Entertaining Angels 10/11/2010
It was a small diner, bright and comfortable, situated just at the edge of the French Quarter where the gentleman could be found most mornings. He sat in the back, sipping on the same black brew before breakfast: eggs over easy, two pancakes, hold the syrup. And it was the same girl that brought his eggs and poured his coffee each day, a brilliant smile beneath those dancing green eyes and the striking streaks of white in her auburn hair.
"Y' welcome, m'sieu." Her long white gloves bore no comment, for she always wore them, and most assumed them part of the uniform.
The routine was comfortable. To thrive in New Orleans required home ground, and this small restaurant was home ground for many of the notables of the wealthy neighboring families, for the waifs and strays that could come in each morning and receive a slice of bread or a cup of soup, and for the young folk that liked the welcoming atmosphere.
One such waif entered through the front door, his fingers poking through his torn gloves to leave prints on the glass and set the bell to tinkling wildly. A mop of auburn hair fell into the boy's face, hiding the thin, sharp angles and obscuring his eyes. It could not hide his grin.
"Mais, look at dat smilin' face," the girl said sunnily, sliding hands to hips. "I'd almos' t'ink y' were trouble."
She was always a pleasant part of the scenery—'Rose' her nametag said—and she always had a soft spot for the particular urchin that now sidled into across the tiled floor, hands behind his back with a sheepish expression on his face. She talked bayou, and rumor had it she had a small house down there, but no one had gotten past rumor with her.
"Got somet'in' for y'," the little boy said, eyes on the floor and his scruffy, worn shoes.
"For me?" Rose placed her hand over her heart. "Now, Remy, y' goin' t' be makin' me feel all special."
He squirmed a little at her response, but he peeked up at her, shy, lovestruck smile plastered across his face. There was a crush if anyone had ever seen one. He nodded and reached forward with dirty hands to offer a pair of rich brown leather gloves. It was quite doubtful whether he had paid for them with his own money—five-fingered discounts were not uncommon among the small fry that came through, but one could never tell with the hard-working altruism of street kids that received a little love.
Rose's face grew serious. She knelt down to the little boy's height.
The gentleman watched with interest from his table.
She whispered, "Thank you," and accepted the gloves, then handed him a slice of bread, equally solemn, and gave him a kiss atop his scruffy head. "Now off wit' y'." And she shooed him out the door.
For a long moment, she stood there, slumped against the counter, a slight frown at the edge of her mouth. Perhaps, she wanted to cry. Perhaps, she did not.
The gentleman waved for the bill and she straightened and spun on her heel to get it.
"Nice o' de p'tite," Jean-Luc said.
"Yes." She was smiling again. "Y' have a lovely day, M'sieu LeBeau."
"And you the same."