#Chapter 238: A Stop on the Road
Enzo and I followed the old man, Frank, into the diner.
We were short on time, but Frank was right; we had an important journey ahead of us, and we couldn’t accomplish our goals on nothing but coffee and potato chips. Neither of us had eaten in over a day by now, and we were both starving.
Frank opened the door to the old retro diner, causing the little bell to hit the glass and jingle loudly. This diner was a lot like the one that I worked at; there were some vinyl-covered booths in the windows along with a long, enamel counter lined with stools. Everything seemed to be either a shade of sky blue or cream white – even the waitress’s uniform. It was, essentially, the quintessential North American diner.
Aside from the fact that the people here were all werewolves or some other form of occult, it didn’t really even feel as though I set foot outside of Mountainview.
Without waiting for the waitress, Frank led us over to a booth in the corner and slid into the seat with a grunt, as though his old bones felt strained just from the process of sitting down. Enzo and I slid into the seat across from him.
A few moments later, the waitress – who was wearing a blue dress with a white apron, almost exactly like the one that I wore at the diner in Mountainview – came up to us and poured steaming black coffee into three thick mugs without a word. She plopped a small pitcher of creamer down on the counter. There was no sugar anywhere to be found.
“Hey, Frank,” the waitress said with a bit of a sigh. “Good day for driving.” “Yup.” As usual, Frank was a man of few words. I quickly began to realize that maybe that was just the way he talked to everything, and that it wasn’t just because Enzo and I were outsiders.
The waitress then slowly turned her
head to look at Enzo and me, and looked us both up and down deliberately. She was chewing a piece of gum, and smacked her lips with it as she stared at us.
“Uh…” I began, feeling small beneath the waitress’s glare. Enzo, however, stepped in for me.
“We’re just passing through,” he said. He almost seemed to take on the same cadence that these people had. It made me realize that Enzo really was from this place, after all, and maybe the way that he spoke back in Mountainview wasn’t natural to his normal way of speaking. I supposed that living in a place for several years could do that to someone.
“Hm.” The waitress nodded slowly, then pulled her notepad out to take our orders. I hated to admit it, but I appreciated the fact that these people didn’t ask too many questions.
Whether or not they simply didn’t care or they genuinely didn’t want to get involved in the doings of outsiders was a mystery to me. Maybe it was a combination of both..
“Three burgers,” Frank suddenly said. “Extra cheese.”
“Mhm. Fries?” the waitress asked.
“Yup. Thanks, Louise.”
The waitress walked away without
another word, leaving Enzo, Frank, and I alone at our booth. There was a long, awkward silence; I didn’t know what to say at this point, because after our brief conversation – if one could even call it that in the truck, I had learned that Frank wasn’t the chatty type.
However, I simply couldn’t contain my curiosity. As I discreetly glanced around at the other diner patrons, I realized that everyone had a similar look to them. The men were all dressed in ragged work clothes, and the women weren’t dressed much differently.
There was even one woman dressed in a diner uniform sitting at a table with a man and a toddler, indicating that she was probably sitting with her family for her lunch break. And if the town that we met Frank in was any indicator in combination with the way that everyone else dressed, it certainly seemed as though this area wasn’t the most financially fortunate.
“Can you tell us at all about this place, Frank?” I asked, feeling unreasonably confident.
Frank froze. I felt Enzo’s hand tighten on my leg beneath the table, but I wasn’t afraid. Frank, just like everyone else around here, was just a normal working man. In fact, he had done nothing except prove that he was incredibly kind, in his own way. Sure, he seemed a bit rough around the edges, but he went out of his way to give two strangers a ride and was even willing to sit down and have a meal with us.
Finally, licking his cracked lips, he spoke.
“Yer goin’ after the Luna, aren’t ya?” he suddenly asked.
Both mine and Enzo’s eyes widened.
“N-No,” I responded, which wasn’t a lie. We weren’t going after anyone except Selena. I didn’t even know anyone who was named Luna.
Frank shrugged. “I know what yer thinkin’. This place is as run down as can be.”
“Well, no, I-”
“It’s alright. Ya know, it used to be a good town. A hard workin’ town full’a good people. A lumber mill… I was the Beta, actually.”
Enzo raised his eyebrows. “Really?” he asked. We were both surprised at the old man’s sudden candidness.
Frank nodded. “Yup. Sure was.”
“Well… What happened?” I asked, leaning forward with my elbows on the table. “Did something change?”
There was another pause. Frank seemed to be thinking hard, as though he wanted to choose his words carefully. I could tell that he didn’t want to say anything too revealing. “I’ll just say this,” he said. “Ever since that new Luna married the Alpha King all those years ago, things ain’t been good for us little people. But we’re mostly good. Even the ones who turned to crime to feed their families… They’re good.”
I thought back to the eyes that we saw peering out at us from the woods. “The rogues,” I said quietly.
Frank nodded. “Yup. Matter o’ fact, ye had a few of ’em followin’ ya earlier.”
My eyes widened. When we first walked into that town, I remembered seeing Frank staring out his window at us. I didn’t know it at the time, but I suddenly realized that he wasn’t watching us with distrust; he was watching us for our own safety. If Frank hadn’t offered us a ride, we probably would have been attacked.
Suddenly, our food came. Three burgers, dripping with grease and
cheese, with mountains of French fries on each plate. The waitress didn’t offer any ketchup or anything else of the sort, but when I took the first bite, I realized that it didn’t need it.
“Delicious,” Enzo finished for me, his mouth full of burger.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Even Frank let out another gravelly chuckle and stuffed three fries into his mouth at once. “Told ya,” he said.
The three of us ate in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable; instead, it was the sort of silence that only came about when the food was simply so good that everyone was too focused on eating to even think about talking. And, when Enzo and I finally finished our massive burgers, I swore that I could eat another. “Listen,” Frank said suddenly, after
finishing his last bite and wiping his
mouth with a brown paper napkin. He looked up at me then, and his eyes were burning an even brighter shade of yellow than before. I got an odd feeling then; it almost felt as though my brain had been scrubbed, like someone had gone through it with a fine tooth comb and picked out all of my thoughts, one by one. Frank’s eyes narrowed a bit, and I felt a lump rise in my throat.
“I’m listening,” I said, finding myself unable to break away from my gaze.
And then, all of a sudden, his voice
echoed in my mind without his lips
moving an inch.
“No one needs to die. You can fight the dark sister without anyone getting hurt.”