"Would you prefer a booth or a table?"
Craig looked around the restaurant. It was empty, practically. There was pair of older ladies over in one corner, another person at the bar. Obviously, 2 PM was not a popular dining time.
One reason he was here.
The hostess smiled. Whether real, or just polite, such smiles were one reason Craig enjoyed eating out. Attractive young women smiled at you as your food was served. More so, if you were a regular and a good tipper. The three waitresses at the nearby bad Chinese buffet practically fought for his table. Today, though, he was at a somewhat fancier place. Not THAT much higher on the food serving chain, given it was a national chain, but still better.
Today deserved better.
The thin blonde led him around to a booth next to a window. Outside, it was hard to tell how much of the blowing whiteness was snow coming down, and how much was just existing flakes traveling thirty miles an hour. Another reason this place was empty, most likely. Craig had debated with himself about if this was a good idea, if he should delay things. But, he had not gone out Monday. He had pushed things back to Wednesday once before, but that hadn't felt right. It had to be today. There was no point in setting dates for things if they could be changed willy nilly. Nilly, yes, but this would involve willy, and that just wouldn't do.
He'd have to remember never to say something that stupid out loud.
"Here's your menu. Your server, Nancy, will be with you shortly."
Craig tossed his winter jacket into the corner, sliding into the booth as he placed his magazine on the table. It was a bit chilly, but that was OK. It's what he got for wearing a t-shirt in winter. No one to blame but himself. Glancing down at the menu, he decided he'd splurge on steak. It wasn't the best steak here, but then he rarely had it. Steak wasn't something you cook for yourself.
"Hello! I'm Nancy, I'll be your server for the evening! Can I get you something to drink? We have a margarita special today!"
He glanced up at her. Nancy was cute. College aged, maybe older. He knew that due to her being here at this hour, about the only way he could tell the sixteen year olds from the thirty year olds much of the time. Her short blonde hair had red mixed in, a rather nice look he thought. Large blue eyes and a button nose completed what he noticed of her. Oh, sure, she was thin, probably had nice breasts, but her face was all he was going to get to enjoy so that's what he focused on. Craig smiled back at her.
"I'll have a diet Pepsi."
"Would you like a few minutes?"
He'd like more than that, to be honest, but just shook his head.
"No." Craig looked down at the menu. "I'll have the steak and mushrooms, medium, and a side salad with bleu cheese."
"OK! I'll get that in and bring you your drink!"
She was definitely perky. He watched her for a moment as she turned away. She definitely had a nice figure, as well. Shaking his head, Craig looked at the empty seat across from him. Why he was here reasserted itself. Sighing, he opened the magazine, scanning the first few pages.
"Here's your drink!"
Craig smiled up at the perky waitress, probably unseen given the speed at which she turned to go. She probably had lots of texting to do. With a long sigh, he picked up the glass. Holding it before him, Craig raised the drink to the memory sitting across from him.
"Happy Amy Day. I still miss you."
He had never said goodbye.
That, probably, was most of it. Amy had died alone, with no warning. He had not held her hand in some soulless hospital room, never whispered he loved her into ears that could no longer hear. She had just ... vanished from his life. So, too, life had vanished from him.
Oh, he had dated after she was gone. Tried to, at least. Nothing lasted more than a week or two. Craig knew why: he wanted another Amy. Not her twin, physically or mentally, but ... he wanted what they had together. The same intimate, fun, yet not romantically serious commitment. He had loved her, yes, and she loved him, but...
Craig looked across the table. He could see her, looking at him. Curly brown hair mussed a bit, an extra button or two hastily left undone on her shirt. Eyes twinkling, lips in that shy grin she always had.
She was always with him, of course. Her memory. Not a day went by that he in some way didn't think of her. Not a night went by where some part of his fantasies didn't involve her. Craig didn't talk to her as much as he used to, but she still answered when he did. Her voice kept him sane, to the extent that was possible. Which was odd, given how crazy she had made him in life.
He chuckled, looking back down at his magazine. He doubted he'd get much reading done, but that was OK. What was important was the ritual. He was here, on the anniversary, give or take, of her death. It was Amy Day. She was in charge.
The stranger who silently slipped into the bench across from Craig was NOT Amy. It took him a moment to reassure himself of this. After all, who else would be sitting down unannounced? He wasn't sure what he would do if an undead, or, well, dead, Amy showed up one of these days. Probably see if that state had any effect on her incredible cock sucking abilities. Well, actually, he'd probably scream, but the witty answer is always easy to come up with at times like this.
The woman was small. Even with a thick black winter jacket over probably a couple of layers of sweaters, that was clear. If she came up to his chest he'd be very surprised, and the almost pure white wrist and hands appearing out of her sleeves were thin, almost delicate. Asian features, he wanted to guess Chinese. Her hair was short, red, almost a pink. Either it was dyed, or she had some Irish in her. Her lips were black, he hoped with lipstick and not frostbite.
"Are ... you Craig?" Her voice trembled. It was soft, almost musical. Craig blinked, trying to process all this.
"Um, I'm a Craig, but not the one you're looking for, I think." The girl bit her lip, white hands clutching each other almost in prayer on the table. He could see her breathing coming faster. "Can I help you with something?"
