“Do you remember Millard’s? It’s still in business just down the block,” she said and gestured to the farthest corner.
“I remember their tasty burgers. I guess that’s a yes?”
“It’s a yes,” she said, a ghost of a smile on her face. “I just need to drop Lily off inside the station.”
Without waiting for a reply, she took her pittie inside, leaving Alex to wait for her return. When she came back, they ambled to the corner and down to Millard’s Diner, a police favorite because of the amazing takeout coffee.
As they walked to the door, Alex asked, “Is Old Man Millard still running the place?”
Miriam shook her head. “His son is running the place now with his wife, Vera.”
Beyond the door, it was like stepping back in time. The restaurant was decorated in a retro 1950’s style with red vinyl booths, bright blue counters and a jukebox softly playing golden oldies. But it was his memories that rocked him to the core; the images of his parents and him sitting and having an ice cream after a ball game.
“Alex?” Miriam questioned at his abrupt stop.
“I’m sorry. I’m not sure I can do this.”
She laid a comforting hand on his arm. “We can go somewhere else,” she said, but then Millard Jr. came over, a broad smile on his face.
“Is that Alex Peterson? It’s been a long time,” the older man said.
“Nice to see you again,” Alex said and had no choice but to follow the man as he led them to a booth.
A woman sauntered over with the menus, a sour smile on her lips. “Alex Peterson. Never thought I’d see you around here again.”
“We’ll have some pop. Thanks,” Miriam said, wanting to head off anything else Vera might say. She could be sharp and testy, and Miriam had wondered more than once how the good-natured Millard Jr. stayed with her.
With a huff, Vera scurried away, leaving them to peruse the menus in stilted silence. When she returned, she plopped the glasses on the table. “What can I get you?”
“Cheeseburger for me. Medium,” Miriam said.
Alex ordered the same and once Vera was gone, she said, “I’m sorry this brings back unhappy memories.”
Alex glanced around the restaurant and shrugged. “They’re not all unhappy but…I live with what my dad did every day.”
“You’re not responsible for his actions,” Miriam countered.
“Maybe not but I can’t forget that my father was the biggest drug dealer in the county. That so many lives were affected because of him.”
Miriam covered his hand with hers as it lay on the tabletop. He turned his hand to hold hers and she said, “It must have been so hard for you and your mother.”
He nodded. “People acted like we were a part of it. Like we should have known. It got to be too much for my mom. That’s why we left, Miriam.”
She had imagined as much, but he had been her boyfriend. Even though they’d been only fifteen, she had imagined them being together forever. His father’s arrest had changed all that.
“Miriam?” he pressed at her silence.
“Understanding didn’t make it any easier to lose you especially since…” Memories rushed back, rousing emotions so strong they threatened to choke her. She swallowed them down and said, “It was hard without you when I lost my parents.”
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