"Whatever" he says. "If they don't like me, they won't call me".
"Daniel, it's not a popularity contest." she says.
Looking down at the menu, he squints. The California sun pierces the diner's big, square windows.
"So what am I supposed to do, just be a bitch like you?!"
"Is that what you think?" she asks.
"Yeah, you're kinda bitchy. Sometimes I can tell they're annoyed."
"They're not annoyed Dan, they're LEARNING. That's what they want. Not a new best friend".
"Stella, they look pretty pissed to me." he says, fumbling with his menu.
The waiter approaches, interrupting the tension.
"What can I get you guys today?" he asks.
"I'll have the Ceaser Salad and an ice tea" she says.
"Large?" he asks, but it's more of a statement.
"Sure" she answers.
The waiter shifts his gaze to Daniel.
"Um, I think I'll have...the club sandwich looks pretty good. But those chicken wraps are callin' my name...I'm not sure...ummm"
"The Denver Omelette is amazing. He does it with shrimp." the waiter offers, grabbing his blue pen.
"Really?" Daniel says, looking up. "Done. I'll have one a those."
"Anything to drink?"
"Um...yeah...how 'bout a..."
"Jesus" Stella blurts, the fierce sun painting dancers on her face.
"Alright. I'll have a Coke." he says.
Without a word, the waiter scurries off.
Daniel sweeps his forearm across the table, brushing imaginary crumbs onto the dusty diner floor. He looks at her. A long silence.
"You don't even see it do you?" she says.
"Dude, you have no idea what you want. You're like a little kid. HE had to tell you what to get!"
"What, I can't take the guy's advice? He frigging works here. He should know."
"Exactly." she says as the waiter brings her large ice tea. Ripping open a pack of Sweet & Low, she drops it into the tea, forming mini piles of white powder atop the ice cubes. She stirs in quick circles, the spoon clinking against the glass.
"As soon as the waiter TAUGHT you what was good, you went for it. You don't give a shit if he's nice" she says.
"He's kind of a dick, actually" Daniel says, looking towards the cash register. The waiter, his back turned, flirts shamelessly with a customer. "Check him out Stella, guy's workin' it."
"No doubt. I bet he makes more on tips than anybody else in here. He knows exactly who needs his hand held. I bet you didn't even notice that your Denver Omelette with SHRIMP, is the most expensive thing on the menu?" Stella says knowingly.
"Um, no, I...didn't, actually." Daniel says.
"Look Daniel, nowadays we're so busy trying to get everybody to click the damn like button that we miss the boat. We cave as soon as there's a little push back. I mean, I'm not sayin' you gotta be an asshole. No, definitely don't do that. Then I wouldn't want to hang out with you. I LIKE you. But you gotta have a little SWAGGER, and I'm gonna buy my lunch from the guy who teaches me something. " Stella says, thumping her glass down gently.
"So I'm NOT supposed to hug my customers?" he asks.
"Don't hug them. Teach them. That'll really get 'em to call you back."
The waiter brings the food. Deftly sliding the plates onto the table, he locks eyes with Daniel.
"Can I get you something else to drink? I bet you've never had our 10 dollar milkshake. It's AMAZING."