Reginald sat in a corner of the bustling cafe, reading from her diary. Her thick, sinewy arms pulsed with recognition as she recalled the most harrowing moments in her brief life. Tears streamed out from her four eyes, shaped with the upturned crescent tilt of forever frowning mouths, and shrill wails pierced the ears of all those around her.
She sobbed loudly and without abandon, convinced that no one in this place had ever experienced a life as tumultuous as hers. A once-requited love, severed below the knee before it ever had the chance to stand forever on its own two feet. A family that didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, the intensity of this pain she so sincerely felt in the very depth of her brittle bones.
“Care for a refill?” asked the six-armed serving centaur as he approached. If he’d noticed Reginald’s outburst, he was doing his very best to ignore it. Hoped to soothe the ogre without drawing attention to the show she was putting on for anyone who’d listen.
“Does it look like I need a refill?” she spat, pointing to the untouched espresso going cold on the table in front of her.
“Forgive me, I didn’t see that there,” he whispered, rushing away to hide his malice for her.
Rudolfo, the lifeless marionette hanging off the side of the chair to her left, chimed in at this moment. “Excuse me, dear,” he said, clearing his fabric stuffed throat, “but would you mind telling me what’s wrong?”
She sighed, deeply, for a moment relieved that someone, anyone, wanted to listen. “You see, Rudolfo, I was engaged to be married for many years, until my fiance ran off with my sister, surprising absolutely no one but me, it seems.”
Without at all touching the cross that controlled his movements, Rudolfo bowed his head and spoke, “I am terribly sorry to hear that, Reg, but can you not see that for the blessing that it is?”
“Blessing? What blessing could this ever be?” she asked, earnestly. Her wailing subsided, but the tears kept streaming down her wrinkled face, “My new brother-in-law was the only man to ever give me the time of day! He shattered my heart, and now I have to sit kitty-corner to him at Thanksgiving.”
“But ma’am! You are not a monster,” he said, moving freely again to produce a mirror seemingly from nowhere and hold it up to Reginald’s face, “Won’t you please try, for a moment, to see what I see?”
Reginald went quiet. The face looking back at her was the same one she’d spent the past several months hiding from. Somehow still, something was different. There was a confidence underneath the surface that she’d never before noticed. “Oh…,” she whispered.
“See?” he asked, in the sincerest tone she could ask for, “You’ll come out the other side of this stronger than ever.”
The tears, for the first time in what felt like an unending loop of days, stopped.
She agreed, “Yes.”
Reginald stood before Rudolfo and felt herself transforming in the middle of the cafe. She could do nothing about it, not that she would have wanted to. The changes to her visage were subtle, yet apparent. Gone were the downturned mouths that made up her once sunken eyeballs. Gone was the stringy mess she used to call her hair. Instead, she stared at the marionette with a fire in her cheeks and an unmistakable new luster in her grin.
The serving centaur passed by again and stopped dead in his tracks, backpedaling to kneel beside her. He whispered, “I’m sorry if I was rude to you earlier, ma’am. You’re a regular here, I know that now, but for some reason, you just didn’t look anything like yourself.”
“That’s fine,” she cooed, and the thunderous croak that had been her voice turned into a glass of warm milk.
“Forgive me if this is forward to ask,” the centaur continued, “But could I take you out on a date?”
Reginald looked to Rudolfo and smiled. He nodded at her, and the anticipatory balloon that had grown in the centaur’s fourth stomach was ready to burst.
“No thank you,” she replied, “I’m doing just fine by myself.”
Bob Raymonda is the founding editor of Breadcrumbs Magazine. He graduated from Purchase College with a focus in creative nonfiction. Some of his other work can be found in Yes Poetry, Peach Mag, Luna Luna, & Potluck Mag. Learn more at: www.bobraymonda.co.