I stepped inside the cafe, letting my eyes adjust to the change in light from the day's sunshine. It was much like you'd expect any eatery in a town that time forgot to look like. There was the long counter across from the kitchen, spinny stools at the ready. Booths lined the walls, covered in shiny pink vinyl, though perhaps less shiny now. Countrified knickknacks and plaques lined the windowsills and walls, like a flea market had heaved its guts all over the place before picking up and leaving town.
"Can I help you, darling?" The voice came from a plump woman standing behind the counter.
"Oh!! You must be Kyle's damsel in distress!! I'm Julia..." The woman's red hair bounced as she turned to grab the coffeepot off the backcounter.
I laughed, "Well, I don't know about damsel in distress. You make me sound like a fairytale character, but I suppose it's close enough. I'm hoping he can get me fixed up quickly, so I can get back home." I felt like I'd seen this woman somewhere before, or maybe she just reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think of where or who.
"I'm so sorry that car troubles interfered with your day. Where were you headed, anyway? Not many people find their way out here," Julia asked.
I sighed. "I just needed to get away from home for a bit, ma'am."
"Momma, leave the girl be. She doesn't want to tell you her life story." A tall young man got up from his place at one of the back tables and came forward, his book tucked under his arm. His blue eyes sparkled as he extended his hand with a smile. "I'm Lucas," he introduced. Did all the men in Terrance come with such large hands?
"I'm Melissa... it's nice to meet you, Lucas. And you, Julia," I added, taking a sip of coffee. "It's okay, I don't mind. What are you reading there?" I gestured to the book.
Lucas sat down on the stool next to me and set the book on the counter. "Life of Pi, by Yann Martel? It's about a boy whose ship capsizes and he's left--"
I nodded at him, "I've read it, it's good. How are you liking it?"
"Nervewracking!" We sat and talked about his book for a bit, as I ordered a bowl of soup. I realized I hadn't eaten since I'd left the house that morning and I was starving. We were animatedly discussing rabid tigers when the bell over the door rang and Kyle ducked under the doorframe. The place seemed to dwarf a little, once he was inside it.
"Lucas," he nodded. "You work fast."
My new companion grinned at Kyle, "Can't have you taking ALL the new blood, now, can we?"
Kyle made a face and I couldn't help but laugh. I imagined that he had made the same face when they were 5 years old and stealing each other's Tonka trucks from the park. "Ok, Kyle... how about you tell me how we're doing with my car?"
He sat down on my other side, and turned the coffee cup over with a mindless gesture to Julia. "Well, most of the parts are being driven up right now and I can have them installed fairly quickly. But that flux capacitor is proving a little more difficult, and it's going to be, probably, three days..." he said, apologetically.
"Three days?!" I exclaimed.
Lucas choked on the coffee he had just drank. "A flu--?" Kyle cut him off with a shake of his head. "Of all the...." his muttering took him along the counter to find some pie.
"I'm really sorry, Melissa... but it looks like you might be stuck here for a couple of days."
My mind started turning. This clear-my-head drive was turning out to be more headache than it was worth. I had three books, a swimsuit, an extra pair of jeans, and a car that wouldn't move. I was stuck in a town that I didn't even know EXISTED with two goodlooking men-- Well, okay, that part wasn't so bad. I guess there were worse things? I resigned myself to my fate. "I guess I'm going to need someplace to stay."
"Mama, are you sure that's a good idea? Since you were sick..." Kyle seemed perturbed. Mama?
"Nonsense, young man. Go get her things." I smiled to see the big cowboy put in his place. The little woman ran things around here, you could just tell. "Emily Terrance, Miss Melissa. I run the inn across the street and you'll be staying in my best room."
"Oh, that's not necessary, ma'am." I began. "I can stay in whatever's easiest--"
"Nonsense to you, too. Not a lot of tourists come through here, and I don't get to play at innkeeper often. "
I met Kyle's glance over his mother's head and he winked at me. I didn't think his mother was used to not getting her way, and I didn't think I was going to be the one to change that. "Alright, but I'm going to need to make a phone call first and let my family know I've not been kidnapped by aliens."
Emily hurried across the street to ready the room I was apparently going to be renting while Kyle walked with me back to his car shop to use his telephone. I dialed my mom.
"Mom? It's 'Lissa. Look, I went for a drive this morning while you were at Megan's, and I ran into some car trouble... No, no, everything's okay. It just needs to be repaired before I can come home, but apparently it needs some part that's really hard to find and I'm going to stay in this inn here in town till it's ready. ... I don't know, a few days is what the car guy told me. The vacation is probably good for me, anyway.... No, it's okay. I just need you to keep an eye on Daniel for a few days.... Thanks, Mom. I'll call you soon... Bye."
I hung up the phone and we walked across the highway to the grand Inn. "Daniel?" Kyle asked. "Is that like a pet goldfish or something?"
"No," I said quietly. "Not like that at all."