As suspects on Ryder's list increase, the mystery about the Letter Friend grows!
Ryder blinked a couple of times. The confession in the third letter had stunned him. The girl worked in this Diner? That was interesting. This explained how she knew such a lot about him.
He would spend hours sitting in this booth, reading, writing, doing homework or just thinking. This was a place that he loved to visit. Someone who worked here would get plenty of time to observe him as much as they wanted. Usually Ryder would be lost in thought or in the book he would be reading. So it wasn’t surprising that he never noticed. But this was a vital clue to the girl’s identity.
But the funny thing was that this Diner only hired waitresses. So there would be at least ten girls including the one at the cash register. She could be anyone out of them. Out of all the girls who worked here, five of them went to his school. There was Abigail, who usually manned the cash register. Then there was Lauren, the quiet girl from the library. She came up twice on his mental checklist. She could easily be put at the top of the suspects list for now.
Ryder looked up and scanned the Diner discreetly. Lauren was easy to spot. She was busy taking an order from a table a few feet away from him. Ryder studied her closely. If she was the one writing the letters, she must have been aware of Ryder’s presence in the Diner. But she gave no sign that she knew he was there. Not once did she look towards his table. She continued talking softly to the customers, repeated their order, told them to wait for a few minutes for their order with a polite smile and walked away.
He shifted his focus back to the letter. The girl had mentioned knowing about his favourite flavour of Ice-cream. She had been passing by, that’s what she said right? He looked back up and started scanning the Diner once again. If the girl had been passing by then that would mean she lived somewhere near him.
Ryder vaguely remembered that conversation about ice-cream flavours with his little brother. If his memory was to be believed, then they had been just a few minutes away from his house when they had been having that conversation. So he looked for people that lived in or around his neighbourhood or might have had relatives there. He knew almost all the families in the neighbourhood. That was pretty normal for people living in a small town.
Everyone knew everyone. As he scanned his gaze landed on the waitress on his left, serving food on a table full of college kids. He knew her as well.
She went to school with him. Her name was Lisa Perkins and as far as he knew, she had a twin sister who also worked in this Diner. They weren’t identical twins.
Ryder suddenly sat up straight. Lisa and her twin sister Layla Perkins both lived in his neighbourhood. They lived a few houses down from his. Layla and Lisa lived with their dad and step-mother. Their mother had died when they were three. It had affected them a lot. Their father had remarried a few years later, against both their wishes but they never disrespected their step-mother. Ryder knew so much about them because his mother and their step-mother were really close friends.
He was so lost in inspecting what Lisa was doing, that he hadn’t seen the other twin approach his table. He jumped a bit when Layla snapped a finger in front of him. “Hey. You seem a bit out of it? All okay?” Layla asked him with concerned look on her face. She had always been the nicer one of the two. Soft spoken and sweet, Layla was the epitome of a good girl. Even in school she was liked by everyone. On the other hand Lisa was the tomboy, her exact opposite. Straight forward and badass, she was the trouble maker in the family.
“Ryder?” Layla asked again. He blinked a few times and cleared his throat, “Yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Layla nodded her head and took out her pencil and pad. “Your usual then?” she asked looking expectant. Ryder just nodded his head choosing to keep quiet. As she turned around and walked back to the counter to prepare his order Ryder started his analysis once again. Out of the two of them, it was more likely for Layla to be in his suspects list. She was the one who talked to him sometimes and was on duty most of the time when he came here.
Lisa was there but not always. Plus as far as he knew she didn’t like him. She hated the male gender in general. She always minded her own business and she wasn’t the kind of girl to use letter therapy to heal herself if anything was actually wrong with her. So she could be stroked off the list forever. But Layla was a strong suspect. Till now, whatever the girl in the letter had confessed to, Layla fit in with all of them. She went to school with him, she was at the library quite often and she worked at the Diner. She even stayed in his neighbourhood. As he continued his speculations he kept scanning the Diner as well and suddenly his gaze suddenly landed on a group of people on his far right.
There were four people occupying a booth and with a sudden jolt Ryder realised that Carol was one of them. She slurped her smoothie while the others talked and laughed loudly around her. How he wished he could be the one sitting with her in that booth.
When he heard someone approach he quickly ripped his gaze away from her and looked up to see Layla placing his smoothie and sandwich before him. She had a small smile on her face as she looked at Ryder and said, “Done admiring her beauty? “ Ryder’s eyes widened. At this, she laughed and waved her hand dismissively saying, “Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.” With that she walked away. He just stared after her with a look of utter disbelief. She knew!
This made his suspicion only grow stronger. She knew about Carol too. She had to be writing the letters. But he couldn’t be absolutely sure it was her because there was something that put her partially in the clear. In the previous letter, the girl had mentioned about her suicide attempts and Layla had never done anything like that. If she did, her step-mother would have talked about it and he would have gotten to know about them from his mother. But that didn’t mean she could be stoked off the list. They could have kept it to themselves, for all he knew.
His letter friend must have suffered a lot to have wanted to kill herself. His heart went out to her. He suddenly wished to comfort her. Even though she had promised that she was getting better, he still wanted to make her feel protected. If only he could remember that day in the library. It would help him a lot. But no. His memory just wouldn’t cooperate. He munched on his sandwich and wondered how it would be when he actually met the girl. What would he say? What would he do?
What else did she have to confess? What other problems did she face? All this suspense was killing him. But this was a part of her therapy. He had to respect that and he would help her. He had a feeling that once he found out who she was, they would become very good friends. He would do everything to make sure she was okay. After all, she was one of the very few people who actually took the trouble of understanding him. She was really special and strong, whether she knew or not.
Ryder finished his smoothie and gathered all his letters together. He needed to go back home and take a bath. Graduation ceremony was nearing and he needed to finish the remaining letters. As he slowly got up and walked to the cash register to pay for his food, he was pleasantly surprised to see Evelyn on the other side. She must have come in for her shift when he had been busy pondering over his mysterious letter friend. But he had always known that she worked here. The fifth girl that he knew among the Diner’s staff was Evelyn. She had been working here for the past few years. But, she didn’t need to work, her parents were pretty wealthy.
So Ryder had asked her once, during one of his visits to the Diner, as to why she worked when she didn’t need to. She said she worked because she liked staying occupied and helping people. Evelyn looked up from whatever she was doing and smiled. “Hello again. Finished your usual thinking spree?” she joked. Ryder smiled a tiny bit but said nothing. He just gave her the money and waited for the receipt. As Evelyn worked on the computer to give him his receipt Ryder turned back to see if Carol was still there.
To his delight she was. He sighed deeply and turned back around only to find Evelyn staring at him curiously. Her smile was still there. But along with that she had a knowing look on her face. Ryder quickly took the receipt from her outstretched hand and put it into his pocket. She didn’t say anything about Carol, but just as he was about to make way towards the door Evelyn called out, “Don’t drop your letters this time.”
Ryder turned back around and nodded his head. “Thanks. I won’t.” he replied. He appreciated her concern. She must have realised that they were important to him. With a final wave he exited the Diner and hurried home. So he had two suspects on his list now, Lauren and Laura. He hoped that the next letter would give him a better clue.
He couldn’t wait to read it.