Caitlyn Mills loses everything: her wallet, her car keys, and one-half of all her socks. But when she loses her grandmother to a stroke, she realizes that her absent-minded lackluster lifestyle has been hurting her family relationships.
She tries to make amends by befriending Mildred, who lives at the same nursing home that Caitlyn's grandmother died in. Mildred is looking for her missing granddaughter, and Caitlyn is happy to help... until she realizes that the absent Maria might end up taking her new place.
The doughnut scene comes about halfway through the novel, after Caitlyn and Mildred make one last-ditch effort to find Maria. This is a first draft of the scene. I hope you enjoy it!
Someone knocked on Mildred’s door. I answered it for her. It was Jake, messy as usual. A big smile broke out on my face at the sight of his faded jeans with a hole in the knee.
“Did I miss the picture?” he asked. I handed him my phone so he could see it. “Nice job. I hope it works, Mildred.” He tapped on my screen a few times before handing it back to me. “I made you add me as a friend so I could share the picture, too. I mean, assuming I accept your friend request.” He chuckled softly. Mildred and Ernie shared a glance.
“I think this calls for a celebration,” Ernie declared. He cleared his throat a few times and adjusted the prongs of his nasal cannula. “Let’s go to the breakfast club.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Seriously, Grandpa? That’s your idea of a celebration?”
But from the way Mildred was suddenly patting her hair and adjusting her ring necklace, it seemed like she at least considered it to be a big deal.
“Am I dressed up enough?” she asked, twisting one of the rings around.
“You look lovely,” I told her.
“Old ladies are always told they look lovely,” she said.
“You’ll knock ‘em dead! Literally!” Ernie cackled. Then he whistled. Well, he tried. Jake did it for him. Mildred beamed.
“What’s the breakfast club?” I asked.
Ernie waggled a finger at me. “You’ll see, young lady.” Jake reached over to grab the handles of the wheelchair, but Ernie swatted him away and offered his arm to Mildred. They led the way out of the apartment; Jake and I fell slowly into step behind them.
“Can you drive? We won’t all fit in my truck,” he asked.
I nodded. “As long as Ernie gives me directions and stops being so mysterious.”
Ernie consented to tell me where to go once we were all safely buckled into my Neon. Jake was able to fold up Ernie’s wheelchair small enough to fit in my trunk. I wished I’d cleaned out the old gas receipts and crumbs in my center console. No one said anything, which was nice. TJ and Mark would have complained.
Ernie gave directions the whole way, squished in the backseat with Mildred, oxygen tank safely stored at his feet.
“Turn right,” he ordered. “Then get in the left lane.”
No one said anything else until Ernie directed me into the parking lot of a small brick building. The faded sign over the entrance said “Hole Foods.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Did the ‘W’ get erased?”
Ernie just cackled again.
Hole Foods, it turned out, was a doughnut shop. I felt a little silly for not getting the joke right away. We had to wait in line to order; there were six people ahead of us. I sniffed a few times, breathing in the heavenly scent of sweet doughnuts and dark roast coffee. The loud buzz of a dozen conversations dominated my ears, but it wasn’t an obnoxious noise. It was nice. A baby screamed at the table closest to the door, only stopping when his mother broke a doughnut hole in half and gave it to him. Two men in dirty overalls and brimmed hats leaned over a table towards each other, talking angrily in between sips of coffee. It was too loud to tell if they were angry at each other or a third party, and I forced myself to look away before they caught me staring.
When it was our turn, the cashier, whose nametag read “DEE,” smiled at Ernie. “Hi, y’all,” she said. “You’re late, Ern.”
“Had a thing,” he grunted. “Gimme the usual.”
Dee pushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear, revealing little bumblebee earrings that looked homemade. I wondered if she had kids. She tapped on the register with her free hand. “What about your friends?”
Ernie turned to us. “What do you want?”
Jake ordered a cruller. Mildred wanted an apple fritter. I told Dee I just wanted something with sprinkles. She had a bag filled with our order in less time than it took Jake to pull out his credit card.
“I think I have a dollar somewhere in here,” I said, rummaging around in my purse. “Hang on.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jake said. “I got it.”
“Yeah. You can get it next time.” He smiled at me, and I couldn’t help from grinning back at the assumption that there would be a next time.
Ernie led us away from the tables in the main room to a little side room. The buzz of voices got louder, and I realized that this was where ninety percent of the noise was coming from. The room was filled with old men, who all snapped to attention as we walked in.
“Clean it up, gents, there’s ladies present,” one said gruffly. A few of the men tipped their hats to me and Mildred; I was actually flattered.
“Room back here, Ern!” someone called from the back, and everyone scooted their chairs out of the way so Ernie could wheel himself to the table. The squeak of chairs on linoleum hurt my ears, but no one else seemed to notice. An advantage to hearing loss.
Conversation resumed as we sat down, and the men at our table introduced themselves as Wade and Wilson. They shook hands with me and Mildred.
“Nice to see some female folk every now and again,” Wade said. “Especially a looker!” I was all set to blush, until he winked at Mildred. Across the table, I saw Jake shaking and biting his lip.
“I believe you both know my grandson, Jake,” Ernie said. Both men bobbed their heads.
“Been a while, Jake,” Wilson said. “Looks like you’ve been laying off the doughnuts!” He slapped Jake’s upper arm.
“That’s right,” Jake said. “We can’t all stay thin like you.”
Wilson, whose belly was practically resting on the table, laughed so hard that little flecks of doughnut spotted the table. One almost landed on my chocolate covered sprinkle doughnut. I picked it up and took a big bite.
“What you been up to, Jakey?” Wade asked. “Married yet?”
Jake shook his head. “Not yet.” He turned to look out the grimy window. I doubted he could actually see anything out of it.
Ernie cleared his throat and asked Wade about his grandchildren. Mildred glanced at Jake and took a small bite of her fritter. The air around us felt stiff, and I wondered why, but contented myself with finishing my doughnut, resolving to ask Mildred about it later. Like when Jake wasn’t around.