a sharp look, ran her tongue over her front teeth with her mouth closed, forcing her top lip out slightly.
“So that’s how it’s going to be?”
“How’s it going to be El?” Arlene looked out the window trying to see what her older sister saw. She frowned, out the window there were only a few truck headlights passing on the interstate.
Mom drank more of her coffee and yawned. Stretched hard over the table, trying to keep her arms below the line of the seat backs.
My aunt wasn’t about to let Mom get away with silence. “How’s it going to be?”
“Like the time you ate soda crackers and apples for two and a half weeks, then went out and gobbled down two Mama cow meals for lunch at Sizzler.”
After a brief pause my aunt laughed, a quick hard snort. “That was good steak. I was starving.”
“No kidding.” Mom smiled one of her in-spite-of-myself smiles.
“You’ve got it backwards, I’m starting with the pie and will end up only eating carrots all the way home.”
Mom bared her front teeth and wiggled her nose. “Another rabbit food plan?”
Arlene made a smiliar face back very briefly. Their little joke interrupted by the arrival their orders. Aunt Arlene picked at her pie; Mom ate her two eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast too fast. She was hungrier than she’d thought and had to force herself to slow down. Mom could count on one hand the number of times she’d been on the road that early in the morning. Most of those trips had been to Las Vegas, Mom did not get away much. Whoever was going would leave around midnight and thru the desert in the dark and have breakfast in at a casino buffet. My Dad loved casino buffets.