Copyright© 2011 by Patch0341
Rain ran into the restaurant, her coat and hair dripping with water. Aldo met her in the lobby and sat her down at Eric's table, dragging his own chair behind him.
"Wait here. I'll bring you some coffee; we need to talk before you see him." He said gravely. She looked around as she was waiting for Aldo to return and noticed that the cafe wasn't very crowded. It seemed as if they had only just opened.
When Aldo returned he had a carafe of steaming coffee, a plate of biscotti, two mugs, with two containers of cream and sugar. He sat everything down and fixed them both a cup of coffee without ever asking Rain how she liked hers. She brought the steaming mug to her lips and sipped, finding it exactly to her liking.
"Rain, I found Eric outside this morning," Aldo began quietly, "out in that horrible weather. I have no idea how long he was out there."
"Is he OK?" Rain asked confused.
"Bodily, yes; but he may wind up with a cold. It's his mind that's not OK." Rain tried to interrupt Aldo, but he held up a hand to stop her. "He's not sick, or anything. He had another nightmare last night, a pretty bad one, and wound up here. He usually waits until I open, but this morning he was just waiting. I've never seen him this bad. He looked horrific, his eyes were soulless." Aldo repressed a shutter and crossed himself quickly. Over the next several minutes Aldo explained that Eric suffered from PTSD after returning home from the Mid-East wars, and that he and Allegra usually provided support when he had episodes.
Aldo patted her hand and stood, motioning for her to follow. She walked into the kitchen, quickly looking around the room. She noticed Allegra bent over a huge stove, with dozens of pots simmering and stewing. Gleaming copper pots and pans hanging from racks on the ceiling, a preparation island made of a single massive piece of wood stood in the center of the room. On the far side of it, Eric sat at a small table; still in his pajamas. A cup of coffee in front of him and a plate of untouched food next to him.
She started to quickly cross the room, but forced herself to slow down and calmly called to him, "Eric?"
He didn't react until she sat beside him and tentatively touched his arm, "Eric?"
His breath caught in his throat and his head snapped up, wide-eyed and confused, "Rain? What are you doing here?" He asked, looking around the room as if for the first time. "You shouldn't be back here, Aldo will be angry." He said, starting to stand.
"Eric, it's OK, son;" Aldo said from the doorway, "she can keep you company while we work."
Eric nodded and looked back down into his coffee. "Would you like some more coffee?' Rain asked; her voice barely above a whisper.
Eric shook his head and smiled softly, "I haven't had any of this one yet. I've been sitting back here and staring into it all day. Thanks for coming; I'm sorry if I worried you."
Rain put her arms around him and kissed his check softly. "I have to take care of you, remember?" she whispered into his ear.
"Oh, really? Why's that?" Eric queried.
Rain nodded her head toward Allegra, still bent over the stove, "I'm scared of her."
Eric laughed and put his arm around Rain, as Allegra smiled to herself.
After a few minutes Rain whispered softly to him, "Eric?"
"Why do Aldo and Allegra treat you so well? I mean, I know they're nice people; but that doesn't explain why you're special to them. Aldo said that he closed down the cafe this morning, they wouldn't do that for just anyone..."
"Did Aldo tell you about his son?" Eric asked quietly.
"No, I didn't know they had one. It's kind of weird that he isn't here helping out in the cafe. Does he not get along with them or something?" Rain asked, growing confused at his cryptic response.
"No, nothing like that. Antonio was a vet too. He served during the first Gulf War. I forget what unit he was in, but he saw some heavy combat. Got his head all twisted up, like me."
Eric was quiet for a while, watching Allegra attend to several pots on the stove. He nodded his head towards her, "She found him. Near as they can tell, he overdosed on sleeping pills. I don't think he even did it on purpose. He didn't leave a note or anything, just took a whole bottle of Ambien one night. I know how he felt, sometimes you just want to sleep."
Rain hugged him tightly as tears streamed down her face. "Eric, I'm sorry for making you tell me about what happened to you." she said in a shaky voice, "I feel responsible for all this."