The Menu

Andrea hoisted herself onto a stool and leant across the counter. She grabbed a menu from the stack and flipped to the all-day breakfast. She could never decide between pancakes or scrambled eggs in places like this. The Appetite Plate had both, but she wanted one or the other, without the added hassle of hashbrowns and bacon.

The mirror was full of faces. Andrea could hardly see the wallpaper of her childhood bedroom through the collage of relatives crowded behind her. Her own hair took up a third of the space. For some reason she’d thought it would be a good idea to curl it and now she was mildly concerned it had become a safety hazard. Her 5-year old cousin was half drowning in the frizzy mane.

“You look beautiful.” Her mother’s face was pink and the rims of her eyes were red. Not from crying. It was hot inside and out. Nobody ever talked about the sweaty aspect of a Tennessee June wedding.

The bell rang on the diner door as someone entered. Andrea didn’t turn around. She heard footsteps stop short and then continue towards one of the window booths. An elderly couple was having a conversation about the mileage on their RV at a table in the corner. The husband’s back was to her; she could see his neck, sunburnt against the collar of his checked shirt. His hair was a yellowing shade of blonde, patchy and long combed over the baldest places. His wife glanced at Andrea. She held her gaze and the woman looked down and then over her shoulder before refocusing on her husband. Her hair was still brown and fell just below her shoulders. She also wore a checked blouse. Andrea returned to the menu. Pancakes or eggs.

“Makes me think of your wedding day, Alice,” Andrea’s grandmother said. “Was a scorcher too.”

“Kal’s palms were so slick he dropped the rings in the grass, remember?” Andrea watched her mother in the mirror. She pulled at the loose skin around her throat as she spoke.

“That boy was like a grasshopper getting ready to spring, you could see him shaking all the way across town.” Her grandmother wiggled her fingers beside her face and the women laughed. She had the same hands as Andrea’s mother. Their rings were soft and dull and looked like sun on winter branches.

“Who would’ve thought that day would lead to this one?”

A waitress came out of the kitchen balancing two plates and a jug of syrup in one arm and a pot of coffee in the other. She swept her eyes over the room and lingered on Andrea. A pancake slipped towards the edge of one of the plates but the girl caught it without missing a step. She placed them both in front of the elderly couple and topped up their coffee before pulling out her notebook and walking towards Andrea. Eggs or waffles.

“You’d better get to your seats,” Andrea said. “Too hot to keep everyone waiting.”

The women moved away and the room emptied. Andrea could see the reflection of the sharp afternoon sky through her window. A breeze rustled the curtain. Her baby shoes stirred from where they hung and gently knocked against the wall in protest.

“Pretty dress,” the waitress said. “This place has seen a lot, but I’ll bet one of them was never worn in here before.”

“It’s for sale,” Andrea said.

The waitress cocked an eyebrow in a way that only a waitress could.

“What can I get for you?”

“Any chance you do waffles here?”