Mabel and Herbert sat across from each other at a small table in the Palace Diner. They were drinking coffee and taking turns glancing at the door, as if they were expecting someone to come in. They held hands, their fingers twined together intimately. Her hands were covered with liver spots, while his were gnarled and twisted with arthritis.
Mabel put her coffee down and said, “I know we’ll find them tonight.”
“My dearest love, you can’t know.”
“How can you say that, sweetheart? I always know.”
“True, I’m just worried; I feel that time is running short.”
“We have put if off longer than usual, but we have been extraordinarily happy this time, don’t you think?”
“Yes, but I’m always extraordinarily happy with you,” Herbert said, smiling at her.
“And I with you, my love,” she answered, returning his smile.
They looked into each other’s eyes, no further words needed. The little bell over the door tinkled as Sherry and Craig walked through the door.
Mabel and Herbert turned their heads as one and watched the younger couple pick out a table not too far from their own. Mabel and Herbert smiled at each other and settled down to eavesdrop.
“I’m sorry, babe,” Craig said, reaching across the table to hold her hand loosely in his larger one. At her puzzled look he continued, “This isn’t much of a romantic getaway, is it?” He turned his hand so that it was palm up and her hand just rested lightly on it.
Sherry shook her head and smiled at him, “Hon, it’s no big deal. We’ll have plenty of romantic getaways.” She gave his hand a little reassuring squeeze, and then lifted her hand from his to spread her napkin across her lap.
“I know, but we’ve done nothing but argue since we crossed the line into New Hampshire.”
“True,” she answered. “But we’re both strong willed and opinionated. We’re bound to butt heads.”
“Opinionated! I’m not opinionated.”
“Really?” she said, one eyebrow raised in question. “You’re the one who won’t consider heading back to Manchester. You’re determined to stay up here, come hell or high water.”
“That’s just being practical.”
Sherry opened her mouth to reply just as the waitress arrived.
The woman was older, in her forties or fifties, with graying hair and no makeup except for some bright red lipstick. She wore a faded pink uniform with a white collar and cuffs on the short sleeves. Pinned to her chest was a name tag that revealed her name to be Ruby.
“What can I get for you folks?” she asked, pulling a pad of paper and a pencil out of her pocket.
“Uh, I don’t know. Babe, do you want a burger?”
“Yeah, I guess. And a coke,” Sherry answered.
“Okay. Two burgers, medium.” He looked up from the menu and said, “Do you have onion rings?” Ruby nodded yes and he continued, “One with fries and one with onion rings. Oh, and I’ll have a ginger ale.”
Ruby closed her pad, “Thank you, folks. I’ll bring your drinks right over.” She walked back to the window into the kitchen and called out, “Barry! Two pink cows, a fry and a ring.”
Sherry and Craig sat silently as they both watched Ruby. Neither was really paying attention to her, though. They were wrapped in their own thoughts.
“I saw a state park on 109,” he said, still not looking at Sherry.
“I saw it,” she said shortly. She knew what was coming.
“We should just camp there.”
“It’s probably closed and who knows if it’s set up for camping.”
Just then Ruby brought their drinks. “Here you go,” she said as she put the glasses on the table and then turned away.
“Wait a minute, Ruby,” Craig said. When she stopped and turned back to him again, he continued. “The State Park we drove by, is it set up for camping?”
“Wentworth State Park?” she asked. Craig nodded and she said, “No, it’s just for day trippers – you know, picnics and swimming, stuff like that. They close at sundown and drop the gate across the access road.
“Really?” he asked. “So there’s no way to get into the park after dark?”
“Not officially,” she said with a smirk.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there’s a dirt road in that the locals know about. The kids use it as a kind of lover’s lane,” she answered.
“That’s interesting,” he said. “Is it off the main road?”
Sherry sat there and steamed as her husband and Ruby discussed ways to get into the park. She knew what was coming next. And sure enough, as Ruby walked away from their table, Craig turned his head to look at Sherry again. She recognized the look on his face, it was the same one he always had when he was going to try to charm her her into doing something she didn’t want to do. She knew it usually worked, too.
“We can go up that lover’s lane, park the truck, get some sleep and head home tomorrow.”
Sherry shook her head, “You are something.”
“What do you mean?” he asked with an innocent look on his face.
“You do realize that we’d be trespassing, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but it’s a state park. The locals go in there when it’s closed.”
“But not to sleep!” she exclaimed, softly, her face turning red with frustration as she glanced around to see if anyone had heard her.
The low voiced argument continued while they waited for their food. Their voices never raised above a conversational level, but their tones changed as the argument escalated.
Their food was delivered and they ate in complete silence.
Herbert turned to Mabel, “What do you think?”
“I think they’re the ones.”
“Are you sure? Did you listen to them argue? I don’t know if they have that connection to each other.”
“They do have it, I can feel it. And we’ll take care of the arguing, won’t we?”
“Well, yes, but do you think they love each other enough?
“Yes, they’re in love enough. Not like we are, of course,” she said, smiling at her love. “But they never are, are they?”