When the bus driver shut down the engine Millie tapped Molly on the hand. “Wake up. Breakfast time.” The kid could sleep through a tornado.
Molly, startled, inclined her seat, removed her ear buds, and shook her curly hair out of her eyes. “I’m starving,” she said looking at her mother.
“Sally Ann’s your best option.” The anorexic-looking girl across the aisle was standing and politely waiting for Molly and Millie.
“Say again,” Millie said, smiling at the young girl who looked like she hadn’t eaten in years.
Molly glanced at her mom, unplugged her iPhone from its charger underneath the seat, and stuffed it into her book bag. “It’s a restaurant.” Molly whispered to her mother.
The girl motioned for Millie and Molly to go first. “The reviews advise staying away from The Pitts. That’s the fast-food joint inside the bus station.”
The three exited the bus and walked inside the rear double-doors of the terminal. The lobby was large, much bigger than Toledo’s, and, so far, much cleaner. The gray and black floors looked like they’d just been waxed. “How far away is Sally’s?” Millie asked, not that hungry but knew Molly was, as always.
“It’s just two blocks north on 11th street. I’m going. Join me if you like. My treat. By the way, I’m Tracey.” This confused Millie. Anorexic’s are opposed to eating. And, why would this skinny, yet attractive girl who neither her or Molly knew, offer to buy their breakfast?
“I’m Molly. This is Millie, my mom.” Molly grabbed her mother’s hand and squeezed, knowing she needed to take charge as Millie battled depression. “Sounds good to me.” Molly said, shifting her book bag to her other shoulder.
Tracey led the way across the lobby, out the main entrance, and onto 11th street. Nothing much was said during their five minute walk.
The restaurant was small, and crowded. Six booths and an eight-stool counter. Not an available seat anywhere. For a minute, the three stood inside the front door, staring at the menu on the back wall taped to the metal hood above the griddle, and pondering whether to leave or wait. “Take ours.” An older man said from two booths away. “Come on Mildred, time to let these nice folks have our table.” The woman, probably his wife, looked like Millie felt: alone, sad, helpless. “You’re lucky. Food’s great. Come here every day.” It took another minute or two for the man to coax his wife from her seat, slip on a wide red scarf, and lead her outside. Millie couldn’t help but think how lucky the two seniors were, to have each other, hopefully after a long, satisfying life together.
“Where are you headed?” Molly broke the silence after the waitress filled their water glasses and took their orders. Millie removed her phone from her purse and started typing Matt a long text. She’d promised to update him every day.
“The Big Apple.” Tracey said, pouring half a Splenda into her water glass, then two shakes of salt. “New York City,” she added to clarify, but you probably know that already.” She stirred and used a spoon to test her concoction.
“What do you do there?” Molly was uninhibited.
“I teach meditation, also known as mindfulness.” Oh my, Millie thought about the Moonies along Canal Street she’d see every Thursday afternoon during her walk to her psychiatrist.
“Sounds like woo-woo to me.” Molly had no filter. Millie eyed her daughter, shaking her head sideways.
Carrie Borders was a Moonie, and she was a paralegal at Winston and Strawn. She occupied a cubicle in Millie’s quadrant, and like her, reported to law partner Kimbal Deitrich.
Tracey chewed slowly as though garnering time to frame her response. “I teach Zen. It’s nothing to do with the metaphysical. Simply put, it’s an exploration into the nature of the mind, a tool to open completely to our lives.”
Millie wasn’t especially spiritual but for the last year had attended a small church in their neighborhood. The unspoken reason was to create more time on weekends away from Colton. She ate a bite of her bran muffin and recalled Friday’s at Winston and Strawn.
Once per week, if their schedule allowed, the paralegal staff was allowed to dress casual. Carrie would always wear a t-shirt that read, “I’m a Moonie and I love it”. Millie had tried to avoid Carrie as much as possible but sometime she’d be stuck with her in a conference room indexing depositions. There, Millie learned a near-complete history of the Unification Church. It’s founder Sun Myung Moon, was allegedly a Messiah, second only to Jesus, wholly sinless. Moon’s purpose, as was all his followers, was to replace Christianity with his mission which was, in essence, to unite all humans into one family under God bringing peace throughout the earth. Woo-woo for sure, Millie had always concluded.
Molly ordered a refill of orange juice and continued peppering Tracey. “Where have you been? Did your car breakdown?”
Tracey pushed back her oatmeal bowl and forked a slice of pineapple. “I love your inquisitive daughter.” Her eyes met Millie’s and lingered a long while. “Two or three times per year I go on retreat. I always travel by Greyhound. For me, it keeps me rooted to life, real people, and real dependency. But mainly, I’m selfish. Riding the bus creates a lot of time to meditate without having to worry about driving.”
Molly interrupted Tracey. “Where was your retreat. This time?”
The waitress delivered their ticket and waited. Tracey removed a card from her pants pocket and handed it to the voluptuous red head. “Ottawa, Illinois, One River Zen. The center is a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian built in 1890, situated on the scenic banks of the Illinois River.”
“How long are retreats?”
“They vary. At One River they’re either a weekend or a week. Mine was the latter.” Tracey ate two bites of cantaloupe, and swallowed some water.
“Does meditation cause you to be so skinny?” Again, absolutely no filter.
“Molly, that’s too personal, borderline offensive.” Millie hoped her daughter would grow out of this.
“Oh, I love it.” Tracey replied. “So natural. She’s got a bright future.”
“Millie activated her cell. “We best be going. It’s almost 5:45. We don’t want to miss our ride.”
The food had been better than great. Even Millie bragged on the eggs, although she’d only taken a bite from Molly’s plate, who had wolfed down a southwestern omelet and a side order of bacon. Tracey’s appetite was equally as strong as Molly’s although she chose oatmeal, fruit, and unbuttered toast.
Millie was surprised she ate anything at all.