Trying desperately to avoid being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic swish swish of the wiper blades, Pamela began to wonder, again, whether this trip shouldn't have been put off until tomorrow. No matter how many times her mom told her that it was just a routine procedure, Pamela had this funny feeling that there was nothing routine about it. So, after only a few minutes thought, she grabbed what she needed and headed off into the rainy, Ohio night.
Approaching Akron with no sign that the rain will let up anytime soon, Pamela decides to pull into the truck stop ahead. "Maybe", she thinks, "I'll get lucky and the diner will still be open and I can get a cup of coffee." Pulling into the well worn parking lot, it appears that Pamela's luck is with her. Although empty, it does indeed look like the diner is still open.
After carefully parking her car as close as she can get to the door, Pamela sprints to the diner door in a vain attempt to avoid most of the rain. Practically diving into the diner, Pamela is greeted by the inviting warmth. "Hey hon!" calls the waitress cheerfully. "Dreadful night isn't it?"
"Tell me about it!" Pamela says breathlessly. "You guys are open, right?"
"Of course!" the waitress replies. "24 hours, even on Christmas! The name's Flo. Grab a spot anywhere you want. I'll grab ya a menu and be over in a sec."
"Thanks!" Pamela calls as she slides into a booth near the register. Looking around, she sees that, while clean and tidy, there isn't much remarkable about the place. Just your typical roadside diner.
"Hear you go dear," Flo says returning with the menu. "Can I get you something to start with?"
"Just a cup of coffee," Pamela replies while trying to shake the last of the rain from her hair.
"Sure thing," Flo calls over her shoulder. "Leaded or unleaded?"
"Leaded!" Pamela chuckles. "Haven't heard that term in quite a while!"
"Well, we are pretty old fashioned here!" Flo says chipperly, returning with the coffee. "What brings you out at this time of night?"
"Just passing through and need a bit of a recharge," Pamela says with a nod of thanks. She explains to Flo about the issues with her mother while giving the menu a once over.
"Oh honey," Flo says empathetically. "Sorry to hear that. I'll get this over to the cook."
As she casually flicks the ticket to the cook who is leaning through the service window, Flo calls to Pamela, "Care to talk about it some?"
Even though the last thing Pamela wants to do is air her problems to a complete stranger, she does that the entire time. The odd thing about it is, since her dad passed away several years ago, Pamela has had such a hard time talking even to her close friends about her feelings. Now, sitting in this little roadside truck stop, talking to someone she has never met before, she finds herself pouring out emotions she never knew she had.
Dabbing up the last bit of egg yolk with the last scrap of toast crust, Pamela turns to Flo and says, "Thanks a lot. I guess I've been meaning to get that off my mind for quite some time."
"Oh, don't you worry dear," Flo replies sweetly. "We don't often get customers this late during the week. Well, except for the long haul guys, and I spend most of the time trying too keep their hands off of me!"
Getting up with a long needed stretch, Pamela says, "How much do I owe you?"
"Never mind dear," Flo says. "It's on me. Like I said, it was nice to have someone to talk to for a bit."
"Really?" Pamela asks incredulously. "No, I got to give you something!"
"No really," Flo insists. "Go see your mom. She needs to see you."
With a wave to the cook and a hug of thanks to Flo, Pamela heads back into the monsoon. As she pulls onto the frontage road, Pamela is startled by the sudden appearance of flashing red and blue lights in her rear view mirror. Slightly annoyed, she pulls over and waits for the officer to approach.
As she rolls down her window to talk, the officer gruffly barks, "Please turn off the car miss!"
Complying quickly, Pamela asks, "What is the problem officer?"
"Can you tell me what you were doing back there?" the officer asks sternly.
"I was just getting something to eat and some coffee. I have a long trip ahead of me!" Pamela says innocently.
"Right," the officer replies sarcastically. "Give me another one!"
"No really!" Pamela pleads. "You can even go back and ask Flo!"
"Flo?" the officer replies, significantly less gruff than he was a few seconds ago.
"Yes!" Pamela almost squeaks. "She's the waitress!"
"Miss," the officer replies gently. "That restaurant has been closed for years. Ever since the fire."
Whipping her head around, Pamela notices that the place where she was just minutes ago has, in fact, been shuttered for years. The faded fire scars are still visible even in the dark. "Wha...Who..." Pamela stutters. "What is happening?"
"I think you better come with me miss," the officer says calmly. "We'll get you a room at the motel."
Following the officer numbly, Pamela wonders, did she imagine the whole thing, or did something else happen out here? Although no answers would come on the short drive to the local motel, Pamela did know one thing. Her life had changed in a way she wouldn't have believed just a few hours ago.
Perhaps I'll share some more in the coming days and weeks. Real life is going to get VERY real for me, so I can't make any guarantees. Anyway, I'm sure you were expecting the Wil story. Sorry dear reader, but whether it's actually a legal issue or not, I don't feel comfortable publishing anything, even digitally, that contains a real person without their blessings. Sorry to disappoint!