The Girl in the Corner Booth – Chapter 1

A story inspired by the love of my life on her birthday.  No liver-flavored toothpaste for me.  I’m all about the happy endings.  Spoiler alert – the boy is eventually going to get the girl.  Happy birthday, baby!

I didn’t notice that she was sitting there until she walked past our table.  Jay and I had decided to grab a bite after class and the Perkins was close and had good variety on the menu.  We were just sitting there trying to decide between something from the all day breakfast part of the menu or maybe a burger when the girl walked by.  I think it was the freckles on her legs that first caught my eye.  She was wearing shorts – it was the end of summer after all – but the legs looked like they hadn’t seen the sun at all.  Except for the freckles.  When someone is known for their freckles, it’s usually because they have them on the face or their arms.  Still, they were nice legs, freckles and all.  As I was looking down, it took a moment for me to look up and see the rest of the girl.  By the time I looked, she was already past our booth and walking toward the back of the diner.  Probably going to the bathroom.  And she was singing a song under her breath.  What was that song?  Seems like it was something by Hootie.

Jay looked up from his menu in time to see me turning my head to watch the girl as she walked by.  “Huh,” he said.

I turned back to Jay.  “What?”

“Grabbed your attention, did she?  When she comes back, you should say hi.”

He was just giving me a hard time at this point, because he knew that there was no way I would say anything.  I am pathologically incapable of talking to girls.  In that way.  His smile gave it away.

“Shut up,” I said and turned back to my menu.

I was zeroing in on the omelettes when I felt a kick against my shin.  “Ow,” I said, as I looked up at Jay.  He looked at me and then looked over my shoulder.  I figured that meant that the girl was coming back, and I was right.  I recognized the melody before I could make out the words she was singing.  Well, not exactly singing.  She was doing that hum/sing thing some people do.  You  know people who have a song in their head and they just need to sing it.  But they don’t really want to sing out loud for fear that it will draw attention to their singing.  So, they move in and out of the song.  A little humming and a few words of the song.  I knew what song she was singing, though, because it had been playing in the background when we walked in.  Hold my Hand, by Hootie and the Blowfish.

The girl walked past, doing her thing – smiling and singing.  Now was my chance and Jay’s exaggerated head bob told me that I should say something.  In my head, I was smooth.  I was like, “hey, what’s that song you’re singing?  It’s Hootie, right?”  And then she’d get a little flustered, because she wouldn’t have wanted anyone to notice that she was singing.  And she’d probably turn a little red and smile an embarrassed smile.  But I’d make her feel at ease and say something like, “it was on when we walked in, right?  Anyway, I’m Steve – what’s your name?”

Yeah, so that’s how it went down in my head.  A real meet-cute.  Unfortunately, what actually happened was that I opened my mouth to speak and nothing came out.  And she kept on walking, without even realizing I was there.  She plopped herself down at her booth and went about her business.

“Close your mouth or some flies will land in there,” said Jay with a smirk.

“Whatever.  What are you having?”

He paused.  “Yeah.  You know what I’m having.  Plain hamburger with ketchup.  Fries.  Coke.”  Jay was a big fan of meat.  Not so much for the vegetables, unless you consider fried potatoes to be some sort of vegetable.  “What I’m really having a hard time with is whether to get a chocolate shake too.”

Just then Sarah, our waitress, came to the table and said, “What’re you boys having?”  She wasn’t exactly Flo from Mel’s Diner, but if you were to squint when looking at her, she was in the ballpark.  Blonde hair, longish but pulled up off her ears.  Pair of glasses on the end of her nose.  Yellow and white Perkins uniform with the skirt just above the knees.  Her demeanor was no-nonsense though.  She wasn’t in the mood for chit chat.  Jay gave his order, with chocolate shake, of course, and I opted for the western omelette with salsa and extra sour cream, hash browns and a lemonade.