Her eyes closed. Given the sort of goth vibe the stranger was giving off, the lack of eye makeup was throwing off Craig's attempt to lump her into some stereotype group. Or any group. The stranger took a deep breath.
"Amy sent me."
A feeling flowed though Craig he hadn't felt since middle school. He was faint. His face went cold, blood draining away. Back then, it had been videos of nicotine diseased lungs, car crash victims, and the like, sending his system into shutdown mode. Now...
It came out as a whisper. Blood was draining from his hands, feet, withdrawn back to his heart, as if to defend it from the impossible. The strawberry goth before him nodded, eyes serious, wide.
"She ... I..." She shook her head, as if to clear it. Craig grabbed for the glass of Pepsi, hoping caffeine made some sense of this. She waited until he put it back down, leaning forward. "Last night, I had a dream. I ... I saw a woman, a nude, brown haired woman. She said to come here, today, at this time, and see you."
"She couldn't come herself?" This was stupid, of course. Stupid. Amy would know it sounded stupid. Yes, she had been more religious, more spiritual, but...
"She wants to, Craig. Oh, she wants to see you. The desire I felt..." Color filled her face. She hurried on. "She doesn't want you to be alone today, Craig. Amy asked me to keep you company. Make you happy."
OK, now this WAS stupid. Craig opened his mouth to reply, stopped by the waitress coming up to the table.
"Hello! Are you joining him? Would you..."
Craig heard her voice catch. Head swiveling to look up at her, he saw her staring at the stranger in disbelief. The blonde fell forward, outstretched hands grabbing the table edge for support.
"You! I saw you! You were with her! Then-" her head jerked to Craig. "Then you're him! You're Craig! Oh my God!"
Craig was a real Skeptic. Not the stupid kind, the "Scully" kind, the straw man skeptic who disbelieved things just because. No. Craig just wanted evidence. Give it to him, and he'd agree something was real.
He still wasn't sure about this, but for now he was just going along with it.
The Asian girl was Beth. Eighteen, a freshman at Buffalo State. With her coat off, she was a waif, almost all skin and bones, needing extra layers of clothing just to survive indoors this time of year. Sipping a hot cup of tea, she looked across the table.
"I didn't think I'd make it. Had to take the bus, and in this weather..." Beth smiled, black lips very non-goth just then. "Well, let's just say I'm not counting on being able to take the bus home!"
Craig glanced out the window. It was really coming down now. The road was visible, but not the parking lot across it. He nodded.
"I almost canceled this. No reason I couldn't do it tomorrow, after all."
"But you didn't."
He looked at the waitress Nancy. She sat next to Beth as if she, too, was a customer. Craig wondered if he was going to be getting his steak. Not that it mattered now. There were more important matters than an afternoon meal. Almost as if reading his mind, her eyes widened.
"Oh! Right!" Her head swung towards the bar, where a mustached man was looking their way. "Just a moment!" She slid out of the booth, walking quickly through the dead restaurant. Once again Craig admired her back side, more openly this time. When he turned back to Beth, she was grinning.
"Well, she's cute and clueless."
"And how do you think she'd describe you?"
Beth considered. Craig liked that. There was nothing wrong with thinking before you spoke. Or not speaking at all.
"I think, she hasn't considered the matter much yet."
Craig laughed. Laughing on Amy Day. Who would have thunk.
Nancy was talking energetically to someone he assumed was the manager. Another girl, also with red in her hair (was that the trend now, for women who wanted to be different?), gave the pair a wide berth as she carried a tray with his food on it. Craig pushed away his half eaten salad, then offered it to Beth. She declined, smiling.
"I ate on the bus. Against the rules, I know, but I'm too cute to arrest."
"Agreed." She blushed at this. The new waitress came to a stop, placing the dish before Craig.
"Here you go. Can I get you anything..."
The power went off.
"Oh, great." The woman abandoned them, quickly heading back towards the kitchen. Craig and Beth glanced out the window. The traffic signal was off, as was the power at the Tim Hortons next to them. Headlights moved very slowly through the blowing snow.
"At least we won't starve," Craig said, cutting a small piece of his steak off. Beth took another sip of her tea.
"Freeze, yes, starve, no." Putting the cup back down, she grabbed her coat and put it back on. Craig eyed his own jacket. It was a good idea.
"Are we leaving now?" Nancy was back, sitting down next to Beth. Craig just looked at her.
"Leaving for where?"
"My place, I think. I live right around the corner. Vince just heard there's now a driving ban in Niagara County, not that anyone would stop us, but we can probably just walk. Safer than being on the streets in this." She looked at Beth. "That OK with you?"
Beth nodded. Craig shook his head.
"Do I get any say in this?"
Both girls looked at him, faces serious.
It took a half hour to walk the three hundred feet to the small apartment building. Cutting across the snow filled field had saved them the danger of being on the icy road, but drifts were high, the wind strong. Craig kept Beth out of the worst of it, his large body shielding her small frame. Both had helped Nancy climb out of a drift a slippery spot sent her into. By the time they reached the small two storey, four apartment structure, they were tired, frozen, and incredibly thankful this street still had power.
"Fuck the next bill. I'm cranking the heat."