Another hour or so passed as the train finally pulls into Los Angeles. She stepped off the train and took in the fresh and much less humid California air. The place amazed her, it was the exactly opposite of her hometown in Texas. Everything was green and alive. The people were tanned, rather than leathered-looking and fresh-faced - even in the train station. Marla pulled her backpack on and walked out of the train station. She figured there had to be food nearby, and she was dying for a non-microwaved meal. Two blocks away, the smell of cheeseburgers and onion rings pulled her into a diner that was in the middle of its lunch rush.
“Sit anywhere you can find space, hon,” said a waitress that walked by carrying a seemingly impossible amount of food on a tray.
Marla peered around the diner and found a seat at the counter. She sat down, stuck her backpack under her feet, and picked up the menu. So many options! Her mother had been somewhat of a naturalist. She insisted they eat most meals at home and categorically hated any chain restaurants. Andi cooked like a professional and loved feeding her husband and daughter recipes she found on the Internet; and in the many, many foodie magazines that were delivered to their house monthly. Marla zeroed in on the meal that drew her into the diner initially and decided to splurge on a chocolate milk shake. She'd used her money very judiciously and had much of it left. She was reading the diner's history on the back of the menu when a high-pitched voice cut-in.
“What can I get you, sweetie?” The voice came from exactly the woman you would have expected. The waitress couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall with unnaturally blond hair and deep brown eyes.
Marla smiled as she said, “I'll have a cheeseburger and onion rings, a glass of water and a chocolate milk shake.”
“How do you want your burger cooked?”
“Gee, I'm not sure.” The waitress held back a chuckle at Marla’s deep Texan accent. That was something her mom had known and something she didn’t bother with. Before now, that is.
“Do you like a lot of pink in the middle of your burger?” Marla wrinkled her nose, causing the waitress to laugh. “Well done it is. Be right back with your water and milkshakes.”
Marla loved California. The whole atmosphere was just incredible to her. Back home, everyone was struggling; the town had been in decline for years. Only during the county fair did everyone seem to forget their woes and actually enjoy themselves. Not here, though. All around her, Marla heard people talking and laughing as though they had no cares in the world. The sensation was truly heady.
Before long, the counter waitress brought Marla's water and milk shake. “You want whipped cream on that, sweetie?” She held up a can that read “whipped topping.” Marla was reasonably sure it wouldn't taste anything like her mother's homemade whipped cream.