Blood and Water
It was another day at David’s diner and as usual, things were pretty busy. The coffee pots were brewing, the dishes were piled high in the sink, orders were coming in like crazy, and conversations of sports and scandals from last night’s news filled the air. Paintings of flowers and pictures of old-fashioned cars, like the Ford T-model, neatly embellished the white walls. Several middle-aged men sat at the counter drinking their coffees while watching the Sports Center on ESPN; others were engaged in their own conversations, and occasionally, began flirting with the young waitresses.
“And I’ll have wheat toast instead of white, please.”
Jessica nodded as she took down the customer’s order and took the menu from his grasp.
“Oh, and miss?”
Jessica stopped and waited for the man to respond.
“Can I get a lemon in my tea?”
“Coming right up,” Jessica replied and hurried into the kitchen. Tearing the paper from the pad, Jessica placed the order on the wheel and sped off to fetch the sliced lemon.
“Order up, John!” yelled Bonnie as she placed her slip of paper on the wheel. “Move it, lazy ass. You know how busy it gets.”
John placed the freshly made scrambled eggs on a plate and wiped his hands on his apron, then turning to give Bonnie a smirk.
“You sound like my wife,” he said taking the orders off the wheel. “Let’s see. Two sunny side-up eggs, hash browns…” His voice had trailed off and only his lips moved; his eyes scanned the papers from side to side. The open flame licked the grill, kicking up smoke that disappeared up the vent.
Bonnie rolled her eyes and tended to the bell at the front entrance.
John’s eyes flickered towards Bonnie’s young, retreating figure and then quickly turned his attention to the hot grill.
For the next couple of weeks, business seemed to get slower and slower, and most regulars hardly showed up. Since the diner wasn’t as busy as it used to be, David had divided the waitress’ shifts; Bonnie would work the mornings, Marie would take the lunch shift, and Jessica would work evenings. Everyone had flexible hours according to this schedule, so none of the three argued about coming in.
“Damn! That old man is such a pervert,” Bonnie complained as she hung up her apron.
John smiled and rinsed the glass plate of suds. “A pervert huh? You mean the bald one with a white beard like Santa Claus?”
Bonnie watched her co-worker place the wet dish on the rack and nodded. “Yeah. Every time I bend over to pour his coffee, the asshole stares at my chest. I swear I’m going to kill him the next time he has the balls to do that.”
“You’re mean. The man is old, what do you expect?” John chuckled and shook his head. “Let him take a few peeks.”
Bonnie playfully slapped John’s shoulder.
“That’s fucking disgusting! I’m not going to allow that old prune do anything like that to me.”
“Fine. Just crush the man’s fantasy. I’m sure he’ll understand,.” John shrugged and dried his hands with a towel. “Now how about giving me a hand with these dishes?”
Bonnie ignored John and attempted to leave the kitchen.
“Hey! I need help!”
“Yes you do. It’s about time you realized it!”
“Come on, big chest, you’re the waitress, you should be doing these.” Bonnie froze in her tracks and slowly turned her head, just enough to see John’s face.
“Big chest?” Bonnie asked calmly. “Big Chest?”
The chef put his hands up in defense and was immediately filled with regret.
“Hey, Bon, you know I was just-
“It’s about time someone noticed,” she replied with a smirk and disappeared before John could open his mouth.
The bell rang as Marie came through the front entrance, holding her apron in one hand and car keys in the other.
“It’s hot out there!” She wiped her sweaty brows. “Uncle David, turn on the air, I’m melting.”
David was fazed by the television and changed the channel without looking at his niece. “You do it. I’m not your maid.” he replied dryly.
Marie sighed and sat on one of the barstools, frowning.
“Why are things so slow, Uncle David? This place used to be packed with customers. Now, it’s like a ghost town.”
David scratched the back of his head and tossed the remote on the counter.
“Honestly, I’m not sure you’d believe me,” he said, frowning. “I actually had a hard time coming face to face with reality…” He hesitated and sighed. “I’m closing down the diner,” he said calmly. Marie suppressed a grin by putting a hand over her mouth.
“You’re lying,” she replied with a muffled voice. “Come on, you expect me to believe that?”
“I know I joke around a lot, Marie, but I’m serious this time. I’m giving notice tonight when we close. Two weeks. We’re moving all the supplies out; all the food and equipment. After that, David’s diner will be no more.”
Marie’s uncle sighed once more. “Sorry to bring bad news, but this place isn’t financially stable. And I had to pull the plug.”
Marie shook her head and tears began to swell in her eyes.
“No,” she said bitterly. “Why? Everything was…” Again, she shook her head.
David walked over and put an arm around his niece.
“Your dream… this is what you wanted.” She bit her lip.
“Well, maybe it wasn’t my time. Perhaps later on down the road, things will blossom into something better. I just need to plant my roots into better soil, the next time.”
Marie nodded and wiped her eyes.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Alright,” he replied quickly. “Go wash your face and then get the Windex out. Those tables in the corner are covered with dust.” Marie smiled and jumped off the stool.
“I’m on it, Uncle.”
When Marie disappeared into the bathroom, David stood and started towards the kitchen to check on his pot-roast in the slow cooker. When he reached the door, he stopped and peered through the circular glass window. He couldn’t believe the sight before him and had to do a double-take. John had Bonnie pinned against the sink, hands cupping her breasts and his tongue exploring her mouth.
