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This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.

 “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” 
Marcus Aurelius

They had been meeting for a long time and he found it difficult to remember when it started.

Of course, she remembered. Girls always remember that kind of stuff; guys are usually just happy to be happy.
This was their favourite cafe and the staff knew them by name.
Alberto felt comfortable here.
The cafe was sparsely decorated but well lit. Not brightly lit but well lit. The kind of lighting that highlighted certain portions of a wall or a poster but did not hurt your eyes. The kind of lighting that made you feel special and more able to speak of intimate things.
It was still early so they had the place to themselves, and here was still a faint glow in the sky.
Palmira loved this time of day, not quite night time but with the promise that darkness brings, and not still daytime, the hustle and bustle temporarily on hold.
 Their lives were such that these brief encounters were all they had. Years ago it had been different but they had missed their chance and now they grabbed at happiness in the way a hungry child will attack a plate of chips, with both hands knowing it will end very soon.
They didn’t have a favourite table but rather they played a game whereby the first to arrive would choose. Their time together usually started early in the night so the choice was always wide.
Their propensity for arriving very early was a source of annoyance for the staff in the early days as it meant that they would have to put up with this young couple standing outside the cafe with their noses pressed up against the glass [Alberto thought this was funny and Palmira laughed so he did it as often as possible] or they could let them be seated even though they were still setting up.
On this particular evening Alberto arrived first and chose the table just to the side of the main entrance. Usually he would do the gallant thing and face the wall so Palmira could sit facing the cafe’s interior, but this time he wanted her to see only him.
They both knew that all things change but neither of them ever mentioned it. Talking about change seemed like a good way to make it happen, so silence on that subject seemed like a wise move.
Their lives were not their own and had not been so for a long time and it was only a matter of time until that part of their lives that was out of their control would come crashing in and spoil their ideal moments.
When Palmira arrived Alberto stood up to greet her and she instantly knew that something was wrong. She could feel an icy cold sensation in her neck which slowly spread down her spine. She kissed him and her embrace lasted longer than usual, she knew that when she let go he was going to tell her something that she really did not want to hear.
Whatever he was going to say they both knew that their time together was coming to an end.
This inviting little cafe might have to get along without them.


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