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(so don't lose me, follow me home) : 4/4

by mephistophelesangel

4. Juliette

She’s never reserved a table for anyone before. It’s a small town, and the restaurant just doesn’t ever get that busy, nor has anyone ever tried to reserved a table in her small restaurant that’s about to go out of business. After all, not many people become that desperate over soggy fries and hastily made burgers.

However, on a cloudy summer day Juliette finds herself carefully writing ‘RESERVED’ on a piece of paper and placing it on the table in the very far corner. She stares at it, and finds a small smile tugging at the ends of her lips. After straightening out the silverware and napkins that are spread out on the table, she glances at the clock hanging by the kitchen. It’s nearly four P.M. Hastily wiping her hands on her apron, Juliette scurries into the kitchen and makes sure that the two dishes are prepared - a plate with a pile of pancakes, no sauce, just strawberries on the side; and a bowl filled with potato soup, sprinkled with sugar and parsley.

The clock hits four, and the door opens. A pair of silent footsteps, one quieter than the other, enters the restaurant. Rushing out of the kitchen, Juliette greets the two men with a wide smile. “Hello, boys,” she says happily while directing the men towards the reserved table. “The usual?”

There is a short pause. Steve, the redheaded man, looks at Riley, who seems entirely unresponsive. His green eyes are staring straight ahead. “Yes, please,” Steve finally says. With a hand on Riley’s back, he guides the other man to the table, pulls out a chair and gently makes him sit.

It’s always four o’clock when the men enter her restaurant, and they come every day except Wednesdays and the weekends. After two weeks of Steve and Riley sitting at the same table and ordering the same dishes, Juliette has now placed a RESERVED sign on the table and makes the dishes beforehand. It’s a strange rhythm that she’s fallen into alongside strange men, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel too foreign.

Steve smiles at her when she brings out their food. She sets both the plates in front of Steve - something else that she has gotten used to. After retreating with a smile and a bright “Enjoy your meal, boys”, Juliette stands behind the counter and pretends to examine the cash register. When she finishes shuffling the pile of quarters, she glances up to a familiar sight. Steve, his own plate pushed to the side, is scooping up spoonfuls of the potato soup and carefully pouring it into Riley’s mouth. Riley is sitting stiffly, unmoving except when Steve taps his lips with the spoon, which makes him open his mouth and swallow the soup. His eyes stare at the wall, unfocused and glassy. Yet again, Juliette finds herself wondering if there’s anything at the end of his gaze that she can’t see.

It takes only about half an hour for the men to finish their meals. Steve puts the plates into an orderly pile and stands up, guiding Riley to do the same. While walking to the door, Steve slides fifteen dollars over to Juliette, who takes it with a wide smile. The smile, however, melts away as the men step out of the restaurant, and once again Juliette finds herself thinking, wondering, yet coming up with no answers.

Steve and Riley come back the next day. Then it’s a Wednesday, and their table sits empty in the corner. But the next day they come back, and Juliette’s strangely happy to see the table filled up after a day of absence. For many more days the men come and leave, and every time Steve has a sad small smile on his face that Juliette’s gotten used to now.

On a Monday, Steve and Riley come into the restaurant and Juliette brings them the same dishes. As Juliette watches them behind the cash register, there’s something strange that she can’t place her finger on. She only realizes it as the two men walk out of the restaurant; the plates are piled up neatly as always, but the bowl with the potato soup sits on top of the plates, untouched.

The next day, the men don’t come back.

It takes a week for Juliette to break herself out of the habit of preparing the pancakes and the potato soup. It takes another week for her to put away the RESERVED sign. It takes a little more than a month for Juliette to stop checking the door whenever the clock strikes four.

At some point she finds herself gently placing the RESERVED sign into the trash, the paper now dirty and worn. There’s a strange pinch in her chest whenever she glances at the empty table in the corner, but even that soon fades away.

Later, as she walks away from her now-abandoned restaurant, she stops and looks back.

And she wonders. 

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1080 Reviews

Points: 125
Reviews: 1080

Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:22 am
Kaylaa wrote a review...

Hi there mephisto! Nikayla here dropping in for a review on Review Day on the final part of this short story. Without further ado, let's jump right in.

First of all, what is with the J names? This only bothered me a bit before with Jamie and Janet, though now there's a third female character with a name starting with J. Switch up the names a bit! Spice it up. Make the names more memorable instead of them starting to blend in with each other. I have to say about this part: I'm a little disappointed and I'm still confused. The mystery isn't really ever revealed or unmasked and Steve and Riley and their resolve is kept pretty secret and the reader is left in the dark.

Not a fan of the ending because we never get to know what happened to either of them. We never get a real ending except for Juilette who is still wondering about what happened. The decision to keep dialogue out of this short story is an interesting one, though I want to give an explanation of how I feel as the reader. As the reader, I'm left confused and left feeling like my sense of context clues and abilities of picking up on subtle hints are insignificant because of the ending.

Is there something I'm missing that others are getting more easily? Do the events that happen on the surface and show themselves at appearingly face-value more complicated than I'm able to understand? This makes me feel as if I'm in a pretentious art house or avant garde film that I don't get the ending to, and maybe others do. Not quite sure. That isn't to say that the actual writing isn't well-written, but for an ending to a short story in the genre of mystery? I'm not sure.

Steve and Riley are still interesting and I enjoy seeing how they interact and how they interact with other people, but I'm left kinda clueless. Kinda disappointed and confused. Not as mind-blown as I expected or hoped to be. Mind telling me what even happens to them in a response? I'd love to hear more about them if that's okay with you.

If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! I hope I helped and have a great day.


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44 Reviews

Points: 2883
Reviews: 44

Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:02 am
midnightdreary wrote a review...

Hi! (For the last time I guess. For now anyway.)

I'm kind of sad (and mildly angry) that this story didn't have much closure, even though I totally expected it. I'll get into my thoughts about the ending further on.

So again with your narrator, Juliette is likeable and kind. I almost felt the pinch in her chest when she sees the empty table. I liked how sweet she is to the men, and she isn't judgmental at all, unlike the other characters, who each have at least small amounts of negative judgement. She sees them as humans and nothing more.

Throughout the whole story, I felt a bit of sadness as I was reading. As I'm writing this, I'm still pretty depressed. I felt that Steve is glad to be with Riley, but sad that Riley is basically (as Haley said) a human doll.

With your ending, I have no real idea what could have happened with Steve and Riley. There aren't that many clues that I picked up on in the story. The only things I can think of are that Riley does or that Steve gets tired of taking care of Riley his entire day. Or maybe Riley stops accepting steve's help. I have a feeling those are too simple and you're probably thinking something else happened to them. But, maybe the point is that we're supposed to be like the onlookers in the story and have no idea about what's going on with Steve and Riley so we can pass our own judgments. I wish you could tell me what you meant for me to take from this, but I guess that'd ruin the story.
Honestly I just wish there was closure and a happy ending. But most short stories don't have happy endings, from what I've seen.

This is a wonderful story. I truly enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing this.

I communicate much better on paper than I do when I open my mouth.
— Aaron Sorkin