"Bobby's Diner" by Susan Wingate relates the trials and tribulation of Georgette Carlisle when she arrives in Sunnydale, Arizona. The quiet small town is in for a change but to what degree? No one could've envisioned.
Bobby's Diner, the Novel
"Bobby's Diner" is a story of a woman trying to find herself in a town where nobody wants her. Georgette Carlisle, twenty-five when she saunters into the rustic town of Sunnydale, Arizona, snags husband, Bobby, away from another woman, Vanessa Carlisle. After he dies - fifteen years later when the story begins - he leaves his restaurant called Bobby's Diner to both women. But, that's not the only problem. Bobby's Diner, situated on an attractive highway corridor property, is slated as the next boutique tourist site and sits smack in way of Zach Pinzer's dreams and future with Chariot International Incorporated, a large developer headquartered in Phoenix. Even after Zach arranges to destroy their property and fatally wounds their beloved busboy and gardener, he nearly kills Roberta, Vanessa's daughter. Georgette and Vanessa hold fast to the only thing they have, each other, and they fight. Georgette's story tells a tale of life, love, death, grief, pain, loneliness, and redemption. And, she finds her true family with the most unexpected people.
For the reading of Bobby’s will, the attorneys sat Vanessa – the ex, Roberta (Bobby and Vanessa’s daughter), and me in a conference room together. I was instructed to bring a lawyer, as were the other two ladies. I didn’t. That sort of thing isn’t in me. Vanessa did. The lawyer read Bobby’s will. It was pretty much as I expected. I got the house we shared, most of the money accounts, Roberta received two hundred thousand dollars in a fund her father had set aside for her upon his death. Then, the lawyer read further. Bobby did something none of us expected. He gave me half the interest in the diner and Vanessa, the other half!
Just like Bobby to be equitable. Finally, the lawyer read a statement Bobby had hand-written before he died. The note said something about his guilt for leaving Vanessa, but his great love for me, about Vanessa’s interest of nearly half her life spent building the diner, and my creativity to keep it going.
Have you ever heard the term ‘livid’ before? Well, Vanessa’s face turned every shade of livid I’ve ever seen. I remember sitting there and imagining her head filling up like one of those water balloons at the fair and exploding right off her shoulders. Her lawyer patted her hand and told her “not to worry”. I giggled to myself at the mess of it all, said my “thank yous” and “goodbyes” to his former family and the lawyers, and I left feeling pretty good too considering what had just happened. Financially, I was solid and didn’t need to worry about money for a while, anyway.
I closed the diner for three weeks.
When I went back to re-open, Vanessa was there waiting outside the door. She offered to buy my interest. I told her I had no intention of selling and offered to buy hers. She fumed at my boldness and told me she’d never sell. Bobby knew I was stubborn as a mule in a blizzard and he knew his former wife had some of my same shortcomings.
“Well, isn’t this a fine mess.” Vanessa threw her hands up and when they came down, they landed on her lap as she sat hard against the window’s ledge.
“Guess Bobby had the last laugh, huh?” I looked out onto the day with one hand protecting my face from the bright sun. It was early spring then and the cacti were putting on a show that would embarrass the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, gorgeous.
“Since this place is now legally half mine, I want a key.” Vanessa was indignant.
“Fine. After José gets here, I’ll have him run up to Charlie’s to get his copied.”
Vanessa let out a small huff and stood back up. “What are we supposed to do now?”
“Well, the diner needs managing. I guess we manage it.”
“Together?” She put her hands on her hips.
“What else can we do?”
“It just won’t work.”
“Why is that, Vanessa? After all these years, do you still hate me so much?”
“Oh, hell, I could care less about you.” She turned away and looked out over the burgeoning desert. “How’s this gonna look to the folks around here? Did you ever think about that?”
“I just put my husband in the ground. I guess I haven’t had too much time to worry about what people are thinking.”
“He was my husband too.” She scowled when she looked at me. I couldn’t very well argue her point and decided by the look of her, saying nothing was best. Vanessa turned her head away. “Fuck.” She spoke it like a tire going flat.
We looked at each other for a few seconds. I’d been sitting on the planter outside the door across from Vanessa the whole time and my ass felt numb, so I stood. Face-to-face with her, it was uncanny how much Vanessa and I looked like each other. She was older, of course, and had severely short, dark copper-colored hair. Her eyes were almond-shaped and emerald green, like mine. She was tall and had some meat to her, like me. Her skin was radiant pink with freckles. Here, standing in front of me, was the only other woman Bobby had ever loved. We stared into each other’s eyes. I can only guess what she was thinking. The scowl on her face was worth a thousand words. Time seemed to stall out and we began to feel ill at ease.
Through it all, a strange feeling welled-up deep inside me. For the life of me, I don’t know why I did what I did at that moment. I stuck my hand out like I was making a deal.
“So, what d’ya say, partner? Shall we give her a go?” I said it emphasizing my Georgian drawl like an actor in an old western.
And, Vanessa did quite the unexpected thing. She grabbed my hand and gave it one hard shake downwards.
As we walked together toward the restaurant’s door, she shook her head in disbelief and grumbled, “Dear God, help us.”