The doorbell jingled as a woman and her daughter entered the cafe. They did not look at all alike.

The daughter was short and chubby and seemed to waddle instead of walk; the mother was tall and lanky, each angle from chin to elbow sharpened to a point. The woman wore a close-lipped, businesslike smile as she strode up to the counter. A pair of metal-framed glasses balanced precariously on her sharp cheekbones, the lenses immaculately clear. The girl followed behind, close enough to tread on her mother’s heels.

“How can I help you this morning, miss?”

“One black coffee please,” the woman replied curtly, without a single glance at the menu. She had already pulled out her wallet when she noticed that the girl had pressed her face up against the glass case of pastries, mesmerized by the colors. The woman’s pale cheeks flushed suddenly and furiously, as if she had been slapped, “…and a pastry,” she added. She smiled somewhat embarrassingly, thin lips peeling back to reveal sharp teeth.

“Sure thing, miss. Which would you like?”

“You heard her, darling. Which one would you like?” The woman bent down to be at the same height as her daughter. “Do you want,” she squinted through her glasses at the menu, “a slice of cake, or a cookie? Or perhaps a brownie?” “Darling?”

The girl turned her head and stared up at her mother with big, blank eyes, then turned back to the glass case. The woman noted with a little shudder that the girl had already left several hazy, smudged handprints on the glass. With a sigh, the woman straightened herself and gave the cashier a terse smile. “A piece of cake, please.”

“That’ll be $4.89, miss.”

The woman exchanged glossy credit card for a paper bag and cup, warily eyeing the spots of grease already forming on the brown paper. She took a step back from the counter, carrying the bag, when she nearly tripped over her daughter, who had been silently standing close behind her. As the mother regained her balance, her daughter only stared at her silently with big eyes. The thin eyebrows of the mother suddenly twitched as something flashed across her eyes, quick as lightning. She pressed the bag firmly into the girl’s hands. “Darling, please, stand a bit further from me. You always get in my way.”


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