"Excuse me, miss, to interrupt you, but I have to take your order." Suddenly, I was back from my dream world to the real world, a quaint little café of the Hotel Riviera, with an impatient young waitress awaiting my order.
"Oh, all right. What do you have?"
Sighing, she pointed out the menu in front of me.
"Yes, right, thank you." I opened the silver book up and began to skim the choices; such things as watercress sandwiches, cucumber soup, and plum champagne.
Shaking her head, the waitress turned to leave. "I'll let you decide and be back." I watched her brunette head disappear, then went back to my menu.
Hmm, let's see. What will be a good appetizer? I thought to myself. I talked to myself all the time now, a habit I'd begun in the dark days, when I couldn't do anything without talking myself through it. The days when it was a struggle to pull myself out of bed, out of my little nest of sorrow and guilt. But now it had become a habit with me; rather than just thinking things, I narrated everything before I did it, in my head.
Glancing down the list of appetizers, nothing seemed to strike my fancy. Radish salad, tomatoes with garlic - I didn't want any of it. Then I noticed an item at the very bottom: fruit salad. I'll order that, I informed myself. Plain simple fruit. It would taste good - nice and fresh without silly things like garlic added, and couldn't possibly conjure up any unpleasant memories, like so many things these days did.
Now that I had my order, where was that waitress girl? Oh, there she was! I recognized the dark curls. No, I guess not. She had turned and she had not had the face of the impatient young woman serving me. Ah ha! Over there! Catching her eye, I motioned that I was ready to have my order taken.
"I would like to order the fruit salad," I informed her once she had reached my table.
"Is that all?"
"Yes, thank you."
"To insure freshness, we cut up the fruit right at your table."
"How nice," I said politely, as I really thought, How stupid. A minute or two to carry out the fruit does not make that much difference in freshness.
"I'll be back in a moment." And she bustled off.
Laying down my menu, I sunk my head into my hands, starting out at the spring renaissance. Trees were festooned with blossoms, new flower buds opening up, and the sweet chirping of birds filled the air.
It had been an April day like this one, a sweet early afternoon, but in a different time and place. The sky was the same deep azure blue and a lazy breeze hung over the beach. I was exhausted and lay back in my chair, finally relaxing after the weeks I'd spent on the case. Rhylant was running around, splashing in the gentle waves.
"Oh, Mama, look!" he cried, excited. Ever since he had turned eleven this past August, he thought that "Mother" was a much manlier way to call me than childish "Mama" - the name he'd used for me ever since he could talk. In fact, "Mama" was his first word ... though he'd said it in that sweet baby way: "ma-ma!", gurgling happily. Yet there were times, times like this, when Ry forgot his grown-up moniker for me, when he called me by his sweet baby name, Mama. Did he really forget or was it that there was imply no one around to hear him? This is one of those many questions I shall ponder over, never being able to know the answer.
"Yes, Ry darling. What is it? What should I look at?"
Running out of the water, dripping, Ry rushed up to me. "Over there." He pointed, and I glanced in the direction his golden arm was motioning to, expecting to see perhaps a baby bird, or a tropical fish in the stream issuing from the shore line, by my chair so I could soak my feet in the warm water, in the part passing me.
But it wasn't what I had expected. I gasped. Underneath a palm tree was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen. It was gigantic, with a long stem as wide as my wrist. With petals of a pearly white sheen, the speckled tints of reds and oranges resembled a painter's palette. The enormous outer petals opened to reveal more petals. It was a gorgeous flower. I had seen many flowers in my lifetime; flowers were my hobby and delight. Now I cannot stand flowers, but that was then.
"Oh, Ry! It's beautiful!"
"I know, Mama! Isn't it!" he exclaimed. "I'll get it for you."
"Oh, but Ry..." I paused. While I didn't want to him to damage the flower, neither did I want to dampen his enthusiasm. During this trip, we had a had lot more mother-son bonding and he had shown more affection towards me than he ever did at home and I didn't want to ruin that.
Ignoring my pause, Ry ran towards the tree -
My reverie was interrupted by a commotion in the restaurant. I was sitting on in the outdoor section, on the porch. Inside the restaurant something seemed to be happening. Girls were screaming. When I realized what was happening, I gasped. It appeared that someone was having a birthday. However, things were obviously not going as planned. One of the lit candles had been too close to the birthday girl's sleeve, spreading the flame. Shrieking, she managed to put it out but managed to spread it to the entire tablecloth. Now she jumped up, colliding with my waitress carrying my order.
It all happened so quickly. Both of them fell back onto the floor. As she fell down, the waitress flung the tray into the air. Fruits flew and people ran about trying to avoid the fire and being hit by fruit. Oh my gosh! I exclaimed. What about the knife to cut the fruit with? As if in slow motion, I saw the glimmer of silver above a nectarine. It was falling, falling -
Ry tugged mercilessly at the stem of the flower. "I've almost got it, Ma!" he called.
I screamed his name. "Look out!"
In horror, he looked up to the last thing he would ever see : the coconut, falling -
The blade sliced cleanly through the fruit, dropping the even halves on the burning table.
Coincidence did not exist. I screamed and ran.