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The Diner: Edna

“Youth is wasted on the young.” — George Bernard Shaw

        Dressed in her Sunday best, she sits alone in the booth next to the window.

         She watchs the morning sun climb slowly over the tops of the snow-laden trees; the bright, blue sky giving the illusion of warmth. Consequently, the soft morning light draws back the lines in her face, and her skin is delicate and translucent like paper. For a moment she is a vision of the woman she used to be, and yet when she bows her head in prayer, the shadows mark the trials of her years.

        She smooths out a wrinkle in her navy-blue dress, and adjusting herself in the booth, lay a paper napkin neatly in her lap. Then, clasping the cup of tea in front of her with both hands, lifts it carefully to her lips and sips it gently. Seemingly content, she surveys the room around her and smiles quietly as if she knows these unfamiliar faces.

        Christa is sitting at the counter preparing menus for the Sunday rush. The bus boy is joking with the cook through the serving window. On the far end of the counter sits a lone man browsing the Sunday paper over coffee while on the far side of the diner a booth is occupied by a young couple who had stepped in from a night on the town.

        The bell above the front door rings and in steps a middle-aged couple. The man has a paper under one arm and his wife, still clutching a church bulletin, clings to the other arm for warmth. They stamp the snow from their shoes and shaking the chill from their shoulders, the man looks for a table.

        “John. Dixie. Good morning!” Christa smiles, rising quickly. “Will you be having coffee?” Of course they will, she thinks, and snatchs the pot from the burner.

         “Yes, Christa, coffee will be fine,” John replies. “Thank you.”

        “Here,” she says politely. “I have a table for you right over here.”

        “Very good.” Says John, and stepping into the aisle, they pass the elderly woman’s table.

         “Why, good morning Edna,” says John leaning forward to greet her. “How are you today? You’re looking awfully fashionable this morning.” He smiles.

        The woman looks up at him blankly and then smiles back.

        “Why yes. Yes, it is. It’s a beautiful day. It’s good to see you, Roy.”

        “Yes—well—as I was saying—you look quite becoming this moring.”

        The woman pauses again as if searching her mind for a thought.

         “Oh my. Yes, it is quite smart isn’t it?” She says suddenly, brushing down the collar. “This is my Easter dress.” She continues.  “I wear it every Easter Sunday. Will you be staying for dinner, Roy?” She asks. “Mother has made a fine ham.”

        John looks to Christa, who is waiting eagerly at the next table and yet he is unsure how to escape this awkward converstation. Christa smiles empathetically and acknowledges John’s uneasiness with downward glance of her eyes. Edna is one of her regulars. She comes in early every Sunday moring dressed to the nines, and yet she does little more than have the same up of tea and toast as she stares out the window.

        After a deliberating pause, John explains. “No, Edna, I won’t be staying for dinner. I have to help Father in the field this afternoon.”

        Once again the woman pauses as if searching her thoughts.

        “Oh dear,” she says sadly. “That is a shame. Mother does make a fine ham.” She pauses, and then asks hopfully. “Will you still be coming to visit me next Saturday?”

        “Of course, darling,” John smiles, and taking her hand continues, “I am very much looking forward to the pleasure of  your company. Will eight o’clock be okay?”

        This time the woman pipes right up.

         “Oh dear yes, Roy. Eight o’clock will be fine.” She blushes. “You’re such a gentlemen. It’s no wonder mother and father like you over the other boys.”

        She waves him off with a smile.

        Apparettly they have reached a kind of closure to the conversation, and John and Dixie go on to be seated in their booth.

        Christa lays out the menus and explains the lunch specials.

        The woman’s eyes wander around the diner for a moment, and then she returns her attention to the window and the dogwoods, their white blossoms trembling in the warmth of the wind. Father is tending to the apple trees in the orchard while mother is hanging whites on the clothesline. She can see herself barefoot in the garden of her youth picking flowers for a soon-to-be gentlemen caller. Laughter echoes as the morning light draws back the lines in her face. Her skin is delicate and translucent like paper.

        For a moment she is a vision of the woman she used to be, and yet when she bows her head in prayer, the shadows mark the trials of her years.