I was the third "him". It was news to me that I was a bad regular.
My cynical friends having unnerved me, and I am now very careful of making any gestures with my eyes.
A moment later, as she passed back behind the counter I made my appeal. "Really? One of the worst regulars? I'm not saying good, but I'd like to be one of the regular regulars."
The patron two seats down found this entertaining, and tried to help my cause. Given that his South-African-cum-Frenchmen friends had been the worst sort of customers since I'd been there, I wasn't sure if this would help. "Samantha," he started.
She cut him off, "I keep telling you, that's not my name and I don't know why I keep answering to it when your friends say it."
Nonplussed he continued, "he seems like a nice guy, and certainly isn't bothering anyone. How bad can he be?"
She leaned on the counter in front of me. "Remember that demanding chick you brought in?"
The ugly memory came back to me. She'd been a pretty nice girl overall, but while we were having a post-club breakfast she'd been awful. The worst kind of needy; everything from wanting the jukebox volume turned up for her songs to asking if the spinach in her scrambled eggs had been washed. I had been mortified, and told her at the time to rein it in, for all the good it had done me.
"Yeah, I'm sorry. I'd only known her a couple of hours-"
She cut me off. "If she hadn't been with a regular, I'd have eighty-sixed her. When she got bitchy about the toast I wanted to strangle her."
Evenly I met her eyes. "You should have gone for it. I hadn't known her long enough to care."
She gave me a mean smile and went off to drop menus on the new four-top party that had just arrived. I finished my meatloaf dinner and waited for her to come back to ask for my check.
The guy leaned over and stage-whispered, "So, you took that demanding girl home?"
"No, I didn't. It wasn't in the cards."
"Too bad for you, man."
I shook my head. "I guess."
That was an urbane lie. I didn't guess. It didn't happen, and that was fine.
She dropped off my check. I left cash as she went to take the order of the latest table. A solid tip, but I won't let guilt and anxiety make my decisions for me.
I passed her on my way out. "Thank you." Even though she couldn't see me, I made the effort not to widen my eyes.
She turned her head to look back at me. "Thanks! See you later!"