HL Series: 6-Darlene

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Darlene stood on her balcony, gazing out over the Tuscan village and countryside. She never thought she would get out of her small town to venture across an ocean; but here she was, living a life she had never wanted to hope for.

She had met Derrick later in life – just after she turned fifty. Sure, she had dated lots of men, even married a couple, but they didn’t work out. Since there weren’t any children, she’d had no reason to stay after the passion wore off; but Derrick was different.

She had been waiting tables in a truck stop restaurant when state troopers made him exit the closed highway. He had wanted to wait out the storm, rather than get a hotel room, and this was how he ended up in Darlene’s booth.

At three in the morning, she had already been working for four hours. Her feet ached. A new girl had bumped her earlier and spilled a full plate of food on her, so her uniform was filthy and greasy. Mind-wrestling the drunks had been extra difficult that evening. She could not understand why anyone was even out in that kind of weather. If they needed booze that bad, they should have picked it up before the storm hit and taken it home to drink.

Angry and exhausted, Darlene had tromped toward Derrick with a coffee pot in one hand and her order pad in the other. She hadn’t anything about him until she stood before him at the table. When she looked up, the greyest eyes she’d ever seen stared back at her with a slight twinkle. Startled, she immediately stood taller and tried to smooth her apron, though when looking down, she realized it was futile. She gave him a half-smile.

“What can I get for ya?”

“Well, I guess I’ll have whatever is on the front of your apron.” He laughed, releasing her from her stressed and straight-backed position.

Darlene relaxed and pulled at her apron. “So that’s two eggs over easy, bacon, a side of pancakes and coffee?”

“Sounds delicious.” He handed her the menu and she smiled back at him. “Can you join me?”

Darlene instantly rubbed her hand over her hair. “Me?”

“Yes. It’s a cold night and you look like you could use a cup of coffee.” She nodded, and went to put his order in. Then she grabbed an extra cup for herself and went to sit down with him.

She ran away with him two weeks later and had not been back to her hometown since. That was four years ago.

Looking once again over the Tuscan valley, she had no regrets.

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