Well, I heard someone use this phrase. It was hard to know what they meant, and I forgot to ask, or I was busy… I had to guess. It is just… That first january crept along so slowly… And I knew that I spent so much effort just trying to stay warm, well maybe even get warm… I much prefer summer. Thankfully, the heater in the Diner, well and the heater in my house; both kept working.

Over the course of the rest of that month, salesmorons only slowly began to show up at the Diner. The ones that did come in were very unhappy. Evidently salesmorons for the bigger companies got the entire month of january off since the weather was usually terrible, which made travelling terrible. The ones that had to work anyway… I heard one of them tell his buddy “That’s how I get rid of a car if I don’t like it. If I wreck it in a storm, they just give me a new one.” Well, he was laughing when he said that, I don’t know.

But, like I said, that january, the weeks just slowly… Well, it took longer to get to the Diner in the mornings because it was so cold… The whole month just felt… slower…

But, one wednesday… I had just come out from washing some dishes. I noticed the little girl right away. She was sitting in one of the window booths, crying softly. She could not have been older than 7 or 8 maybe. That was just a guess.

According to Edna, she had taken a lot of time from her work, even if the Diner was busy, to help out younger girls in town. She just shoved everything else away, and helped them any way she could. Well, maybe that had rubbed off on me. Or maybe, this little girl looked like she was near Delores’ daughter Tina’s age. Well, this little girl was probably younger. But she was in here, all by herself. And she was crying. I shoved everything else away for a while. At least it was a slow day, and in the afternoon.

I eased in next to her, and hugged her right away. She turned immediately, hugged me tightly and cried a little louder. “Precious little girl, when you can, please tell me how I can help you.” She cried a few more minutes, then tried to explain. Still heaving deeply…

“My mommy… She sent me to the car so she could finish…

“I was so tired, and climbed into the back, then fell asleep…

“But it was the wrong car…

“And when they found me, they were mad and yelled at me…

“They stopped at the steps here, and just told me to get out…

“Then they left…

“I just want my mommy…”

Well, that was all she could say, then she cried some more. Why on earth would anybody yell at a little girl like that, just because she accidentally got in the wrong car? Then they dumped her here, and just drove away? And she didn’t even have a coat on… I didn’t bother trying to decide what Edna would say. “Some people are just morons” I thought to myself. I was pretty sure Edna would agree.

I hugged the little girl tighter, and she slowly calmed down again.

“You are pretty. What is your name?” I was trying to cheer her up.

“Camille…” she said back quietly, still rubbing her eyes.

“That is a pretty name” I replied, then I smiled at her.

She only then looked up at me, and gasped. “Your summer” it sounded like she said.

“My name is Maude.” I said, then I smiled again, and was quickly in thought. “Does your mommy have a cell phone?” I asked. I guess I only then realized her parents must be absolutely beside themselves by now.

Camille knew her mom’s cell phone number. Then she volunteered “My mommy said she wants to get me my own cell soon.” Then Camille smiled. She was evidently looking forward to that. I was pretty sure this episode would accelerate that process.

I wrote the number down on my order pad. I asked one of the local ladies that I knew had a cell phone, to call that number for me, then they handed me the phone.

A young lady answered the phone, still sniffling. I didn’t wait. “Are you Camille’s mom? She is here and ok.” I was pretty sure I would not be able to say much more, and I was right. The lady immediately burst into tears and cried for a little while. I couldn’t blame her. I just waited. And Camille heard her mom crying, so Camille was crying too. I think Camille’s mom heard that, and tried to calm down.

“My name is Dawn… Please tell me where you are, how I can get there.” Camille’s mom wanted to come get her daughter, of course. Well, I had absolutely no clue. So I asked the lady whose phone this was to explain to Camille’s mom how to get here. She made quick work of that, then handed the phone back to me. Dawn said “Thank you so much for taking care of my little girl for me. I should be there in about an hour.” Then she hung up. I handed the cell thing back to the local lady, and thanked her for helping me. Maybe I should get one of those, well one that worked…

I sat down next to Camille. “Are you hungry?” I asked quietly.

“Not really…” Camille answered.

Well, I needed to get back to work. “I need to serve the people who come in, but don’t hesitate to come get me if you need me or something. I will be out here, or in the kitchen washing dishes. Just come find me. I don’t want you to feel like I’m ignoring you.” I smiled, and she hugged me again.

“Can I have a pencil, and some paper to draw on?” Camille asked hesitantly.

