Karen slid into the diner's red vinyl booth. The smells in the air caused a battle of memories in her mind. Her father used to bring her to show off his little princess to his cronies. She loved the spinning stools at the counter. Those happy memories faded when she started waiting tables here. When she was a little girl the diner meant time with daddy—the smell of apple pie and cocoa. As an adult it meant tiny burns on her fingers, sore feet, and the smell of bacon grease and stale cigarettes.
“This place hasn't changed a bit,” Danny said. “Mum brought me here for frappes to celebrate when I was a kid. It seemed, I don't know, grander then.”
“It did. It was a treat to come here with my Dad. When I started working here it became something else.”
“I had forgotten you worked here. I'm sorry. Maybe we should have gone somewhere else.”
“It's fine. Nothing else is open this time of night. Besides, it's nice to remember that it once was special.”
“You still manage to find the good in everything. Even when you were a kid, you always found something good about every situation.”
Karen brushed aside the compliment. What he saw as a strength she often wondered if it was herself being naïve.
“I remember you Danny you constantly fighting. It’s strange to see you on the path to Holy Orders.”
“What do you remember about my fights?'
The neighborhood had always thought of Danny as a troublemaker. But Karen could only remember the time he chased off the boys who were teasing her. She could picture his freckled face turning red and his root beer brown eyes looking angry and sorrowful.
“I'll never forget the day Billy Smith and his gang were teasing me. They said something about my dad. They said it was my fault...”
“I was weeding my mother's garden when I overheard that. I always hated bullies,” Danny said. “I'm studying for the priesthood. I know now I'm not supposed to hate...”
“Thank you,” Karen said. “I didn't say it then. I was scared and confused. They never bothered me again after that.”
“I broke Billy's nose. I just meant to make him back off, but I snapped. My mother made me go to confession.”
“He's a cop now.”
“Billy? I know. I went to the police academy with him.”
“What? When did this happen?”
“I didn't stay for long. I went in thinking I could serve Justice. I thought I could make a career out of standing up for the little guy. But it was all the same guys I used to see pushing everyone else around when we were kids. Only now they'd be wearing badges.”
“So I got a job and worked my way through Boston College. I found another way to serve. What about you Karen? I never thought you'd still be here.”
Her face changed at that. A mask went over the face Danny remembered from childhood.
“I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong?”
She shook her head, “It's okay. I thought things would be different. I'm only twenty-two. Maybe things will be different someday. Or maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.”
I’m linking up for the first time with Master Class over at Sinistrial Scribblings. Our prompt for this week was to end our story with the final line from Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes, “Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” It’s also an answer to Write on Edge’s prompt this week which asked us to be inspired by the sense of smell as well as the word “elixir”. If you’re new to Karen’s story, you can read more here.