The all-night diner, famous for it's apple pie made with "real" apples and a favorite for truckers, was quiet at 3 in the morning. Only a few people, your stereotypical older blonde waitress, your slightly overweight greased up cook always with a toothpick in his mouth, and Ted- the only customer in the place who had just sat down by himself.
"Hey honey, what can I get ya?"
"Oh um, coffee. Black," he rubbed his forehead, tired and stressed out. "And um, I don't know- a cheeseburger. Nothing on it."
"You want fries with that?"
"Sure. You guys take credit cards?"
"Yeah, fries is good."
"You just come from a wedding or something? You're too old to be coming from a high school dance, and ain't nobody 'round here comes dressed all nice like that."
"Um, yeah. Wedding. Yeah."
The waitress nervously watched him, saw how stressed out he was. She walked behind the counter, over to the coffee- still using an old drip machine with glass pitchers. Grabbing the brown topped one, she began to walk back to stop at the order window.
"Hey John," she yelled to the cook, "We got an order for a naked cow with cheese and tater fingers."
John quickly walked over to her.
"That's all? Usually I get a much bigger order than that."
"This guy ain't a trucker. Look at 'im. He's got a suit jacket sittin' next to him. Drove up in a nice car."
"Probably just came from a wedding. I think they got that place down the road for weddin's."
"True. I asked him about it, must be somethin' to do with a weddin'. He's so uneasy, though."
"Give him some coffee, I'm sure he'll wake up a little bit."
She walked back over to the table, Ted now holding his head in his two hands, eyes closed, breathing steadily. Julie picked up the coffee mug, waking Ted from whatever he was in.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. You didn't want decaf, did you?"
"Oh uh, no. No. Thank you."
"You need sugar or anything?"
"No thank you."
"Is everything OK, honey? You seem stressed."
"Am I that obvious?"
"If you were any more you'd be an ox in heat."
"Long day," Ted nodded, "That's all."
"All that dancin' at the weddin' huh? Who was it that got married?"
Ted swallowed hard. "My uh..." he struggled to answer, "My friend."
"Best friend? College roommate?"
"Best friend. Definitely."
"Well, you must've been the best man then- no wonder you're so tired."
"I wasn't." Ted sipped his coffee.
"Oh, that's strange. Why wouldn't you be the best man? You think he'd pick you."
"She didn't really have a choice."
It was like a light bulb clicked in her head. She knew exactly what happened. He couldn't look at her, and just sipped his coffee. The only noise the sizzling of the burger in the kitchen.
"Listen kid," she said breaking the silence, "There's plenty of fish in the sea."
"No. Just don't. Please don't."
"You'll find a girl and be happy-"
"Miss, I don't know you. But you're not helping me any."
"Honey if she didn't feel that way towards you-"
"She does. Well, she did." Ted swallowed hard, "I fucked it up. Years ago. And now we're just friends. But there's never been a girl like her since. I thought I could find someone, but I never did."
"No. Because she was the one. I know it sounds crazy, but...when I was younger I had this dream. I was about five years old and I had this recurring dream. It was this girl, beautiful girl, and she was running through a field. This girl was about ten years old, and I had this dream so many times when I was five. Just her running through this field, telling me to come on. Come on, Ted."
He could see the ten year old girl again, looking back at him. The images flashed in his head, her beckoning him to run with her.
"I thought at five years old, this girl is beautiful. I didn't even know what beautiful was, I just knew. I had this dream for months, and then just stopped. I had a few more times after that. Then one day I met Aysha. I was ten. I felt like I had met her so many times before, but I couldn't figure it out."
He sipped his coffee, still remembering the pictures.
"We were best friends and I just remember going to her grandparents house. They had this really big field, and she want to run through it- but I was afraid. My mom told me to be careful, you never know what's out in the country. But she loved it. And she beckoned me. Come on, Ted. Come on. And I realized that I had been dreaming about her. And I ran through that field with her."
His eyes stared straight ahead. He could see his past flash before him.
"She was my first kiss when we were twelve. She was my first date to the dance. She was my first girlfriend. Hell, she was...my first everything. Before her I was a shy little kid, afraid of the world. With her, I wasn't afraid of anything."
Julie stood there, waiting for more. Silence.
"So what happened?" she asked, too eager to wait for Ted to snap out of his gaze.
"We um, graduated. Stayed together during college, but were at different colleges. So it was hard. But I could never give her up. I never wanted to. But I went one time and I saw how hard it was for her. It was killing her to be away from me, more than it was me from her. And I thought, maybe if I let her go she'll be a little better. She won't stress out as much, she'll focus on her classes and then when we're out of college we can be together again."
"She found another guy..."
"And she fell in love with him."
"Yeah. I mean, I gave her space. But I never wanted anyone but her. My buddies tried really hard, but I always thought I'd be with her again. Then she got a boyfriend, and I thought it was just to try to move on. Then the next thing I know, she's marrying some jackass who couldn't care about her like I do."
"How old are you, honey?"
"I'm 26. They got engaged two years ago. And tonight they finally got married. For the last two years, I've lived through hell. And tonight, I told her I still loved her. And she said she loved me too, but we weren't meant to be. Because she found Nicolas and loves him too."
"You've got a nice car, I'm assuming you must have a nice job then."
"Actually, that car is a rental. Bad economy has actually left me jobless. Got laid off."
"You've got family. Your brothers, sisters, cousins-"
"My parents aren't so understanding. My mom made me fear everything as a child, and my father is an alcoholic who likes to disappear to the bars most the time."
"No. Aysha is the only friend I have left. My college buddies made some choice remarks about her after we broke up, and I went off on them. They came to conclusion it was my fault, and don't speak to me now."
"I'll be back with your order."
Ted was silent as Julie walked over and grabbed the hot plate.
"Is there anything else I can get you, honey?"
Ted thought for a second. "No." He paused. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. And it's on the house."
"Thank you. I appreciate it."
Julie walked to the back kitchen, stressed out from the conversation.
"So what's his case? Is he psycho?"
"Another lovestruck kid."
"Let me guess, best friend was his girlfriend he knew since he was ten and she married some douchebag. Now he's jobless and alone."
"You give him food on the house?"
"You ever think people are gonna wander back here wondering where this place is again?"
"Wouldn't be the first time. Let's just hope his burger suits him well enough. I'm just surprised no one wonders why they're always the only one in here."
"You'd think they'd find Angel's Diner to be somewhat of an ironic name?"
"John, you know they don't read the signs. Otherwise you'd think someone would have us figured out by now."
"As long as they aren't killing themselves, I don't care if they figure us out any."
John and Julie smiled at each other, looking over at Ted. He took a bite of his burger and smiled, thinking everything was going to be OK again.