I started a story here a couple weeks ago. We met Dapi, who was running from some other guests at a party he was attending with a girl named Gail. Then Dapi had a flashback to earlier that same day when he first met Gail. Here is the part 1 of that encounter (which I posted before). Part 2 follows.
Gail. Dapi wondered if that was a nickname of some sort or if it was short for something else, something more fitting for such a wonder of a woman.
The street had been nearly deserted as he walked in and out of the little shops around the city square that struggled to survived. Few people passed and even fewer cars. It was early afternoon, so most people were understandably at work--at least that's what Dapi assumed. Each successive shop was starting to seem like a repeat of the one before, when he came to a new cafe, complete with umbrellas and tables and small trees complementing natural shade with artificial. The ground and tables were a mosaic of shadow and springtime sun.
Dapi went in to have a look around. The small place would have been nothing of much note somewhere else, but here in this almost village of a town in rural America, it was a pleasant surprise.
He walked over to the counter and began to peruse the colorful chalkboard hanging on the wall that served as a menu. He was again surprised when he saw the selection of sandwiches and soups. He let out a whistle, which startled the other customer who stood waiting for his order. He turned and looked at Dapi, who nodded at the man.
"Lot of options here," Dapi said as he flushed a little.
The man almost scowled at him, clearly wanting to be left alone.
The girl working the counter didn't seem to notice the whistle or the short-lived conversation. She just stood, back turned to him, leaning slightly over a long butcher block that served as the cafe's preparation counter. Dapi was glad she kept at her work and didn't turn. He wasn't usually a whistler and he certainly didn't want people thinking he whistled at girls.
Dapi decided to leave the man to his waiting and the girl behind the counter to her preparing. He walked over to the far wall to have a look at the various jellies and candles and import coffees for sale. Most of the items were local. He didn't recognize the names on the labels--why would he? he'd been away for nearly a decade--but he did recognize the street names on the addresses printed on the back of the labels.
Behind him, he heard the girl ask the man if he wanted anything else with his sandwich. There was no response--none that Dapi heard, anyway--and then the girl said, "Okay. Have a good afternoon, Jack."
Dapi turned around just in time to see Jack smile at the girl behind the counter, mumble something, and scramble out the door like he'd been twelve and not in his twenties.
Dapi walked back over to the counter and then he saw why.
The bells above the door chimed as Jack darted out into the dappled light. Dapi hadn't noticed the bells before, so he thought they somehow came with the girl behind the counter. He stood staring at the girl, noticed her hair pulling lose from her ponytail, her large eyes looking intently at him. That sound DIDN'T just come from her, did it? He shook his head and turned around and looked at the door. Jack was nowhere in sight, but the bells above the doors still shimmered a bit from their recent movement. Oh. That's it. Whew. Sentimental much, Danby? And now I'm asking myself questions, what's--
"Can I help you with anything?"
Dapi swung back around. "Wha--?"
"Would you like to place an order?"
"Oh. Uh, yeah. Yes. You startled me. Sorry. I'd like--" Dapi surveyed the board again, made a selection and ordered it.
While the girl prepared his sandwhich, Dapi watched. He wondered if she would sweep back that strand of hair that had found it's way out of the elastic band holding her hair out of her face. As she turned a little and spoke. "You're not from around here, are you?" It wasn't a question, though she worded it as such.
"Yes--well, not lately. I've been away for a while."
"Yeah, I didn't recognize you." She finished the sandwich and turned to hand it to him. "But I'd say you look like a Grayson."
Dapi stood up taller, his face registering clear suprise. He eyed her. Up till now, he'd seen a moderately attractive girl, with great hair and a pleasant attitude. With that last comment, she seemed somehow knowing as well.
"You'd be right. I look like my father." Dapi took a step toward the counter and extended his hand. "Danby Grayson, son of Theodore Grayson."
The girl took his hand and shook it. But she did not offer her name. "I know Ted. He and your mother come in here sometimes. They mentioned their son a time or two, but I don't recall them calling him 'Danby.'" She fixed her large eyes on him--again--a quizzical expression on her face. Before Dapi could respond, she said, "Dapi! That's what they called their son. Is that you?"
"Uh, yup. That's me. Danby 'Dapi' Grayson. Son of Ted, gone since college." He held up his hands as if to say "Here I am."
"Well, that makes sense. I mean, it explains why I haven't seen you around. Where you been, Danby? Where you been hiding yourself and why don't you evey come and visit your mama?"
Dapi began an answer, while the girl busied herself bussing the three tables in the cafe. He started right in to explaining himself in full, but half way through his discourse (which is what it was becoming) of his time at college and his move to New York and that he did see his mama--several times a year, in fact--he stopped. "Wait. What's with all the questions, 'girl at the cafe in small town America'?"
The girl stopped wiping the third table and looked at him out the corner of her eye. "'Girl at the cafe in small town America'? What's that mean?"
Dapi didn't answer. He just took the rag from her and finished wiping the third table. He walked around the table and stood right beside her and pulled a chair from the table. She took the moment to sweep the loose strand of lightly auburn hair back behind her ear. He looked down at the chair.
"Have you eaten yet? Care to join for lunch? Since we're clearly having a conversation here, and all."
She looked at her watch and then out the window--perhaps for in-coming customers. She shrugged and took the seat he was offering her.
Dapi took a napkin and placed it in front of her. Then he set half of his sandwhich on it. He walked over to the counter, took two bottles of water from the ice bucket and a bag of chips from the rack and sat down across from the girl. "So, you know my name--my full name and my nick name (which probably doesn't make sense to you). You also know a portion of my life story, which I somehow felt obliged to share due to your powers of supernatural quizzicalness. What's your name?" He sat waiting for her reply, his gray eyes intent on her large blue ones.
Her eyes popped wider for a second and then she was laughing. "Your right. I just jumped right in, like I had a right to it just because I know your parents. My apologies for working my powers of quizzical quizzicalness."
Dapi nodded his acceptance, a close-mouthed smile on his face.
She extended her hand to him. "I'm Gail. Abigail 'Gail' Landstrom. Pleasure to meet you, Danby."