From the writing workshop, a piece of fiction, especially for Valentine's Day...
"Is this yours?"
Zoe looked down at the half-eaten box of chocolates sitting on the park bench, and she shook her head.
"So then you don't mind if I eat one?"
The man reached out his pale, white hand and chose a nut cluster from the assortment. Zoe watched him from the corner of her eye. Her mother had always told her not to make eye contact-that it was rude. But people in this country were always staring. They stared at her on the bus and in the train. They stared from behind their black leather steering wheels as she crossed the street with her bicycle. But she never stared back.
"You have pretty black hair," the man said, licking the melting chocolate from his fingers. "But your eyes are green, aren't they? That's unusual."
Zoe kept quiet. She could barely understand what he was saying. Her English wasn't quite fluent yet, and although she had moved with her mother from France to Boston a year ago, she was just now six, and still found herself confused at times.
"Where is your mommy?" the man asked. He took a white hankerchief from his inner suit pocket and slowly wiped his hands. "Your mommy works at the library doesn't she?"
At this Zoe met the man's gaze.
"Yes," he smiled. "You look just like her."
"My mother doesn't like me to talk to strangers," Zoe said quietly. She watched as the man stood from the bench and closed the box of chocolates.
"Give this to her for me, will you?" he asked, reaching into his pants pocket to reveal a small, red envelope. On the front it said, "Happy Valentines."
I don't think she'd accept it from me, but if you bring it to her for me, maybe she will."
Zoe reached out and took the envelope, which was small but thick.
"It is good to meet you, Zoe. Even if I am a stranger."
The man turned to leave, clutching the box of chocolates in his right hand.
Zoe looked down at the red envelope as he walked, his shoes clicking on the pavement. The envelope was not sealed and she spread the card inside to find a stack of green papers. Hundred dollar bills. And she got back on her bicycle, and pedaled quickly home.