When Emily Stevenson returns home for her brother’s wedding, she’s surprised at how little her hometown has changed in the twenty years she’s been gone. Before she heads to her parents’ house, she stops at Waffle House for a bite to eat.
There she runs into Jenna McAllister, her former best friend in school whom she hasn’t seen in years. Jenna stirs up emotions Emily hasn’t felt in quite a while, and not just of friendship, either.
But is she the only one?
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
God, I’m forty years old. Why do I always feel like I’m an angry teenager when I come home? Does everyone feel this way?
Someone approaches her table, and Emily sits back as the waitress places an empty mug in front of her. “Coffee?”
Emily nods. “Yes, please.”
She pours a stream of hot, dark java from a glass carafe, then sets it on the table and pulls a pen and pad of paper from the front pockets of her apron. “What can I get ‘cha, hon?”
“Um ...” Emily looks at the menu again. “How about a waffle and two eggs over easy? That’s all.”
The waitress reaches for the menu and Emily hands it over. For the brief moment when they both hold the plastic-coated piece of paper, they glance at each other and something unspoken passes between them. Emily knows this woman, she’s sure of it. Her face looks so familiar for some reason, but Emily can’t say why. Then she drops her gaze to the waitress’s nametag. Jenna.
“Oh, my God,” Emily whispers, a slow grin spreading across her face. “Jenna McAllister? Is that you?”
She expects Jenna to not remember her, or to fish for her name, or to ask her who she is. After all, Jenna didn’t say or do anything to indicate she had recognized Emily first. So Emily is pleasantly surprised when Jenna smiles down at her. “Hey, Emily. Didn’t think I’d ever see you in here.”
Releasing the menu, Emily grabs Jenna’s hand instead. It’s warm and smooth, the skin impossibly soft. “How long has it been? How are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” Jenna says, though she sounds tired, as if she’s been on her feet all day. “Let me go put in your order, okay?”
“Can you come sit with me?” Emily wants to know.
But Jenna shakes her head. “No, sorry. I’m on the clock.”
Emily glances around the empty restaurant and arches a questioning eyebrow. “Yeah, I can see this place is packed.”
When Jenna laughs, the years seem to fall away from her face and the sixteen-year-old girl Emily used to know shines through. “Well, I get off at eight ...”
Rubbing her thumb over the back of Jenna’s hand, Emily says, “I can wait around.”
“I don’t want to keep you ...”
Emily laughs. “Trust me, I literally have nothing I’d rather do.”
As she watches Jenna walk away, Emily can’t stop smiling. Suddenly her evening is shaping up to be much better than it was moments ago.