Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XIII

Chapter XIII – Monique Rodriguez

“She wants to kill me!” The woman’s shriek hurt Monique’s ears. Again.

The other woman opened her mouth to yell something. She looked so angry, her eyes hard and cold.

Monique took a mere glance at the angry expression on the waitress’s face, combined with the scream still echoing in the café, and the child burst into tears. She buried her face into Mr. Pickles fur, but even he did little to muffle the sound of her cries. She tried to keep them back, but she couldn’t; the tears, the sobs, the wrenching in her lungs and throat. They just kept coming.

Monique couldn’t see nor hear very much as she sobbed, her own voice blocking her hearing. Mr. Xavier put his arm around her and Mr. Pickles had never been so wet. Her stomach hurt, her head hurt, and she couldn’t breathe through her nose, but she couldn’t calm down either.

She coughed, Mr. Pickles nearly slipping through her arms. We’re supposed to be brave, Mr. Pickles. But I’m so scared and so tired. I wish Mommy and Daddy were here.

She coughed again, choking and spluttering, but the tears kept coming. I’m so scared and so tired. I want it all to stop, but it won’t. I’m so scared and I’m not being brave!

“Will someone stop that child’s wailing?” Monique recognized the rough voice of the gray-haired woman – Kimberly something – through the fog of her sobs.

The arm around her shoulders tightened, reminding her all the more of Daddy. She tried to choke down the next sob, but ended up in a short coughing fit instead.

“Seriously!” The woman’s voice cut through the air again.

The man beside her stiffened.

“She’s just a scared kid. Give her a break!” Another voice answered from across the room. Looking up through her tears, Monique saw Eddie still on his feet, his arms crossed as he stared in the direction of the Kimberly lady.

“Scared!” Mary Dill screeched. “Who here isn’t scared! She doesn’t have a monopoly on it!”

“She’s a kid!” Eddie snapped.

Monique swallowed, her sobs quieter. She still clung to Mr. Pickles.

“Kid or not, she’s making a lot of noise!” Kimberly growled.

“Oh, lay off.” Fabian Smith shrugged and shook his head. “Mary has been wailing since the first explosion. The kid has done great, considering.”

Monique looked toward the man through tear blurred eyes and he smiled in her direction. Terror sent needles zipping through her entire body and she began to shake terribly.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” Mr. Xavier bent over her and spoke gently.

She raised her eyes up to his face, nearly dropping Mr. Pickles as her hands and arms trembled. The tears, ever slowly making their way down her cheeks, began to pick up speed once more.

The man watched her with concern, his forehead creasing as her tears continued. “Can you talk to me about it?”

Monique shook her head. “I-I don’t know!”

“You don’t know? Why would you not be able to talk to me?”

The child sniffled and sobbed. “I don’t know if I’m allowed.”

Mr. Xavier shook his head this time. “I can’t understand you, sweetheart. What was that?”

Monique swallowed and repeated herself, trying to speak more clearly.

“Not allowed. Who says?” Mr. Xavier pushed the hair out of her eyes. “Who says that you’re not allowed?”

Monique shuddered, then looked toward Fabian again, the smile still on his face.

“I – I don’t like him.” Even she could hear her voice crack and waver, before ending in another sob.

Mr. Xavier followed her gaze across the room. “Why don’t you like him?”

Fabian Smith laughed at something the lady beside him said, sending another shudder through her body. We’re supposed to be good. I don’t know if talking is being good, Mr. Pickles.


She looked back at Mr. Xavier, her tears breaking out afresh. “I just don’t like him. I can’t say why.”

The last word ended in a muffled sound that she couldn’t have described. She tried to bury her face into Mr. Pickles wet, matted fur, but he’d grown too wet and compacted to be much good anymore. I’m so scared, Mr. Pickles. Another sob. I’m so scared and I can’t stop crying!

She cried harder, her shoulders heaving until they almost ached. Her tummy hurt and the lump in her throat only seemed to grow.

Mr. Xavier still had his arm around her. “It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s going to be okay.”

She shook her head violently, her cheek rubbing against Mr. Pickles again.

“You mean that you don’t think it’s going to be okay?” Mr. Xavier asked softly.

This time she nodded.

“Can you tell me why you think that?”

She saw Fabian Smith’s smile in her head, heard Mary Dill’s screams, and remembered the morning injunction to sit still and be very good, no matter what happened. A terrible shudder, worse than any other, shook her. She couldn’t keep her cries quiet and she couldn’t keep the words from bursting out of her.

 “Because Mommy and Daddy are gone and they can’t come back!” A sob choked her again. She knew her voice shook and sounded anything but brave. “They’re gone and they aren’t coming back, and everything just gets worser and worser, not better!”

She didn’t know why speaking made her cry harder, but she could hardly breathe, the sobs came so sharp and close together.

Her daddy used to say that she was small for her age. He used to call her his tiny princess. She remembered it for some reason, when Mr. Xavier reached around and lifted her from her seat. He wrapped both arms around her, holding her close against his chest and shoulder.

No one had done so since Mommy and Daddy died. No one had even let her hug them since Mommy and Daddy died. Not anyone she felt safe with.

Mr. Xavier felt safe. Like Daddy when he used to carry her around when she was sick or when he used to sing to her when she had a bad dream.

She held tight to his neck, afraid that he would put her back in her seat, still unable to stop crying. “We’re supposed to be brave!”

“What’s that, sweetheart?”

“Mr. Pickles.” She choked and coughed again. “Mr. Pickles and me, we’re supposed to be very brave. Crying isn’t brave.”

She felt Mr. Xavier sigh and she wondered if he felt sad. Had she made him sad?

“You are very brave, sweetheart.” His voice sounded sad too. “But it’s okay to cry.”

“It’s not brave to cry!” She didn’t understand why the tears wouldn’t stop. She hid her face, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably.

Mr. Xavier sighed again and squeezed her tighter, gently stroking her hair. “It’s okay, sweetheart. I’ll take care of you and you can be brave when you’re all done crying, okay?”

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