David backed away from the door as a wave of nausea washed over him. Maybe it’s just a dream, he thought. It’s not real. He felt sure his eyes had deceived him and he gave into the urge to look once more. No… it wasn’t a dream. John and Bonnie were lost in each other; his best friend and older niece were making out in his kitchen.
“No way,” David whispered as he made his way to the bar and sat down on a stool. He absent mindedly grabbed the remote and began flipping through channels. Why is this happening? He thought. John was his best friend, his partner in this business, with three young children who haven’t even gone through puberty, and a wife who had the warmest heart known to man. Yet here he was, cheating on her with Bonnie, his niece, who had just recently broken up with her last boyfriend.
David stopped and looked up at the television when he heard about a fire that had broken out in the dry brush of the mountains, destroying homes and driving families into utter despair. Since it had been spring, wildfires were fairly common and had been spreading like cancer.
“Whoa,” Marie whispered as she slipped onto the stool next to her uncle. “Look at how much that fire has devoured.”
David glanced at Marie and back at the T.V. “That sucks. All those people lost their homes and their belongings and now they have nowhere to go. I feel sorry for them.”
He turned around at the sound of the kitchen door opening and forced a smile when he saw John and Bonnie. He felt sorry for them too.
Months had passed since the diner’s closure and David was unsure of what to do about John’s affair. He had kept it a secret for so long that his conscience was compelling him to let the world know. John’s wife, Barbara, was now a single mother, raising their three kids by herself with no explanation why her husband had gathered his things and left. And what’s worse, Barbara could never answer her children when they asked where daddy was. She couldn’t even answer on her own behalf; the knowledge just wasn’t granted.
David sat miserably on his couch with his cell phone in his hand, browsing his contacts from top to bottom, and each time he passed John’s name, he felt this fire surge through his body and his blood began to boil. How dare he? David thought. What gave him the right to cheat on his wife and then abandon his family without any remorse? He landed on his best friend’s name and bit his lip. Deleting the number was always a possibility. But then again, he would only be disregarding the problem, not solving it. Taking a deep breath, David scrolled up to the Bs and found Barbara’s name. It has to be done, he thought. The send button was pressed and David put the phone to his ear, waiting patiently for Barbara to answer on the other side.
“Just let her down easy,” whispered David. “Tell the truth, tell her what you saw.” He knew such bad news would only be accompanied by depression and flowing tears, but the truth had to be told. There was no other option.
“Hello?” Barbara’s voice brought David out of his thoughts and back into reality.
“Hi Barbara, this is David. How are you doing?”
“Hello, David, it’s great to hear from you.” Barbara gave an exasperated sigh. “As for how I’m doing, the sun has shined brighter. Right now, I’m just trying to take things one step at a time. Life isn’t going to stop for me, so I figured I’d better keep up with it.”
“That’s great. It’s good to hear that positive attitude. How are the kids?” There was a short pause.
“They’re not aware of what happened between John and me. In fact, I’m not even sure what made him leave. He comes home, late one night, and begins packing all his clothes into his suitcases. I ask him what on earth he is doing and all he says is, ‘We’re through, I’m leaving.’ And until this day, I still don’t know why he left.”
David could hear Barbara’s voice beginning to crack and, to his disappointment, he replied hastily.
“I know why.”
David took a deep breath...
Barbara broke down in tears. Her ex-husband had left their family behind… for a 24-year old single woman: David’s niece.
The next day, David received an incoming call on his cell from Bonnie. He swallowed hard and pressed send to answer it.
“What did you tell her?” Bonnie demanded.
“Excuse me? Who do you think you’re talk-
“Oh, come on, Uncle David, I know you told Barbara about me and John! That bitch left me a message saying she knows who I am and why John is with me now.”
“Hey! She had every right to know, Bonnie. You had no business interfering with their marriage,” David growled. “Did you ever once think about how Barbara would feel? Or how the kids would feel?”
Bonnie didn’t reply and David continued. “What about your morals? You weren’t raised in a barn!”
“Bonnie, just hang up on him!” David heard a voice in the background and pressed his ear closer to the phone to listen in.
“Mom, I can handle it! Let me say what I have to say!” Bonnie’s mom sounded furious and something struck David. She knew. Bonnie’s mom had known about the affair, the divorce, and the current relationship. She knew that John was living happily with Bonnie and she was okay with it?
“How dare you judge me, Uncle David?” began Bonnie. “John didn’t even want to stay with Barbara anymore; he wanted me, someone better, and someone who could satisfy his needs.”
“You’re sick, Bonnie. I can’t believe you. You’d go through all that just to split a family and not feel like you did anything wrong?”
“I didn’t split the family. That was John. He made his decision and the family’s went down. We are happy together, Uncle David. Blood is thicker than water and you’re going to have a hard time breaking John and me apart. Don’t ever talk to me again.”
The words burned his ears.
And next time, confront me with the problem. Don’t have others do your bidding for you.”
The line went dead, and David was speechless. He just sat there with his phone to his ear, baffled and infuriated.
Whatever would come next, the truth was out. He had done it. He had unveiled what could have slipped past without any suspicions. Soon, all the family members would know. That much was certain.
He lit a cigarette and drew deeply. The tip flared for a moment and then faded to pale gray ash.
Blood is thicker than water, he thought.
Treading one means sinking in the other.