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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
+ Robert Fulghum

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Winter Fun

Short Fiction

Ashley

The couple had seated themselves at their usual table in the corner of the patio. It was a popular spot thanks to a natural canopy of low-hanging branches, but Madeline and Ted always arrived early to beat the Saturday morning brunch crowd. Ashley brought them water and coffee, black for him and cream and sugar for her, and they smiled good morning. Since Ashley almost always got the outside section through outright begging, she was usually the one to wait on their table. “Did you have a good week?” Madeline asked. “Pretty good. I had finals.” “How’d you do?” Madeline asked. “Okay, I think,” Ashley said. “I’m just glad it’s over.” “I’m sure,” Madeline smiled. “Do you have plans for the summer?” Ashley shrugged. “I’ll be working here a lot. And I’m taking a couple classes. Trying to graduate on time.” “Our youngest is graduating next week, so we know the feeling,” Madeline said. Ashley took their order—pancakes and bacon for him and a cheese omelet and fruit for her. When she came back with their food, he was scrolling around on an iPad and she was leaning back in her chair, a book propped on her knee. He moved his iPad and she straightened up when Ashley placed the dishes in front of them, but they continued to read as they began to eat. Ashley mentally shook her head as she went to wait on another table. She wondered why they even bothered going out if they were just going to sit there ignoring each other. She and Scott always had so much to talk about. Well, she did, anyway. He mostly just listened. But still. Most of the time they were in a hurry to get back to the apartment and go to bed. If they even made it that far. Those two probably never even had sex any more. That thought depressed her so much she had to ask the customer to repeat his order. After a while, she went back to Ted and Madeline’s table to clear away their plates. She brought more coffee and poured it mechanically as they continued to read in silence, looking up only to thank her. She brought them the check and they paid and stood to leave. They said goodbye and Ashley began to clear the table. She glanced up because they had stopped and she thought they had forgotten something. She watched as Ted’s hand moved gently to his wife’s hair. He pulled off a small bit of leaf and flicked it to the ground. Madeline looked up at him and smiled. Then she continued walking, her husband’s hand on the small of her back. Ashley watched them leave, the tenderness of the small gestures making her feel almost voyeuristic. She followed, dishes in hand, humming a little and thinking about seeing Scott that night.

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