Marlene and Berri, Part 4

(by anonymous, 30 September 2004)

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No prince could possibly have had it better than Dill did that afternoon.
Marlene and Berri had squired him up and down the shopping mall and now they
were sitting together at the food court enjoying a lunch consisting of Dill's
favorite cuisine, Chinese. The gals chatted back and forth while Dill scooped
up his chow mein and broccoli. 

Dill was ordinarily a slow eater, but both Marlene and Berri knew that the
only time he couldn't tolerate cigarette smoke was when he was eating. The
girls had both filled up quickly and each had a pack sitting by their plates.
Dill uncharacteristically was finishing up nervously and quickly. 

He just happened to have his lighter diagonally positioned to the right of
his plate. On the other side were several bags from the stores they had
visited. One had a yellow Kansas T-shirt inside it. Another contained a
paperback copy of Return Of The King, the only book in the Tolkien trilogy
that Dill didn't have yet. He had told Berri that he was just finishing up
with The Two Towers. There were also a couple of new 8-track tapes they'd
purchased at the record store. 

He'd just chewed and swallowed the last piece of broccoli when he noticed the
voices of the girls had suddenly quieted down. He looked up, and both of them
were sitting there across from Dill smiling at him with unlit cigarettes held
to their lips. Dill chuckled and picked up his lighter and both ladies drew
smoke from the tips of their cigarettes. He was in seventh heaven, smelling
the smoke and watching both Marlene and Berri exhale.

They had one more trip to make--to the camera shop. Dill, who liked to take
pictures in his spare time, explained that he needed some more film for his
new camera. The trip from the food court to the store would take the time it
took to consume an entire cigarette. Dill got up and pulled out Berri's
chair, then Marlene's, as they rose. 

Then Dill picked up his bags and dutifully the girls flanked him on either
side as they walked in the direction of the store. Berri especially looked
pleased--and beautiful--with her hair flowing. He could actually hear the
sound of his heart beating as she raised her Pall Mall to her lips and took
another puff. Berri herself couldn't remember the last time she enjoyed
herself so much.

After dousing the cigarettes in the butt cans outside the store, the three
walked in and went to the film rack. They spotted a familiar face that all
three new inspecting some photographic equipment. It was Cory Justice, a
regular customer at the Sunny Side Up.

Cory had been driving a truck for nine years. He usually had to get up very
early--about 3:30 in the morning. His wife didn't like rising until late in
the morning, so Cory's ritual was to stop at the coffee shop. One reason he
liked to go there was that Marlene was always pleasant to him and usually
gave him an extra biscuit, which came out of her own earnings.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," Marlene exclaimed.

"Oh, hi there," Cory replied, looking over his shoulder. "What brings all of
you here?"

Marlene explained that it was Dill's birthday and they were treating him. 

"You know, it's been a couple of weeks since you stopped by, Cory," she said.
"I was getting to wonder if maybe your wife had started getting up with you!"

"Well, you're half-right," Cory said, as he picked up a bottle of stop bath.
"She got up--and left. She just filed for divorce as a matter of fact."

"Oh, Cory, I am sorry," Marlene exclaimed, although inside she wasn't as
sorry as she tried to make it sound.

"Oh, don't be. It had been some time in coming. Verna's been having all kinds
of notions, and it just wasn't the way it used to be. I'm working on getting
the house sold now."

After making their purchases, they walked out into the parking lot. The gals
immediately lit up. Cory, also a smoker, fired up a Camel non-filter. The
four stood and chatted for a few minutes. Marlene explained that the three
rode together in Berri's pick up. Cory said he was in the mood for a drive
out in the country before going home. There were some houses in the area he
wanted to look at. As they finished smoking, he asked Marlene if she was
interested in going with him, and he could take her home later.

"Is it OK with the two of you?" Marlene said to Berri and Dill, mostly out of
courtesy. Both said it wouldn't be a problem. They were of course more
overjoyed about the situation than they pretended to be, both for Marlene,
who appeared to really like Cory, and for themselves. Dill was excited at the
chance to be by himself with Berri for a little while. Berri seemed to like
the idea as well.

Cory opened the door of his Cadillac for Marlene, who sat down and
immediately lit another Salem. She was beginning to feel a little nervous,
almost like a 17-year old, and needed another cigarette to keep her calm.
They waved to Berri and Dill as they drove off. 

Berri and Dill got into the pickup and drove back into town. They were both
becoming fans of a new band called Heart, which was led by two sisters. Dill
pushed the newly purchased 8-track of their music into the deck as Berri lit
up another Pall Mall. While listening to the music, his eyes stayed riveted
on his red-haired friend as she repeatedly puffed and exhaled. She would take
her eyes off the road just long enough to give Dill a sweet smile, then take
another drag and continue watching the road.

Dill felt a strong passion raging inside of him, but as he knew Berri was in
what seemed to be a committed relationship, he remained the Southern
gentleman he was and maintained a reasonable distance. He didn't believe in
hitting on someone who was already attached. The rest of the afternoon was
spent talking about a variety of topics, ranging from when Berri would be
graduating to the eccentricities of regular customers who frequented the
Sunny Side Up. 

She had just finished up the last Pall Mall in her first pack from the carton
Dill had given her when they approached his house. As he got out, he kissed
Berri's hand before going into the house. Berri blushed and looked away, then
waved and drove the pickup off into the sunset. She couldn't keep a smile off
her face as she unwrapped a second pack of Pall Malls and lit up again.

A couple of nights later, Marlene was bussing a booth and getting ready for a
break. Both Berri and Dill were off that night and Marlene was working with
Tammy, the relief girl. Cory had come in just a little bit early and Tammy
told her she'd finish up so Marlene could take her break. She sat down at
Cory's both and Cory immediately lit a Salem she already had put up to her
lips. They had just been to see the movie You Light Up My Life. The title
itself seemed appropriate for Marlene. Being with Cory only the past two or
three days had affected her considerably. He had called her numerous times
and they spent hours chatting. 

They talked for about half an hour and Marlene was just putting out her
Salem, getting ready to go back on the floor when she looked up at the glass
door. Berri came running in with her eyes full of tears. She had on a simple
grey T-shirt and a pair of cords. Marlene gave her a big hug, then motioned
her over to the employee's booth. Berri nervously lit a Pall Mall and wiped
her eyes with a napkin. It took her a minute or so to calm down.


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