kitchen-4Lorraine brought in the first order while Tommy was still in the kitchen. She handed the dupe to Bill. He slid it between the clips so it hung on the board then slid it all the way to the right so it was in the first place. He didn’t call out anything. Jimmy walked over to read it, saw it was for three steaks. Two had fries, so he walked over and put two orders of fries in one fryer basket. He didn’t drop the basket until he knew Bill was about ready with the steaks. Tommy checked out the dishwashers, finished his coffee, left the mug at the dish machine and went back out into the dining room.

When they came up from downstairs, Mary and Bea came back into the kitchen. Mary had put on lipstick, a pinkish color. She had put on blush too. She wore a dress and she hadn’t buttoned her coat yet. She went right to the back where Grandma was and did what she always did just before she went home, which was check out everything back there.

Bea walked through the line to Marie, made sure Marie had everything she needed. She did a last-minute look through the station then headed back toward where Bill was now plating the three steaks which were the first dinner order.

“You have a good night baby,” she said. “Tell Mary I’m out warming up my car.”

Bill nodded and said good night as he worked. He put the baked potato on the one steak it went with and when all three plates were up under the warmer lights, he tapped the bell once.

 After the bell tap,   Lexi came in quickly. “I’m running,” she said.

Bill acknowledged what she said and noticed as she walked out the door to the dining room that she still wore the dark hose but had put on bobby socks and working shoes.

Mary stopped by the broiler on her way out and took Bill into the hall with her. “Couple of things I need for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s your last day, right?”

“Till the twenty-seventh.”

“Okay.”

“I need meat for meat loaf for tomorrow’s lunch. See what you got left over tonight and break down any old hamburgers for it. We’ll need to make brown gravy, and I want to start defrosting the turkeys for Christmas day so take out five of them tonight.”

“What else you need? I’m gonna work straight through tomorrow so I’ll help get you as much ahead as we can. I don’t think Alvin’s gonna be too helpful, and Mr. Jim only works limited hours.”

“I’ll let you know in the morning.”

“Okay. I’m getting us The Upper Room for the twenty-eighth. Plan accordingly.”

“Why don’t you take one of your bimbos?”

“Please. I don’t need an argument. You know how I feel.”

“We’ll see.”

“Yeah. We will.” Bill drew Mary with him toward the back door. When they were out of the kitchen’s sight line, he drew her to him and kissed her softly, a completely different kind of kiss than with Lexi or Lorraine or Marie.

Mary kissed back, also different from the kisses Bill got from the others. “Goddamn you,” she said.

“Thank God for you,” he said. He smiled at her. “If you think of anything else I need to do tonight, call in to Tommy.”

“I will.” Mary kissed Bill one more time and as she did so she ran her hand softly along his cheek. “Goddamn you,” she said again.

Bill took her in both hands by her coat collar before she went out the door. He gave her a closed-mouth kiss, rubbed his cheek on hers then drew her coat closed and buttoned several of the buttons. “Keep it warm for me.”

“Have a good night and be safe,” Mary said.

Bill watched her walk to Bea’s car before he went back into work.

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