Left, right. One, two. The familiar rhythm of his feet against the uneven pavement filled Logan with serenity. Nothing else existed when he ran. There was only himself and the endless grid of streets and pathways. Some days Logan ran with a destination in mind; other days he ran to escape his own thoughts. Today, he ran because it was part of his routine; and Logan was nothing without routine.
Unlike most days, Logan was unable to tune out the sound of his own thoughts. He had never been the sort to listen to music while he ran. Instead he pushed himself to enter a mental state where he didn’t hear the sounds around him – a place where he was numb to everything but the steady thrum of his feet and the intake of breath.
At first he thought his difficulty with tuning out his thoughts had something to do with the pairing he’d just been on. There had been drama when the lead flight attendant realized that the first officer had been changed to her ex. It warranted a conversation and ultimately a phone call to crew scheduling to replace her – which had naturally translated to her filing a formal complaint against him. Logan had shrugged it off at the time – his reputation superseded a complaint, but this had been ridiculous. A part of him wondered what would happen if it were taken seriously- even though the first officer had assured him that he would speak on his behalf. As he ran, though, those thoughts had faded until they were nothing more than a dull hum.
Instead, on this warm spring morning, it was an unexpected thought that pressed insistently upon his consciousness: a bubbly red-headed waitress at his favourite local dive. She was always a ray of sunshine, greeting his predictable orders with a bright smile and a laugh. But something had been off lately and Logan didn’t know the cause. She still smiled, but it never quite reached her eyes. He had considered asking her about it, but it didn’t fit into their relationship of waitress and regular. He was worried about her and didn’t have a clue what to do about it.
As he rounded a corner, he saw it: a small clump of daisies. Logan slowed to a jog, passing them. The flowers reminded him of her. Bright, pure, with sunshine at the core. He didn’t pause to consider what she might think. Instead, Logan acted solely on instinct as he turned and walked back towards the wild flowers. He glanced around to make sure there wasn’t a sign prohibiting his next actions. When he knew he was safe, he knelt down and picked enough to make a small bouquet.
And then, before he could change his mind, Logan ran towards the diner – to her – hoping this time he could be the one to bring a smile to her face.
Usually she was a singer, a mover and a bum-wiggler at the best of times. Charlee was the happy employee that whistled along with the radio while she swept and belted it out like her life depended on it once the doors were closed and locked for the night. If her invisible crowd was lucky, they’d even get an encore or two while she counted the cash in the till. She was Beyonce. She was Aretha. She was Ke$ha and she was Gaga. Usually, she was a star, at least in her own mind, and she quite liked it like that. When she shut the doors at night, she was just Charlee; the petite redhead with the fiery spirit and the skip in her step.
These last few weeks had been a bit of a different story. She wasn’t depressed - far from it. It was just about impossible for Charlee to make it to that kind of dark spot, but there was something there. It was niggling at her on a daily basis, and she hadn’t even noticed that her concerts had turned into something more like a sound check. The skip in her step had travelled elsewhere, and now she moved with the crowd, still in her own way, but not quite.
The restaurant was quiet now. The morning breakfast rush was done, leaving her with tables to clear. Her very few all-day regulars were seated in their usual spots with the usual cup of coffee and the same paper they’d been reading for years. It was funny that day by day you didn’t notice a change in them, but as years passed and she remembered the first time she met these people, she did notice the changes in their faces. It was usually when they smiled that she noticed them the most - the new wrinkles or laugh lines, the change in lipstick colour for the ladies or the new bow ties for the men. Her particular favourites was an elderly couple who had been coming in since before she worked there for milkshakes every Wednesday at 11am. She could tell time by them, now.
Charlee was in the back washing her hands when she heard the all-too familiar sound of the bell over the door chime. She sighed heavily and dried her hands on her apron before she smoothed her hair back. Notepad and pen tucked safely into her smock, Charlee moved through the kitchen to the interior of the restaurant and was both surprised and happy to see who her newest customer of the day was. She didn’t realize she hadn’t smiled much that morning until she felt the grin spread across her cheeks this time. She didn’t notice the flowers, just him.
”Logan! What a wonderful surprise! What brings you here at this time of day?”