“I’ve outdone myself.” Bonnie Booyah said to herself as she smiled, eyeing the pan of banana bread in the passenger seat beside her. The smell of the moist, sweet bread wafted around, mingling with the cool air that blew in from her car window. Crunchy, sweet patches of cinnamon and sugar glistened in the low evening sunlight.
“Mmmmhmm just one bite and he’s all mine.” Bonnie continued as she reached into her purse. “I’ll be married this time next year.” She chuckled as she pulled out a small doll. It’s tattered, cotton body was frayed around hand sewn seams. A thick head of black yarn hair appeared to be greying at its roots. A small die rolled around in the clear plastic dome that was glued onto the doll’s stomach. “Whaddya’ think Ol’ Ma?” Bonnie shook the doll. The die whirled around inside of it’s plastic ballroom until, fatigued, it stopped. When Bonnie saw the number three, her face scrunched up. “Well then.” she sighed, “It’s better than no I guess.”
She pulled her car into the parking lot of Clinton City Park and there he was, Roy Greene. Her stomach churned as she drove through the lot. Of course there’s nobody here. I know he can see me. Should I smile? Pretend I don’t see him? How could I miss him. What a beautiful man. She parked beside a large truck hoping it blocked her from Roy’s view. She adjusted her bra and checked her face in the mirror, knocking away a cluster of banana bread crumbs that had settled in the corner of her glossy mouth. Bonnie took a deep breath and got out of the car. You got this. Bonnie sashayed toward Roy. He hasn’t aged a day! She eyed his lanky but well-built figure and wondered if his deep brown eyes were as dreamy as they were fifteen years ago. Do I look older than him now? I’ve gained weight. But it’s fine. I’m fine. I’m a catch. I’ve got this.
“Hey Roy!” Bonnie smiled revealing the wide gap in between her two front teeth.
“What’s up Bon Bon .” Roy replied.
Bon Bon? A nickname already. Okay Mr. Greene. “I’m trying to remember the last time I’ve been out here. It’s been so long I don’t think I could find Hickory Trail on a map.”
“You’d be lost without me huh?” Roy’s smile started in his deep brown eyes, a slow smirking grin followed.
“Maybe.” Bonnie smiled back. She reached out and touched his arm, she felt the muscles beneath his black workout shirt. “You look good Roy.”
“Thanks. I’ve been at the gym a lot since…” his words trailed off.
Since the divorce. Bonnie finished the sentence in her mind.
“I may not make it to the gym that often but I don’t think I’m doing too bad for myself.” Bonnie twirled around.
“You look better than you did in high school, that’s for sure. Used to walk around with that rolling backpack. Hands full of books. Always wearing khaki pants and polo tops. What kind of girl creates her own school uniforms?”
“Hey, I looked good. I was smart too. Still am…you just didn’t notice because…” The words caught in Bonnie’s throat.
In high school, Bonnie and Roy were in all of the same classes, extracurriculars, and even walked the same route to and from school. If you saw one, the other wasn’t too far behind. And if it wasn’t for Mallory Montgomery, they would have dated back then—at least, that’s how Bonnie felt.
Roy and Mallory were high school sweethearts.They started dating freshman year and were married shortly after graduation. The couple went on to create an enviable and, thanks to social media, well documented marriage. Bonnie kept tabs on them, liking every picture and happy anniversary post, all the while daydreaming about herself in Mallory’s shoes.
The news of their divorce had come as a shock to Bonnie. She wasn’t happy that the couple split up but, when she came across a post from Roy talking about returning to his roots to begin this “new chapter” of his life, she liked it. A few months later, Bonnie and Roy were on their first date.
“…and look at me now.” Bonnie continued.
“You run your family spot right?”
“More like it runs me. This is my first day off in awhile.”
“And you’re spending it with me?”
“I can’t think of any other way I’d like to spend my free time.” Bonnie smiled.
“Shall we?” Roy motioned toward a picnic table by the lake. Bonnie fell into step with him. She mirrored his posture, letting her arms swing down by her side, shoulders back and chest high. Their sneakers kicked up dirt and rocks. Sticks crunched under their feet.They filled their lungs with crisp, fragrant summer air.
