Thinking about what would work best for takeout, he ordered meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw for two. Normally, as part of his fitness regimen, he took it easy on the carbs, but women liked dessert—that was his excuse and he was sticking to it—so he also asked for a couple of slices of strawberry-rhubarb pie. “That’s to go,” he told the woman. Terry, her name tag said.
She clipped the order slip to one of those old fashioned carousels that hung between the diner and the kitchen, then turned back to him. “How are you liking our fair town so far?”
He figured the population was small enough, she’d know he wasn’t a local. “Looks nice, but I haven’t seen much of it. I’ve been out at Ryland Riding, visiting Sally. She’s an old friend.”
Her dark eyebrows arched. “You’re a friend of Sally Ryland’s?” Her tone held disbelief.
He eyed her quizzically. “Yeah. From way back. Before she got married.”
“Huh. Didn’t know she had friends except for Dave and—” She broke off, flushing. “That sounded terrible. Sorry. It’s just, well . . . she keeps to herself, you know?”
No friends? The Sally he’d known had been so outgoing. But then, Pete’s death had probably messed her up, not to mention left her swamped with work. “Since her husband died?”
Terry shook her head. “I’ve never once met Sally, and she’s been here seven, eight years. I don’t know if she’s set foot in town more than a few times, and her husband wasn’t here much more often. They built Ryland Riding and it was, like, their own little world. Just the two of them.”
“You mean, except for students and people boarding horses, right?”
“Sure. But Sally and Pete didn’t socialize.” She took a lattice-topped fruit pie from the display case. “Seems they didn’t need anyone except each other. That’s true love for you. I guess. I mean, it’s not how me and my hubby, Jeff, back there in the kitchen, like things.” Slicing pie, she chuckled. “Well, obviously, eh, or we wouldn’t own a diner. We like being in the center of what’s going on in town.” She put two generous slices of pie into a take-out container.
“I remember when Sally and Pete first met. It was like, bam, neither of them had eyes for anyone else.”
“Well, I guess it stayed that way. I heard that the rare times he did come into town he’d buy flowers for Sally.” An order was up, and she went to deliver it.
Maybe Ben had better not take flowers tonight. He didn’t want Sally thinking he was trying to compete, or compare, with Pete.