A party in her old house, room after room full of people, but all the guests were the same. All the guests were her ex-husband, Ed.
Or, rather, variations of him: fat Ed, with a monocle and a Monopoly Man moustache, sitting and whooping it up on the couch: young Ed, like the pictures she’d seen of him from middle school, plucking the sides of his drink nervously; an Ed dressed up in a pastel golfing outfit and a ridiculous hat; a regular Ed wearing cologne, something he’d never done while they were married, despite her asking him to.
But the one with glasses was nice. That Ed showed her around—her own house, but she was too polite to tell him she was familiar with the layout—and introduced her to the other Eds. He complimented her.
On what? Already, that small detail was lost.
All in all, Lisa was disappointed in herself. Last night’s dream too expected from a recently divorced fifty-year-old puzzling over her past. Usually, her dreams were fantastic things. Perfect mansions overlooking peach orchards with wood-shelved libraries stocked with turn-of-the-century tomes. Or dancing with humanoid buffalo in a vine-dripping, lagoon-like city. Or something as simple as finding her sister in the kitchen, turned into a rat. They were nuanced, crystalline images and emotions to turn over, a lucky charm, a Rubix puzzle, a companion throughout the plain-porridge day.
“House Balsamic, Italian, Ranch, French, Blue Cheese, and Caesar,” Lisa recited.
“Okay. Right,” Ashleigh, the too-skinny waitress with drawn-on eyebrows and dyed-red hair nodded. Ashleigh, Lisa’s trainer, pursed her lips and pressed on. As if this little menu quiz were a challenge. “And what about for soup?”
“Unless otherwise noted…Monday and Tuesday minestrone. Wednesday and Thursday, pea soup. Friday, Saturday chowder, New England. And Sunday is French Onion.”
“But always check the board, first, to make sure,” Ashleigh said sharply. “There’s all that seasonal stuff. Butternut squash and shit.”
“Of course.” Lisa bit back her venom. Hadn’t she said “unless otherwise noted?” Unobservant Ashleigh. Her dreams were probably boring, staid reruns of serving salads.
“You’ll do fine here. You even read the menu well.” She folded napkins around forks and knives. “Perfect waitress voice.”
Perfect waitress voice. Yeah, thanks, Ashleigh. Because that was what Lisa had been striving for, all her life.
Samantha Pilecki’s short stories have been published in El Portal, Five 2 One, A Prick of the Spindle, Ricky’s Backyard, Typehouse, and other literary magazines. More of her work is forthcoming from New Lit Salon. She is the winner of Haunted Waters Press 2017 Short Shorts Flash Fiction Competition and works as a librarian.