The morning flew by as Isabella tackled a list of chores that had been long neglected. She swept, mopped, scrubbed, polished, filled salt shakers and ketchup bottles; the one thing she could not seem to accomplish was to stop thinking about Eddie. She even tried listening in on the old men’s exhaustive conversation regarding the expected corn yield for the year, but it was no use.
After a lunch of roast beef sandwiches with a side of potato salad, Isabella’s new-found friends began to push back from the table and gather up their coats.
“Are you leaving?” Isabella asked.
“There’s a town meeting today,” Doc replied. “We always go, just to keep things honest. Will you be all right here by yourself for an hour or two?”
“Oh, sure,” Isabella replied. Aside from Eddie and the old men, there’d been maybe ten customers all day. How could she refuse? Yet she didn’t feel all right as she watched them go. She hadn’t realized how comfortable she’d been, how reassured by the men’s presence, until they were gone.
The tick of the clock suddenly seemed too loud as she looked around the empty diner. Goosebumps stood out on Isabella’s arms and a chill ran down her spine. She just needed to keep herself busy, she decided. They’d be back soon.
As she cleared the lunch plates she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone watched her.
The stack of plates nearly fell from her arms as Isabella jumped in response to the jingle of the doorbell.
She spun on her heel and then sighed in relief.
“Eddie,” she breathed. “It’s so good to see you.”
He smiled as he walked toward her.
“It’s good to see you too.” He reached out and took several dishes from the top of the stack. “Here, let me help.”
“Thanks,” Isabella said. She stood there for a moment, trying to think of something to say.
“Should we take these to the kitchen?” Eddie asked.
“Oh, right.” She turned to hide her flush of embarrassment and then led the way to the kitchen.
She tried to calm her racing heart as she filled the sink and Eddie went back to gather the mugs. She smiled when he returned and her stomach seemed to flip when he smiled back.
“So, you do know that you’re missing the town meeting, right?” Isabella asked with a grin.
“I do,” Eddie replied. “In fact, that’s why I came by. I knew the guys would be gone and I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you, without an audience.” He winked and Isabella’s grin widened.
Then the doorbell rang again.
“You go ahead,” Eddie said. “I’ll get these.”
Isabella nodded, disappointed to have her time with Eddie interrupted. She hurried into the dining room, hoping that whoever it was didn’t plan to stay long.
“Isabella, dear, there you are. I’ve been so worried about you.”
Isabella froze. How could she have been so careless? She wanted desperately to run and hide, but it was too late for that. She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders.