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Part III – Love Paints the Way

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      “Becca! Becca!” The voice came from the end of the line. She and Paul both turned to see who it was. It was her best childhood friend Gina, waving at her – while trying to hold her wiggly, twin boys’ hands. 

     “Can you put your groceries on the conveyor, Miss?” The clerk was ready for her to check out. Relief washed over her as she reached into her cart. 

     “Oh, yes, of course!” Rebecca said, while waving back at Gina. Saved! When she was finished loading her groceries on the belt, she turned to Paul. “It certainly was great to run into you! I’m not sure how long I will be in town yet, as I have some plans for New Year’s back in Boston.“ She gave Paula a small smile.

     “Oh, well I understand. It is a busy time of year too.” Paul squinted his eyes, studying her and he couldn’t help but notice how nervous she appeared.

     Reaching for her credit card to pay, she continued her story, “Unfortunately, I already made plans with Gina back there after this. So I have to say no to the coffee, but thank you anyway. I’ll try to look you up once I know when I will officially be heading back and maybe we can squeeze in a coffee date then!” She felt her face flush with the lie and swallowed the lump of guilt, as she swiped her card to pay. After she was done, she looked back at Paul with a big smile. “Again, so good to see you!” She leaned in and gave him a big hug.

     “Good to see you too, Becca. I hope we can catch up before you leave again.” Paul stared at her and his voice was a little quieter. He was concerned. Something about her didn’t seem like the old Rebecca.

     What he didn’t realize was how accurate his intuition was.

     Rebecca waited until Gina bought her groceries and they headed out. The winter storm was already sprinkling a light snow on the cars. Grass and sidewalks beginning to be blanketed with white snow. 

     “Wow! Already starting! I better get this stuff to the diner! Mom said this is one of the busiest years in a long time!”

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     “Is it? We were going to drop the groceries at home and head over. I can’t miss the annual pancake breakfast too! I’ll see you in a little while!” Gina waved and the three of them headed to their car.

Christmas Eve

     Rebecca made a quick stop at the house and unloaded groceries for dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the next day. She had picked up some extra things at the store and stocked them to bundle down during the storm. Thirty minutes later, she walked in the front door of the diner. It was still so packed, that families were lined inside by the door, waiting for a table.

     “Excuse me! Hi everyone! Oh hey, Patty!” Rebecca greeted Patty, who was half standing on her table to wave at her.

     Inching her way to the kitchen, she pushed through the door and heard a crash. A pan hit the floor and the crash could be heard above the loud voices coming from the dining room. Everyone became silent for a moment before carrying on with their conversations. Jack came out from behind the stovetops, shaking his hand in obvious pain.

     “Dad? You okay over there?” Rebecca set the groceries down and went over to see what happened.

     “Hey Becca, yeah I’m just so busy that I forgot to turn the pan away from the flames with an oven mit. Does it look like it’s slowing down out there?” he looked hopeful.

     “Not one single bit. In fact, there are still about five groups waiting for tables.” Rebecca began to unpack the groceries. “Good thing I got double of what Mom asked for!”

     Cindy came flying through the door, with relief seeing that Becca was finally there with the cinnamon.

     “Becca! Thank goodness! The order for my cinnamon roll pancakes are coming in non-stop! I had enough to squeeze out some for the last table, but four more orders behind it would be pretty upset if you didn’t get here just now!” 

     Cindy grabbed the cinnamon and flour and as she rolled her sleeves up, Rebecca stood back in amazement watching her mom get to work. Her mom loved working in the kitchen. For a minute, she watched both her parents working tirelessly side-by-side, not speaking a single word to each other, yet they both maneuvered flawlessly around each other as if they were dancing.

      “You two are such a pair at this! I’m always so proud whenever I am home and watching this diner kick butt, just like it has since the day you bought it!”

     Jack glanced up and smiled in response, while Cindy couldn’t see past her pancake mission to say anything except to start barking orders.

     “Becca, I need you to get out there and keep things flowing while I whip up these pancakes. Tables 5, 14 and 19 need refills, coffee on all three tables and 4 OJ’s. They’ll tell you what they ordered, just bring it all on the tray. Table 3 is ready to check out and after that, swing through all the tables and see if anyone else is done. Get Bobby to bus the table that is leaving asap. He was out bringing the trash outside when I came in.” Cindy didn’t look up once while she listed off what to do.