Our orders successfully submitted, Jay turned to his phone to scroll through some emails or texts.  I went to pick up my phone and do the same when I noticed a guy and girl come in to the restaurant and head toward the girl’s booth.  My attention drawn, I noted what the girl was doing.  She was sitting in the big corner booth with books and papers strewn all over the table.  It was one of those booths that was meant to accommodate a party of 5 or more.  Round table with the kind of circular bench you have to slide around on to get to the back.  And she was sitting there with her back to the corner of the seating area, head down writing on a notebook.  She’d look at one of the books – a textbook of some sort I’d guess – then write a little in the notebook.  So, she’s doing homework or taking notes for some class, I figured.

The couple stopped at the girl’s table and the girl looked up and smiled.  Nice smile.  Friendly.  Welcoming.  Kind of smile I could get used to having sent in my direction.  And the girl was pretty.  Short brownish hair.  The kind of color my mom always referred to as “dishwater dirt.”  I was usually a guy who preferred long hair on a girl, but with this girl it was…different.  Good.  Like, long or short hair, you were drawn to the smile.  Her outfit was typical summer casual.  She was wearing a pink t-shirt with one of those “southern charm” designs and sayings, tan short and sandals.  She had minimal makeup.  Just enough so that you didn’t think about it.

I noted the guy and girl who came into the restaurant to chat with the girl.  Seemed like just friends.  With each other and with the girl.  They plopped down at the table and chatted a short while.  Then the guy dropped a book on the table, they said their goodbyes and the two of them left the restaurant.

About that time, our food came and Jay and I started to eat and chat about the day’s events.  Jay seemed to like his burger and my omelette was fine.  Nothing special, but it filled my belly I guess.  I’m sure I wasn’t a terribly great lunch companion for Jay that day, but he didn’t say anything, staying focused on his Twitter feed.  I found my attention more and more being drawn to the girl in the booth.  A couple of times, Sarah the waitress went over to the girl’s table and brought her a drink refill.  One time the girl got up and left the booth to go outside to her car.  I knew she wasn’t leaving for good, because she left all of her books and papers strewn all over the table.  Still, I was relieved when I saw her come back in with a bag or purse of some sort.  A couple of times, the girl would just sit up and stop writing when a song she liked would come on.  One of the songs I didn’t recognize.  Some bro country thing with remarkably forgettable lyrics and a bland melody.  Another time it was Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard.  She definitely likes 80s music, which is no bad thing in my book.

Jay, being the perceptive fellow that he is, started to try and encourage me to talk to the girl.  “You’re obviously smitten with the girl, you should go over and say hi.”  He knew there was little to no chance I would actually do something like that, but he reveled in teasing me about my lack of game when it comes to the ladies.

“I don’t know if smitten is the word.  And, what am I going to do?  Just walk up to the table and start to talk to her?  This is a Perkins for crying out loud.  Not some bar where you pick up girls.  And, who am I kidding, I’ve never picked up a girl in my life.”

And that was true.  I’d had a few girls take interest in high school and college.  I’ve been told on occasion that I’m cute and have nice eyes.  I’m tall enough at six feet, but not the kind of guy over whom girls swoon.  At the end of the day, the story is always the same.  I’m a super shy guy who is petrified to initiate any kind of communication with a girl.  When I’ve ended up with girls, it’s always a more assertive girl who can take the first step with me.  To break the ice.  I do fine once the ice is broken.  Until that point, though, I’m just pathetic.

Still, with Jay’s barrage of encouragement, I start to psych myself up.  I figure, she’s getting these drink refills, so she’s going to have to come by our table and go to the bathroom again.  And when she does that, I just need to be a man and say hi.  It’s a short word.  I can do it.

But then we finish our meal and she hasn’t budged.  Jay’s got to go pick up his brother and take him to karate, so we can’t just hunker down and wait forever.  I keep looking up, hoping she’ll start to come our way.  Finally, I notice the girl start to slide around the bench as if she is going to get up.  At the same time, out of the corner of my eye, I see Sarah the waitress coming our way.  “Oh, no!” I think.

“What’s the opposite of perfect timing?” I mumble.

Jay looks up from his phone and says, “huh?”  Just then Sarah comes to the table with the check.  “No hurry, guys.  Whenever you’re ready.”

