by Wanda Cunningham
We sat in a booth under the big wide windows, I scooted in and Danny sat next to me. I felt very odd about this.
The waitress came over and glared at Danny. She looked to be about sixty, older than my grandmother who was the only blood relative I had left alive. Her name tag read, "Cora."
Danny grinned at her and blinked his brown eyes rapidly, pretending to try to look innocent. I noticed how long his lashes were.
"What are you doing out at this time of night with this child?" the old woman asked. "Daniel Victor!" she added.
"I found her," said Danny. "She followed me home, can I keep her?"
I blushed and very nearly ducked under the table to hide.
Cora glared at both of us, her own dark eyes snapping with annoyance. She snorted. "One of you ought to have good sense," she said. "How old are you, girl?" she asked me.
"Um," I said. She thought I was a girl? I had hair down to my shoulders but this was the seventies, more than half the boys my age had long hair. I wasn't wearing even one piece of girl's clothing, no make-up or jewelry.
The only reason she thought I was a girl was that Danny said so.
She turned on him. "Well, do you know how old she is?"
"She's sixteen," said Danny. "Her folks had a fight and she left the house in the middle of the night and I saw her and brought her here to feed her so I can take her back home in an hour or so. I know her from school."
Near enough the truth. "F-fifteen," I said, correcting the least important error.
" ¡Ay! ¡Dios mio!" said the waitress. "Robbing the cradle, and she's got no more shape than a boy!"
I blushed again.
"Hey!" said Danny. "You going to hurt her feelings, táa. Bring us some waffles and eggs and a platter of bacon."
Cora snapped open her order book and demanded. "How do you want your eggs?"
"Eyes open," said Danny. "Chica? How you want your eggs?"
"Scrambled," I said, trying not to stammer.
"To drink?" asked the waitress.
"Milk, please," I said.
"Milk for both of us and leave the cow," said Danny. "Oh, and before you ask, her name is Barbie Wilson and she lives at...." And he totally made up an address!
I stared at him.
"That right, honey?" the woman asked me.
Danny nodded at me so I nodded too.
"Is he being a gentleman?" she asked.
"Oh, yes, ma'am," I said, looking at her and nodding again.
She huffed but turned and headed back to the kitchen. "He better, he knows I can tell his mother on him," she muttered.
"She thinks I'm a girl," I whispered to Danny.
He grinned. "Well, you are, aren't you?"
"I'm not...." I couldn't think of what to say.
"Look," said Danny. "You walk like a girl, you talk like a girl, you act like a girl. Why wouldn't she believe it?"
"I'm wearing...I'm not wearing...I mean," I didn't know what I meant.
Danny waved a hand. "Girls wear boy's clothes all the time. Shows you're cool." He grinned. "And you even wear boy's clothes the way a girl does."
"I do?" I said. "How?"
He shrugged. "I dunno. But when you came into the boys' gym one day, first of the semester, four or five guys did double takes. And you weren't dressed much different than you are now."
Cora came back with two tall glasses and a pitcher of milk. "Is your mother Tillie Wilson?" she asked me.
I shook my head. "No ma'am, my mother's name is Josie, uh, Josephine. She hates that," I added, amazed at how easy it came to expand on Danny's lie. My real mother's name had been Emily, and she hated the nickname Emmie.
The waitress snorted. "She doesn't know you're out?"
I shook my head. "I'll go back when they stop throwing things," I said. "They won't even know I've been gone."
" ¡Que cosa!" she said and left again.
Danny drank an entire glass of milk at once and poured another one. He had milk in the little dark hairs on his lip that would be a mustache if he didn't shave for a few days.
"Drink you milk," he said.
I drank some and put the glass back down. I felt scared but relaxed, like you feel when you go out on stage but you know you know all of your lines and everyone else's too. But I didn't know my lines, I didn't have lines.
"You're very pretty," said Danny.
Like that. I had no idea what to say. I touched my face, my hair, put my hand back in my lap and just smiled at him.
He laughed, drank some more milk and took my hand with his free one. "No one tells you, you're pretty?"
I shook my head.
"'S true," he said. "Swear to God. Get you fixed up, nice clothes, some makeup, do your hair, you could be a princess." He squeezed my fingers, gently.
I squeezed back, not thinking.
"Chica, you would like that? To be a princess?"
"I...." I settled on nodding.
"Okay," he said.
Cora brought our food; two plates with the wide old-fashioned waffles, not the tall kind they call Belgian in some places. Two other small plates had eggs, mine scrambled and Danny's sunny-side up with the whites still looking a bit runny, and a platter with eight pieces of crispy bacon. "You want syrup?" she asked.
"Yes, please," I said. The waffles already had butter in a big melty lump.
Cora pulled a bottle of syrup out of the pocket of her apron and put it on the table. "Enjoy," she said.
Danny dumped his eggs on top of the waffle and began cutting it apart with his knife and fork. "How many bacons you want?" he asked.
"Uh, two?" I said.
He nodded and picked up six of the pieces and crumbled them on top of the pile of egg-soaked waffle.
I poured syrup on one corner of my waffle and took a bite. Pretty good. A bite of egg and a bite of bacon and I smiled at Danny.
He smiled back then he took the parsley from the bacon platter and tore it to pieces on top of his waffle, egg and bacon monstrosity.
"You want syrup with that?" I asked, pushing the bottle toward him.
"Yuck," he said. "Syrup? Not that stuff, it's just flavored corn syrup and water. If you had real maple, maybe." He shook his head, "But no, my mom and grandpop are both diabetic so I don't use sugar, most things."
"I thought your mom was Portuguese," I said, as if that made sense.
"Who told you that? No, I guess she might have some Portuguese, lots of Hawaiians do. She's Samoan, Hawaiian, Navaho and black. My dad's from Puerto Rico, so he's probably part black and part Indian, too, but mostly Spanish."
I blinked. Even counting Jolene's Louisiana French mother who wasn't really a relative, Danny's mix of heritage was much more varied than my Scots-Irish, English and German.
Danny had black, curly hair, dark skin that was close to cinnamon in color, and light brown eyes with green and gold flecks in them. He had a big head on some very wide shoulders. His features were regular with his nose not too big or too small, just right for his face. His lips were full, especially the lower one and they stood out from the color of his face, very red.
"You're staring at me," he said between bites. "Eat your waffle."
We ate and didn't say much until we had finished.
"That would have been better with cilantro," he said, "but this is a gringo place."
I smiled at him.
He looked at me, drank some milk and looked some more. "So you like guys, huh?"
I know I must have turned bright red.
"Must be hard–no joke–for you to go to boys' P.E. class," he said.
I had to have gotten even redder.
He laughed. "So, you like me? 'Ey?" He waggled his eyebrows and blinked his long dark lashes.
I looked away. I could probably have stood in for a stoplight then. Miserable with a forlorn sort of ache I didn't have a name for, I just nodded, still not looking at him.
When I had my face under control and did glance back, he winked at me while picking bacon out of his teeth with a corner of a business card he must have had in his pocket. "'Scuse me," he said but kept right on working on his dental hygiene. I turned away again.
"Chica," he said after a minute or so. "I'm done being disgusting." Under the edge of the table, he took my hand again. "You gorls," he deliberately said 'gorls' like a movie Mexican, "you don't like to watch a guy do that kind of stuff." He laughed.
I shook my head, trying not to blush again. Every time he referred to me as a girl, it made me want to run away but it made me happy, too.
He squeezed my hand again. "I guess I could stand to have two girlfriends, 'ey?"
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