A week later, the diner was busy and one of the other waitresses was sick, so Emma came in early to help. She hadn’t minded; since her day with Luke, she’d been in a wonderful mood. They’d gone out for a little while before her shift today, and he’d kissed her before saying good-bye. A light, curious kiss that had made her feel dizzy with delight. Even the piano in her apartment didn’t seem to loom in the corner; she knew it was ridiculous, but she thought the instrument looked almost friendly these days. She’d bought a Christmas decoration to set on her kitchen table, and was more talkative when Sol and Luke came in to eat. Even if she’d tried to hide it, Millie would have noticed the difference in the way she carried herself, or the way she talked. “Must have been some date.” Millie gave Emma a sidelong glance. “You’re still thinking about it.” “It was so nice. They all have been.” Emma sighed. “He’s so sweet, and so funny. I wish I’d met him a long time ago. Before . . . before I met Sam.” “Don’t you even think about him.” Millie cursed under her breath. “He’s trash and he’s out of your life. You need to realize it for good, and act like it.” “I know, I know.” Emma nodded. “You’re right. Being out with Luke again today made me realize it. I’ve been punishing myself, but it’s long past doing anybody bursa escort any good. I’ve been so stupid, Millie. I let Sam ruin everything. I can’t write, I can’t sing. I haven’t been able to enjoy Christmas at all, and it used to be my favorite holiday. Mine and Lila’s.” “Then you start enjoying it.” Millie tapped Emma’s hand for emphasis. “Tell you what, I’ll help. You come in a little early tomorrow and we’ll decorate.” “How come you haven’t decorated already?” Emma asked. Last year she hadn’t even thought about it. Millie shrugged. “Seems like a lot of trouble, and I’m not always in the holiday mood. This year, I am. So we’ll decorate.” “All right.” x-x-x-x Luke tried not to rush as he put the horses in for the night. He was anxious on two counts: first, to see Emma, and second, to write. He’d woken up earlier out of a dead sleep, written what he could remember of his dream on the first thing that came to hand, and gone back to sleep. When he’d seen it before work, he’d been elated. An almost complete outline of the story was in his head. He knew that when he did sit down to write it, he’d have no trouble. Before that, though, he wanted to share it with Emma. They’d managed to steal some time to talk while she worked this last week, and she’d been nothing but encouraging bursa escort bayan about his writing. He’d opened to her about it more than he had to anyone else, even his friends from the classes he’d taken and writing groups he’d joined. There hadn’t been time for much more than that, though. “Come on, hurry up!” Sol grumped at him from the door. “I want my coffee. She’ll be out at this rate.” “Right.” Luke threw him a dry look. “And if there’s one thing Millie would never make more of, it’s coffee.” “You never know.” “All right, I’m ready.” Luke grabbed his gloves. It hadn’t snowed yet, but it felt like it might any minute. “And another thing,” Sol said as they walked, “don’t you take up all Emma’s time. You like her, fine, but I want my food. And coffee.” “You’re a true romantic, Sol. Your wife must drown in all the roses you buy.” Luke wondered if Emma liked roses. “Pah!” Sol snorted. “Roses, what a rip off.” “You say so.” They entered the diner and were surprised to see Christmas decorations up. There were lighted Santas and snowmen in the windows, a wreath hanging on the door, and even a little tree on the corner of the bar. “Wow.” Luke looked around. “I didn’t think Millie ever decorated for anything.” He spied Emma clearing a table and smiled at her. She smiled back, escort bursa a little shy, and continued putting the dishes in the plastic tub. Sol led the way back to their usual table. Emma came and took their orders, then hurried back to hand them to the cook. Just as Sol was about to complain about waiting, she came back with their coffee. “Sorry.” She took a minute to get her breath back. “I don’t know why but it was pretty crazy right before you came in. I think we get more people now while they’re out shopping. Then Marco, the cook, had some kind of crisis and Millie had to calm him down.” “What did she do?” Luke asked. He reached for a handful of creamers, ignoring Sol’s scowl. “I think she said she’d fire him if he didn’t get himself together. Marco made a quick recovery.” “Millie has a way with people,” Luke acknowledged. “What’s with the decorations?” Sol wanted to know. “She didn’t do this last year.” Emma shrugged. “She said she was in the mood this year.” “Women,” Sol grumbled. “‘In the mood.’ Pah.” Emma bit back a laugh and shared a smile with Luke. She shook her head and went back to get their food. After the plates were on the table, she went back to the bar and plopped onto a stool. “Wow, Millie. I don’t remember ever being that busy. I feel like I walked holes in my shoes.” “You and me both. I’ll have extra bunions, I bet.” Millie handed Emma a drink of water. “Here, drink this. Won’t do me any good if you get dehydrated.” “Yes, ma’am.” Emma downed the water faster than she’d intended, surprised by how thirsty she was. “Okay, hold the fort.