Rita took a deep breath and smiled. "So how are those pancakes? They look good." She drank her coffee between sentences. "I think the syrup here's either made by Native Americans or made in India. One of those...are you okay?"
Jack stirred in his seat. "Huh? Yeah, no, I...I love pancakes." He tried to make the words come out as natural as possible. But it was hard not to wince.
"You haven't touched them," Rita noted with her coffee cup covering her mouth and her eyes fixed on a folded newspaper. The pancakes were neatly stacked in front of Jack, topped with powdered sugar and spattered with something red.
"I've had them before," said Jack. His voice sounded sticky. Jack leaned forward in an effort to catch Rita's eye. "Can we leave?"
"Yeah, I'll...Ma'am?" Rita's eye went straight from the classifieds to the waitress behind the counter. She yelled as if the waitress was hard of hearing or unable to speak good English.
"Could we get, like, a styrofoam box, like for food and...? No, not a doggy bag. No, a food box. Right. And maybe a towel while you're there? Okay, and...she's, yeah, she's gone. She should go get that last thing first, 'cause you've got it all over you..."
"I know," Jack intoned. "But that's because you slashed me across my face, remember?"
The blood was all over Jack. "Ow...I didn't know butterknives could be that sharp..." He clutched the side of his face.
Rita almost dropped her blood-speckled cup. "You're still lording that over me? What did I ever do...besides cutting you?" She awkwardly reached toward Jack's cheek. "Let me put some pressure on that, it's going everywhere. And you're...it's embarrassing me."
Her hand was hot on his skin. "Ow, don't. I wouldn't call it lording...", Jack reasoned with what strength he could muster. "You just attacked me..." His words were becoming ever softer.
Rita withdrew her hand from him. She pounded it as a fist on the table. The rattle shook through the diner. "Well, what am I supposed to do, Jack?" She yelled, in case he couldn't hear her. "When my best friend tells me, 'The doctor says I've only six months left to live'? What am I supposed to do?!"
The news that Jack had delivered in the hope of some comfort caused Rita, already holding the utensil in her hand, to snap. "Talk about betraying trust. But you didn't consider that, did you? Nope!"
Rita's eyes by then were shut, almost on the verge of producing tears. She then looked up and saw the shock on Jack's face. Rita froze. She shot glances all around her and realized her voice had become very loud, though they were surrounded only by empty booths and tables.
Rita then caught a glimpse of her right hand. It was bloody. Not from the attack or from slamming her fist, but from touching Jack's face. She felt cold.
All emotion began to creep away as she reached for a napkin. Rita sniffed and forced a smile. "Anyway, forget all that..." A flash of thought and a slight giggle came over her. "I heard the funniest thing, I..."
"...Can we leave?" Jack whispered loudly.
Rita was still wiping her hand as she rolled her eyes. "Sure, if you want. But think beforehand next time, okay?" Her tone was on the brink of being cheery.
"Next time?" Jack thought of what the doctor said and wondered if there would be a next time. He tried to make some sense of it all. Jack was getting light-headed. "I'm...gonna pass out...take me...to the emergency...?"
Jack arched his back against the red leather booth seat and tried to breathe. He noticed Rita through his one good eye, how she sat there studying his wound, his clothes, his breathing patterns and how it affected his body. Jack was barely conscious when she began to speak again.
"Okay. Hold on." Rita was choosing her words with precision. "Before we go, can I...can you give me back those pancakes? I paid for them. And I've been having trouble lately with my blood su ---" Jack shoved the plate across the table, knocking over his water. "--- Thanks. And the fork. There we go."
Jack closed his eyes and laid his head on the table as Rita began to eat. "Mmm, they are good." She paused for a moment. "You really should have tried them," Rita said, with her mouth full.
From Jack there came no answer. The atmosphere of the diner was almost eerily calm.
Rita took a deep breath and smiled. "I think I'll cancel that food box."
Created: Mar 28, 2010spaceship Document Media