52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 49
This is another excerpt of my WIP, Sacrificial Daughter, currently at 69K. Ana is having dinner with a sheriff’s deputy and former “schoolmate.”
Murphy’s Family Restaurant topped Corwin’s annual food listing of favorite places to eat.
It wasn’t gourmet fare, secret recipes, or old family recipes which brought the crowds in, but the folksy, down-to-earth atmosphere found there 6 am to 9 pm seven days a week.
Third generation owner, Joe Murphy, welcomed every patron who walked through the door, and if he wasn’t available, his wife, Silvia, did.
Joe, Silvia, and the wait staff would have rolling conversations and included patrons. Topics were light, easy and fun. It wasn’t unusual for calls to come in inquiring not about the daily special, but what was the current topic of the day.
Analeigh Sellers pulled into Murphy’s parking lot at five minutes to six. Exiting her rental, she grinned when she saw Walt Gaskins leaning against a signpost near the entrance.
“How many demerits did you get for being late before you arrived early to everything?”
Ana laughed aloud.
“Believe it or not, I’ve never received a demerit for anything… and I’ve never been late.”
Walt threw his hands up in the air.
“Oh, my god, you’re a drill sergeant’s dream come true. Poster girl for the military.”
They both laughed as Walt opened the door for Ana and they headed for the wait stand.
“I said I never received demerits, but I was far from a DS’s dream recruit.”
Before Ana could continue, a loud bellow came from the other side of the restaurant.
“Walt. Hey. It’s always good to see you in the place.”
Without an ounce of shame, the large man gave Ana an appraising once over and nodded in approval.
“Walt, my man, your taste has improved a thousand percent. Introduce me to your beautiful friend.”
Walt and Ana’s smirks matched.
“You don’t recognize her?”
“Like I could forget these eyes. I never for-” Resting a hand on his waist, the confused man raised the other to scratch his head. Tilting his head, he stared at Ana again. His eyes widened in recognition.
She looked from him to Walt and back.
“Analeigh, this is Joe Murphy, Jr. His family lived just outside the city limits and he didn’t go to our high school, but he spent a lot of time in town… working here and hanging out with the guys.”
“So, we never met.”
It was a statement, not a question.
“No, but I saw you around. I always thought you were so pretty. You left a big impression on me. I always hoped I’d see you whenever I came to town.”
“Thank you, Joe.”
“Dude, can we get a booth or are you going to keep drooling over my date?”
Joe, Jr. roared with laughter and gestured for the couple to follow him.
Ana wasn’t feeling the calm that showed on her face. Anxiety buzzed in her head while she tried to ignore Walt’s remark.
Date? He called her his date. Walt was over-the-top hot and gorgeous, but she only had room for one man in her head and her heart. She hoped Walt was simply using a figure of speech.
“Perfect, Joe. Thanks, man.”
“No problem. Wait staff will be right over. Enjoy.”
He looked at Ana again and walked away with a smile on his face.
Ana settled into the booth and admired the view from the large tempered window.
Acorn Fields, the city’s biggest park, stretched out for miles behind Murphy’s. Despite the evening hour, the vibrant colors of spring were still visible under the setting sun.
“Okay, remember I told you it’s meatloaf day, and it is amazing.”
“I had it a time or two when I came here with Rosie. Can’t remember if I liked it or not.”
Walt clutched his chest, feigning shock.
“That’s blasphemy. Everyone loves Murphy’s meatloaf. And order the mashed potatoes. They’re made fresh… no instant tater flakes here.”
Ana pushed her menu aside and folded her arms in front of her the table.
“Okay, but if I don’t like it, I’ll forever question your judgment.”
He mimicked her action with his arms.
Walt’s smiled dimmed.
“How does it feel to be back, Analeigh?”
“Not as bad as I thought it would, but still a little unsettling. But I think it’s because Rosie’s gone.”
“You guys were close, huh?”
Ana shrugged a shoulder. “She made it bearable. I don’t know where I’d be today If I didn’t have Rosie in my life.”
Walt fidgeted in his seat.
“Analeigh… about when we were kids-”
“Thank you, Walt, but we need not rehash that. It won’t change the past.”
“I need you to understand. I never believed all those things I heard about you. Most kids didn’t. But it wasn’t just mean girls like Macy and Judy fueling the fire with rumors. Some of us had parents just as bad.”
“Walt, it wasn’t a fun time in my life, but it-”
“I’m sorry, Analeigh. I wanted to be your friend, but-”
The occasional glances cast her way from other customers since they entered were now outright stares. Swallowing her anxiety again, Ana touched Walt’s arm.
“It’s okay… honest. I’m fine. Let’s talk about something else.”
Walt ducked his head with a bashful grin.
“Thank you for being so gracious, Analeigh.”
Gracious? Was she being ‘gracious?’
Ana flashed a benign smile at Walt and ducked her head. She was glad Walt didn’t know this non-date was instead a trial-by-fire for her before the eyes of Corwin.
©Felicia Denise 2017