It was lunchtime, for us, that is—about four in the afternoon, when we could count on a lull in business. I fixed Julie and Ann a fruit salad, and served it to them, at the counter. I hung around, cleaning and straightening, in case they wanted something else.
I figured they disserved to be waited on, once in a while. I'd eat later.
They were talking about William's upcoming party.
"…you can call any other friends you want to be there," Ann said. "There isn't time to send out invitations."
Julie seemed to be preoccupied.
"Just think. By this time next year you'll be away at college, and married. I'm going to miss you."
This brought Julie into focus.
"You know, Mom," she said, "maybe Tim and I should wait a bit."
"That's sweet, Baby. But you don't need to worry about me."
Right there, I missed a great opportunity to keep my mouth shut.
"Maybe she isn't sure what she wants." I said.
Ann never even glanced in my direction.
"Have you decided who to invite, dear?"
"Well, I thought Evelyn, and maybe the Thorndike twins…"
There are moments in your life when you've already overstepped your bounds, when you really ought to save your shots, pack it up for the day, and go home, but you don't. It's not rational, you're quite aware that you're pushing your luck, but you just, quite suddenly, stop giving a damn.
Maybe it was because Ann froze out my first ill-conceived remark, maybe it was because I was sick and tired of watching Julie being pushed around, maybe I'm just sporadically perverse by nature.
Maybe all of the above.
I reached my hand toward Julie's plate.
"May I?" I said.
Ann was still rambling on.
"Oh, I think we should invite the whole family. What about Robert and his sister?"
Julie glanced at me.
"Sure," she said. Then, to her mother, "Yeah, I guess we should ask them."
I took a grape off her plate, then I leaned on the counter, back a way, so I was behind Ann, but looking right at Julie.
Ann was still jabbering on, about the party.
"I think I'll buy you a new dress for Saturday. You don't get to announce your engagement every day."
I locked eyes with Julie, and began to methodically salt the grape, until every inch of it was covered with white. Then, still holding her gaze, I plopped it into my mouth, and began to chew.