Girl Who Looked Like Brenda

Story from trip described in travelblog, Big Trip Up North.

Both Bob and I thought that the young waitress at the Chili’s in Bennington, Vermont looked like a youthful Brenda - creamy tan, high cheekbones, serious manner, cat eyes, blond hair hanging in a loose braid off one shoulder. Like Brenda, she resembled the actress Kim Novak. When we returned to the Hampton Inn a few miles down the road I got the key to the BMW and went back out.

She had not been our waitress before. I said to the hostess, another pretty young woman, “Remember me?"

She claimed that she did.

Putting on my best Big Daddy manner, I asked, "Would yall please seat me at a table waited on by that lovely girl with the long blond braid?”

The hostess frowned. I waved my hands and added, “No, no child; don't get the wrong idea. I know I'm old enough to be her daddy.” Leaning forward I added in a confiding manner, “That’s who she reminds me of. My own little girl. I just had to get a closer look.”

The pretty hostess snorted. “This ought to be good. Sure. Why not. I’ll put you in Abbey’s section.”

She seated me in a booth separated from the bar by a Tiffany-style stained glass (plastic actually), partition. By this time the dinner crowd – family locals – had been mostly replaced by the bar crowd – single locals, their nasal New England voices getting loud and good humored just beyond my low wall.

Abbey showed up in a few minutes. She stood well away from the table. Her cat eyes were narrow; her full mouth neutral. Up close her skin was even smoother. I felt ancient. She said, “Yes.”

Big Daddy died. I managed to get out, "Ah, just coffee and dessert please. Apple pie."

Her face softened. She must have felt sorry for the old man who looked at her then looked away. "You asked for me?"

I said in my usual voice. "Yes, you remind me of somebody. You have heard that before?"

The corner of her mouth lifted a little. "Sure. " - she hesitated - " I am supposed to remind you of your own little girl. Right?"

I peered at her more closely. "Well actually you might look a little like her. But that is not who I had in mind. It's my wife."

She laughed. "That's familiar too. And where is she now?"

"Ah, she is dead."

Abbey's face dropped. "Oh". She added, "I've heard that one too. Yes, well, I'll get your order." As she walked away, I noticed that from the rear she was a little sturdier than Brenda, more like the real Kim Novak.

She returned in a few minutes with the pie and coffee, which she placed on the table before me. As she started to walk away, I said, "I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable. But you do look like her. I was in here earlier with my travelling companion - we are staying at the Hampton down the road - and both of us commented about the resemblance. I had to come back."

The girl hesitated. "When did she die, your wife?"

"About nine months ago."

"Where are you from?" Her smile now was friendly. "Somewhere south I know."

"North Carolina, near Charlotte. Have you ever been there?"

She shook her head, "Nope, never have."

As she stepped away again. I said, "You ever hear of Kim Novak? That's who you look like - who Brenda, my wife looked like."

She turned around and stared at me. "My mother told me that. I've seen some of her old movies. Picnic and Vertigo. It's sort of freaky. Your wife - Brenda - she did too?"


The girl looked at me closely. "You are not like that guy in Vertigo are you?"

"James Stewart?"

"Yeah the man who was trying to turn the second girl into the first girl - the one that drowned ."

I laughed. (My heart skipped a beat. Literally. That's what it does.) "No. I'm harmless. Just an admirer."

The girl smiled. "Well I've got to go back to work. " She reached down to touch my arm. Her hand was smooth. She smelled like fresh soap.

She said "Thank you for dropping by - ?"


"OK Tom."

"OK Abbey."

She walked off.

Later when she brought me the check and I left her a good but not immoderate tip she said, "Take care of yourself Tom."

I said, "You too Abbey."

It wasn't that night in Bennington but the next night, in Altoona, that I had the dream and woke up not knowing who or where I was - not remembering the dream except that it might have involved another woman and another life that was more real than where I was.

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