Shh. I'll Be Your Lover - Annie J. Rose Page 0,1

much in the ways of corporatizing and lifestyle from the seventies, with the notable exception of cell phones everywhere and the televisions didn’t have to have bunny ears on them. Still, it was much calmer than anything I had ever experienced for more than a few days at a time on a job, and I thought it would drive me nuts. Instead, I loved it.

Granted, that didn’t mean I got complacent.

I wanted to make the diner successful. Not world-famous or anything, but I wanted it to be my legacy. Something I could leave behind for Cooper to either run or sell if he wanted. The older couple who owned it before me had told me to go wild with the menu, that the clientele would come anyway, but I didn’t want to stray too far from the classics they served. They had retired with a number of customers that would only come there for breakfast or lunch, and I was this New Yorker coming into their small town in the South. The less I changed, the better.

For the first few weeks, I didn’t change anything. I even had the owners and their daughter Simone come help me prepare dishes the way they did. A few of them were perfect, and I had absolutely no intention of ever changing them. Others I could see potential in, something I could experiment with over time and find which version people liked most.

Others were already crossed out on the laminated menu I had hanging in the office.

The older couple still came by once a week, always ordering the same thing. I loved that. I enjoyed their company, but also it seemed to signal to the customers that everything was okay. They supported me taking over rather than their daughter Simone doing it. She had her own business and her own life with her husband and two children. There was no interest on her part in running a restaurant.

Having their both physical and moral support meant a lot to me, and they all doted on Cooper, too. He was such a smart kid.

I had worried when I moved us that he would be ostracized for his Yankee accent. For his smaller-than-normal stature. For his brain. I had tutors who worked online with him, and he did those classes every other day from the office. They said he was progressing well, and that online schooling might be optimal for him rather than actual schooling in Rockingham. It made me feel guilty that I moved him before he could get into one of the private schools in New York like I’d planned.

But Cooper seemed happy. That was what was important. He didn’t seem like he felt out of place or that he didn’t enjoy his new surroundings. On more than one occasion he mentioned how there were fewer people where we lived now, and he liked that.

“Less people, more people,” he said.

“What do you mean, buddy?” I asked, setting a plate of eggs in front of him that morning. He was a picky eater but always chose something I cooked. I had learned I needed to give him options.

“I mean that there are fewer actual people here, Papa. But I get to talk to more people. So, less people, more people.”

I shrugged. I couldn’t argue with that logic. In New York, we passed by hundreds of people every day, coming close enough to smell their cologne or lack of deodorant. But we never spoke to anyone, not unless they lived in the same building we did or unless they were at his preschool. Here in Rockingham, it was not unusual to stop and have a conversation on the street with someone I had never seen before.

Closing time was coming up, and I was dead tired, which was not a new thing to me. Years working as a line cook, then as a chef in various restaurants in New York meant I had many sleepless nights and dreary mornings where I woke myself up by burning one of my fingers. I could literally make food in ninety-five percent sleep if I had to.

Cooper shifted in bed. Every night since the move, he would climb out of his own bed in his own room and join me. It made my heart hurt that he was adjusting to his new life without his mother, even if she hadn’t ever been particularly loving toward him. She was his mother. And Cooper relied on routine. I was determined to make a new