Values are remarkably tensile things, bringing humanity back to the fore while dispensing to the periphery those things less vital.? The Third Place wasn’t so much a business as it was a sanctuary, a tribute to the best that was in us all.? It summoned all manner of emotions and aspirations and even made the atmosphere somewhat quaintly electric with expectation.? I think that if it hadn’t existed I would never have seen those distinctive dimensions of my father that helped me to view him as someone more than just an adult figure.? It showed me the remarkable fluid partnership between my parents that was so much more than just two guardians watching over their children.?I saw my community as an essentially good place, populated by people who, more times than not, sought a fairer world.? A kind of magic was happening on most days and it just naturally unfolded the way my father thought it would and worked towards.

Somehow, in the middle of all the chaos and activity, the restaurant worked its enchantment on Finn and me.? We were further along in our attraction to one another than we even realized, recognizing it only after those who knew us best, starting with Mom, gave subtle hints that we looked good together.? Leave it to parents to notice before anyone else.? Mom increasingly had a ready smile on her face, especially on weekend mornings when Daisy and I were available to help out with the breakfast servings.?Finn and I would brush past one another, both sensing the electricity even before any kind of relationship had been formalized.? I would look ever and see Mom with that look on her face.

I knew she was right in what she was sensing and I felt no desire to deny what was suddenly becoming plain to others.? But while Mom was content to just offer the odd comment, Daisy just said things outright.

“You really like him, admit it.” she blurted one Sunday evening.

“I think I do,” I said through a broad smile, “but I want to see where it goes before anyone else finds out.”

“O, Annie, you get so busy concentrating on what’s in front of you that you just can’t see that everyone’s way ahead of you.”

“Wha … what do you mean?” I asked, mildly alarmed.

“See,” Daisy said while pointing knowingly at me, “you just don’t get it”

She paused for a moment before just saying it: “Mom, Dad, even Mrs. Campbell have seen the chemistry between the two of you.? And we even understand that we see what the both you and Finn don’t really see yourselves.? You both are so careful, or oblivious, or something.? You work well together on the restaurant floor.? He finds you pretty and has said so in some not so obvious ways – how he likes your hair, thinks you’re really smart, likes how quickly you move into those philosophical conversations he likes, and even your quiet sense of humour.

“And you??Well, you seem comfortable whenever he’s around.? It’s like you two are waltzing but don’t really notice it.? Sometimes he leads, and sometimes you do, but you are always intricately moving around one another in ways that aren’t scripted but just natural.?I mean, really, it’s a beautiful thing, Annie.”

This is how sisters talk and it was a gift, for, at last, what I was feeling was out in the open – warm, transparent, loving, and in my case, a tad na?ve.? It was like a comfortable fire and I gently took off my cloak of pretense that Daisy clearly saw through.

And then, of course, I asked the question that any young woman in my situation would ask: “Do you think Finn senses it – how we fit, I mean?”

Daisy was careful in her reply.? “I’m not quite sure.? Yes, you’re the boss’s daughter, almost with a college degree, pretty, confident, and obviously capable of whatever gets thrown your way.? That can be intimidating to some guys, I guess.? But then again, Finn isn’t just your average fellow.? He’s smart like you – just like he showed in that article he wrote for the paper.? And with no previous experience in the restaurant business, he just picked up the breakfast operation like he’d been doing it forever.? He’s a natural, right?”

I nodded in assent, knowing in that fashion most sisters are aware of that she had more to offer.

“And there’s that one piece that nobody really considers but just might be the key to it all.”

I leaned back against the wall and waited for the big reveal.? When it wasn’t forthcoming, I simply said, “Daisy” in mock frustration.? She smiled, knowing that the tease was working and picked up her thought again.

“Of all the people we know, who do you think you’re the most like?”

The answer wasn’t hard to come by.? “Dad … it’s always been Dad.? I knew from the earliest days when I was trying to figure out who I was.? We were similar even then, I guess.”

“You guess?” she shot back immediately.? “We’ve talked about it as a family for years.?It isn’t rocket science and it isn’t some big surprise. ?I’m like Mom – wonderful Sally Sheffield Overton – spry, always kind of light as a feather as she floats through the house, with a spirit to match.”

I nodded in understanding and agreement.? “It’s true, and you are so much like her, Daisy.”

“I know,” she acknowledged.? “But you?? You’re quietly intelligent, congenial, more measured than me, and you carry more of a kind of ethical weight than Mom.? And who else do we know who’s like that?? O yeah – Ever Overly. ”

“Okay,” I said, my hands in the air in a gesture of defeat, “but I’m not sure where this conversation is going.”

“O Annie, how can you not see it?? We’ve all seen how Dad and Finn have this remarkably knowing kind of interaction.?They’re in the same groove, approach things from a larger perspective, and for being a young guy – a good-looking guy, I admit – Finn is remarkably measured.? He thinks more than he talks, works more than he relaxes, understands more than he lets on, and seems to have that same kind of innate understanding of democracy that so drives and infatuates Dad.”

With that she was done, just standing there, looking at me in some kind of triumph.?But she was right and I had to confess to myself that I had been oblivious to what it seems like my sister and mother spotted every day.

I should have been embarrassed, but instead I felt a strange warmth somewhere inside me.?It was true – I was Dad personified, and whatever it was the drew him to Finn was tugging away at me as well.? It was that kind of revelation that emerged with a growing light instead of some great flash of awareness. And I was comfortable with it, in part because it had played itself out in a place I had grown to trust and feel an intricate part of.? My family, the Third Place, a steady and friendly set of customers, financially comfortable – these things were my world and who was to argue with its sense of surety and acceptance?

Things were different following that conversation with Daisy.? It was as though I was becoming more aware of my surroundings and my place within them.? Affirming that I had been so much like Dad, I took to watching him more closely, recognizing many of his traits in myself, and feeling a certain sense of – what? Destiny?? A path forward into my future?? Whatever it was, it helped me become more settled in my surroundings, as if this place, the Third Place and my family would constitute those things that I would build my world around.

And then there was Finn.? Understanding somewhat that what drew me to him was what also got to my father made that journey towards Finn easier to embrace, to enjoy, to absorb.

Whether he felt it or not, my interest in Finn had become more of a journey.? I wanted to know more about him, to be sure to be on the morning shifts just to be near his intriguing presence, and to be more willing to strike up conversations whenever the moment was right.?Something was beginning that I now understood started months earlier, the moment he came into our world and applied that great personality of his to the challenges and opportunities of the restaurant.? I had willingly permitted myself to be drawn into his orbit without any resistance.?Things were becoming more interesting.

 

Next chapter – Home Comfort