I never knew how much I depended on knowing Hadley's was there. So much of my life had happened at Hadley's. My friends and I had discovered boys at Hadley's. The very cute boy who worked there was our first love. Every day after school, we would go there and giggle, hoping he would say something to one of us. Boys our own age became much nicer and they came there to giggle at us, hoping we would notice them. Many first dates began and ended at Hadley's, right through high school.
The decor hadn't changed much over the years, until it became a coffee shop. Espresso and cappuccino machines replaced the soda fountains. The furnishings were now trendy, sleek, instead of plastic, and practical. The light a little softer; the drinks a little more expensive.
My friend emailed me to say Hadley's had burnt down and it was as if I had lost a dear friend. I guess I had, actually. That weekend I traveled back to have a last look, to say goodbye.
I arrived late Friday after work. I drove past the site where Hadley's had stood and I slowed down checking out the damage. Selfishly I had a thought to stop and see if I could find a treasure to keep as a souvenir, a memory. I quickly pulled over. I got out of the car, my heels clicking loudly as I walked closer to the building. I paused in front of where the front door used to be. In the dim light, everything was charred, black... One and a half walls still jutted from the ashes to the left. I squinted into the darkness trying to imagine what used to be there.
I gingerly stepped into rubble, wishing I had worn other shoes. The crunching of burnt, crispy unrecognizable items under my feet was the only sound. I stopped, getting my bearings. Over there we sat laughing about Karen's new baby just last month. Voices came into my head, memories of times past, the giggling of us girls over the antics of the boys trying to get our attention. I chuckled aloud and covered my mouth.
A voice rang out almost startling me, “Hello?” the voice called. “Hello” I answered. “I'm just having a last look around.” No further conversation. “I ...I used come here a lot and ...well...I came to say goodbye.” I offered. Nothing. Thinking maybe it had been my imagination I shrugged it off.
I heard a crunching noise behind me, spinning around I saw a man standing there smiling. “Oh! I was starting to think I was hearing things!”
He smiled wider and held out his hand, “No it was me.”
I shook his hand and smiled. “I used to come here a lot and I was looking for a keepsake.”
He laughed loudly, “You ruined my opening line! I was gonna ask you if you came here often!”
We both laughed. “My name is Everett, can I ask yours?” he asked with his winning smile.
. “My name is Lucy.” I smiled back.
We started walking back to the street. It was getting darker. Since Hadley's was at the end of the main street through town, it was also quite deserted and I was feeling slightly uncomfortable.
“It was nice meeting you Everett.” I waved and started for me car.
“Wait! Do you have time for a cup of coffee at the diner?” He called to me.
I wasn't exactly in a hurry. “Okay.” It seemed safe to me.
We drove to the diner, with me leading the way. Several cars dotted the lot and they were turning on the outside lights. Meet & Eat, not very fancy but the food was pretty good. I stopped and got out of the car. I waited for Everett to reach the door, and then we entered together. It was noisy inside, the clinking of plates and silverware, a mixture of voices, and a jukebox in the corner droning on about heartache, I didn't recognize the song.
We find a booth and sit opposite each other. The server comes by and asks for our order. Everett looks across at me, “Are you hungry, cuz I am, I'm thinking more than coffee, my treat?
“Um no... Thanks, coffees fine” I was due at my friends later and I would take her out for pizza.
“Suit yourself,” he said smiling, and then ordered a “special”.
We talked easily with each other as if we were long time friends. He asked me about my memories of Hadley’s and then offered a few of his own. It was amazing to me that I never saw him there. The way he talked, he was there almost as much as I was. We appeared to be close to the same age why had I never seem him at school?
“Everett, how is it I don't know you? You would think I would have seen you at school if not at Hadley's.” I asked him.
He looked me in the eye then looked out into the diner. “I'm a little older than you. We had different friends...and it was just a different time.” He looked at his plate. His head came up and he shot me his smile. “Anyway, here we are!”
“Yes... we are.” I smiled back, it really didn't matter, but it rather seemed odd. “Well I have friends waiting for me so I should get going. Thanks for the coffee, Everett.”
“It’s been a pleasure Lucy.” He watched me stand, again with his warming smile.
“See ya around maybe...” I waved and turned toward the door. Behind me, he sat shaking his head.
I arrived at my friend’s house about fifteen minutes later. She lived just outside of town; the drive was beautiful because you had to cross a creek that had a covered bridge. Such a peaceful place, I missed it sometimes. College and the big city had lured me away.
“Lucy!” As I drove up, I could see Carrie waving her arms in the driveway. I jumped out of the car, “Carrie!” We hugged and went arm in arm into the house.
“What took you so long?” Carrie asked as she took my bags from me.
I don't know why but I lied, “Oh traffic was horrible! And I got started late.”
Carrie seemed satisfied with that answer and busied herself taking my things up stairs to the landing. “Hey! Have you eaten yet?'
“I was gonna see if you wanted to go out for pizza.” I offered.
