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Janna moved around the kitchen of the restaurant, going through the motions of shutting it down for the night. She was irritated. Get that man out of your mind, Janna.
Tilly, her chubby, red-headed best friend, and only waitress, came into the room and frowned. “What’s wrong, girl?”
Janna pulled her shoulders back, looked up into the concerned face of her friend and said, “Nothing, why do you ask?”
“You’ve been scrubbing that stove like you’re trying to kill it. News-flash, it’s already dead.” She laughed and swatted Janna with the dish towel she pulled from her round shoulder. “Now tell me what’s up.”
“Nothing, Tilly.” She ducked her head in shame at the lie.
“Really? Don’t play me like that Janna. I know you well enough to know when something’s eating you.”
She huffed, pouted out her full red lips and looked up. “It’s just that man…”
“Ah-ha! I knew it,” Tilly said.
“See, that’s why I didn’t want to say anything.” Janna clamped her mouth shut and pursed her lips.
Tilly held her hands up. “I’m sorry, I was just teasing. He looked yummy. He sure was checking you out.”
“He was not!”
“Yes he was. I’m surprised the back of your shirt didn’t turn the color of his eyes.” She giggled and swiped at the already gleaming silver counter.
Janna looked at her friend. “Was he really looking at me?”
“Uh…yes. How could you not know that?”
“If he was staring at my back how could I see him?”
“I can always feel someone staring at me.” Tilly walked out and flopped down on one of the bar stools. “You should ask him out.”
Janna’s mouth fell open as she followed. “I should not.”
“Why not? You’ve been here for almost five years and never been on a date.”
“I don’t date, you know that.”
Tilly softened her voice. “You can’t go through life avoiding all men because of one bad episode. Now I don’t mean to sound callous, but it’s true.”
Janna sat down beside her. “I have to. Every time I think about accepting a date, I get all freaked-out. Remember what happened with Johnny Lee?”
“Yeah, but this guy’s different. I can tell and I didn’t even talk to him.”
“Why, because he’s so good looking?” Janna smirked.
“No…I don’t know what it is about him, I just have a feeling.”
Janna threw her head back and laughed. “You mean the way you did with Harold Whitmore?”
Tilly gave her a mock-angry look, and then burst out laughing, too. “That’s not fair. You know my receptors were getting interference from all that was going on at the time.”
Janna laughed even harder. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say, and that’s saying a lot.”
It was Tilly’s turn to pout. “It’s true though. Something just tells me this one’s different.”
“I don’t know, Til. I get that feeling too, and that’s just weird. Maybe it’s his dog.”
“Yeah, it was a cute beast.”
“Beast? He was the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen.” A smile curved her lips and lit her amber eyes.
“Oh no…don’t tell me you’ve got a crush on the dog, too.” Tilly giggled again, her green eyes dancing.
“I don’t have a crush on anyone.” But she did, and the lie cut through her like a laser beam. “Well, maybe the dog…” She laughed and got up from the stool. “Come on. Let’s get this done and go home. I want to take a hot bath and soak my cares away.”
“Yeah, me too, but I have to go home and take care of Jessie first. His dad brought him back a day early because he cried all day yesterday.”
Janna’s eyes filled with tenderness for the little red-haired, gray-eyed boy. “Why did he cry for you?”
“I don’t think he likes Andy’s new girlfriend. He told me she’s mean to him when his dad’s out of the room.”
Anger swept through Janna. “I better not ever catch her or…”
“Calm down Jan. I got this. I texted him after I found out last night and told him I wanted to talk to him. We can either hash it out as adults, or we can go to court. It’s up to him.”
Tilly laughed. “I love you, girl, you know that, don’t you? I couldn’t find another friend as loyal as you.”
Janna thought on it for a second, said, “That’s right,” and rushed over to hug Tilly. “If it weren’t for you, I think I really would’ve gone crazy. I still believe God sent me here because of you.”
“That may very well be. Whatever the reason, I’m glad.”
They walked out of the restaurant arm in arm.
Tilly went to her blue SUV and Janna to her little red compact.
Janna felt for her keys in her apron pocket and unlocked her car.
Tilly was doing the same. “You want me here the same time tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but maybe a little earlier. I want to try a new recipe so if you don’t mind I’ll have you peel the potatoes.” She gave Tilly a mischievous look.
“You just don’t want to peel the spuds. Admit it.” Tilly hopped into her SUV, started it and waited for Janna to get in her car.
Janna laughed. “I admit that’s part of it, but I do want to try the new recipe.”
“I’ll peel them for you, but you’ll owe me,” Tilly yelled, trying to be heard over her running motor.
“What will it cost me?” She loved the banter with her best and only friend. It felt good to share part of her life with somebody.
How about you watch Jessie this weekend coming,” Tilly yelled.
“You got it.”
Janna started her car and pulled out of the lot, the same way she had every day for the last four years.
She didn’t see the dark-haired man parked down the tree-lined street pull out in traffic behind her.
She turned on the CD player and sang along with the popular song, in good spirits for once in a very long time.