The shrieking grew shriller as the volume went higher.
Coffee mugs rattled on tables, utensils skipped across plate rim, and nerves frayed along tired edges.
A blur of pink blew past me, a little sticky hand sweeping my napkin onto the floor.
Looking up from my laptop screen, I watched a small whirlwind wreaking havoc through the tightly packed dining room. Her storm chasers seemingly oblivious to the destruction left in her wake.
At the first sign of the EF6 tornado, I moved my cup of latte closer to the wall. I was prepared to duck under my workstation at the first sign of windows cracking. The sound barrier was sure to shatter on her next pass.
A smirk inched across my face, as I envisioned a foot reaching out at just the right moment – a speed bump in the path of the storm. I rejected the thought, knowing it would more likely result in a broken ankle for me, and possible legal entanglements.
Just as I was closing my brushed aluminum laptop, I felt a presence at my elbow. Standing close enough that I could smell the strawberry shortcake shampoo wafting from her two ponytails, was an out-of-breath cherub.
Keeping eye contact with me, she reached across the table, walking her fingers to my tray and the remnants of an apple crumb muffins. The closer she came to snatching the pastry, the further I scooted it away from her, the whole time never looking away.
I marveled at the kaleidoscope of emotions that played across her face. First, confusion, then annoyance, shifting into petulance, to a last-ditch attempt at sadness. Her lower lip trembling and her huge, soulful eyes tearing up theatrically.
Her arm was extended across my table, just a finger tip distance from my snack. Our eyes still locked, I slowly picked up the apple nugget, and brought it to my lips taking a big bite. Then continued munching until all I had left was to lick the glaze off my fingers.
At that moment, a woman, who had a harried and familial look about her, took the girl’s arm, glaring at me as if I were Queen Grimhilde offering her little princess a poisoned apple, and herded her from the cafe. Before the little girl turned the corner, exiting my life forever, she pulled back from her handler and stuck her tongue out at me.
I raised my cup in a salute to her, confident our encounter was the first time the tiny tornado did not get her way.