“Wow, it’s been a long day; I'll order some though, how's that?” Carrie answered as she sat on the last stair.
“Sounds good.” So that's how the evening went. We ordered pizza, sat around in our pj's and talked until the wee hours. Carrie was one of my oldest friends. She knew me so well she could finish my sentences sometimes. I stayed with her when I came into town to see my Mom.
My Mother still resided in this sleepy little town. Every two weeks I came back to visit. She was not entirely well. She had an apartment at an assisted living village where all her friends also resided. She laughingly called it party city. “Where else can you raise all kinds of hell and they still do your laundry and feed you!” she always said. She had heard about Hadley’s burning down and she seemed quite sad about it. It seemed such a big part of so many lives here.
It was late and there is an open pizza box with a few crusts in it. Carrie is thoughtfully drinking her soda. She had just finished a story about a guy she liked in 8th grade; they shared a soda at Hadley's.
“Carrie...did you ever know anyone named Everett?”
Carrie slowly let the glass lower to the floor where she sat. “Everett?....Everett. Really? No.”
“What? It’s a perfectly nice name...I just asked.” I sounded a little defensive.
“Lucy, who is he... did he have anything to do with you being late?” Carrie, the detective, asked.
“No ... I was just curious.”
“Spill it Lucy, I'm tired....” Carrie coaxed.
I told her then of my encounter with the man with the beautiful smile. As I retold it, it even surprised me how I reacted. It wasn't like me to have a conversation with a total stranger, to say nothing of spending the next hour and a half drinking coffee and swapping stories. I had no explanation. Carrie was appalled; she told me how lucky I was not to be raped and dead at this moment. I guess she was kind of right. It was just weird. Glad to be alive and full of pizza I suggested we turn. No arguments from Carrie.
The next morning I rose early so I could have breakfast with Mom. Carrie was still asleep so I dressed quietly and left the house. I would see her later as I would be staying one more night and go home the following day.
As I drove to my Mom's place I had to pass the remains of Hadley's, I slowed as I passed. Was I just being curious again, or was I hoping to see Everett going through the rubble?
Soon I pulled into the parking lot of the complex where my Mother lived. The place was amazing! The main building was something out of Las Vegas in decor. The apartments that were attached reflected the occupant as they did their own decorating. She knew I would be there but she didn't know I was coming for breakfast. She always looked surprised to see me, “Sweetie! I'm so glad to see you!” she would yell as soon as she saw me. Then there were always lots of hugs and kisses. She always made sure everyone within hearing distance knew I was her daughter. “This is my baby. … Yes, she’s very successful. ….No, she's not married yet”
I would always laugh and spirit her away so I could have her to myself. She was tired this morning; she asked if we could have breakfast in the dining area. I, of course, agreed. After paying for my own meal, we chose a table and sat near a window.
We chatted for a few moments over coffee before they brought some eggs and toast. She told me she won bingo that week and got some “Wild Bucks” to spend at the store within the complex. She went on to say how she and the “girls” were signed up for the field trip to a Casino nearby. She was so happy amongst her peers. The staff was wonderful and kept them full of life. I know she missed Dad but she didn't have time to become depressed about it. I was comfortable knowing she was well taken care of. She might as well have been living in a resort.
We strolled outside after breakfast and walked into the garden. The fragrance of the flowers was cloying in the cool humid morning. We sat on a padded bench and enjoyed the songs of some nearby birds. “You know your Father and I used to enjoy sitting in the garden.” Her voice broke the near silence.
I was hoping she wasn't going to be sad. “I'm sure you did! Who in their right mind wouldn't enjoy such a lovely morning!” I spoke with cheer.
She smiled and looked over the garden. “Yes” was all she said.
“I'm sure you heard about Hadley's burning down, right?” I tried to change the subject.
She turned toward me, “Yes, it's what has me thinking about your Dad.”
Great! “How is that, Mom? I was curious.
“Before it was a coffee shop, before it got the soda fountains, it was just a drug store. But you knew that...” she started.
“Well, I was just a young girl but my mom sent me on errands and sometimes I had to go to the drugstore to get things for her. “ She paused as if she were going back to those days in her mind. “I remember seeing your father there many times, probably running errands as well. I saw him in school but it was different when you would see a classmate out of school,” she laughed, “especially a boy!”
She shifted her position and went on, “He always wanted to walk with me, but I had eyes for someone else so I shooed him away.”
I laughed, “Really Mom? Wow I almost didn't happen!” I teased her.
She laughed with me, “I was afraid the Pharmacist's assistant would think your Dad was my boyfriend!”
“So how did Dad finally win you?” I encouraged her story; she seemed to find humor in it.
Her face changed and became rather sad, “There's no doubt I would have married your Dad in the long run... but... I had the biggest crush on that assistant. Everett died from a snake bite while hunting.”
Hearing Everett's name startled me, “What was his name?” She repeated it. Discreetly I asked her what he looked like and it fit the description of the man I had seen in the rubble. She erased all doubt it was the man I had seen when she mentioned his beautiful smile.