Welcome back to The Life of Janie!
In case you missed the first part of her story, catch up here: The Life of Janie
The next morning Janie rolled over and stretched, feeling calmer and more relaxed than she had in awhile. She opened her eyes and blinked into the bright sun that was shining through the tiny window across from the bed. Although she was beyond grateful at having a warm bed and place to sleep last night she was feeling a bit disoriented with it all this morning. Should she simply get up and leave the room? Where was the bathroom? Did she need to announce herself first? Was there certain etiquette to be had? Before she could continue her own mind numbing game of 20 questions there was a knock on the door.
“Janie, honey, are you awake?”
“Um, yes, yes I am.”
Without waiting for an invite Denise opened the door and waltzed in, first turning toward the blinds and then plopping herself down on the bed at Janie’s feet.
“How did you sleep?”
“Quite well, actually. Thank you.”
“Oh for goodness sake! There’s no need to be so proper around here.”
“I’m sorry, I was raised to be proper and polite at all times, and my husband, well, he expected it as well.”
“So you’re married then? Where is your husband while you’re travelling alone? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Oops, I forgot you didn’t like a lot of questions.”
“No, no it’s alright. We are married, I suppose, but not for long. Things happened and well, here I am. It’s not really dangerous, if you’re careful, which I am.”
“I see. Well where are ya headed?”
“I’m not really sure yet.”
“Well if you’re looking to stay around for a bit, I’ve already spoken with Bob and he’s okay with you staying here.”
“Oh no, I certainly couldn’t impose for a moment longer.”
“Trust me honey, it’s no imposition,” she said with a wink.
Janie felt her cheeks flush. The last thing she needed was any kind of extra attention, especially after what she’d already been through. She had to admit though, that in the very short time she’d been here, she felt oddly at home.
“I really do appreciate it, and I will think about it. In the meantime, may I use the restroom?”
“Oh, of course honey! It’s just out the door and to the left, can’t miss it!”
Janie ducked her head and scurried out the door and straight into a broad, firm back. Ooof!
“Oh, I, uh, sorry.” Flushing once more she quickly dodged around Bob who didn’t appear to be startled in the slightest. She ducked into the bathroom and leaned against the door, taking a few deep breaths to steady herself. She wasn’t sure why the man made her so disoriented, especially since she had no interest in going down that path right now. Calm down girl. Just breathe and relax. You can jump in the car and leave today and it would be okay. No reason to let this man or anyone else get to you. So what if he’s handsome in that devilish sort of way, you aren’t interested. You’re not.
Finishing her peptalk with herself, she left the bathroom and began heading back toward the small bedroom when her stomach growled. Hunger overtaking her desire to be alone, she made her way out to the main room and sat down at the bar, determined to face Bob and not let him get to her. It was early, but there were three people sitting in the small corner booths, which surprised her. She hadn’t expected a bar to be open for breakfast, but nothing was surprising her here. She was still watching people when she heard a solid “thump!” on the bar that startled her.
“Coffee?” said a deep and husky voice.
“Uh, yes, thank you.”
He poured her coffee, slid a small tray with cream and sugar in front of her and turned with a wink. Damn, a bit arrogant, wasn’t he?
Janie added a cream and two sugars to her coffee and stirred, turning slightly to continue watching the other bar patrons. There were a couple of women in one booth and a solo man sitting in the other. The women seemed to be middle aged, and were talking with such rapid ferocity that she was sure something big had happened. The one on the left had a wild mop of curly red hair, freckles everywhere and the most vibrant green eyes. Her talkative counterpart was a small blonde with blue eyes, and a stylish wardrobe who seemed quite out of place in this small town. They seemed an odd pairing, with the differences in their appearance anyway, but the way they were talking and sitting told a different story. The man in the corner, now he was a character. He had salt and pepper hair, a little overgrown and a lot of messy, stubble all over his face and a scar cutting across his left cheek. He never looked up, preferring to eat his breakfast and read what appeared to be a Stephen King novel. The way his lips moved while he read told her that he wasn’t reading out loud but likely arguing over the content of the book. Definitely not the type of people that she had expected to see here, then again, she hadn’t known what to expect.
“Do you want to eat?”
“Oh! Uh, yes, I do. What do you have?” Once again startled out of her thoughts by this gruff man, she could feel her breathing start to quicken and tried to calm herself. Why did he insist on sneaking up on her?
