Fists on his leg.
He says no, it’ll ruin her dinner. They’re going home soon. She’ll have peach pie tonight.
The fists stop. Quiet.
Then she collapses to the ground, still wailing. Always wailing.
He wants to make her happy. But she wants so much, and he has so little.
A chair clatters to the ground. The clerk jumps. He mouths sorry.
He picks her up, tells her to stop squirming. Let daddy check his wallet.
Eighteen bucks to get through the week. Has food at home. Not doughnuts.
He sighs. She punches his leg. Doughnut, she screams.
He can’t do this. He can’t.
It’s just a phase. She’s a kid. She’ll grow out of it.
But right now he’s drained. Spent. Dead.
She gets up. Runs away. Knocks over another chair. A cup of coffee splashes to the ground.
He runs after her. Apologies. More apologies.
She stops at the counter. Screaming. Wailing.
He embraces her. Tells her to be quiet. He’ll get her her doughnut.
A hand on his shoulder. Another apology.
A voice. Hey, you dropped something. A familiar voice. A familiar situation.
An image flashes in his mind. The day they met. He hadn’t noticed. She’d tapped his shoulder.
Then the day their daughter was born. Panic. She wasn’t ready. This wasn’t in her plans.
The note she’d left. I’m going to Paris. An opportunity I can’t miss. I’m sorry.
But that isn’t her.
He turns around. Sees the woman behind him. She holds out his wallet in one hand, a doughnut in another.
Memories flooding back. Nights spent studying. Lazy summer days. Bliss.
The ass he’d been.
This is the woman he should have married. He’d known it since his daughter was born. Years too late.
Smiling. A comforting smile.