I can take as long as I need, she said.

I walked right up to the door of the restaurant, like I’d done in about 15 different convenience stores on the way here, but this time I wasn’t trying to avoid notice or anything like that. Doc came with me, too, even though he usually didn’t. I went inside. The little restaurant had about 20 tables and a long counter. Brigitte was the only waitress walking around and there were only three of the tables taken, by men, each of them eating alone.

Brigitte, still with her ponytail, came over to me.

“Hi there,” she said, with a smile. I felt a little fluttery. I put my hands up to my face and then back down.

“Hi,” I said.



“Would you like to sit at a table? Or the counter? Maybe the counter,” Brigitte said, and reached out and took my wrist. I felt kind of electric-y when she did. Not Sharing. I still am not sure what that is. This was just the tingle I got – still get - -when Brigitte touched me. That was the first time and I honestly think I maybe almost fainted. Her fingers were soft and warm and they touched my wrist just so lightly. She led me over to the counter. She was looking at me kind of funny. “I like your octopus,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said, and stood there next to the stool she’d stopped me in front of. She looked at my face and smiled again.

“Well, sit down,” she told me.

Doc hovered down and said Do not sit at the counter. Brigitte looked at him.

“He’s cute,” she said.

“Yes, he is,” I said. “I should listen to him, I guess, maybe, and can I sit not at the counter?” I didn’t want to argue with her. Brigitte pouted a little, turned her mouth down.

“Sure. But the counter’s where I hang out when I’m not waiting on people. I thought I could talk to you.”

Not at the counter, Doc said. Hurry, he added.

Brigitte looked at him. “Cute, but bossy,” she said. But she took my wrist again and said “Follow me.” We walked past two of the men eating at tables and Brigitte sat me in the corner. “This okay with you and your octopus?”

I looked at Doc, who buzzed and said yes and drifted down a little to rest on the table. I looked back at Brigitte and wanted to say that it was okay but my throat was a little dry.

She was still looking at me a little too directly and I wondered if I was being rude. She made me feel flushed and I couldn’t talk and couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She laughed after we sat there for about ten seconds not saying anything, just looking at each other.

“Well, quiet, aren’t you? Can’t tell much about you. Let me get you a glass of water. You must be tired.”

I nodded and managed “Okay,” and she went and came right back with a glass of water for me and set it on the table. “We don’t have menus,” she said. “Mostly Cook’ll make anything that you want and people aren’t real fancy around here. What’re you in the mood for?”

I didn’t have any money and hadn’t thought beyond the moment of coming into the restaurant and talking to her. I didn’t know if I owed her money for the table or the water or anything. I sat there and thought, and tried to think of a single piece of food. But all I’d eaten was various kinds of jerky and sometimes some donuts and a lot of sodas and water that I could steal from the stores along the way. I couldn’t ask her to get me jerky! She watched me as I looked at her and then looked down at my hands and then looked down at my lap to avoid looking at my two different hands and then I bit my lip and tried not to cry because all I’d wanted to do was come in here and talk to her and tell her that I saw her that morning and I thought she was pretty and I thought that she was sexy and I wanted to know her name and wanted her to know my name and I wanted to kiss her – that thought surprised me – and instead, here I was sitting here with these weird hands and probably a weird body and she’d noticed right away ‘cause she was giving me strange looks and I didn’t have money and didn’t fit in and I was going to spend my entire life hiding in the woods with Doc and stealing to support myself. Tears began rolling down my cheek and Brigitte leaned down and said

“It’s okay, hon, I’ll get you something.” And she patted my shoulder again, and then walked off. I was too sad to even think to look at her going away and check her out. I just sat there and thought how stupid I must look, stupid because my hands didn’t match and stupid because I was crying and I tried to stop crying by looking out the window. Doc buzzed just a little and said Crouch down please.

I did, without hesitating. I slid back a little so that I was less visible.

“What is it, Doc?” I snuffled.

Two more revenants. During the day we’d not seen anymore but now they must be out at night. It seemed to me that there were a lot of them here, and that didn’t make sense because we hadn’t seen any – except in Hell – on the way down here. I’d have asked Doc about that except I was too upset about Brigitte and how much of a fool I’d made of myself.

After a few minutes, she brought a plate out to me. It had eggs and bacon and toast and fried potatoes, and she had a big glass of milk with it and set those down. She leaned in and said “Don’t worry about paying. I’ll take care of it.” She looked at me and smiled and I tried to smile back but I’m not sure mine really worked.

Two of the old guys were getting up and leaving, separately, and I began eating and polished off that food faster than I could imagine. Brigitte was over by the counter cleaning things and smiling and humming to herself and I watched her, watched the way her ponytail bobbed and how she held the glasses up to the light to check them for smears and how she kept her apron clean. I wondered, as I used the bread to polish up the egg yolk, what her name was, and how I could find out what her name was. She went and poured coffee for the other old guy, who was all the way on the other side of the restaurant. I saw her talk to him for a bit, in low tones so that I couldn’t really hear. He said something and she smiled and laughed and I saw her teeth and they were little and pretty and white. I guess you really like someone when you think even their teeth are pretty. I know I’d only been awake or whatever a couple of days, but Brigitte was the most fascinating thing I’d seen that whole time, and it was longer than a couple of days anyway, I know now, because Bob and I had spent probably two months on our trip on that second day of Hell. Brigitte was even prettier and sexier than Ivanka, who I’d already met, and that’s saying something.

I’d finished all the food and was sitting and sipping at my water and looking at the plate and trying to look at Brigitte without her catching me, which was why I was looking down when Brigitte came over with some dessert, a giant slice of pie with ice cream on it. It was almost the size of half of a pie. “We’re going to throw it out anyway,” she told me, as I looked down at it and up at her. “So don’t worry about it.” She went back up to the counter and I watched her mopping. She kept her back to me and I saw her arms swinging and her hips swiveling a little with each stroke of the mop: left right left right in tiny smooth little movements, and maybe a little forward and back, too.

It made me kind of sweaty.

I ate all the pie and watched her mop and the other old guy got up and went up to the cash register terminal. I watched him. He talked with Brigitte and she talked back and when she went to the terminal she held up a hand and it lit up and then the old guy held up a hand and waved it near the terminal. Brigitte looked down and nodded and then the guy waved again and said he’d see her tomorrow and he left. I wondered how they’d done that. I’d been near only a few terminals in the past few days but they didn’t work for me like that.

I also wondered again what her name was.

She followed the old guy to the door and waved her hand near the door. It went opaque and the word “CLOSED” glowed in the door, backwards for me inside so it took a second for me to realize what it said.

“Don’t worry,” she called over to me. “You can take as long as you need.”

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