April glanced up from her steaming coffee as the door jingled open. Finally, she’s here. Two men wearing coveralls tumbled into the diner, the chilly January air sneaking in behind them. Oh. It’s strange that she’s late. Of course she has been acting odd since Christmas. I’ve even heard her humming again.
The shrill voice of her younger sister May cut through the din of the crowd. “She’s never late Bill, you know that. I think it would be rude not to wait for her.”
Bill shrugged and sipped his coffee. April sighed and sipped hers.
A harried waitress stopped beside their table for the fourth time. “Do you wanna order now?” Her notepad and stubby pencil stood at attention. Apparently it was rude to make the cook wait.
May sniffed loudly. Bill smiled and looked expectantly at April.
“I’ll have the hot oatmeal and a small fruit salad please.” The waitress leaned in to hear over the noise. Bill boomed into her ponytail.
“Make mine the breakfast special number four – scramble the eggs and throw in some extra bacon would you?”
“Absolutely not Bill, what would the doctor say? Your cholesterol!” May’s tone of voice drove Bill deep in his seat. “He’ll have poached eggs, hold the bacon and make sure his toast is whole wheat.” April heard him groan, but May took no notice. “I’ll have the buttermilk pancakes. And we’re expecting my sister at any moment. Could you come back when she arrives please?”
The waitress scurried away with a patronizing smile.
Before the glint in May’s eyes became a gushing lecture, April headed her off. “I’m sure June won’t mind that we ordered.” Ever gentle and forgiving, their baby sister would likely shrug and wave away their worry.
“Well, I hope you’re right. I’ll tell her we meant to wait - if not for this crowd I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem.” May folded and unfolded her napkin nervously. “It’s just that she invited us and now she’s late. It’s quarter after the hour already. Where could she be?”
“Somewhere quiet eating bacon?” Bill seemed hopeful to join her.
April patted her sister’s hand and murmured something she hoped was comforting. But curiousity was also nibbling at her. She was so insistent that Bill come.
The three sisters had stayed close through the passing years and saw each other most Sundays. Together they had supported April through her husband’s long, painful bout with cancer. May had even graciously moved in for a time after Jim passed away. Too long for April, a little short for Bill.
Then last year June had buried her spouse after a heart attack surprised him on the golf course. Bob’s friends had insisted that he’d shot a stellar score on his final round – it seemed he was playing the game of his life. April recalled the tears she had shed with her sister, each understanding the other’s ache. Expected or unexpected, to lose a spouse was like emotional surgery – recovery may be the goal, but you’re forever altered inside.
April had been thrilled for June when she left for a Caribbean holiday cruise. The grandchildren would be a welcome distraction and all of that company, with her kids and their families, would dull the pain of Christmas. But it was a little too much that she came back so refreshed. Almost embarrassing.
The door jingled.
Three heads turned in unison and watched as a towering, bulky man held the door open for their sister June. Her smile sparkled as she waved at them. Without pause, her other hand reached behind and was clasped naturally by the gallant giant holding the door. April’s mouth fell open. May gasped. Bill simply lowered his coffee cup slowly to the table.
“I’m so sorry we’re late.” June seemed almost breathless as she pulled the man forward. “Arthur, these are my sisters, April and May. And my brother-in-law Bill. This,” she leaned against the giant’s arm, “is Arthur. We met on the ship and he’s just come in from Phoenix for the weekend to meet you all.”
April’s eyes were glued to June’s left hand, where a small diamond solitaire sparkled. The ring finger still showed an indent where her wedding band had been and the diamond shone almost magically. April couldn’t look away, while May sat silently staring at Arthur.
Bill stood up politely and extended a hand. “You look like a man who enjoys a good breakfast. Have a seat.”
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