I smiled. “Of course. I will be right back.” Well, I looked. All I could find was another pen, and I remembered that Edna had some larger tablets. They were really too big for just taking orders, but we had a few of them. Even though each page had blue lines across, Camille seemed happy, and took everything right away. “Camille, don’t hesitate to come find me” I reminded her.

Camille didn’t even look up; she was already drawing something. “Ok..” she said without even stopping what she was doing. I was quickly busy catching up. I constantly kept an eye on Camille though. She was contentedly drawing, and seemed very focused on that. I smiled, that would help the time pass quickly until her mom arrived to get her.

Dawn walked nervously in the front door about an hour later. She spotted Camille right away, and Camille jumped up. They were quickly hugging, crying… They cried together for a little while, then her mom asked Camille what had happened. That explanation put the most disgusted look on Dawn’s face. I agreed with her. I sighed. But Dawn had her precious daughter back. That was good news.

Camille sat down, then turned a piece of paper for her mom to look at, then looked back up at her mom. Dawn looked at me immediately. “Miss, what is your name?” she asked.

“My name is Maude. This is my Diner. And, for the record, I agree that the people… that… took…” As I said this, I slowly looked down at what Camille had been drawing. Just one picture, and even done with a pen, it was very detailed. Camille was an amazing artist, that was for sure. The picture was of a horse, reared up in it’s hind legs, and with wings. It was very pretty; Camille had drawn the face with great detail. Well, the whole picture was very detailed. I was amazed. But under the picture, Camille had written “Summer”. I could not make heads or tails out of that.

Dawn shook her head side to side. “So you are not our friend Summer? She was amazing, but we heard she died recently…” Dawn and Camille both were clearly having trouble with that.

Well, there was nothing I could do. I shrugged. “I’m sorry if I brought up bad memories…” then, trying to lighten things up “I have been Maude for a while.” Well, less than a year, but still. I saw no point in adding that.

Dawn shrugged, then gave me a tight hug. “Thank you so much for watching out for my little angel.”

“She seems very precious” I said softly as we hugged.

Dawn turned to her daughter and scooped her up off the seat and hugged her tightly. I think Dawn agreed with me.

“I’ll bet you and your husband must be very relieved” I said with a smile.

Dawn didn’t smile. She frowned. She was quiet briefly, then said, almost defiantly “Hit and run date rape, but I will cherish my Camille always.” That was all Dawn said. Dawn was still holding her daughter, and hugged her again. Evidently Camille knew all about this too. But I was appalled. I knew exactly what she was talking about. Salesmorons would do that to me if I let them. That made me angry. But Dawn had embraced that, loving her daughter regardless. Dawn deserved a medal. I think the point of that is to realize that what someone was doing should be greatly rewarded. I felt that way about Dawn. It was quiet briefly. I was suddenly angry again at salesmorons, who seemed to be back in action again. Well, Dawn had her precious treasure back.

They were getting ready to leave. I reminded Camille about her amazing picture. Camille turned and smiled. “I drew it for you. Keep it please. It might remind you about me.” It would, that was for sure, but it left me feeling very strange. But a few minutes later they were gone.

I took that picture, and carefully removed just that page from the tablet, and again admired Camille’s handiwork. She was a very good artist! That flying horse looked very… vivid… I gently slid that picture under the thick glass on top of the table where the cash register was. Everyone that came here would see that. It made me sad that this person named after the season was dead, but that picture was amazing.

It was like the dinner rush erased most all of that. Still, on the way home, I sighed with relief. At least this episode had a happy ending. According to Edna, that wasn’t always the case. But Dawn and Camille were back together. They lived an hour away, so I doubted they would be back. But they seemed really nice.

Well, and another afternoon that january, Delores stopped by for her usual. She and I talked briefly. She was scared for her Victor. I guess very bad weather is difficult for trucks. And where he was… She needed to cry, and I was her friend. It was fine, I cried with her. I couldn’t imagine. Well, I couldn’t even imagine having a husband, so… Delores thanked me though. I think crying together helped her a little.

And I asked her about something that had been bugging me. She had me set the heater thingie on the wall at my house at 60, and the one here at the Diner was set at 60 also. I mentioned that I felt cold all the time, and asked her about turning it up some. She smiled, then said quietly “Leave it at 60.” She thought a minute, then added “the cold should keep these stupid salesmen from doing stupid things.” It took a little while, then I realized… As cold as it had been… Salesmorons had mostly left me alone. I left it at 60 the rest of that winter.

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1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.

 

 

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