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The Magnolia Cafe

By:Kay Correll


Keely Granger clenched her teeth and pasted on what she hoped was a semi-good attempt at a smile. Keely spun around, menus in hand, at the sound of yet more customers entering the cafe.

“Hi, there’s about a twenty minute wait. Is that okay?” They were doing a brisk business tonight. Which was good and bad. The new waitress had called in sick for the second time in a week and a half. Keely was going to do a remarkable job of chewing out the new waitress—if she ever showed up for work again. Becky Lee, their dependable long-time waitress, was doing the work of two servers. That left Keely doing triple duty as hostess, manager, and backup server tonight.

“We’ll catch you another time then, Keely.”

Keely watched as a family of four headed down Main Street in search of another place to eat where they didn’t have to wait for a table, or at the very least had an area where they could wait for their table without sitting outside on the wooden benches that made up Magnolia Cafe’s “waiting area.”

Keely set the menus back down on the counter. She hurried off to grab a tray of water glasses, pausing at the table near the door to pick up dirty dishes. They needed a bus person, too, at least on the weekend nights. Of course if the new waitress would show up, that would help. She tilted her head from side to side, trying to release some of the tension of the day.

“I’ll get that.” Becky Lee swooped in and picked up the tray of water glasses. “Headed back there to take their order anyway.” The waitress smiled at her as if she knew that Keely was feeling overwhelmed tonight.

The evening wore on. And on. A smile for a customer here, handling a complaint there. It was always the same thing night after night. Different people each night, but the same routine.

Hours later Keely looked up when she caught a glance of a tall man standing in the doorway. Hunt Robichaux. She hadn’t seen him in years. Last she’d heard he was off traveling the world, the lucky duck.

She secretly kept track of him, mainly because she’d always wished things could have been different, that she could have been his sidekick off writing travel articles while he shot his photography. They had such plans when they were growing up. A dynamic duo of travel writer and travel photographer. She’d so wanted to live the life he’d made for himself.

“Hey, Hunt. Long time no see.” She walked over and gave him a quick hug.

“It has been a while. Looks like you’re keeping busy here.” Hunt nodded towards the remaining tables of customers. “I drove by earlier and there were people waiting outside on the benches.”

And that had obviously chased him away. Keely told herself for the millionth time she had to convince her mother that adding a covered patio area behind the restaurant was a smart move. People would be much more willing to have a drink out on the patio, and less likely to leave when the wait time grew longer on the weekends. It was a brilliant idea of hers, even if her mom wouldn’t admit it. Her mom rarely worked at the restaurant any more, but vetoed just about any change Keely wanted to make.

“We were busy tonight.” We need to do something to be busier more often, you know, if we had anywhere for people to wait for a table. But, of course, she couldn’t admit that to Hunt. He’d made something out of his life. She’d seen his photography over the years. First in regional magazines and papers, then in national magazines. Someone was always bringing in a copy to show her. In a small town like Comfort Crossing, Mississippi everyone knew she and Hunt had been good friends from grade school through high school.

“You want a table by the window?”

“Actually, I was wondering if you have some of that chicken noodle soup you always used to have? My sister is sick. I thought that might help. I don’t know what else to do for her. I’d be fine with canned soup, but she’d never go for that.”

“We sure do. Come on back to the kitchen, I’ll get it for you. We just put a big pot of it in the fridge. You’ll just have to heat it for her.”


Hunt followed her back into the kitchen. “Not much has changed here, huh?”

“Not much.” That was an understatement. Nothing ever changed in this town. Though Hunt sure had changed. He looked so different than he had growing up. Older—in a worldly way. He’d lost the boyish look of his teens and replaced it with a self-confident look of a thirty-something who had seen things and done things and moved on from small town life.

He’d aged well. His thick brown hair was a touch longer than he used to wear it. He was in great shape, he looked like he was one of those guys who could do a hundred pushups without breaking a sweat. She was lucky to find enough time to consider walking back and forth to the cafe as exercise.