The diner was bustling with people. The air felt like it was filled with sugar and coffee. Everytime you breathed in, the smell would cake your lungs, leaving you feeling like you were suffocating.
The booths that were strewn around the diner were almost every color appropriate to a diner. My dad said it added to the appeal. I think he just used it to catch the eyes of the people walking beyond the large glass window with the diner name plastered in large cursive letters, The Clydes Diner.
The small staff of our restaurant made it an… exciting place to work at. The only other waiter and cook were twin brothers who came and went without getting paid so that left most of the work up to my family.
Cars honked outside and people swarmed in and out of buildings. I risked a look out the window at the gray colored sky, threatening rain.
A mother and her younger son sat on the stools across the counter from me and followed my gaze. I filled the mothers coffee and slid the boy an extra donut.
“One of the those days.” The mother said, wrapping both hands around her steaming mug, drawing it’s warth.
“I think we will get another Expelled today.” The little boy marveled. I resisted the urge to laugh. Instead I fixed my silver earring and leaned down the boys height.
“How could you possibly expect another Expelled today?” I asked, staring him dead in the eyes. His gaze didn’t waver from the sky.
“I can just tell.” He turned to look at me, his eyes sparkling. For some reason, a shiver racked my body.
I stood back up and went back to the kitchen where my dad was flipping pancakes. He was tall and had the same red hair as me. He smiled when I walked in. I took off the tiny apron I wore around my waist. It was coated in syrup, coffee stains, cinnamon roll frosting, and other questionable substances.
“I want to go to the beach after the lunch rush.” I pulled myself onto the counter.
“What would be the inspiration behind that, Jen?” He turned off the burner and piled pancakes onto a plate.
“I feel something in the air.” I hoped he didn’t make fun of me. He clicked his tongue a couple times.
“Well… ask Mariah.”
“Agh!” I threw my hands up, “Not that woman! I won’t get out until the lunch rush tomorrow if I ask her!”
“Maybe not.” My dad responded casually. I growled and walked out of the room. I tied my apron back around my waist and continued delivering plates. I weighed the possibility of Mariah letting me get out early.
Then, the door to the manager’s office swung open and out walked the devil herself, Mariah. She was clad in a pristine red skirt and a perfectly unwrinkled blouse. She wrinkled her nose at the diner and turned her gaze to me.
“Ah! My daughter!” She threw herself on me and gave me a large hug. Stepdaughter. I thought angrily.
“Mariah!” I matched with equal enthusiasm, “I was wondering… if I could get off work after the lunch rush.”
Her face darkened and lightning flashed behind her eyes. She hated it when I asked her for anything.
“Please?” I added for effect. Her blouse almost wrinkled at that. She knew that was not sincere. I could see no forming on her lips when my father walked out of the kitchen, smelling worse that I did.
“Of course you can leave, baby!” She hugged me a little too tightly and my father beamed. I resisted the urge to jab Mariah in the ribs.
“Good to see my two main girls getting along!” He flashed a bright smile.
“Of course, Daddy.” I affirmed, innocence painted on my face. Mariah’s eyes darkened again. I remain triumphant!
My father returned to the kitchen, acting like his day had been made. Mariah’s mask of innocence fell away.
“You think you have me wrapped around your perfectly painted little finger, don’t you?” She sneered. Her eyes flashed and I watched a wisp of blonde hair fall from her updo.
“Uh-oh.” I whispered, “Daddy wouldn’t like that, now would he? And if I tell, who do you think he will believe?” I flipped my red hair, showing the silver earring that glinted on my ears.
“Oops. I have a job to do.” I strutted away. Mariah may be my fathers wife, but she couldn’t compete with his only daughter. I knew deep down that if he was forced to pick, he would pick Daddy’s Little Princess. I grinned and dropped a plate of flapjacks in front of a women.
“Can I get you anything else?” I asked, actual cheer in my voice.
“Syrup would be wonderful. Thank you.” I nodded and rushed back to the kitchen before returning to the table.
“Strange weather today.” The women stated, watching the clouds outside. I handed her the syrup.
“You aren’t the only one to tell me that today.” I responded, refilling her coffee. She laughed and handed me a tip. I smiled graciously and rushed back.
The lunch rush had me exhausted, but it came to the end of my shift and I was out the door by three o’clock. I threw my apron on the hook and changed into a comfortable pair of shorts and shirt. I grabbed my coat and I was out the door.
The outside world was quiet aside from the cars rolling down the street. I took a sharp left and jogged down the alley between the diner and an office building. The alley sloped downhill before leveling out at the main road. I continued across the street, down the sidewalk, and out to the boardwalk which was relatively crowded for the weather.
I quickly sat down on a bench and watched the ocean. There was nothing visible for miles. Surfers rode monstrous waves into the shore and children searched for shells on the shoreline.
I think we will get another Expelled today. I thought about the boy. Hoping for a new person to appear on the horizon, passed out on a raft ready to be swept up by a family. Memory gone.
Many of them had marks on their wrists and people thought they were from a undeveloped island hundreds of miles away. Sent to us because of the danger of living in their homeland.
I sighed. Nothing seemed different. It was just a rainy day in the middle of April. I don’t know what I expected. I felt a drop of rain hit my forehead. I pulled on my coat and started the trek back to the diner. Then I heard the shouting.