They met up at the McDonalds, the father with his golden-haired little girl, the mother joining them a few minutes later. They sat at the table across from where I sat reading my book and eating fries, and I smiled to see them at first, the tiny child so happy to see her mother, clinging to her joyfully, laughing as she showed her mother the pink-haired toy from her Happy Meal.
It wasn’t long before the joy faded.
The mother and father talked intensely; not loudly, but they had sat down so close to me that I couldn’t help but hear them. I tried to ignore them, tried to lose myself in The Silmarillion and the poetry of Tolkien’s mythology, but they would be heard whether I wanted to hear or not.
They had betrayed each other, I gathered. Each had done unforgivable things. They hated each other, and said so, in a million ways; the shrill softness of the mother’s accusations, the placid refusal of the father to acknowledge her pain or his own. On and on, never ending. Threats, blame, insults, hatred, so quietly delivered, and yet so deadly.
The child clung to her mother, looking over at me with weary eyes the color of faded summer denim, silently pleading with me to make them stop.
I looked back, the hazel of my eyes no doubt saddened to the color of dark woodlands, silently telling her that I wished I could.