Leaving the Comfort Cafe centers around the adventures of Blythe Shelley, a redneck who has had one curly perm too many, who earned 1600 on her SAT, a full scholarship to Cornell, but never went. Instead, she decided to wait tables at the Comfort Cafe, a small "mom and pop" restaurant in Eastern North Carolina. Austin, the fresh-out-school, newly hired town manager, is determined to learn why Blythe turned down her scholarship and gave up on her dreams.
--Following is a scene where Austin first meets Blythe while she's waiting tables at the Comfort Cafe...
“Mercy, children!” A frizzled, bright red perm slathered into sight, connected to a young woman with bright blue eye shadow and even brighter blue fingernails. With a smooth, almost disturbing movement of her wrist, she slammed a huge tray of food directly in front of him. She shook her head, shut her eyes and let out a low groan.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, hon. It’s just my stomach. I’m on my period.”
“Oh.” Austin tried not to stare. Dear God, please don’t let this be my waitress.
“Here you go, sir,” she said. “One plate eggs over easy with the decorative parsley carefully stacked to the side and not touching the food. Grits and hash browns, bacon and a side of sausage. Don’t you love places that serve breakfast all day? They were out of fresh blueberries for the pancakes, but we do have some of the canned stuff, though grandma over there won’t tell you it’s canned, so I wanted to hold off because I know the canned stuff makes you irregular. Here’s your
check. Comes to five seventy-five and I took the liberty of already adding in my tip—since you obviously never do—and an extra fifty cents for a pretty smile.”
Her bright pink lips parted to reveal well-kept, surprisingly straight, teeth.
“Now, if there’s nothing else you’ll be needing, I’ll take that whenever you’re—”
“Uh, miss...I’m sorry, but this is not my order.”
“Whadaya mean it’s not…” Her pale fingers darted into her apron pocket, pulled out a small, black notebook, and scurried through the pages, searching for the culprit. “Then if this isn’t yours, you must have ordered the tenderloin steak?”
“The ham hocks?”
“Barbecue? Caesar salad?”
“No and no. I ordered—”
“You ordered the fifth of vodka.”
“Just foolin’. I remember now. Grandma over there told me. One slice of pecan pie. Coffee.”
“Decaf.” Austin gently reminded her.
“Decaf coffee. That’s like saying ‘I want to spend the night with you, I just don’t want to have sex.’”
“Excuse me?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to say ‘sex’ before two o’ clock.”
Austin wondered why the time made any difference.
“And I guess this delectable feast was for…ooo….” Her eyes curved into narrow slits, looking through the window and pulverizing the mayor with what Austin could assume would be a felony assault. “I always thought that man would skip out on his bill one day. I don’t care who he is. I don’t care if his grandfather fought in the such-and-such war. I don’t care if his ancestry dates back to Stonewall Jackson. I don’t care if he helped tie up the Mayflower when they put it in dry dock. I even don’t care if he’s related to Jesus. That man is not skipping out on his bill.”
“I think he’s just outside talking to some folks. He’ll probably come right back.”
“That sonofabitch.” She hauled the overloaded tray up on her shoulder as if she were burping a baby and darted out the front door.
Austin couldn’t hear the conversation that followed, but he could tell by the mayor’s startled expression and the animated bobbing of the waitress’s head that the discussion was definitely, and enthusiastically, one-sided. She pushed the entire tray into the mayor’s arms. As he struggled to balance the tray, a few biscuits tumbled onto the pavement where a constituent’s beagle was more than happy to help himself to a free sample. The waitress then reached into the mayor’s back pocket, pulled out his wallet and removed funds to pay the bill.
She returned into the café casually, confidently, totally unaware of the stares and whispers beginning to sizzle from the background. Some country music station was playing on the kitchen radio, and she seemed to walk in easy rhythm to the music.
“Sorry about that, dear. I always knew he was going to slip out on me.”
“I think that was actually my fault.” Austin was almost afraid to volunteer who he was. “You see, I’m the new town manager and I don’t think he was pleased with—”
“Town manager?” Her bosom was uncomfortably close to Austin’s eye level. “I didn’t know we had a town manager. I thought the town just managed itself.”
“Believe me, I wish it did.”
She brought out a cup and poured his coffee.
Austin noticed the handle on the coffeepot was black, not the bright orange that signified decaf. She also brought him the pie a la mode, though he didn’t ask for it that way. But after seeing what she did to the mayor, he decided not to argue