     Rebecca laughed. “Yes ma’am!”  Even though she was teasing her mom, she was also proud because she was just like her and every time she was here, she was reminded where her work ethic came from!

     Four hours later, the three of them slumped in an empty booth and waved goodbye to the last of their customers. The snow was coming down heavier now and the grass was completely covered. 

     “Go on home, Becca, while the roads are still safe. Your mom and I will handle closing up. Bobby did a great job keeping the dishes going and there really isn’t much left to load for the final wash.” Jack looked at her with concern.

008: Push Past the Yes

Saying No

     An hour later, Rebecca let herself into the house and Abby came bolting towards her wagging her tail. Her parents left her home for this special pancake breakfast, knowing how packed it was going to be. She didn’t do as well in larger crowds and new faces. Abby might have scared them away with her barks.

     “Hey girl, you must need to go outside.” She barely got the door opened, as Abby practically knocked her down to get outside. She laughed watching her jump around in the covered grass, like a little kid in the first snow of the year.

     When Abby came in, Rebecca headed upstairs to take a hot shower. Her shirt had syrup on it, sweat was dried on her back and her muscles ached from carrying too many heavy trays. She forgot how much work waitressing was! Or maybe it was because she was a teenager when she did this regularly. When she finished, the steamy bathroom made it hard for her to see. The front door slammed below and her parents voices filled the silence. She was thankful they were home because the storm had picked up even more, along with the winds. Lights were already flickering and she was thankful that Jack had installed a brand new generator a few winters before. It certainly came in handy for storms like this one. 

     Rebecca dressed in some comfortable clothes and went downstairs to make tea. Christmas movies were surely on and all she wanted to do was relax by a fire, put a heavy throw over her shoulders and watch them. There is nothing more soothing than the feeling of being hugged by a cozy blanket! Her parents were in the kitchen, looking just as tired as she was.

     “I think we made a month’s earnings in one morning! I know we have five days off, but I am already tired thinking about our New Year’s Eve party we have to do. Is it too late to cancel that?” Jack said, laughing, but Rebecca knew he was half serious. Cindy gave him a look as if to warn him to not even try her with that.

     “Oh sure, Jack. With nearly thirty groups who have given their rsvp… you think we can cancel?! And we paid for the band. I am too exhausted to even joke about that right now.”

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     Cindy turned to face Rebecca with a smile, “Hi honey, thanks for your help today. I am going to take a hot shower before the power cuts out, which will most likely be soon. Our car nearly blew off the mountain on the way home! Jack before you go up, can you get a fire started?”

     “Actually, I need to head to garage to chop some more wood anyway, so I’ll be up in a bit.”

     Rebecca made some tea, sank into the couch and scrolled through the movies. She settled on one and looked at her phone messages for the first time in hours. She had a voicemail from work. Why was work calling her on Christmas Eve? Feeling quite annoyed and surprised that her boss was even in the office, she debated about whether to listen to it. But she knew it would bother her if she didn’t. So she pressed on her voicemail.

     “Hey Becca, it’s Jeff. Listen, I know it is Christmas Eve and you’re on vacation, but if you can give me a quick call back, I would appreciate it. It’s a little after 1 pm and I’ll be here until about 3. Thanks!”

     Rebecca glanced at the time and saw that it was almost 4 p.m. Hesitating, she wasn’t sure what to do. Anger started to bubble up because she shouldn’t have to call him back. She was on vacation and it was Christmas. However, like she normally does, she ignored the anger and gave in to the guilt and called him back. It went to his voicemail and she left a message and stopped herself before she was about to apologize for missing his call. She could at least show some sort of boundary. After all, why should she be sorry? It is her vacation and she is home in New Hampshire – there is no need to explain where she was. Just as she was feeling more irritated and curious as to why he called her, she saw a text from him as well. 

     Hey, just left you a voicemail. Can you give a call when you get a chance today? If it is after 3, just call my cell.

     Seriously? How rude of him to be so pushy. What could he possibly need? Rebecca’s mind began to cycle all the reasons why he could have called her. Her annoyance finally turn to full anger. 

     Hi Jeff, I just called the office and I

No! She stopped herself from finishing the text. She’ll call him after Christmas. She would blame it on the storm and bad reception and…

     …just finished helping my parents at their diner. I am free anytime to talk now.

She sent the text back anyway. So much for boundaries.

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008: Push Past the Yes
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