Today, Diana remembers her past, and Widow Rickets stop by to chat. Hope you enjoy!---------------------------------------
Diana: The Restaurant
Its noon by the time I wake up. There was a lot of customers last night. One of the wells must have hit payload because the men had money to burn in their pockets. Most of them were pretty drunk by the time I lay with them.
Not many are lining up over at Wiggins restaurant for their lunches. They must still be sleeping it off. I wrapped myself in a blanket and am sitting on the dusty porch watching the street and drinking a tin cup of coffee. Some days I feel so far away from where I started.
“Good Morning Diana” says a quiet, but firm voice and I look over to see the sturdy build of Widow Ricketts rising the wooden steps to the porch.
“Good Morning Ma’am” I say smiling. “Why don’t you pull out a chair and have a cup of coffee with me?” She just smiles and nods, drags out a chair and sits down.
Sometimes I think Widow Ricketts has the sixth sense. Her house ain’t far away. Just over the ridge under a couple of hemlocks. I hear she’s one of the few around here that actually owns her place. Most just lease from the landlords that live far away in Philadelphia or New York. Widow Rickets always seems to show up when I’ve had a hard night. She don’t say much. Just sits and keeps me company. I get her a steaming cup and we sit like that talking about how cold it’s getting and how winter’s likely to arrive soon for half an hour. She talks about her work and how her well is still good. Then, she tells me the most incredible story I’ve ever heard. She’s been reading in a book about two women who turn into birds. I love it when she tells stories about the books she’s reading. She knows not to ask me too many questions. And let’s me just smile and nod, keeping our conversation hovering on the surface of our lives.
Then, just as quickly as she showed up, she rises to leave. Before she does though she turns to me and says real sincere: “Diana, I know you’ve got a hard life here. You ever want to leave, take up washing, I could use an extra hand.”
It’s a real sweet thing to say and by her troubled face I can see she’s been working herself up to saying it this whole time. “That’s real kind Widow Ricketts,” I say. “I appreciate the offer, but I got no choice here to leave.” When I say those last words a cold lump rises to my throat. I don’t often think about how I can’t go and it surprised me the words even flew out of my mouth. Every night, I trick myself with the idea of escape. It’s how I’ve learned how to sleep in this place.
Widow Ricketts just looks at me real long and sad and says, “I see. I’m real sorry to hear that Diana. I didn’t know.”
The cold lump stays in my throat all afternoon like a cold stone I've swallowed and can't get down, even after I’ve gone back to work. After a few hours I sneak back to my trunk and pull out the two photographs I brought with me when I left North Carolina. One is George in his army uniform looking so serious into the camera. (How he kept that straight face for so long I don’t know). And the other a still shot of my family’s restaurant. I can almost smell the biscuits. Taste their light fluff in my mouth. I feel George’s warm, strong arms around me. Then, I lie back down on my straw bed and cry.