Latest Posts

Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox - Book Blitz + Giveaway

By 5:00 AM , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner
What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?
As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.
Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?
Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?
When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?

Off Stage at the Starlight Diner
JUNE 1977
The moment that thick, velvet curtain dropped to the ground, so did I. Kneeling on the polished stage, I tried to settle the brawl in the pit of my stomach while a half-hearted applause thudded in my ears.
‘Mona, you alright?’ Scott, who’d had his hand in mine when the curtain fell after a rocky
performance of West Side Story, rubbed my back with the hand he had spare.
‘I’m fine,’ I lied. ‘Just feel a bit funny.’
‘Hey, we need water over here. Can somebody get some water and a chair? Hello?
Sometime this century would be just swell,’ he barked at one of the chorus actors, who’d watched me double over without even flinching.
Squeezing Scott’s hand tighter, I winced and looked into his eyes, which were the
deepest blue you’d ever see. He’d taken his role of Tony to my Maria way too serious ever since rehearsals began six weeks before at the Theatre Royale on Broadway. It was my first time working in a show where people actually paid for a ticket and he’d made it his business to watch out for me. One night, he’d even threatened one of the white cast members for saying things he oughtn’t about the young, black girl who ‘had curves in all the places you wanted her to.’
My husband Alan had been jealous of all this in the beginning, before he realised my
leading man was looking for a leading man of his own.
‘Alan – he was supposed to be waitin’ in the wings,’ I said.
‘Well, don’t just stand there, go get him, quick,’ Scott said to Nadia, who’d played
Anita, her on-stage best friend duties bleeding into real life as she dashed off into the blackness.
‘Just breathe,’ Scott said, helping me up into a wooden chair.
I did as he said, but still my stomach churned.
‘What’s goin’ on jelly bean?’ Alan’s voice filtered through the small bunch of actors – he
was the latest guest in the worst kind of after show party. ‘You had a little too much excitement this evenin’?’ I tried to smile but my muscles wouldn’t work that way so I gazed into his eyes instead. There was always a steadiness to be found in them, no matter what was going on. ‘What happened?’ Alan asked Scott.
‘Not sure. Knew something wasn’t right at the beginning of the show but I thought you
were just nervous.’ He looked at me and then stood up, frowning across at Alan.
‘What is it now? Why’s everybody stood here?’ I heard Anthony, the director, screeching
from off stage. He was always heard before he was seen and had the unique ability to put the whole cast on edge within the space of a sentence.
‘Oh Lord,’ I sighed.
Even in the state I was in, I could hear him huffing and shoving people out of the way, and
then he appeared pasty-faced as ever. His red-hair slicked back, with gel or natural grease I never could tell. Standing by his side was my understudy, Rosa. She was all long legs and luscious brown locks, and bitter as hell that I’d got the leading role and she hadn’t.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ Anthony’s eyes tightened into suspicious slits.
‘Don’t know. Just feel real sick all of a sudden. Maybe it’s the heat off of the stage lights
gettin’ to me or somethin’.’
It wasn’t the stage lights. Something was up. I’d known that for weeks, but it was easier to
pretend I was coming down with something passed on from my baby brother, Clifford than it was to find out the truth. This was my shot on Broadway. Whatever the bother was, it’d have to be life-threatening before I let it slow me down.
‘If Mona can’t deal with the stage lights, maybe it’s best I take over,’ said Rosa, rubbing
Anthony’s shoulder, ruffling the satin on his yellow shirt patterned with daisies that he either had a dozen of or never washed.
‘We’re not there yet, Rosa,’ Anthony said, still staring down at me.
‘But, she’s not even Puerto Rican!’ Rosa threw her hand out at me in disgust.
‘You’re Italian,’ Scott glared at her.
‘Yeah, well. So? My colouring is a lot better for the part than hers.’
Alan squeezed my right shoulder. His reminder to keep things civil. He’d heard all about
Rosa over the dinner table at home and had, like my Daddy might, told me to turn the other cheek.
He needn’t have worried. Anger boiled inside me but all I really had the strength to do
right then was breathe a bit heavier in her general direction.
‘Do you need a doctor?’ Scott crouched again, looking me level in the eyes.
‘I don’t know.’ My words stuttered out. ‘Keeping myself going through the show just took
it out of me, I think. I feel real sick like I’ve been on a bus for too long, that kinda feeling.’
‘My cousin used to feel like this,’ said Nadia.
‘Oh yeah.’ Anthony looked between Nadia and me. ‘What was wrong with ’em?’
‘Well...’ Nadia’s eyes widened. She looked at me and started chewing on her bottom lip
which was painted traffic light red for her role in the play.
‘What, what, what? Spit it out.’ Anthony’s hands tugged at the roots of his hair.
‘She was pregnant,’ said Nadia.
Silence fell.
The small crowd of actors looked at me.
‘No. No. That ain’t right. I ain’t pregnant.’
‘How do you know?’ Rosa sneered. ‘Aren’t you keeping your husband happy?’
