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The red-headed waitress at the Welcome Stairways diner doesn't exactly warm up to Hope when they first meet. She bombards Hope with a series of questions (Where did you work? For how long? How busy did it get?) and then tops every one of Hope's answers to prove that she, Lou Ellen, is the more experienced waitress. When the parade-goers pack the diner the next day, the snippy Lou Ellen tells Hope to wait on the crowd seated at the counter just to see if the newbie can handle it.
Lou Ellen has a pretty big chip on her shoulder, but there's a good reason for it. She's a single mom with a baby who needs a lot of attention. And while G.T.'s been kind enough to set up a make-shift nursery at the back of the diner, Lou Ellen is emotionally and physically drained from tending to both the needy little girl and her customers at the same time.
She admits that she chose to name her daughter Anastasia "because it was a really big name and [she] wanted her to do something big in the world" (102). Sounds like Lou Ellen had wanted to do more with her life than wait tables and read Soap Opera Digest and was counting on living vicariously through her offspring. But now that Anastasia may have some serious developmental delays, we get why Lou Ellen is so bitter.
The rough, gruff waitress does soften over time; in fact, she's the only dynamic character in the novel. It's not like she undergoes an earth-shattering transformation, though; it's more like she sheds the thick skin that's been protecting delicate layers of insecurity, vulnerability, and disappointment. She owes all that shedding to Hope.