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We sit down at the table by the window and before Mom asks, I say I want a strawberry milkshake.
She could’ve remembered by now, I always want the same.
Finn, the nice barista, winks at me, he remembers me from before. Last time he told me he prefers to be called ‘barista’. “Because I work the bar, you know. Bar-ista. Get it?”
“Waiter, bring the bill too.”
Mom insists on calling him waiter although I explained it to her. Finn catches me rolling my eyes and tries to hide his smirk.
“Just sit here and wait for your dad, Megan. No fooling around.”
I nod, slurping the milkshake through the striped straw. She frowns at me.
Mom places my overnight bag on the chair she just vacated. When she pays, I’m surprised it never occurs to her to leave the bill to Dad. Perhaps she feels guilty about leaving me here to wait for him. I’ve gotten used to the drill after three years although we switched coffee shops from time to time. Tammy’s was first, but Mom was disgusted when she saw a waiter almost cut off his finger as he sliced a lemon. Then it was The Pelican where I saw a fat old man grope the tiny waitress and I didn’t want to go back after that, and now Don’t Mocha Me.
I like it here, Finn treats me like an adult; in the six months that we’ve seen each other once every two weeks we became friends. At least, that’s how he calls me, my little friend.
I prefer to wait for Dad here rather than at home where they would start fighting the second Dad walked through the door. Mom thinks I don’t know why she doesn’t want him in our apartment. She always makes me promise I won’t tell Dad anything about her new friend. But she doesn’t bother hiding his things around the apartment – men’s shoes in the hallway, books on engineering, a parka that is too big for her – so she prefers for Dad to stay as far away as possible.
I don’t really care. I like watching people. Last time I saw a boy sneak his hand up a girl’s skirt at the table just across from me. When he saw me staring, he smirked and said something that didn’t sound English. I blushed furiously.
A glass falls from Finn’s tray as he passes my table. I jump in my seat even though I’m used to things getting broken. Everything breaks eventually.
“Want another milkshake? On the house,” Finn offers and I want to say yes because people are rarely so nice to me, but I’m so full I’m afraid I’ll throw up if I drink another one. So I say no.
I see a scar at the side of his face underneath his black hair. Everything else on him is black–black eyes, clothes, even the apron.
“Where did you get that?”
He fingers the white scar. “You get this from being stupid.”
“I fought with another guy over a pretty girl.”
“Did you win?” I ask excitedly.
I imagine him on a horse, his brooding face would be perfect for a knight, brandishing a sword, sun glinting off the slick metal. Or are duels supposed to be staged before sunup?
“Yeah, but she wasn’t worth it,” he sighs and then looks embarrassed at me.
I recognize the expression; adults get it when they realize they’re speaking to a child and they’ve given away too much detail.
“I understand. My Dad says that of my Mom.”
Dad always blames Mom for everything, but I reckon Grams is right when she says it always takes two to fight because when they argue, they both yell.
Finn shifts his feet, he seems flustered. He opens his mouth to say something but before I can ask him whether anyone is worth it at all, he walks away.
About Brigita Orel
Brigita Orel's short stories and poems have been published in numerous print and online magazines and anthologies. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Micro Award. She studied writing at Swinburne University in Melbourne, and will continue her studies at Swansea University in 2015. She lives in Slovenia where she works as a literary translator.