“Are you ready?” I yelled back at Elizabeth who was behind the counter starting up the second coffee maker.
I could hear her sigh. “I think,” she replied weakly. I rolled my eyes. The girl’s lack of confidence had been driving me bonkers ever since she showed up several months earlier. She had worked hard though, and I couldn’t deny that her help was wanted – particularly after that bloody massacre.
I unlocked the doors and plastered a smile on my face. “Hello, everyone! Come on in! It’s time for a party!” I said as I handed everyone special New Year’s Eve blowhorns with “Bren’s Diner” stamped on the side.
We had been voted as the host location for this year’s town-wide New Year’s Eve bash. The diner had taken a big hit in business after the vampire incident and we needed this party to boost us back on the map. I greeted locals one by one as they poured into the diner. The booths quickly filled up and the smell of coffee began radiating throughout as Elizabeth soared around filling every one’s cups.
Social I was not. Everyone was entertaining one another so I snuck back to the kitchen area to begin slicing pies: grapefruit as usual, but in addition, a new blueberry pie in honor of my Aunt Bren. More people had taken a liking to the blueberry’s sweetness and frankly, it was much safer to eat than the grapefruit.
I slapped each slice onto a white plate and pushed them onto the shelf. Elizabeth begin handing them out to everyone along with the coffee. I was getting into a groove: slice, scoop, slap, slice, scoop, slap, slice, but then the groove stopped with a splat. A grapefruit pie was suddenly face down on the red tile floor. “What the hell,” I said with a sigh.
Just as I squatted down to wipe up the messy pie, she was in front of me. “I know what you’re up to Gwen.” I couldn’t breathe. Her once warm green eyes were now hollow and gray. Her sun-streaked hair looked brittle and so did the rest of her. I stoop up slowly and closed my eyes. She wasn’t here. She wasn’t here. I opened my eyes and her gaze was just inches from mine. “That pie. It was to die with me. It’s not yours to serve. Don’t think for a minute that I haven’t been watching. I saw the blood Gwen. Innocents they were. You are not.”
I bit my lip just as I had done as a child when Aunt Bren scolded me. The real Aunt Bren. “You’re not real,” I repeated over and over. Vampires, I knew they existed. Ghosts of my dead aunt? No, not possible.
“Oh, I’m real alright. I’ve just been waiting until the right time to let you know I’ve been watching. The tourist massacre was the last straw. How could you keep serving it after I died? What kind of person are you? I taught you how to make it just right so that vampires would be tempted but they wouldn’t go insane. Now I know. You tweaked it. Your first batch on your own and you tweaked it. Now, I’m dead and so are those innocents. And half the town is out there,” she said pointing to the dining room, “about to bite in and you’re going to let it happen again, aren’t you? Sick, you are.”
I couldn’t deny what she was saying, and I knew anything was possible in the town. It was possible she knew exactly what had killed her. It had been my first attempt at making my own batch of grapefruit pie. I followed her instructions exactly but the pie was too boring for me. It needed some spice. I added extra citrus to sour it up. I thought I was being creative, but in the back of my mind I knew that the extra citrus would tempt the Vampires. I knew it might take them over edge. For me, it was worth the risk. I needed to distinguish myself as Gwen instead of Aunt Bren’s bastard niece. I was sick of living under her thumb. I wanted my own voice, my own opinions, my own diner.
Aunt Bren had cut herself a slice as I was washing tables on the other side of the diner. Within 2 minutes a couple of “young” vamps had broken through the glass doors and dove in for her…and the pie. She screamed, and I just stared. Before they stopped their feast, I had tucked myself under the table in hopes that my citrus-stained hands wouldn’t lure them over. I was fortunate. Aunt Bren was not.
I stared into her deep eyes, now barely visible as her ghost vapor began to fade. “Sorry, Bren. It’s my diner now.”
I took a deep breath as I sat back on the floor to clean up the pie. The lives out there in my diner weren’t mine to care for. I had myself to look after now. They would eat the pie and be happy. Then the others would come and dine. It might be another bloody mess but it was worth the risk. The diner was just full enough that plenty of vamps would come to feast. Just full enough that maybe they would come to eat. Maybe I could see them again. I barely remembered them anymore. I missed them.
“Gwen, the newlyweds Rachel and Frank want a whole grapefruit pie to themselves. They want to feed each other since they didn’t get to do that with their wedding cake,” Elizabeth said from over the counter, trying not to roll her eyes.
I smiled. “One grapefruit pie for the newlyweds, extra zesty, coming up.”