He smiled so openly and sweetly; unless you knew what to look for, you’d never find it hiding in those cheerful eyes. I look at him petting my cat for a moment before I make my presence known.
“You’re here again,” I say by way of greeting.
He looks at me and his smile widened, putting dimples in his cheeks. “I just came by to see Coco,” he says, twirling Coco’s tail around his slender fingers. “Something smells nice. Are you making anything special today?”
I am, because today is a Sunday, and he always comes by on Sundays. “Yeah. I’m trying out an Indian dish. Sambhar, it’s called. You wanna try it?”
He hops up and follows me inside, excited. He has Coco cradled in his arms, and she lets him carry her without putting up a fuss. Perhaps she knows not to misbehave when Ethan carries her because of some sort of animal instinct. He hugs her against his chest with one hand, and pulls his beanie lower with the other, covering the purplish bruise on his temple.
I act like I don’t know what happened between him and his boyfriend earlier today, and bring him a plate.
He sits on one of my mismatched armchairs, Coco settled across his lap. I hand him a plate heaped with rice and the lentil gravy that I’d made, and sit down opposite him.
“Let the cat down,” I say, spooning up the rice-sambhar mix from my own plate. “keep the plate on your lap and eat comfortably.”
“But she’s settled down already.” he says, shrugging. “I don’t mind.”
We eat the food in silence. He says it tastes nice and gives me a bright smile, and it soothes me to see there isn’t anything hiding in his eyes. He’s genuinely happy now.
When we’re done, he takes his leave, tugging his hat lower again.
I watch him walk down the street to get back to his abusive boyfriend, and I say nothing.
[I do not own the image used here. It is used only for illustrative purposes.]