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Chris' Corn and Crab Cafe
She never expected to find love beckoning her. No, Lacey always had to search for a man, and for reasons she claimed to have been over long ago. Her lack of looks and personality, according to her, were the culprit. She would sift through seas of men to no avail, and as of recently, would have to start searching again.
So there she sat; hair a mess, clothing disheveled, with half a glass of wine and a chip on her shoulder.
Lacey was in no special place to most people. In fact, a rather unattractive place to most people. But to her, it was shelter. Chris’ Corn and Crab Café, it was called. A struggling business, with more than one incident of being mistaken as a red-neck grocery store. She never understood why Chris, owner of Chris’ Corn and Crab Café, didn’t change the name to something more appetizing; then again, she never understood why she was so drawn to the store in the first place.
Chris’, as all the regulars (consisting only of Chris himself and Lacey) called it, was the darkest and dampest restaurant in a 30 mile radius. It’s food was greasy, it’s liquor was cheap, and it’s service charming. The place where you’d expect to get food poisoning, but not care, because they had the best damn dollar fish tacos.
And for all intensive purposes Lacey - the girl with messy hair, clothing, and a drink in hand- came here as her home away from home.
So Lacey, feeling and looking the worst she had in weeks, believed she would be alone forever. Again.
“Chris, give me the usual. With double the grease,” Lacey felt expended. Completely drained.
“Hun, I give you twice the grease, I doubt you’ll be able to even pick up the burger.” Chris was holding four menus. Which, as they both knew, was four more than he needed. Lacey discovered long ago that Chris was all about appearances, and that he thought holding the menus made him look busy. Of course, this was despite the fact that the Corn and Crab Café was almost completely empty.
“Shut up and bring me my burger.”
Chris sat down at the booth, throwing his apron up so as not to touch the floor. “Rick was terrible for you anyways.” an immediate change in conversation; sudden, yet expected.
“You say it like I don’t know it.” She threw her head back and let out an odd combination of a groan and a sigh. After a few seconds in silence, she piped in again, “Still though. I’d kill if just for once I’d find a guy who didn’t treat me like absolute s***.”
Chris grabbed her hands in a comforting motion. Lacey was fairly sure Chris was gay, but never actually asked him. She was too modest and reserved, and felt such a question to be rude. “Oh come on. You’re a beautiful girl. Boys should be dying at your feet! In fact, they would be, if you didn’t spend all your damn time in this rinky-dink place.”
“Thanks.” She smiled, for the first time that week, and truly meant it. “Now get me my burger.”
Chris laughed, “And another of merlot, eh?” and walked away. Slowly the smile on Lacey’s face faded. That bitter, near emotionless stare returned soon after.
What did I do to deserve this? Lacey thought. She ran her hand down her arm, feeling a chill run down her spine, All I do is try. And fail. Blech.Chris inadvertently broke Lacey’s train of thought by taking a man’s order. He was talking in a slightly deeper voice. His “sex” voice, as he put it. Lacey rolled her eyes, while ignoring the urge to check if the guy was as cute as Chris‘ voice indicated. In anticipation of her artery clogging sandwich, the idea of going after a man just seemed tedious.
It’s not even about Rick. I knew Rick wouldn’t last. None of them do. It’s the fact that no guy would ever willingly want me. Or actually find me seductive, or beautiful, or even cute. Well, no one except for Chris, the flamboyant griller he is.
In fact, so did most things. For a generally happy girl, Lacey did get into spouts of depression. Especially on those kind of days when it rains just enough to frizz the hell out of your hair. Where the beach was simply not worth it because of the lack of sun. When the wind picks up just enough to pelt you with sand when you were on the board walk, roughing your skin.
Days like today.
Days where she needed a burger from Chris’ Corn and Crab Café.
The plate clanked as Chris put it on Lacey’s table alongside another glass of wine. Juices oozing from the sloppy burger splashed around the edges of the plate as it bounced, leaving Lacey, and even the cook, with an expression both of disgust and yearning. “Bon appetit?” Chris said as he strayed away from the table.
Lacey saw the burger and thought of herself. And then she thought, Screw that. No metaphors. Food only.
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, leaving only the whites visible. Her face buried into the burger, while the layers upon layers of cheap, near wilted vegetables fell out the sides. The fluffed bun squished with the juices, which dribbled upon her cheek, as well as what appeared to be ketchup.
Needless to say, it was a sight to see. Lacey indulged for the next few minutes, following the pattern of the first bite with increasing amounts of grease. She continued till she was startled by the voice of a man.
