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Baby of Mine
The cocoa had congealed in her cup, sticky sweet dregs and islands of deformed mini-marshmallows. Mary wasn’t going to be the one to break the silence, that great yawning maw of foreboding, immutable quiet. A cup dropped from the waitress’s hand and shattered against the floor.
Mary released her breath in a whooshing sigh and her companion returned to his French toast.
“I always loved diner food.”
“Really?” Mary found the concept a bit laughable.
“Certainly. You won’t find food like this anywhere else.”
Before the silence could pool between them, Mary said, “Are you going to take me away?”
He put down his knife and fork, halting his assault on his syrup drowned breakfast.
“Why would you think that?”
Mary fidgeted with her ring. “I dunno, I can’t imagine reapers are allowed to live as normal people. And I’m certain I wasn’t supposed to bring her back.”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Can I get you two anything?” the waitress trilled with a smile.
He returned it. “Well, Shannon, I’d love one of those strawberry milkshakes. Mare?”
“Uh, more cocoa please.”
“Comin’ right up.” She said, sashaying over to the counter, flicking the radio on as she went.
“And my heart can hardly speak!” the old machine, metal and green, caterwauled. No fault of Mr. Sinatra of course, Mary could never criticize Josie’s favorite singer of all time. It was the imminent mortality of the object.
“And I seem to find the happiness I seeeeek!”
Finally, Mary replied, “She was mine… and Josie’s of course, you know, marriage. I couldn’t have stood by when there was still something I could do.”
“You couldn’t trust in the Divine Plan?”
“Divine Plan?” she smacked her hand flat against the table, her words quick, quiet, and fierce, “If I’m part of creation, even if not a human part, then I’m a cog in your damn divine plan! You can’t tell me a god that wrote me, you, Shannon in all our complexity would expect me- I mean, I didn’t even know I was a reaper, didn’t know I could until I did. So he couldn’t have expected me to let you take my daughter!”
The waitress swept up, beverages in hand.
“Here you go, darlin’,” she said, placing the shake before him.
His laughter crackled in his belly, suddenly catching in his throat and burning into the air so that the drinks jumped like in Jurrassic Park. Tears welled in his eyes as the laughter went on and on. Mary held very still. Finally, he took a long drink.
“Mare, for such a bright girl, you are very stupid.”
“I’m Death, the Death, not some mortal stumbling after theories. This whole thing,” he waved a hand vaguely at their surroundings, “I just wanted to see if you’d be interested in being a reaper full time. If you don’t want to, you can go home to Josie and baby Anna.”
“Oh.” Mary began playing with her wedding ring once more. “Oh, er, sorry then- for getting angry. I just assumed-”
“I’d tell you reality defied your very logical conclusion that an all powerful god couldn’t be thwarted by a twenty-seven year old, utterly inexperienced reaper?”
He leaned in, suddenly earnest. “I appreciate a sharp sense of which way is up as much as the next fellow, but a little trust… it could do you some good. God is great and the world is hard. An actual relationship with a deity helps when things get gray.”
He grinned, fishing the maraschino cherry out of the whip cream. “I mean, even the ones that don’t believe in Him still take His nonexistence super seriously. Mare, there have been wars, shootings, stabbings, stranglings, shoutings over the guy. It pays to trust.”
“What?” he asked.
“I’m just thinking of Anna’s little nose and her finger nails and her itty-bitty ears,” she sighed, sipping her drink.
“You’re staying then?”
“I never really considered leaving.”