“Where you want it, Netty,” he asked her, then his eyes moved from her to me and he paused.
“Over by the stove,” she replied. “Scarlet this is Diesel. He’s Ethel’s great nephew fresh out of prison. Working here with us for a bit. He’s a good boy though. Known him since he was in diapers.”
Prison? Diesel? Was that seriously his name? I didn’t know what to say. I stood there with my coffee cup still empty and the smile I attempted didn’t even feel close to normal.
He nodded. “Nice to meet you.” He lacked any drawl. He wasn’t from the south. “Ethel’s warning makes sense now,” he added with a grin. He had dimples. Pretty blue eyes. Nice haircut. He looked nothing like a criminal. Not even any tattoos. None that I could see at least. He was wearing short sleeves. Didn’t criminals have arms covered in tattoos? And long hair? And beards? He was probably too young for a beard.
“You might want to water the coffee down,” he said, then nodded toward the pot. I still hadn’t said anything.
“Uh, yeah, okay. Thanks,” I stammered, then with a tight smile I turned back to the coffee and filled my cup anyway forgetting his suggestion. I needed the caffeine anyway.
“Did you find out if the eggs are being delivered before we open or do I need to run to the store?” Diesel asked Netty.
“Go on to the store and get five dozen. They’re claiming they’ll be here by six but I don’t trust Mike. He’s always running late on Sunday’s. Drinks too much on Saturday night,” Netty grumbled. Mike was the dairy and egg delivery guy. And he didn’t just drink too much on Saturday nights. He drank too much all the time. He smelled like whiskey all the time.
I took a sip of the black coffee and it was so thick I almost gagged. Coughing I reached for the milk to weaken it a bit.
“Warned you that was strong,” Diesel said with a chuckle.
It annoyed me. His chuckle. His stupid thick coffee. I wanted Netty’s coffee dammit. Why was he here? We were fine without him.
“I wasn’t aware I’d need a fork to eat it. I normally drink my coffee.” My tone was sharp. I should probably not sound as annoyed as I did. I glanced at Netty who looked amused as she rolled out her biscuits.
“I see you’re a ball of sunshine,” Diesel replied. “I’ll go get those eggs.”
I waited until he walked out the back door before turning around. Netty put the batch of biscuits she was working on in the oven. I had my side work to get to this morning. The flatware needed to be on the tables and the chairs needed to be taken off the tables where they would have been left last night when the place was mopped.
“Don’t sound like you’re happy about your visit back home,” Netty said as she closed the oven and turned her head to look at me. “Going home can be shit sometimes.”
“Ethel sure was hoping you’d have a love match with that good-looking man that came in here. But she watches them soaps every day you know. Woman likes herself a romance.” Netty rolled her eyes, then went back to her bowl to start on another batch.
I just nodded my head in agreement. Ethel would turn on the tiny little television she kept back here at noon every day and start watching her shows. She’d fuss and rant at them like they could hear her. It was entertaining listening to her.
“I didn’t sleep much last night,” I admitted to Netty. I had been rude to Diesel. Netty liked him. He may be an ex-con but he was also Ethel’s family. My attitude had to change.
“We all have those days, weeks, hell, I’ve had those years.” Netty replied.
I started to say more but I let it go. Netty had biscuits to make and I had a dining room to prepare. Taking my nasty thick coffee, I went into the front of the restaurant and got to work getting the chairs down, then wiping the tables. I was about to put the little mason jars of fresh flowers together to go in the center of each table, something we only did on Sundays. Netty brought the flowers in with her.
Before I could get them from the bucket of water I saw them standing in when I got here, Diesel came in with the flowers in his hands.
“Netty said you’d be needing these,” he said without smiling as he sat them down on the nearest table.
“Yes, uh, thanks,” this felt awkward. I was too tired to fix it though.
“Need any help?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No, thank you.”
He turned to leave and I sighed in relief when he stopped and looked back at me. I could see he was about to say something but he thought about it, shook his head, and left without a word. Eventually, I needed to apologize for my rudeness. Just not today.
Ethel’s Cadillac flew into the parking lot going too fast like always. She’d be in here asking me a million questions about my being back so soon and the wedding. I picked up the coffee and took a big gulp.
If I let myself think about Bray Sutton my chest hurt, my eyes stung, and I felt a little lost. Driving away from that town had been easy, a relief. But Bray . . . I didn’t want to love him. We were ruined from the start.
Ethel’s voice carried from the kitchen to where I stood as she went on about not letting “the boy” make any more coffee, then I heard my name. She was fussing loudly as she walked into the dining room. With her hand on her hip she pointed a finger at me.
“You better have a damn good reason for being back here so soon. I told you to go have fun. Not rush back.”
I had the best and worst reason. Both of which I would never tell her.
“Wedding was over, Ethel,” I shrugged. “Dixie left for her honeymoon. I had no one there to stay and visit.”
“That hot young man!” she argued.
“He’s years younger than me. I dated his older brother once,” I didn’t explain that.
She sighed and shook her head. “Shame a girl like you ain’t got no one worth staying around for. Guess it’s Sunday as usual then.”
“Guess so,” I agreed.
“Oh, and you met Diesel. He’ll be here a few weeks maybe months. He needs a job and he needs to get away from Denver. Got himself into a spot of trouble up there. He’s a good kid though. Hard worker.”
I would say that prison was more than a spot of trouble. But I didn’t. I just nodded my head again.
BRENT GOT OFF the ground from his latest attempt at riding Satan. Norton Knolls had got himself a wild mustang and the fools thought they were gonna break him. It had been a year now and they still weren’t able get on the damn thing for longer than a minute. Brent had already been tossed a dozen times. He was gonna end up with a broken bone or dislocated shoulder. Damn idiot.
“That mustang don’t want ridden,” I yelled at him while getting Desoto, a thoroughbred, from his luxurious stable. This was what we were here for. Training race horses that would win races and sell to the highest bidder. Not fucking around with a mustang who had shown no interest in calming down.
“Majestic needs warming up. A new jockey is coming in later to meet Majestic and see if they’re a fit,” I told him. He hadn’t been here when Norton came outside with his list of things he needed done before leaving to go see a horse in Kentucky he was interested in buying.
Brent was scowling when he dusted himself off once he was out of the ring with the wild animal. “Damn beast won’t even give. Not a fucking inch. I swore to Dallas I’d ride him first,” he grumbled.