“When is the last time someone called you stunning?”
Lacey swallowed hard and blushed a deep shade of scarlet. The man motioned as if asking to sit down, and Lacey answered only in a nod, too embarrassed to say much else. After all, he was quite a handsome man.
As the mystery man took his seat, he spoke up again, “I mean, I know you must have gotten cute, and beautiful, and all those basic compliments, but when stunning?”
“I- I don’t know?”
The man jumped back a little bit, mistaking the after-shocks of her embarrassment for disgust, and spoke up, “Oh! This isn’t some weird pick-up line.” Lacey wished it was. “It’s just… you caught my attention.” She took that thought back. “Even if you don’t want to talk, I will. If you want me to, that is!
“I just meant that guys- they just don’t treat girls like they used to. Like chivalry has died. Men just follow some unwritten book now. All I’m saying is I could have come up to you, and asked, ‘Do you have a map? Because I’m lost in your eyes,’ or some other cheesy line, but no. I want to know, if you have a man in your life, who sees you in any light or in any outfit, and tells you, ‘You look absolutely ravishing.’”
Lacey’s blush, which NORMALLY would be gone by this time, was starting to die down. She pushed her hair back behind her ear, and responded, simply and petitely “No.”
Before she could really follow up, the man spoke up again, “Thank God. I thought I had to worry about getting a stern talking to from your boyfriend.” laughter. “Well then, if no one else is saying it, you do look quite stunning.” more laughter.
Why the man didn’t seem creepy, or too forward, was just as much a mystery as to why Lacey loved Chris’s Corn and Crab Café. Then again, she didn’t mind. This never really happened to her before. Maybe it was all by chance.
“My name is Chance, by the way,” he smiled, and so did she.
“I’m Lacey.” Again, smiling. What was a week of straight faces became filled with uncontrolled grins. “Look, are you sure you aren’t mistaken? It’s kinda dark in here, you might have the wrong girl.”
“Nope, you aren’t the wrong girl. In fact, I don’t know why I came here. The food looked terrible.” A scoffing noise sounded from the kitchen. Lacey suppressed laughter, as she knew Chris was eavesdropping. Thinking of Chris though, Lacey got paranoid…
“Wait… Did Chris put you up to this!?” Lacey was a bit louder than expected, which resulted in a slight crashing sound from the kitchen.
“Hey! Calm down. Is it that surprising that guy would be interested in you?”
“Well, yes. Very surprising, actually. Especially here. Especially now! And, especially by such a cute guy.” Confidence. This was something somewhat unfamiliar to Lacey.
“So I’m cute then?” Chance laughed a little bit. “You don’t even know me.”
“And you’re one to talk? I got stunning on the first sentence!”
“Well, are you complaining?”
Witty banter. Fun, witty banter. It’d been so long since Lacey had felt alive. At least as alive as this. “Well… no.” She smiled a shy smile.
“Exactly! But. I have filled my quota of compliments for a first meeting.”
“Does that mean there’s a second one?”
“Hmm… It could! You do have a number, and I do have a phone.”
Lacey’s number was in his hand before he finished the sentence. Lacey was genuinely enthralled, forgetting about any breaks ups or past boys. It was just this moment. “Perfect.”
They shared a moment of silence until he said, “Well then Lacey, I’ll leave you to your burger. ‘sides! This restaurant isn’t exactly my kind of place.” There was another scoff from the kitchen.
“Alright. I’ll see you around?”
“Count on it.” Before Lacey knew it, he was out the door. Her smile would not fade, and her burger went cold. She didn’t want that greasy junk anymore. In fact, she didn’t want much else besides the day Chance would call her.
Chris sat where Chance once was, “ I could almost smell the flirting over the meat fumes…”
Lacey laughed somewhat roughly. “I’m surprised you could smell the meat fumes at all. You know, after focusing all you senses on hearing”
“Touché, my friend, touché!” Knowing Lacey for so long, to see her head over heels, so fast, for any guy was just inconceivable. “But he was a little hard on the restaurant…”
“Shut up.” She punched him the arm, playfully, nearly missing, and starting cracking up. Chris could honestly say he’d never seen her quite so happy, and never so infatuated. Of all the years past, with Lacey showing up in the best and worst, Chris thought he’d seen it all. And frankly, so did Lacey.
Lacey never expected love to come upon her.
And not EVER did she expect it to come at Chris’ Corn and Crab Café.