By Hansha Masherani

Ana awoke on Saturday at ten.  She dressed, and seeing that her fridge was nearly empty,  decided to walk to Laurel Street for breakfast, after which she would pop into Whole Foods and replenish her fridge.

The coffee shop was crowded, but there were a few tables available. She joined the queue to place her order, and watched the baristas rushing around in what seemed like a choreographed dance: grinding coffee, expertly steaming milk, and squeezing syrups from bottles into tall cups.  Ana breathed in the warm, sweet aroma of coffee, chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla that wafted from behind the counter. 

Looking around, her eyes landed on a slim woman seated at a small, circular table near the back.  She wore a dress of Japanese silk with a floral print of red, white and turquoise, and she had red highlights in her dark hair. She looked at the screen of the laptop open in front of her chanting something, her lips moving rapidly. “Is she praying?” wondered Ana, but just then, her name was called,  and her curiosity about the chanting  woman vanished as she stepped to the counter for her order. Ana realized that she was hungry as she made her way to a table by the window. 

Ana let the buttery texture of her scone melt in her mouth, and she thought how well it complemented the dark bitterness of her coffee. As her hunger dissipated, she became aware of the women at a larger table next to her. There were three women, though there were four chairs. In front of the empty chair, there was a tall transparent plastic cup containing a red iced tea and a plate with a bagel and cream cheese. At the back of the empty chair, there hung a cream woolen Burberry coat, with a plaid silk lining. 

Ana could hear the women talking. “You know,” said the one nearest to her, “She worked so hard to put him through medical school and residency, and now he’s divorcing her!”

“What about the house? Did they own it? Or renting?” asked the woman sitting opposite her.

“Renting. But she has a retirement fund she has been paying into, and can you believe it? He wants  half of it!” The two women look at her in disbelief, eyes wide and mouths agape. 

“Surely that’s not legal?” asks the third woman.

“I don’t know,” replies the first woman, “the divorce lawyer has recommended a mediator to help them work all this out. Apparently, it can take some time.”

“How long is she staying?” asks the woman opposite.

“She returns to Chicago next week. Jack is all for supporting her – she is his only sister and they are close. She is sad, angry and distracted right now, but she is great to be around normally. Even our kids love their aunt!” replies the first woman, smiling. 

They hush as they see a woman come in through the front door and walk towards them. On reaching the table, she grabs the coat from the back of the chair  and says to the others, “Sorry I left so suddenly; that was our mediator on the phone, and it took longer than I had expected,” and, pointing to the bagel and iced drink, she continues, “I don’t want these anymore; I’m not hungry.  Are you all ready to leave?” 

They get up, chairs scraping on the floor, and grab their belongings, and walk towards the door. 

Ana sits for a minute, feeling sad for the woman from Chicago. She sighs, then  heads over to Whole Foods for her groceries. 

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