"A penny for your thoughts?"
"They're worth more then that," she protests. Less adamantly then intended.
"Alright, then. A nickel." He reaches, this time, into his pocket and searches through a spattering of change.
"Here." He places a dime on the table between the. "When you're done I'll owe you some of mine."
Kalee glares at the dime. She's normally more words then thoughts. Crafting opinions, stories, debates as she goes. She usually sounds good every time. But today, no, this whole damn week she doesn't feel like it. Who is he to wait patiently for her attempt? The dime will end up in the pocket of somebodies worn jeans. Kalee can't decide who's.
Her thoughts aren't worth five cents. Not, at least, to you or me. But they're labour intensive. For once she's struggled to build them and she doesn't want to let them go.
"I don't know," she sputters. He lowers his chin, raises his eyebrows. A man who can say more with an expression than a phrase. Of course he expects more.
There was Madison. She had always been the pretty one, the domestic one, the nurturer. Well she started dating soccer players and doctor's sons Kalee had done what little sisters do best. She shaped herself into someone completely different. The student, the scrapper, the arguer. They were comfortable in these roles and friends and competitors. Each knowing they would never succeed wherever the other excelled.
Kalee had one boyfriend in high school and another in university. Boys she shared notes and lunchtime sandwiches with. Ones she could attend parties with when she had time. They filled a role but mostly they were boys she could talk to. Endlessly. On the phone, in the car, late at night. Around campfires at the lake well everyone else played drinking games and dared each other to come skinny dipping.
Kalee could thank these boys for her prowess with words, her lauded communication skills. Her honours degree in journalism from McGill. They were what she needed. When she shut-down with her family she always had someone worth shaping her thoughts for.
And now here was Daniel waiting. And she couldn't do it. She is tired. Twisting her white ceramic mug she hopes the waitress will bring another refill. Kalee never drinks it black but she is today.
So, Madison is married. Of course she is. Finally she is. Married in a beautiful ceremony on a beautiful beach. A beach on that pretentious B.C. island with the waves rolling in, the sun overhead and the shells lining the aisle to the alter that wasn't an alter. The spot where Kalee had stood holding the bride's bouquet, smiling and acknowledging that she had a different lot in life.
Hers was the flight back to Toronto. The pumps, the meetings, the assistant editor's job and the ambition.
"I hate my ambition," she spits. "How dare they downsize? 'Cut my position' when I'm at my sister's wedding, of all things!"
Daniel nods. Kalee continues.
"Screw them. Screw Madison. Screw my student loans and my so-called career."
She is tired. Wondering, briefly, why Daniel is listening. If he recognizes that this is just a little piece of her incoherent thoughts. The little part that's a little less vulnerable then the rest.
The diner door swings shut behind them and they pull their hoodies tight against the autumn breeze. A caffeine buzz and plans not made.
She doesn't know. Nothing apart from that Madison is married, Daniel is here and she is unemployed. She'll take herself away if she finds that scrapper's courage.
The waitress is right behind them, coming off shift. She's changed her flats for scuffed leather and tied a scarf around her hair. That last booth is empty. She thinks it's about time. Might as well check before she goes... C'mon. Seriously? Sure, there's a downturn but this is friggin' ridiculous.
And she slides a dime into the pocket of her worn jeans.