It had felt like a long day in the car by mid-afternoon, and that was long past by the time Nick saw the sign by the side of the road announcing that the burg up ahead was 'Bean Station, Tennessee' and proudly proclaiming the local population had reached the staggering total of 1358 souls. After pulling one last draw from his second-to-last cigarette, he ground it out in an overfull ashtray, the quantity of butts offering mute testimony to just how long a day it had been. The ashtray was what decided him it was time to stop. Out of nowhere, the pile brought back memories of a time when he'd not have wasted so much as a quarter inch of smokable tobacco. Before his mind could bring back any other memories of the Pacific, he forced his gaze to the dashboard. It was clear that a gas station wouldn't be a bad idea, and if he was lucky, there's be a diner next door. Maybe a meal would chase the memories away enough for him to make it to Maryland. A break for the night there, and he'd be back in New York by dinner-time tomorrow.
Twenty minutes later, he was jingling the keys in his pocket and whistling tunelessly on his way across a small parking lot, a pleasant smile on his face not quite making it all the way up to his weary blue-gray eyes. The diner looked well-kept from the inside and out. Maybe the pie would even be as good as Maddie's had been... but that was another thought with too many memories attached.
A string of bells on the door jangled cheerfully as he pushed it open and headed for the counter. A woman was there already. The sight brought a ghost of a real smile to Nick's lips. Some company while he ate was just what he needed to put the demons back to rest again. Hat and coat were quickly removed and placed on a stool three down from where the woman sat, revealing tousled black hair that he absently ran his fingers through to neaten, and a suit that looked more like it came from a department store than a quality tailor's. A waitress came by to fill his coffee cup and rattle off the specials of the day, then disappeared into the back, presumably to take his order to the cook: steak and eggs, medium rare, hash browns and a slice of cherry pie.
That matter taken care of, Nick turned his head to get a better look at the lady, nodding politely, but letting his eyes linger a bit here and there as he did so. He figured he knew the answer already, but it was as good a way as any to start a conversation.
"Evening, ma'am. You from around here?"