The Kindness of Strangers

Winona Desjardin took a bracing breath and pulled open the door to The Prairie Moon Café. There was only one patron in the place, a lone middle aged man with grey hair in a plaid vest sitting texting on his phone with his cup of coffee and his dirty dishes. There was a cook in the kitchen with his back to her.

Food! Oh my god she was so hungry. The visit with Tyler’s family was so tense and awkward she could barely stomach food from the sheer anxiety…..but now. She could eat. Of course she had no way to pay for a meal or the gas her, presumably now, ex-boyfriend had driven off on before she got her purse from the truck to go in and settle up. She walked forward, drawn to the smells of the kitchen. It was beautiful torture.

Chris Wilson caught movement in his peripheral vision and turned, flashing a friendly grin. He looked to be in his late 30s with an athletic build. He wore a Saskatchewan Roughriders cap and it looked like the matching t-shirt under his white apron. Football was a religion for some in this province.

“Good evening. I’ll be with you in just a moment Miss. Sit anywhere you like.”

Winona’s heart sunk. She wished she could. “Oh no I uh… this your place? I have kind of an….um… unusual…. situation….” Her words fumbled at the end and she swallowed hard, trying to regain composure.

The cook looked quizzical for a moment and then turned off the grill and wiped his hands on a dishtowel as he walked towards Winona “No, I just work here. I’m Chris. Is everything OK?”

His voice was so kind. Winona had been vowing not to become a basket case and just stay matter of fact but with his voice and the fact that he was looking at her with such genuine concern she suddenly just burst into uncontrollable tears.

Chris’s mouth formed an O and he backed up a few steps and looked around. The texting man’s head appeared in view as he craned around the suddenly hysterical woman to make eye contact with Chris and helplessly shrug. Chris returned the man’s look and casually walked over to the hot water dispenser with a clean mug. A moment later he set a cup of mint tea in front of the upset woman and waited quietly, giving her room to do what she needed to do.

In the meantime, Alex Melnyk came sauntering into the restaurant with a box of onions, oblivious to the situation in the room “Dammit, I think we had a gas and dash on pump 2…..and Joe says we should use these in the hash browns tomorrow. Gettin a bit funky….” He broke off as Chris gestured to the crying woman and he also clearly heard her sobs.

Alex cleared his throat quietly and tiptoed into the kitchen, putting the onions down on the prep table. He fell in line beside Chris waiting out the emotional storm and trying not to stare.

The scent of the mint tea cut through to Winona and she wiped her face, taking several cleansing breaths. She looked up again to see another man standing beside Chris, older, paler and stockier in build. The pair just blinked at her like deer in the headlights and she forgot her sorrow for a moment and had to let out a chuckle. 

“I’m so sorry. This is completely ridiculous I know. My name is Winona and I’m part of the gas and dash on pump 2. Not on purpose though. The driver also dashed on me…and he has my purse…..and my backpack….and holy fucking god I let him move into my apartment last month. What the hell was I thinking?! Ellie was right….Ellie was so right….”

The men exchanged a surprised look and then the older of the two winced “Geez…..where do you live? I’m Alex.”


Now Chris spoke “And the dude who left you here is going to be there when you get home if we find you a ride back?”

Winona shrugged “I assume so. It’s fucked up. I don’t really know what to do right now. I don’t even have my phone to text a friend for help.” She gulped several grateful sips of the tea. It was soothing.

Alex shook his head and walked to the back room and returned. He offered a cordless phone to Winona “Here, you can call one. I’m sorry this is your deal. If you need a room tonight, we can put you up too. No charge. Chris can make you something if you’re hungry. Sounds like a rough ride kid.”

At further offered kindness Winona choked up again “I’ll pay you back…..I promise…thank you so much.” She clutched the phone and sobbed for a moment and then took another sip of her tea before she dialed.


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