Luann places two plates on the table between Carl and Summer, forcing Carl to release Summer’s hand. They both sit back in the booth and thank Luann for the sandwiches.
Summer watches Carl take a bite of his sandwich, and then a quarter of the giant BLT is gone. She smiles and takes a bite of her own sandwich.
“So,” Carl says after swallowing his massive bite, “Charlie is your only son?”
Summer nods and swallows carefully, “Yes. He just turned two. His father, my husband, passed away shortly after Charlie was born.” Her voice catches on the word, husband. Carl notices a shimmer in the corner of Summer’s eyes.
“Nathan had a brain tumor. The doctor found it after I got pregnant.” She stops talking and Carl can see it’s too hard to talk about. He won’t push her to talk more than she wants.
Summer dabs at her eyes with a napkin, “Tell me about Becky.”
Carl lights up, “She’s six. Going on sixteen. Loves dresses and princesses and all things glittery. But she plays catch with her old man and loves going fishing. She’s the best part of my life.”
“And…her mom?” Summer broaches the topic carefully.
“We’re divorced. She travels a lot for work, so Becky is with me most of the time.”
Luann appears one to refill their cups, and then disappears again. They are still the only patrons. Summer looks at her watch. It is 1 o’clock in the morning.
She feels exhausted, but sitting in that diner with Carl at that moment feels right. They talk about their lives as they eat. He tells her about graduating from the police academy, getting married, and the birth of Becky. She tells him about art school, marrying her high school sweetheart, and how she’d never planned on having kids. They avoid talk of death and divorce, but each speak highly of their late or ex-spouse.
When they finish eating, Luann clears their plates, and she asks if they’d like dessert. Summer doesn’t want to leave, but she knows she can’t stay. The clock is ticking towards her curfew.
Carl asks for the check.
When Luann leaves it on the table, Carl scoops it up before Summer can protest, “Consider it a thank you for keeping me company tonight.”
“Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you? For not giving me a ticket?”
Carl smiles, “Then I guess we’ll just have to have dinner again.”
She looks out the window, her cheeks a flushed pink.
He tucks the cash into the black leather folder and sets it aside, “Was that too forward?” She shakes her head, “Good. Because I’d love to see you again.”
“I would like that.”
They exchange phone numbers. She thanks him for dinner and leaves the diner.
Through the window, he watches her get into her car. She waves. He nods his head with a smile.
With her number tucked in his pocket, he saunters out of the diner. It’s a beautiful and calm night.
He is anxious for morning. He is anxious to hear her voice again.