‘That’s not really somethin’ you should be commentin’ on, is it?’ Alan glared at her,
perhaps starting to realise why she got me worked up all the time.
Rosa opened her mouth to argue but Anthony cut her off, speaking in his quietest and most
deadly voice.
‘Are you telling me my lead actress might be pregnant three days into a sixteen week
run?’ He closed his eyes and pressed his fingers flat against the lids.
‘This can’t be morning sickness,’ I said, ‘It’s after ten in the evening.’
‘That’s not really how it works,’ said Nadia.
‘Oh. Then why’d they call it mornin’ sickness?’ I looked back at Scott. He shook his head
at me, smirked and used the sleeve of the ridiculous red, silk shirt he wore as part of his costume to dab at the beads of sweat along my hairline.
‘If you’re pregnant, you’ve really gone and done it.’ Anthony started to rant. I didn’t dare
look at him myself but I watched Scott’s profile as he turned and scowled up at the director. He’d been doing that a lot lately. Nothing was ever good enough for Anthony and that ain’t exactly what you call an appealing quality in a person.
‘Steady on now,’ said Alan. ‘We haven’t planned no baby.’
‘Looks as though you’re getting one anyway. All that publicity we did with your face
all over it and you’ve gone and done this,’ Anthony bleated on.
‘What’s the big deal? So she feels a little sick once in a while. Rosa can stand in those
nights,’ Scott said.
‘Good thinking, Scott. And what about a month down the line when she starts showing?’
Anthony waved his hands in a frantic ball around his stomach. ‘A pregnant Maria? Oh sure, perfect. You’ve ruined my show you stupid little bitch.’
I pushed my lips into a pout, must’ve looked stupid as hell but it was all I could do to
stop myself from crying right then. My chin wobbled under the strain of holding back the tears.
Scott looked at me. His whole face had darkened. He stood and walked over to
Anthony, squaring up to him so their noses were almost touching.
‘Scott, just leave it. We’re just gonna get outta here,’ Alan said.
But Scott wasn’t listening.
‘You know, I’ve had about enough. You need to take that back Anthony.’
‘Why should I?’ Anthony dug his finger into Scott’s chest. The rest of us, who knew a bad
move when we saw one, cringed.
‘You don’t talk to a lady that way.’ Scott wasn’t a muscle man but he was broad, unlike
Anthony who was scrawny in every dimension.
‘Huh, she ain’t a lady.’
‘How would you know? You’re no gentleman.’
‘Gentleman? What universe are you living in? Lords and ladies. Lace collars and corsets.
You’ve read one too many of those prissy regency novels. Too many years locked away in your bedroom trying to hide what you are.’
‘And what am I?’ Scott growled.
‘A fag,’ Anthony spat, presuming Scott’s desire to hold on to his job would stop him
doing anything stupid.
He was wrong.
Without warning, Scott threw a right hook that sent the idiot staggering backwards.
‘Son of a bitch,’ Anthony cried out, pressing both hands to his face. His nose was
bleeding, probably broken.
For a second nobody dared speak. Scott stood, breathing heavy enough to shake his black
crop of hair forward into his face. Anthony glowered back at him and was, naturally, the first to break the silence.
‘Hey,’ he pointed at Alan. ‘You, aren’t you a cop? Aren’t you gonna arrest him for that?
For, for assault.’
Alan had just finished his training with the NYPD and boy did he ever take his work
seriously. It was a steady job so I’d encouraged him to qualify, but if I’d known he might arrest one of my friends, I’d have suggested he become a realtor instead or open a butcher shop like Momma had suggested on more than one occasion.
Scott turned to us, still panting, and awaited the verdict. My husband looked long at him
and then fixed his eyes on Anthony.
‘I’m off duty,’ Alan said.
Words that relaxed everyone, except the director.
‘Get out!’ Anthony screamed at the three of us. ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’
‘Not a problem, c’mon Mona. Let’s get you home,’ said Alan.
 Scott took my left arm, Alan took my right and between them, they got me back on my
feet. I leant against Alan for more support, looking up into the calm of his eyes while the pair of them walked me off stage.
Looking anywhere, except back at all I was leaving behind.

To read the rest of this short story for free, click here and subscribe to Helen Cox’s mailing list.


About Helen Cox
Helen Cox is a book-devouring, photo-taking, film-obsessed novelist. If forced to choose one, Helen’s Mastermind specialism would be Grease 2. To this day, she still adheres to the Pink Lady pledge and when somebody asks her if she is a god she says ‘yes.’

After completing her MA in creative writing at the University of York St. John Helen found work writing for a range of magazines, websites and blogs as well as writing news and features for TV and radio. She has written three non-fiction books and founded independent film publication: New Empress Magazine. She currently lives in York and writes novels.

Win a signed proof copy of book 1 – Milkshakes and Heartbreaks - Open Internationally.
Sign up to Helen Cox’s mailing list before 1st December in order to be in with a chance of winning –
As a thank you to signing up to the mailing list you will receive three short stories too.

You Might Also Like


Please try not to spam posts with the same comments over and over again. Authors like seeing thoughtful comments about their books, not the same old, "I like the cover" or "sounds good" comments. While that is nice, putting some real thought and effort in is appreciated. Thank you.