I worked at a diner waiting tables when my boss hired a cook named Charlie. Before asking me out on a date he told me of his mistakes. His life had started out as a mistake of a passionate moment shared between two teenagers. His parents never married, he didn’t know his father and little of his mother. His grandparents treated him more like a burden than a grandson. As a teen he hung out with the wrong friends. Instead of senior graduation he appeared in court on charges of drug use. Being eighteen he served his sentence in the state penitentiary. While imprisoned he realized his mistakes and went on to earn his high school diploma. In the prison kitchen he discovered his love for cooking.
The following year Charlie and I were married with our boss as best man. We both wanted children but nothing ever happened. After several tests the doctor informed me I would never be able to get pregnant. That night in our bed Charlie held me and stroked my hair. With tears I said, “I’m sorry to let you down. You made a mistake by marrying me.”
“Rose, I have made mistakes but you are not one of them. With or without children I will never stop loving you.” He gave me a kiss and wiped away my tears.
As the years passed Charlie cooked and I waited tables. We saved our money hoping to have a place of our own. On one of our days off he drove me out to a cafe on Highway 40. While we sat in a booth eating our lunch the place filled up with customers.
Charlie reached over and touched my hand. “What do you think about us buying this cafe?”
“Charlie, can we afford this place?”
“With our savings we can make a down payment. There’s a little house out back for us to live in. Look out there at all the traffic going by. We couldn’t ask for a better location.”
The years passed when the town newspaper printed an article about an interstate being built a few miles north of Highway 40. That night in our bed Charlie held me and stroked my hair. With tears I said, “I’m sorry the cafe let you down. You made a mistake by buying this place.”
”I have made mistakes but buying this cafe wasn’t one of them. With or without this place I will never stop loving you.” He gave me a kiss and wiped away my tears.
The interstate turned Highway 40 into nothing but a road used by the locals. As the years passed Charlie and I continued to run the cafe. One morning I found him lying on our bathroom floor. His stroke left him unable to do anything for himself.
With Charlie in his wheel chair I unlocked the cafe door and started a pot of coffee. Jenny Rose hurried in. “Hey there Mister Charlie. Miss Rose, I need a sweet roll and a coffee to go. Dad said he’d stop by sometime this morning to fix your ramp. Mom plans to go to town, you need anything give her a call.”
I placed her sack of breakfast on the counter. “Here ya’ go. Better get movin’ or you’ll be late for school.”
“Thanks, love ya’ both.” Jenny Rose grabbed her sack and hurried out the cafe door.
Some time later Zeke ambled into the cafe. “Morning Charlie, morning Rose.”
I laid a plate of biscuits and gravy in front of Zeke and asked, “When are Charlene and the kids coming home? Her sister and the baby both doing good?”
“They’ll be home tomorrow. Mom and baby are both doing well. I hope Charlene’s sister figures out what’s causing all those kids.”
As I walked back into the kitchen Zeke talked to Charlie, “At the railroad slough I caught an eight pound blue cat with a night crawler.”
Zeke left his dirty dishes by the kitchen sink. “Rose, I put money on the counter for breakfast. You need anything give me a call.” He ambled out the cafe door.
I thought how over the years this place had brought Charlie and me the happiness of a family. Pulling a chair close to him I sat down and said, “You have made mistakes but buying this cafe wasn’t one of them. I will never stop loving you.” I gave him a kiss and wiped away my tears of bitter sweet memories.
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