“You like being home?” Bonnie asked. She placed her hand on Roy’s shoulder leaning on him as she threw her leg over the picnic table’s long, awkward bench seat.
“Doesn’t feel like I’m home. It’s…it’s like I’m on a long vacation.You know? I’m with my mom. She loves having me back. But she’s unloading a lot of how she really felt about Mal. And that doesn’t make it any easier, you know? It’s not like Mal is a bad person. We just grew apart. I’m just trying to move forward.”
“I completely understand.” Bonnie’s hand lingered on Roy’s shoulder.
“It’s nice. This. You know? Being with someone.” Roy bowed his head. “Geeze, that sounds heavy.” He took a deep breath. “What am I a dog in a pound?”
“Nope, you just need a friend” Hopefully more, she thought before continuing. “And I’m here for you in any way that you need me.”
“Thanks Bon Bon.”
“So, when’s the last time you’ve been to the buffet?”
“It’s been years. Mal never liked it.”
“I wouldn’t like it either if my grandparents had stolen one of our most prized recipes and used it to falsely win at the state fair.” She shrugged; a smug smile spread across her face.
“Oh yeah! Woo, it was 1976. The summer was hot and the foo—” The sound of intergalactic, reverberating drums boomed from out of Bonnie’s pocket.
Oh come on. She grabbed her phone and looked at the name. Seriously.
“It’s work, I’ve got to take this.” She swung her legs out from under the table and walked a few feet away from Roy.
“Yo, dinner shift is short. I can stay but Thomas, Andy, and Lewis are already gone. Haven’t heard a peep from Tonya all day. I tried Bernice but she won’t pick up.”
“Please tell me this is a joke.”
“Nah, wish it was. Natalie, Mike, Bo…nobody showed up.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes. Thanks Tash.”
Bonnie hung up the phone and returned to Roy.
“I have to go.”
“For real?” Roy’s eyebrows raised.
“My crew didn’t show up. I’m sorry.” Bonnie frowned. “But..I made you something.” She jogged over to her car and grabbed the pan of banana bread. Roy’s face was buried in his phone as she returned to him. “We’ll reschedule.” Bonnie handed the bread to Roy who let the pan crash down on the tabletop. It fell on its side and Roy didn’t move to fix it. Bonnie could see the loaf pushing against the plastic, threatening to fall out.
“Yeah. No problem. I’ll uhh…I’ll text you.” Roy’s tone was deadpan.
“You better.” Bonnie conjured up an infinitesimal amount of confidence and winked at Roy. She turned and walked away. He didn’t even look at the bread. She sank into her car, rested her head on the steering wheel, and took a few deep breaths. It calmed her but in the pit of her stomach she still felt a combination of dread and embarrassment. “Ugh.”
Bonnie dialed her brother’s phone number. It rang for a while before he answered with a low, rasping one noted quack.
“I don’t need your attitude right now. Take the phone to Bernice.” Bonnie’s tone was firm. She heard her brother shuffling through the house; the sound of his feathers rubbing against the receiver. The phone went silent for a moment before she heard her sister’s voice.
“Bonnie?” Bernice yawned in her ear. “Ooo, what time even is it?”
“I need you to bring me a change of clothes to the restaurant.”
“Ha! Somebody spilled the barbecue sauce again huh?”
“No, Tasha called. The dinner shift is short, nobody showed up so I’m leaving my date. You remember I told you I was meeting Roy. Anyway, I’m heading over to help but I don’t have any work clothes.”
Bonnie smirked. She heard the guilt in her sister’s voice. It was another bullet on Bonnie’s list of reasons why Bernice would never have any real authority at the buffet. Her sister had begged her for more responsibility; she wanted to be trusted more…she wanted to be paid more.
“Yeah, Natalie, Mike, Bo, Tonya. No one showed up. Tasha is swamped. I’m heading over. Can you be there in a few minutes?”
“Of course, I’ll stay and help too.”
Bonnie hung up the phone on her sister and drove the rest of the way to the Booyah Buffet.