Blinking the memory away as best she could before it blinded her, she managed a somber nod before moving to the other end of the counter to refill another patron's cup of coffee.
She kept busy with taking orders, ringing customers up, and checking on Dalma. At one point, from the corner of her eye, she caught August swiping a postcard from the stand beside the register. On the front of the card, intended for tourists, was a picture of the diner with blue skies and ocean waves in the background. After grabbing a stray pen from the counter, he began doodling something. As curious as Josie was, she willed herself not to look over and inspect it.
Thankfully, August's take-out order came up shortly. Before she could key it in the register, her dad interrupted.
"It's on the house."
August shook his head and fished out the wallet from the side pocket of his blue board shorts. "No, no. Let me pay."
"Nonsense. This is my welcome-home gift." Jasper made a show of pushing the bag containing the foam carryout containers into August's reluctant hands. "Don't you dare be rude like that, boy."
Admitting defeat, August put away his wallet and accepted the bag. "Yes, sir. I appreciate it."
"You hitting the surf today?" Jasper asked, wiping his hand along the grease-stained apron.
"That was the plan, but the water is like glass." August stood up from the stool. "You gotta go surfing with me sometime."
Jasper cackled at the idea and slapped the pronounced O
of his belly. "It's been too many years and way too many shrimp burgers for that."
"Nah, man. It's never too anything
to pursue what you love." August fixed Josie with a meaningful look. "It was good seeing
"You too." Jasper easily sent the polite remark back while Josie stood beside him in her mute state. She had not uttered an intelligible word directly to him the entire time. "And tell your folks I said hey."
"Will do." August spoke to Jasper, but his eyes remained on Josie, like he was waiting for something. When she remained silent, he appeared to give up whatever he'd hoped for and turned to leave. The Knitting Club began calling out to him, but he was smart enough to only give them a gentlemanly nod and brief wave. Before he made it completely out the door, Opal blocked his path. The shimmering halo of blonde-tipped auburn curls floated every which way as she did her little clap-and-hop dance at the sight of August.
Josie tried not to stare as August and Opal exchanged what looked like pleasantries. The friendly pair laughed at one point with Opal patting his arm.
Opal was an artist in her own right, who took what most people considered junk and restored it into newer, more unique pieces that she sold from her downtown store, Bless This Mess. Back in their youth, Josie and Opal had taken art classes with August at school as well as a few at the community center. Opal was social enough to befriend him, and Josie had been too awkward to do anything but admire him from afar.
Evidently time hadn't changed some things.
"I'll be by sometime this week," August's deep voice rang out as he headed outside, much to Josie's relief.
Opal nodded and waved before skipping over to the counter with a sweet smile on her fairylike face. Dressed in a peasant blouse, long skirt, and thick Birkenstocks, she was the epitome of cool and calm in the middle of the stuffy restaurant.
Even with several ceiling fans rotating overhead, sweat dewed along Josie's brow. She brushed away a damp lock of blonde hair that was beginning to stick there and mumbled, "Hey."
"Isn't it wonderful August has finally made his way home?" Opal's green eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.
"Umm . . ." Josie busied herself with wiping down the already-clean counter until Opal snickered. "What?"
"You still don't know how to come to terms with your crush on that man, do you?" Opal snickered again.
This excerpt ends on page 13 of the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden.