Y sifts through a container of strawberries, finds one and pulls it out.
“I can’t remember the last time I had strawberries,” she says, taking a bite. She eats it down to the stem then places the stem neatly along the edge of her plate.
“Am I a messy eater?” she asks.
I look at the neat little line of stems and frown.
She picks up another strawberry, gentle, takes a bite.
“Are you worried about being a messy eater?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Earlier I was in a cafe.”
“I don’t know.”
“How do you not know?”
She frowns, “because it isn’t important to the story.”
“Okay, okay, so?”
“So, I was sitting there and there were kids everywhere. One, was being really loud. Her mother kept yelling at her.”
Y lets the next stem fall slightly out of place, a bit of strawberry still holding on. She digs one nail under the other, remembering the day.
“What was so bad?” I ask. I can hear her fingernails clicking.
“Well, the mom was yelling at her for eating so messily. She was eating a sandwich! A neat little sandwich. Well, apparently it wasn’t right. The mother was so mean and kept saying eat right! eat right!”
I reach for a strawberry.
“Not that one.”
I go for a different one. Y nods. She takes one for herself, ripping through it, leaving half behind on the plate.
“Then the mother pointed at me. She told her daughter she should eat more like me, proper.”
I smile, remembering her dismembering a plate of pasta just the day before.
“Right?” she says, noting my look. “but the thing is, I hadn’t even started eating yet. My food had just arrived and I was on my phone.”
“So did you eat all messy just to show her up?”
Y gives me a guilty look. “No, she was so scary, I ate little tiny bites. I couldn’t help it, you weren’t there. That poor girl watched me eat, so neat and clean. I didn’t even finish more than a few bites.”
Y glares down at her line of strawberry stems. She bats them off her plate. She looks at them, scattered about the table.
“I betrayed that poor girl,” she says, distant. I reach across and start picking up the strawberry stems.
She watches and says nothing.