“It’s on the board,” he said, pointing to the right of them.
Janie looked up and over and realized there was a chalkboard on the wall with a small selection of breakfast items. She didn’t even ask if they had anything less greasy and opted for a basic breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. Bob simply grunted in response, winked again, and walked away. As he was walking away Denise walked back into the room.
“Hey Barb, hey Sue! How’re those sweet kids of yours doing?”
“Oh sugar, the kids are sassy and ever, but them grandkids sure are a blessing,” came the reply from Sue, who turned out to be the redhead. She turned back to Barb and continued her conversation with fervor.
“Those gals come in here darn near daily and most of what they do is gossip.”
“Oh, I see.”
“It’s a small town honey, there aren’t many folks around here anymore. Those of us that are left know just about everything there is to know.”
“Who’s the man in the corner?”
“Oh, that’s Joe. He’s actually pretty nice, but he tends to mumble to himself a lot. No one’s really sure what he’s saying, but I thought I heard him yelling at his book once. Strange fella.”
Janie chuckled. She’d argued with authors herself while reading before, which made her like him, strangeness and all. Before either one of them could say another word Bob walked up with her breakfast, set it down, winked and walked away.
“Does he always do that?”
“What do you mean honey?”
“Wink at his customers.”
“Just the cute ones,” Denise said with a wink. She walked away to check on the other customers, chuckling to herself.
Janie rolled her eyes, she couldn’t help it. Must be something about small towns. Maybe they’re teasing me because I’m an outsider. Maybe they’re trying to make me feel comfortable and welcome. Such strange behavior.
Once again lost in the throes of her own mind she didn’t hear Bob walk up to top off her coffee.
“You sure seem to daydream a lot.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Daydream. That’s what you’re doing, right? Your eyes get a little glassy and your nose scrunches up, and you just kind of gaze to the sky.”
“I, uh… no, I’m not daydreaming, just lost in my thoughts, I suppose.” She could feel a flush creeping up onto her cheeks and ducked her head to hide it.
“It’s great, thanks.”
He turned and walked away, without a wink, to tend to something else besides startling her. Janie sighed and finished her breakfast, trying to decide whether to give herself a few days to recoup before leaving or simply take off again. Before she could get too deep in her thoughts a voice from behind her made her jump.
“Well aren’t you just the sweetest thing! What’s your name, sugar?”
Janie turned around and saw the redhead, Sue, standing behind her, too close for her comfort, beaming.
“Well I’ve never seen you around these parts, and I’d remember someone so beautiful. Heck, my grandson is looking for a girlfriend, are you single?”
Janie grimaced. “Thank you, I think, but I am not.”
“Oh well, that’s too bad. So what brings you to our neck of the woods?”
“Oh, just passing through.”
“You aren’t going to stick around a bit, see what our little town has to offer?”
“I don’t – “
“Sue! You nosy nelly, you leave that poor girl alone!”
“Bite me Barb, I’m just making conversation.”
“Don’t you get sassy with me, I’ll kick your ass like I did in the fifth grade.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
They continued their bickering as though Janie weren’t sitting less than a foot away and in the middle. She tried to slide her stool back and out of the way but it was stuck so she just sat there, dazed and confused.
“They’re a hoot, aren’t they?” Denise asked.
“Uh, sure.” When had she walked up? I am really losing my touch. I’m normally much more perceptive.
“They do this damn near daily, though I can’t say they’ve ever included anyone else.”
“This is normal?”
“For them? Sure is. Half the fun of them coming in here is the free show!”
“I can’t imagine.”
“Stick around honey, and you might just come to enjoy it yourself.”
Janie simply smiled. She was tempted to grab her purse and run for the hills now, but something about these people made her feel sane, and she desperately needed that right now. Should I stay here for a while? These people are absolutely nothing like anyone I’ve ever met. My mother would have a fit if she saw this behavior! Maybe it’s time I let loose and allowed myself to be whatever I choose to be.
She wasn’t sure how long, but she was going to stay for a couple days at least. Curiosity had gotten the best of her, plus their kindness and the ease with which they seemed to welcome her into their world.
Her mind made up, she held her cup in the air and said, “refill, please!”. Bob got to her first and topped her off.
Already anticipating his move she looked him square in the face, said “thanks”, and winked.