Very Different From Mom
From Welcome to Keystone Novel 11: Pressure: Chapter 8, Scene 1
Downtown at the Sunset Café, Loretta was currently waiting to give Lorraine her one and only chance to make a new impression as she and her father sat in one of the restaurant’s white-and-yellow-checked booths quietly looking over their menus. “So, Dad,” she finally said, looking up from the pages that advertised the café’s famous burgers and sides after a few minutes that had been filled with nothing but the strains of Sum 41’s “In Too Deep”, which was playing from the sound system, and the din of chatter and utensils clinking against plates that was coming from nearby booths had passed. “When do you think Lorraine is finally going to get here?”
Across the white table from his daughter, Harry sighed. “I don’t know,” he admitted as he closed his menu and looked up at Loretta. “But she’d better show up soon. Because I’m pretty sure that the waitress is going to be back to try to take our orders again in just a few minutes.”
“So what’s going to happen if the waitress does come back before she finally shows up?” asked Loretta. “Are we finally going to order, or are we still going to wait?”
As Loretta’s stomach released an audible rumble, indicating that it was just as impatient to receive a nice juicy cheeseburger along with her usual sides of corn and french fries as she was, Harry gave her a small apologetic smile. “I know you’re hungry, honey,” he said. “And so am I.” He shook his head. “But I really think we should wait. It’s the right thing to do.”
Flopping back in the booth, Loretta crossed her arms over her turtleneck and blew a loose strand of hair that had escaped from her low ponytail off her forehead. “So is Lorraine late like this all the time?” she asked. “Because Mom always says that’s rude, you know. It’s rude to keep people waiting.”
“Yes,” Harry uncomfortably agreed with a nod. “Your mother does believe that, which is why she’s always been very punctual.” He shook his head. “But, honey, one thing you need to go into this dinner knowing is that Lorraine is not your mother. She’s her own person. And in a lot of ways, she’s very different from your mom.”
Suspiciously narrowing her eyes at her father as her heart gave a thump of dread, Loretta asked, “Different how?”
But before Harry had a chance to start describing all of the ways in which his new girlfriend was completely dissimilar to the main woman in Loretta’s life, Lorraine herself finally came wandering up to the table with a friendly grin on her face.
“Hey!” Lorraine enthusiastically greeted Harry as she stopped at the head of the table, tossed her brown leather purse down beside him, and then began to shrug out of her brown corduroy long-sleeve button-down jacket. “Sorry I’m late, but the traffic out there was absolutely horrendous!”
His face relaxing into a relieved expression as the tension that had been escalating between him and his daughter immediately halted, Harry gave Lorraine a reassuring smile and said, “That’s okay. We waited for you.”
“Yeah, but the waitress is coming back soon,” added Loretta as Lorraine tossed her jacket down on top of her purse and then tucked her skirt underneath her legs so that she could slide into the booth beside Loretta’s father. “So if we’re going to order when she gets here, then you’d better pick something to eat fast.”
Upon hearing the unmistakable irritation in Loretta’s voice, Lorraine, who was in the middle of settling into her seat, froze and slowly turned to look at Harry with a frown on her face. “I thought you said she was shy,” she said in a voice that was softer than her usual volume but still not low enough that Loretta couldn’t overhear her. “Not assertive.”
His cheeks heating up with the flush of embarrassment as he realized that the small sin of Lorraine’s lateness had seemingly managed to derail any chances that she and Loretta had of getting along in less than five seconds, Harry awkwardly cleared his throat. “She…she’s not normally like this,” he stammered. “She’s just hungry, that’s all.”
Understandingly nodding, Lorraine turned to Loretta and said, “Well, I’m sorry I kept you waiting, Loretta.” She shook her head. “But the reason I’m late wasn’t just because of traffic. It was actually because of you too.”
Frowning, Loretta, who had dropped her gaze to her lap and started toying with her fingers, looked up and gave Lorraine a confused look. “What do you mean?” she asked.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, Lorraine turned, pushed her jacket aside, and began to unzip her purse. “Your father told me how much you like poetry,” she began as she reached into the bag for something. “So on my way here, I decided to stop at the mall across the street and get you this.”
As Loretta watched, Lorraine pulled a small yellow book, which had the words 50 Famous Nature Poems printed across the front in violet letters along with a picture of a stream that was edged by leafy green trees, from her purse. Then she handed it across the table, an imploring look in her eyes as she did so.
As Loretta hesitantly reached out and took the little book, Harry turned to Lorraine and shook his head. “You didn’t have to do that, Lorraine,” he told her. “Buy her something, I mean.”
But Lorraine just shook her head. “No,” she insisted as she turned to look at Harry. “I did. Because I know the way we first met was horrible for her. And I want her to know how sorry I am about that.” Turning to Loretta, who was now flipping through the poem book, she asked, “So what do you say, Loretta? Do you think you’re ready to start all over again with getting to know each other now?”
But before Loretta had a chance to do anything more than look up and give her father’s eager girlfriend a disbelieving look, their waitress, who had introduced herself as Marina when she had first visited their table, finally came wandering over with a tray that held a glass of water and a glass of soda in hand.
“All right,” said Marina as she stopped at the head of the table and began to unload her tray. “Here are your drinks. So is everyone here ready to order?”
As Marina began to look from one face to another, Lorraine said, “Oh. Oops. I haven’t even looked at the menu yet. So give me a couple of minutes, would you?”
As Lorraine grabbed her father’s menu, flipped it open, and began to scan it, Loretta set the new poem book down on the table, sat back, and crossed her arms again. Well, this is just great, she thought. First we have to wait to order because Lorraine is late. And then I find out that she’s late because she stopped at the mall to find something to bribe me into forgiving her for what happened the first time I ever saw her. She disappointedly shook her head. Dad’s right. She is very different from Mom. And so far, I don’t like any of those differences at all.
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