The Earl of Beaumont

Mama always said I was named after the fourth Earl of Aberdeen, an English mucky muck she learned about in school, but Daddy told me the truth: I was named for some honky tonk friend of hers. Mama’s pal had been a waitress, so I suspect it was fated in the stars that I ended up slinging eggs and pancakes in a diner along the interstate.

Still, I liked the idea of being named for an Earl. Maybe it meant I was destined for bigger things than Beaumont and the Lucky Strike diner. I could be one of those ladies of leisure, the kind who got her nails and hair done all the time. The kind who led an exciting life.

I smoothed the collar of my uniform down and straightened the short pink skirt before heading over to my new table. Handsome guy in a tweed jacket, no tie. His fingers glided along the roughed up vinyl covering the menu.

“Welcome to the Lucky Strike. What can I get for you?”

I pretended I wasn’t checking out his profile – a nice straight nose and some fine lips that would have been more at home on a woman’s face. A bristle of brown scruff on his cheeks and chin took the formal look out of him. He glanced at me, mouth turning up to reveal a dimple at the corner. Eyes the color of a topaz ring Daddy bought me for Christmas once.

“Good morning,” he said, squinting at my nametag. “Aberdeen. Pretty name. Any recommendations?”

“Can’t say that I recommend the red eye gravy — cookie doesn’t have the hang of that yet, but you can’t go wrong with buttermilk hotcakes. Specialty of the house, and I eat them every day for breakfast myself.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I’ll take the hotcakes. And a coffee…black.”

I hustled off, still thinking of that smile of his. Nice dental work – bet he had good insurance. When I got back to his table with the coffee pot, he was still grinning. I flipped the coffee up and poured.

“So, Aberdeen,” he said, “what’s fun to do around here?”

“Oh, well, there’s the bingo hall, and I think a new movie just came to the Cineplex. You just passing through, or you here to stay in Beaumont?”

“Just passing. But I can hang out for a bit. Girl like you – maybe you might go out with me sometime.”

“Could be…you play your cards right, that is.” I pressed my lips together, keeping my own smile hiding behind my teeth. Mama’s voice floated in my head: Don’t show a man you’re interested, honey – gives ‘em dumb ideas.

“Well, Aberdeen from Beaumont, I’m Tony. Tony Ianelli.”

“Tony Ianelli, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” And it was. Most interesting thing to happen to me in a while. This one had promise. “I’ll be out with your hotcakes in a few.”

I refilled the coffee at my other tables, chit-chatting with the customers, but I kept my eye on Mr. Tony Ianelli. His long-fingered hands wrapped around the coffee cup, top lip creeping over the rim when he drank or sucking on his lower one when he didn’t. But I could feel his eyes following as I worked the room, clucking over the latest gossip.

A salesman, I figured. The jacket looked expensive, and his dark hair was carefully styled. Maybe a successful one, whatever he sold. I’d have bought cow manure from him if that was his thing. I scanned the parking lot, trying to guess which car was his. Everything looked familiar but one: a cherry red sports car. Yes, he must have been doing well for himself.

Married? A girlfriend? Maybe. He was smooth, and a man on the road got lonely, but that kind of relationship wasn’t for me. My best friend, Marnie, had carried on for four years with a man who had a wife. He worked for the gas company with Marnie, and she’d told me about sneaking off for sex in the supply closet, in the backseat of his mini-van, in bushes (once). It’d never sounded like fun, but Marnie insisted it was exciting. Not so thrilling when his wife had caught them in his office.

It had been the talk of Beaumont for seven months until Bob Cramer got drunk and set the pizzeria on fire.

“Order up!” cookie yelled.

I balanced the plate on my arm and approached the table, putting an extra sway in my hips. The clink of porcelain on laminate filled the space, and he smiled up at me. He probably had a big house where he held fantastic parties filled with beautiful people. Barbecue pit out back and maybe a pool. Yeah, one of those big kidney-shaped ones.

He picked up a fork. With hands like those, he played the piano. Or maybe painted. Yes, he was an artist. A famous one. He lived in a big city, maybe Philadelphia or Washington, DC, and he had art shows in fancy galleries when he wasn’t on the road.

“Thanks, Aberdeen. This looks real good.”

“Do you need anything else?”

“Company, maybe. You got time to join me?”

“I can hang out for a few until someone needs me.”

“Good enough. You single, Aberdeen?”

“I am. What about you?”

“Yes, indeed. Free as a bird.”

“Guess you have to be, huh? Kind of life you lead? That’s a nice car you got.”

His laugh was something else – rich and full. The sound of money and excitement, I tell you.

“Well, it isn’t mine.”

“It’s not?”

“No, this is what I do for a living, sweet thing. I deliver cars.”

“Oh? Do you own a car dealership or something?”

“Nothing like that. I’m an actor, but I take odd jobs like this to make money.”

“That’s great. Have I seen you in anything? Do you work in soap operas?” Working at the diner, I didn’t get to see many shows, but Marnie taped some of them and let me watch. But an actor! How thrilling. That was just as good as being an artist.

“Oh, no. I haven’t gotten any parts yet. I audition a lot. But I come close a few times. You know that commercial for the dog food, the one with the guy who takes his dog to the beach? I almost got that one.”

“That’s great,” I said. “You must not get out of the city much. Auditions take up a lot of your time, right?”

“The city?”

“Yeah, you must live in New York or something, somewhere close to all the acting stuff.”
“No, I’m from Virginia. Small town, not too different from this.”

“Huh.” His eyes – not the color of that ring. No, they were just plain old brown eyes. Nothing special.

“How about that date later, Aberdeen?”
“I’m sorry, Tony – I got plans tonight. I have to, you know, take my grandma for groceries.”
I walked away, shaking my head. So close. A guy like him – he was cute and all, but not my type.

The bell over the door tinkled, and an older man shuffled through. Not old, just older. It was a lucky day: two strangers, and all in the same hour. This one had a nice-looking face… maybe he was a doctor. I bet he lived in a mansion.

“Welcome to the Lucky Strike. What can I get for you?”

[BIO]: Nicole is a freelance writer and novelist living in Philadelphia. Her debut novel, The Trajectory of Dreams, will be available in March 2013 from Bitingduck Press.

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