Café Chocolaté

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Chapter V

Chapter V – Adrian Terrence

Adrian jumped to his feet, pulling his cousin up with him. He looked around the room at the frightened people, feeling his own fear rising.

Lord, I don’t know what’s going on. Please be with us.

“That one felt closer.” Xavier spoke close to Adrian, so that he could be heard above the noise in the room.

Adrian nodded. It did feel closer. What it actually is though, I haven’t the faintest clue.

“How could it be closer, Adrian, without coming through the walls? The last one blocked the door.”

“You got me there.”

Xavier took a deep breath. Adrian sighed.

“Surely, they had the roads cleared of civilians before the second explosion, Cousin. We don’t even know whatever it is caused any casualties. Louise and Andy are likely just fine.”

“I pray that you’re right.” Xavier swept the room with his eyes.

Indeed. Please be with them and keep them safe, wherever they are, Lord.

His cousin touched his arm. “Adrian, have you noticed the little girl over there?”

Adrian turned in the direction of the small girl with her shiny black pigtails and battered stuffed bunny. She still huddled in the far booth, her eyes wide and dark. “I’ve seen her, yes.”

“Have you seen anyone with her?”

Adrian stopped to think a moment, then shook his head. “No, I can’t say that I have. I just assumed that she belonged to someone else here.”

Xavier looked around the room again and then back at the little girl. “I don’t think that she does have anyone. I think she’s alone.”

Who would leave their child alone in a café? She can’t be more than nine-years-old.

Before Adrian could come up with anything to say aloud, Xavier strode forward in the girl’s direction. He decided to follow.

The child looked up with wide, frightened eyes as Xavier approached her booth. She hugged her bunny closer and brushed away a tear.

She does look like a child who has been left alone.

His cousin pulled a chair from a nearby table and sat across from the girl. Clasping his hands together, he smiled a bit. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

The girl continued to look at him, her eyes glistening with more tears, but showed no signs of an answer.

Xavier tried again. “Are your daddy or mommy here in this room?”

This time the child shook her head, a tear splashing down her cheek.

“Are you with anyone in this room?”

The child seemed to hesitate again, but shook her head again.

“Did your daddy or your mommy leave you here for some reason?”

Two more tears splashed against her nose, as she shook her head and held the bunny, if possible, tighter than before.

“Can you tell me who brought you here and why?”

The child only stared at him. She pushed away a few strands of hair that clung to her wet face. Another tear raced down her nose.

Xavier waited a moment, his face furroughed in thought. When the child continued silent, he tried again. “Can you tell me your name, sweetheart?”

The child continued to gaze long and hard at him. Xavier smiled again.

“My name is Xavier, if that helps. This,” he gestured to one side, “is my cousin, Adrian.”

The girl looked up and Adrian smiled. She only looked at him a moment, before turning back to Xavier. After another long stare, she said in a very small voice, “I’m Monique. This is Mr. Pickles.” She poked her chin into the head of the bunny by way of introduction. Her eyes never lost their wide-eyed look of fear.

“It’s nice to meet you, Monique. And Mr. Pickles. He looks like a good friend.” Xavier leaned forward slightly and spoke very gently. “Are you scared, Monique?”

She didn’t blink, tears slipping down her cheeks unheeded. She sniffed and then nodded.

“Would it help if you stayed with me?”

Monique hesitated less this time, before she nodded once more. A tiny, but very decided nod.

Adrian glanced around the café, but no one seemed to be giving them any heed. Certainly no one else jumped to show concern for the child or seemed to even notice her existence.

Who leaves a child alone in a café? Why would anyone do such a thing? She’s terrified. Either just because of the explosions or also because of whoever left her here.

Mary Dill shrieked and the child jumped, tears falling at a much swifter rate. Xavier glanced up at Adrian, then moved from his chair to the booth where Monique huddled. Gently, he put an arm around the girl.

Adrian couldn’t hear what his cousin said, but Monique nodded before burying her face into her bunny’s head. Adrian took the booth seat opposite his cousin, listening to the confused noises around him and understanding very little. He checked his phone again.

No service. I didn’t really expect any, I suppose, but it doesn’t hurt to check once in awhile.

The pregnant woman who had been with Mary Dill since just after the first explosion, finally moved awkwardly to the closest table and sat down. Mary didn’t seem to notice one way or another.

The two café employees stood to one side. Ginger’s eyes narrowed and her brow furroughed in strong annoyance, if not anger. Eddie just stood gawking in confusion. Two more people stood nearer the door, a man and woman, apparently talking. The woman held her arm close to her side. Another woman sat in a chair, rather a distance from any of the tables. A man, dressed in a business suit, seemed awkward and out of place as he stood near the pregnant woman, as if he wanted something to do and could think of nothing.

I see these people every week. I recognize them all. I don’t know their names or, really, anything about them, except what I can see right now. Even though I would know their faces, if I passed them on the street, I think.

He saw Ginger’s face flush a darker shade of red and her glare deepened. She dropped her arms to her sides and held her hands in fists.

Nor do I know how they would react to almost anything. Some people start to act ugly when they’re afraid. We don’t know how long we’ll be in here or what may occur in that time.

He swept the room again with his eyes, wondering who he could classify as a fuse waiting to be lit and who would be potential assistants in peace keeping. He found no certain fuse besides Ginger, nor any certain peacekeeper besides Xavier.

I literally know nothing about them, except their faces.

His eyes strayed to his cousin again with the little girl beside him, still hiding her face in the ragged stuffed animal.

Except her. I’ve never seen her anywhere before, poor child. Where did she come from and why is she here?

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