I felt her eyes upon me before I saw her. No more than three feet tall, a blonde ponytail pulled tight from her face, her cheeks wet with tears. The street was still quiet. I was the only customer at the outdoor café. She settled into the chair next to mine. I ordered her a hot chocolate with two marshmallows, just the way she liked it. I knew why she had come. They were fighting again. Mother’s frail body slammed against the kitchen wall. Father with a carving knife threatening to slice open our throats, cut out our hearts. Curled under the kitchen table, I had withdrawn into my imagination, creating future lives where I was grown and safe, sitting in a café much like this one.

I slipped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, our hearts beating as one.

“You can stay as long as you like,” I said.

The waitress set the hot chocolate down in front of me with a kindly smile. Just another old lady talking to herself.

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