Penny smiled and shrugged her shoulders. She was sipping a cup of coffee instead of helpingwith my frantic search.
“Did you check your bedroom again?” Anna shuffled a stack of newspapers on the counter, pretending to help.
“I have checked everywhere!” I was angry to say the least. There sat Penny enjoying her dark roast, there stood Anna with curlers in her hair, and to make matters worse my father came into the kitchen in search of his breakfast.
“What’s going on?” He asked Anna. He knew not to address me after over a decade of being ignored nine times out of ten.
“She lost her keys.”
“Is that all?” He rolled his eyes and took his usual place by the window to devour Maria’s famous French toast.
“Is that all??? Kind of a big deal to me. I have two cats in my apartment and only left out enough food for two days!”
Everyone in the room exchanged glances and I finally realized that something was up. “Don’t you have a neighbor to call, honey?” Penny gulped.
“No, I don’t have a neighbor to call! I have never met my neighbors!” I could feel the blood rushing to my face.
“You have lived there for three years, Adeline! Seems like you would know a neighbor or two.” Anna began to unroll her curlers and set them on the counter one by one. “What about a friend who has a key to your apartment?”
“I don’t have any friends. What are you getting at? What have you three done?” I screamed.
“Not three!” Father corrected. “I was not in on this.”
“In on what?”
Penny and Anna looked at each other and then back at me. “We mailed your keys to the beach house. The only way to get them is to go for a few days and wait. Our bags are packed already…” Anna’s voice trailed off.
“This is crazy.” I threw my purse on the floor and sat down at the table, defeated. “Pass the eggs.”
Not long after discovering Penny and Anna’s conniving scheme, I managed to contact my super in Boston. I told him where the cat food was and he graciously agreed to feed Lennon and McCartney while I was away. The bags that I had packed to head home with were now in the trunk of Penny’s bright red convertible. This was one adventure that I hadn’t seen coming.
“Here is a bag of snacks for the road.” Maria thrust a brown paper bag in my hands timidly. I thanked her and headed outside to wait for Anna, who was inside hugging Father.
“Have fun girls.” Father called from the porch. If it had been five years earlier I would have made a snide remark about the fun that he and Maria would have, but instead I nodded and half-heartedly waved.
The ride to the shore was much shorter than it had seemed when I was a little girl. I felt almost as if I was taking a trip down memory lane. “Look, Anna! Remember that café? We always stopped there with Mama!”
“I remember,” she smiled. “Let’s stop, Penny!”
Penny, without giving it a second thought, swerved in front of the car beside us and turned into the parking lot. She ignored the angry honks and touched up her lipstick before unbuckling her seatbelt. I laughed at Penny and climbed my way out of the tiny car.
“Welcome to Harley’s Sidewalk Café, would you like to try our potato soup?” The waitress was short and squatty, her curly hair creating a halo around her head as the sun shown through the window.
“Surprise me!” Penny smiled.
“Surprise you?” This obviously made the waitress nervous and she twisted her face as she tried to decide what to write on her pad.
“I’ll try the soup.” Anna piped in. I couldn’t believe that I was actually having fun with my sister. Part of me felt guilty for going on this adventure only days after Mama died, but the other part of me was thankful it.
“Me too.” I smiled. “Oh and a water.”
“Water for me too, no lemon.” Anna handed her menu over to me and I stacked them behind the ketchup bottle and napkin holder.
“OK, and what would you like to drink, ma’am?”
“Surprise me.” Penny insisted. I could see why she was Mama’s best friend and couldn’t help but giggle.
“Um, do you have any food allergies?” The waitress was having a tough time wrapping her brain around this unusual request.
“None.” Penny finally broke into her infectious smile and the waitress shuffled away to gather our drinks.
“Little things like that used to crack your Mama up.” Penny’s gaze settled somewhere on the wall behind me and I could tell that she was remembering.
“I can hear her laughing now.” Anna sighed. I could hear her laughing too.
“Three waters. One without lemon.” The glasses were placed on the table in front of us.
“Water!?!” Penny exclaimed. “Honey, I give you the chance to give me the craziest thing you can think of and you give me water?”
The waitress straightened up, wide-eyed. “I just figured it was my safest bet.”
“Who makes money on a safe bet?” Penny took a big sip of her water. “Let me see your pad.”
“My pad?” Her hand slid inside the pocket of her apron and she looked confused.
“Hand it over…” Penny held her hand out until the timid waitress humored her. “Just as I suspected. Three potato soups.”
The waitress looked down in shame, Penny was getting to her.
“This is supposed to be fun, so have some fun okay?” Penny winked at her and handed her the half empty pad.
Finally she broke into a smile and headed to the kitchen. She wouldn’t forget this day!
We sat and talked as we waited on our food, Mama’s name coming up in every other sentence… Anna told about the time that Mama caught her sneaking out of the house and we all laughed. Mama rarely got angry, but when she did everyone within fifty miles of the estate knew it. I had never heard that story. I wondered how many other stories that my little sister had to tell that I had never bothered to ask her about. I suddenly realized that I had been my own worst enemy by competing with her my whole life. I could have just as easily been her friend instead.
“Two soups, and one BLT!” The waitress announced with pride as she put our food before us on the red and white checked table cloth. I smiled and listened to Penny praise the girl, even though I knew a BLT was hardly branching out.
I reached across the table for the pepper and accidentally knocked Anna’s water into her lap . She let out a scream, gave me a look from hell, and rushed off to the bathroom like a diva. I raised my eyebrows and shook my head, remembering suddenly that we didn’t get along because she reminded me so much of her father-- well of my father too.