I stared across the counter at him with steely resolve. He was sitting at his usual table, one hand gripping the edge of the Daily Oklahoman that hid his face from view, the other idly playing with the handle of his cracked coffee mug. He had been a regular at the diner for almost five months. It was time to go for it.
I picked up the coffee pot and sauntered as casually as possible to his table. “Hi, David. How are you doing?”
He looked up from his newspaper, blinking as if emerging from a dimly lit room. “Good morning, Julia. I’m doing well. And you?”
I loved the melodic, romantic way my name rolled off his British tongue. It made my heart race. I told myself to stop being so superficial—I shouldn’t like a guy just because he had an accent. “I’m good,” I managed to gulp out. “Your usual bacon and eggs?”
“Yes, please,” he said. He smiled to reveal two crooked front teeth. They made me want to giggle like a little girl every time I saw them.
“Can I interest you in any toast or hash browns today?” I asked.
“No, not today, thank you,” he replied.
I had told the cook his order as soon as he had walked in the door, and he knew it. I took a deep breath, pretended to top off his coffee, and went off script. “So today is my birthday.”
“Is it? Many happy returns.” His deep-set brown eyes appraised me. “Sixteenth?” he guessed.
A flush of indignation crept up my cheeks. “Twenty-first, actually.” So that explained why he was always speaking down to me. Although I had figured he was only in his late twenties, he must have seen a bigger separation between our ages than I did. Was twenty-one still considered a kid to him? “I have…other…customers…” I stuttered, and bustled off to attend to them.
There were really only two other customers this early in the morning. Mr. Cox and Mr. Sullivan always stopped by for pancakes on their way to work. They were both engrossed in reading the news on their smart phones. David shook his newspaper out as he turned the opinions page. I focused on arranging the baked goods in the cabinet for the lunch crowd.
His order came up a minute later: four slices of crispy bacon and two fried eggs, slightly runny. I placed it in front of him with a clatter.
“Thank you,” he said, and as always, he made a large show of carefully folding his Daily Oklahoman to place next to his plate.
“So, um,” I said, trying to gain back my resolve.
“Yes?” he prompted. “These look delicious, by the way.”
“So a few friends and I are going to a club tonight, to celebrate my birthday. Kind of like a party.” I paused. “I was wondering if you’d like to come. To my birthday party. Sort-of party.”
The steady drizzle of syrup that he had been pouring over his bacon and eggs suddenly left the edge of the plate and came dangerously close to his newspaper. But then he recovered, setting the syrup bottle down and looking up at me with his usual tight smile. “Julia, I appreciate the offer. Were I a different sort, I would be delighted to join you. However, you might be aware of the peculiar fact that I am the most introverted person of my own acquaintance. Therefore, as you would be the only person I previously know at said party, it would be an excruciatingly painful experience for me. And I know it is not your desire to place me in such a situation.”
It took all of my willpower to keep the edges of my mouth from turning down and my eyes to wrinkle in despair. I wanted to whine, “But I want you to come!” but that would do nothing but enforce his belief that I was a child and would look silly and pathetic next to his speech. So I gulped and said, “You’re absolutely right. How silly of me not to think of that. I’m sorry for asking. Enjoy your breakfast.”
I raced back behind the counter to compose myself.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt above. Sadly, you may never find out what happens to David and Julia, but I do have two novels and one short story published and several I plan to publish in the next year and a half.