I think I’m in the clear.  Sarah is going to move away and I’ll have my opportunity to say “hi” to the girl.  But then, Sarah glances down at my shirt and says, “You’re a Big Bang Theory fan, huh. I really love that show.  Sheldon is the best.”  I do a double take because I have no idea at first what she’s talking about.  I look down at my shirt.  It’s my red t-shirt with the logo of the hero from the 70s TV show – Greatest American Hero.

Sarah continues, “That’s one of the t-shirts that Sheldon wears on the show, right?”

I mumble, “Yeah, it’s the Greatest American Hero.  I think Sheldon wore it.  I’m not sure where I got it though.”

“I thought so.  Cool shirt.  Anyway, whenever you guys are ready.  No hurry.”

Of course, as this exchange is going on, I see the girl head on in the direction of the bathroom.  Since Sarah the waitress is standing next to our table and talking to me about her love of nerd culture situation comedies, the girl has go out around another set of tables to get to the bathroom.  Missed opportunity.

But, hey, I’ll have my chance when she comes back by.  Jay is starting to get a little anxious and I can tell that he’s ready to head out.  I stall him a couple of minutes and see that the girl is coming.  I start to smile and put the words together in my head when I see Jay’s smile fade.  I look over my shoulder and see the girl heading to the counter to talk to Sarah the waitress.  She’s not going to come by the table.  Missed opportunity #2.

“Ah well, man.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.  We gotta get out of here.”

“Yeah.  I guess I missed my chance.  Let’s go.”

My stupid brain starts to interject.  Hey, why don’t you slow roll it.  Maybe you’ll bump into her on the way out of the restaurant.  Maybe she’ll drop something and you can gallantly pick it up and hand it to her.  But the girl seems quite content chatting with Sarah the waitress.  There’s only so slow you can roll without being too obvious.  So, out the door we go.

We look around to find Jay’s hand me down red Toyota Camry that he got from his mom when she decided she just had to have a brand new metallic blue Highlander.  Yeah, they’re one of those families that sticks with the same brand of car no matter how many cars they have.  They proudly proclaim their Toyota allegiance to anyone who will listen. We start to head out into the parking lot when I hear, “hey” from behind me.  My heart leaps into my throat.  If it’s the girl, I’m sure I’m not going to be able to speak.  I turn around and it’s her.

Jay smirks and says, “I’ll meet you at the car,” and walks away.

The girl pauses, looking at Jay as he walks away and says, “Sarah was cleaning your table and found a phone.  It’s yours, right?”

A mix of relief at not losing yet another phone and anxiety about talking to this cute girl rushes over me. “Oh.  yeah.  Thanks very much.”

She smiles her smile. “It’s no problem whatsoever.  I was bringing my bag out to my car,” as she points in the direction of a blue Mustang at the far end of the parking lot, “and I told her I’d run it out to you.”

I am just dazed. I think I say, “that’s so nice of you.  Thank you.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Nice dog by the way.”  She gestures at the phone.

For the second time in an hour, I’m taken a little aback.  I must have that confused look on my face again, because then the girl says, “On your lock screen.  Cute dog.”

“Oh, yeah.  That’s Indi.”

The girl smiles again.  “Is that from the movie?  We named the dog Indiana? Right?”

Yep.  This girl is the one.  She can quote from my favorite movie series of all time and all I can do is stand here like an idiot who can’t speak more than three words in front of this girl.  I’m blowing it.  “Yeah, it’s cheesy, I know.  She’s a great dog, though.  Just the best.”

Wow, three sentences in a row.  I’m a regular Don Juan.

“Well, she sure is cute.  Anyway, I’ve got to get back in.  More studying to do.”

She turns and starts to head back to the restaurant.  I hear Jay revving his engine.  Trying to get my attention.  But I am just stuck there, as if my feet are in quicksand, and I watch the girl walk away.  Then she slows, turns and looks over her shoulder, “That is a cool shirt.”  She smirks and looks forward again, all while she’s walking away.  Then she stops and turns around with a twirl and smiles the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and says, “I’m Tabitha, by the way.”  She pauses for a second, turns around, does a quick skip and then she’s gone back into the restaurant.

 

 

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