“In our country,” the woman just sat down on the next table to me said, “they’d stab you for your cell phone, leave you on the street for dead.”
“Is that so,” I said, noticing that mine was sitting amongst the empty plates strewn across a tablecloth peppered with breadcrumbs and olive pits.
“Yes,” she said, “and, such young children would never be allowed to run around until such an hour unsupervised, they’d be long tucked up in bed, safe and sound.”
Her voice was shrill, like a winter’s breath. I placed her accent as African, and if I were prone to making assumptions, which I try not to; I’d say South Africa. Fair to say it was not easy on the ear, not the way Italian, or French is.
“Safe?” I said.
“Oh yes,” she said, “safe and sound. Have you lived here long?”
“If fifteen years is long, then yes,” I said.
“Wow, that is. And what was it that brought you here?” she asked.
I smiled at her; it was a thin-lipped smile, apologetic really.
I was still considering my reply when I felt my youngest, my daughter, tugging at my dress, her face hot, her breath quick from running up and down, up and down.
“Can we go home now mummy?” she said. I could see her eyes fighting the tiredness.
“Okay,” I said, “go and get your brother, meet me by the car.”
I folded a twenty-euro note in half, and placed it under an empty glass just in case the unpredictable wind decided to have a blow. Then I got up, managing to catch the eye of a waiter as I did.
I turned to the lady. “Have a nice evening,” I said, nodding politely, and turned away. I could feel her eyes grinding into me as I left, as if she was still awaiting my answer.