Zeke stood in the parking lot staring at the back of Darlene’s car. His brothers were on either side with their arms draped over his shoulder. The men remained silent until the car turned a corner and could no longer be seen. The neon sign for Rainy Daze Café buzzed in the humid, dawn air. Crickets called to one another. The sun’s light was just filling the sky with yellow rays. Inside the café, patrons watched through the plate glass windows. Some shook their heads, others whispered to their companions, some continued eating breakfast. No one seemed surprised. Sophie, who’d remained at her booth after Darlene’s melt-down, wondered when Zeke would ever learn that he was running the women off with his devil may care act. Women wanted more than a good-time. Women wanted much more. She took a bite of her thick cut bacon, savoring the treat she gave herself once a month. No amount of drama would drag her away from this meal.
“Well, that’s that,” Zeke said. He began slapping at the dust left in Darlene’s wake from his pants.
“Hell of a way to end it,” Gabe said.
“Kinda like déjà vu, wouldn’t you say?” Nat leaned forward and smiled at Gabe.
Zeke broke away and turned on his brothers.
“Thanks for the support, guys. I can always count on you in times like this.” He stomped back into the café where they’d all been eating when Darlene made her scene, walked out without looking back, and threw the key to his house in the parking lot. His brothers had helped him retrieve it in the semi-darkness. Good old Gabe had a flashlight in his truck, so it didn’t take long. They went back inside together. A solid front the whole town was accustomed to seeing.
“Eight months down the drain,” Zeke said. That was a record, he thought. Before Darlene, his record had been four months.
“She hung in there a while,” Nat said as he slid into the booth beside Zeke.
Gabe placed a ten-dollar bill in Nat’s outstretched hand.
“You were betting on me failing?” Zeke asked.
“Seemed like a sure thing to me.” Nat raised up, removed his wallet, inserted the money, put the wallet away, and sat again. Zeke would have punched him, but he’d been thrown out of Rainy’s before, and he wasn’t ready to cook his own meals now that Darlene was gone. She’d been a darned good cook, too. He knew he’d be missing her Sunday roast dinners a long time after he’d forgotten her voice.
“What are you looking at?” Zeke asked Sophie. She was in the booth behind Gabe, staring at him as he sat brooding.
“Nothing, nothing at all.” She took another bite of bacon and smiled.
“She could’ve waited until I got home. Didn’t have to make a scene about it.” Zeke ran his hand through the dark auburn hair that matched that of his brothers. His was on the longer side, with a slight flip at his collar. Gabe, one year younger, had a buzz on the sides and waves on top. Zeke thought his brother looked like one of those metro-sexual guys he’d read about in People magazine while waiting for his last dental appointment. Nat, the youngest, wore his short all over. He had no time for messing with hair when there were more important things in life.
A person seeing the brothers for the first time might mistake them for triplets, they were so alike in build, facial structure and eye color, a golden brown with hints of green when you got close. But the three men were as different as any brothers could be. The Hart Brothers were known all over town, especially by the women, many of whom dreamed to be the next heartbreak. Because that’s what happened when you fell for one of the Harts. They weren’t known for commitment. Zeke was the worst offender.
“She wanted a ring.” Zeke said.