Mail Order Meals - Kirsten Osbourne

Chapter 1

Gertrude Miller hurriedly added some fried chicken and potatoes onto a plate, before spooning green beans beside them. She did the same to a second plate and carried both out to the dining room of the diner in Beckham, Massachusetts, where she’d been working since she finished school.

She rushed past a table with someone familiar sitting there, but she didn’t have time to stop and think about who it was. No, the table she was serving had made it very clear they wanted their food quickly. She put the plates on the table and smiled at the two men whom she knew worked at the bank just two doors away. “Can I get anything else for you gentlemen?” The two came in every single day, praising her cooking, but never making eye contact.

Both of them shook their heads, carefully not looking at her, but Trudie was used to that. She was a member of the infamous demon horde after all, and no one was going to accidentally show interest in her. It was frustrating that she couldn’t live down her youth.

Trudie walked to the table she’d passed before. “What can I get for you?”

The man looked at her then, and she realized he was George, a boy she’d had a crush on in school. He smiled. “Hi, Trudie. Have you met my wife?”

Trudie felt her heart fall in her chest. “No, I haven’t. I hadn’t even heard you were engaged!” Not that anyone would tell her anything like that. She was an outcast.

“Yeah, your family isn’t exactly invited to a lot of public gatherings.” He shrugged, looking over at his pretty little wife. “Trudie was part of something we all called the demon horde. Her brothers and sisters would do anything to pull a prank. I remember one time her brother came up to me and offered me fifty cents to kiss her. I ran the other way.”

His wife—a pretty little blonde—looked at Trudie with a superior look and giggled.

Trudie gave a tight smile. “That’s me. The girl who needs to pay someone to kiss her. Do you know what you want?” All she could think about was escaping. She was mortified with the conversation.

After they’d ordered, Trudie all but ran back to the kitchen. The other person working that day was the waitress, but Trudie usually tried to help out. As tears fell, she mumbled, “I’m going to stay in the kitchen today.” She knew she couldn’t go back out to the dining room. Not after what George had said and the way his oh-so-perfect wife had looked at her.

Barbara put her arm around. “You okay?”

Trudie nodded, swiping at the tears with her sleeve and settling in to cook some more. There was no way she was going to go out into the dining room ever again. Or at least until her tears had dried.

DOUGLAS CHARLESTON walked into his house after a long day out on the ranch. He was dog tired, and he didn’t want to do anything but eat a hot supper and fall into bed for a week. He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to ease his aching muscles.

Instead, he walked into the house he’d built with his own two hands and sighed. No one was going to cook for him. If he wanted to eat, he’d have to scrounge something up for himself, and he hated cooking.

He walked to the icebox and looked inside, and there was nothing but the milk and eggs he’d collected that morning. He sighed, not wanting to eat eggs for supper again, but it was pretty much the only thing he could cook. If you didn’t count the shells. When he cooked eggs there were always shells.

He started a fire in the stove, and then put a skillet on it. He was pretty sure it was okay to cook in because he’d made eggs in it just that morning. Why would he wash it when he made the same thing in it over and over? When he cracked the eggs, he did a little better than usual, only getting a few small shells in the frying pan.

While he ate, he looked at the newspaper he’d picked up in the nearest town, flipping through it to read a bit. Not that he much cared what was happening in the world around him. His heifers had started calving, and that meant he was too busy to figure anything out.

He was just finished eating when he spotted an advertisement for mail-order