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Tom's Diner

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Her train’s comin’ soon.

She’s finding it hard to give a shit about that.

Boss has had her working graveyard on Tuesdays for two months now, when she knows she picks up a morning shift. So now not only is the pay shit, her sleep schedules fucked. It throws her whole week off. The only good part is the high rises and museums she’s paid to walk around in, they’re blissfully devoid of assholes. Not like the rich people parties she gets assigned. They tend to go all night, get real noisy when the champagne starts flowing.

Except for two weeks back. She’d drowned out everything else.

She’s not a superstitious person but ever since that night it hasn’t stopped raining.

Outside the old corner diner she’s taken cover in, with cracked pleather bar stools, hazy vinyl counters, and the general nostalgic ambiance, it’s pouring buckets. Helps buffer the din of morning rush hour not three yards away.

She’s picked out a prime spot, dead center, on one of those ugly stools, got her elbows propped up on said hazy counters, and angles today’s paper under a mix of dim yellowed overheads and too bright orange neon. The diner’s not too busy. The kind of quiet not quiet where utensils clatter but the few people that are in here aren’t talking, all in the same half asleep don’t-fuck-with-me-I’m-still-on-my-first-cup state of mind. She’s in good company.

The man behind the counter–Tom, could be Tom, making it his diner–ambles over to top off her mug. Except he doesn’t, only getting there half-way. When she levers an exceedingly patient eyebrow at him, she notes he’s focused on something behind her. Over her shoulder she catches a woman out the window as she hurriedly shoulders her way inside, shaking water all over the place with her umbrella.

Just when she thinks the big guy might be about to give this chick a piece of his mind for ruining his floors, he calls out to her, a lot friendlier than she was expecting.

“It’s always nice to see you.”

It’s said with maybe a bite of sarcasm but doesn’t take away from any of the earnestness of it. He means every word. When the woman runs up to kiss him hello, any complaint dies on Vi’s lips and she has to look away.

She pours milk into her cup, tries not to think of ivory skin over sharp cheeks, chill bitten from the rooftop winds, Vi’s jacket on her shoulders.

She snaps open the paper with too much force, attempting to dig into the article about some celeb she doesn’t know kicking it the other day. Every single bit of text blurs to the gentle greetings in the background.

Two Tuesdays ago she’d caught Vi pinching a few horderves. Vi had bashfully confessed to the theft of a handful of cheese cubes as this clever beautiful skyscraper had teasingly confronted her. She’d asked if she’d had anything to eat all night. Vi told her the truth.

The woman had boldly taken an entire charcuterie tray and walked off, beckoning her over with a tilt of her head and a look from under those long lashes.

Vi would’ve followed her anywhere. They’d settled for a penthouse’s balcony. Private. Quiet enough for a conversation.

They’d talked for three hours straight. Vi had fallen for her in the first two.

Close to the fourth hour a voice had called for her. For Caitlyn, the pretty lawyer, who is also into women, who's here with a friend but hates the noise and small talk, whose dad is a surgeon and whose mom works for the chamber of commerce, who likes mystery novels and hates figs, who taps aimless rhythms with her fingers when she talks, whose got eyes she could drown in, who so fiercely wants to change the world and all the drive to do so. That Caitlyn. The same woman who’d pressed cool hands into hers and told her to not go anywhere.

Caitlyn had walked back into the crowd and the guy who hired them walked in and told her to pack up for the evening. She’d put up an argument, tried to loiter around, catch her eye but Mylo had dragged her out before they called the cops.

Vi had let her get away. No way to reach out, no contact info exchanged, she’ll never see her again. It’s been raining ever since.

She’s gonna miss her train.

She polishes off her shitty half-empty coffee, setting it down with too harsh a noise. Her apology is the tenner she slides across the bar to Tom, who gives her a cheerful nod. She attempts briefly to twist her lips out of a scowl, gives up, and turns around.

And sees her.

For a split second she thinks she’s looking right at her until she sees Caitlyn smoothing her pencil skirt down, the lack of recognition in her eyes. Her reflection. Caitlyn doesn’t see her.

Vi stares, heart thundering like a storm. Caitlyn continues to fuss, mouth pulled into a delicate frown, shoulders sloping downward. Something in her reflection dissatisfies her–Vi can’t imagine what–as Caitlyn sweeps a long strand of perfectly even hair behind her ear, chest rising and falling in a sigh.

Then Caitlyn starts to walk away.

Vi bolts after her.

She explodes out of the diner and there's enough sudden loud movement nearby to make Caitlyn turn around only a few paces down the walk. Vi’s panting, not from exertion. Caitlyn's eyes go wide with recognition. Then amazement slowly creeps across her face, a soft disbelieving smile. She must be wearing the exact same look.

How do you tell someone you’ve only met once that you’ve missed the sound of their voice? That she knows, even though this is only the second time, that it's always going to be nice to see her?

As Vi stands there gawking at her, wondering after the right words that she can’t quite catch up to, Caitlyn quickly steps forward. She puts them pointed toe to scuffed boot, under the protection of her umbrella; she hadn’t even noticed. Those eyes never leave hers. Vi realizes she doesn’t have to say anything, Caitlyn already knows.

Distant cathedral bells ring, over the din of traffic, the patter of rain. Caitlyn drowns out everything.

She misses her train.