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  • "I'm sorry," she told the man with a stack of newspapers. "I don't have any cash."

    Ostensibly homeless himself, he had bought copies of the paper by and about the city's homeless population to sell to the people who passed on the street. He wasn't panhandling, not at all, but few people stopped.

    The girl ducked into a restaurant for a salad, some food, before the movie. She had worked too much that week. She had worked too much the week before it, too, and a movie might have been a bad idea. She was just so tired. She shouldn't have worked at all that day but deadlines, deliverables, a meeting with senior executives with a tool she'd had to build from scratch with no knowledge of the project history, numbers, or software.

    It went well.

    By noon, she had met the limit of hours she could work and hours she could earn and save for later, so she left.

    The man with the papers walked into the restaurant and sat down at a table, pulling crumpled bills out of his pocket and slowly counting them.

    "Hey," the girl called from her place in line.

    The man kept his eyes on the table, the money, his hands.

    The girl looked at the line before her and the line that stretched back. She looked at her phone to check the time, and she walked to the man's table.

    "Hey," she said quietly, leaning over with a hand on the man's back. "Have you eaten lunch yet?"

    He looked up, panic stricken, and shook his head.

    "Not yet."

    "What would you like?" the girl asked. "My treat."

    "A quesadilla," he mumbled in confusion.

    "A quesadilla," she repeated. "Anything else?"

    "A chicken quesadilla."

    "A chicken quesadilla. Do you want anything else? Something to drink?"

    "A soda?"

    "Sure," she smiled. "A chicken quesadilla and a soda. Are you sure that's it? I'll be right back."

    The girl moved to the end of the line and made her way to the counter. As she placed the order, she turned and smiled. At the register, after swiping her credit card but before the food was ready, she turned and handed a cup over the half wall between them.

    "It'll just be another few minutes," she smiled as he walked to the soda fountain and filled his cup.

    The newspaper vendor looked around nervously and bounced from foot to foot. The girl watched the food as it came toward the register.

    "Here you go!" she said with another broad smile. "A chicken quesadilla with the works. Enjoy!"

    She walked to the soda fountain and cocked her head.

    Caffeine? Never a good idea. No ginger ale. Bummer.

    "What's your name?" a voice asked.

    The girl looked up to find the man standing beside her. He'd set down his food and his drink. He'd put a lid on the latter. He was holding his newspapers. He was leaving.

    The girl gave him her name and asked, "And yours? What is your name?"


    She placed her drink on the counter and shook his hand.

    "Donald, it's a pleasure to meet you."

    "You, too," he stammered. "Thank you."

    "Thank you," she repeated. "I hope that you have a beautiful afternoon."

    She turned back to the machine as he walked toward the door. A little bit of lemonade with lemon-lime soda would pair very nicely with a quick salad. She had plenty of time before the movie started.
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