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Wisps of gently spiraling, tornado-shaped smoke rings, materializing out of the end of her mother’s stub of a cigarette, merging with what drifted upwards from the laden ashtray, unfolding and refolding themselves lazily in the chill of the evening air. She coughed in protest, and hastily took a gulp of her strawberry-and-watermelon smoothie.

Across from her and her mother, Karenin was polishing off the last morsels of his coffee tiramisu. She watched the progress of the fingers,  from the edge of the starchy white lace tablecloth to the phosphorescently gleaming cutlery; tracing the path of his fork from the ornate dessert plate to his barely ajar lips. A miniscule crumb rolled off the large chunk, and clung to his bottom lip like an accidentally-on-purpose mole. She opened her mouth to tell him, but at this moment an untimely ray of evening sunlight glided over her eyes, so she was forced to throw up her arm to ward it off.

Mrs. Ko leaned back luxuriously in the chaise italienne, casting most of her face in shadow. “Ichiro, Maito, oishi?” She ground out what’s left of her cigarette in a corner of the silver ashtray.

Kaleda reddened as the elderly gentleman with the salt-and-pepper hair at the next table raised his eyebrows inquisitively. “Mom! Speak English!”

Her mother smiled thinly. “What’s wrong with Japanese, Maito-chan?”

She grimaced. “Well…well, people are looking.”

Indignantly, Mrs. Ko turned to Karenin. “Ichiro. You tell me, is it a crime now to speak in Japanese?”

Karenin looked taken aback. “No, of course not, Mom.” He darted a sly glance at Kaleda. “Just because Maito-chan doesn’t understand. . . . . .”

March 2018
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