The Fourteenth Cookie

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2. A smile faced with a smile

She smiled at him, mainly out of politeness. He looked at her warmly, softly, with his eyes betraying his obviously kind nature. There was possibly a great degree of empathy in his look, but it was certainly not pity. It was most probably a genuine wish to help her or at least to make sure she wasn’t going to face any additional difficulties. A very peculiar feeling had practically become overwhelming for the little boy. It was as if his sole task for the remainder of the day was to ensure that the cookie didn’t face any further issues. It did surprise him, but it also felt natural at the same time, somehow. The universe seemed to have had simply assigned this role to him, on that particular day.

He looked at her as if he understood that she had had a rough day, that she was tired and that she was feeling resigned, perhaps also desperate. His look made her feel nice, safe and at peace with herself. His look was to the cookie a confirmation that her unfortunate experience had come to an end. He tried to help her, get her to a safer place and she let him do just that. For some reason, she felt she could trust his judgment. There was no rationale to all this of course, just instincts. She sensed no need to make any decisions of her own, she trusted him. They had very clearly instantly liked each other.

“What are you doing over there?” someone shouted from a distance. “I’m trying to help her out” the boy replied. “Help out whom? That cookie? Are you out of your mind? Leave it alone and come over, supper is ready. Come and eat...NOW” said the same voice. “It’s not IT!” said the boy with real fury. “It’s HER, not IT!“. “She is a girl, not an object!” he then added with panache, something which surprised even himself. “IT or HER, don’t you dare touch it and wash your hands before coming to the table!”. The distant voice was becoming more and more unbending, more and more severe, more and more strict. “Ouf...but I wasn’t going to touch her” the boy said quietly, almost silently, rolling his eyes in despair. He was looking at her intensely and she was looking at him mightily in return. He just wanted to help her more than anything else in the whole world. She just wanted him to help her more than anything else in the world.

She had liked that he had reacted angrily to the “it”, that he had opted for the word “her” instead. She didn’t seem like someone in need of protection, but it felt nice to have someone fight for her, defend her, take her side. And she liked that he was always smiling at her. It wasn’t a smile that many could have given her. A smile which said he was interested in eating her, a smile which said he found her appetizing, a smile which said he wanted to consume her. Anyone could have smiled at her like that. It wasn’t a smile which was merely intense or happy or pleasant. So many could have smiled at her like that too. It was a smile which just said “Hello, it’s wonderfully great to meet you”. A smile which said “It’s so nice to come face to face with a cookie like you”. It was a smile which helped them establish a connection with each other, get close to one another, a smile which helped them create an almost surreal and lasting link between them. A link which was going to be near-impossible to break, as they were about to find out.

He gave her the key to a place where she could rest and recover from her ordeal whilst continuing to smile at her reassuringly. Just as she was about to take it, the boy suddenly pulled back his hand and said “Maybe this is not good enough. You’d probably like a different one better”. What did he mean by “not good enough”, she wondered. Not good enough for what, exactly? And out of the blue, she realized that he meant not good enough for HER. She was staring at him as the little boy turned to the wall behind him and reached inside a weird-looking box. She was hearing him shuffling some things around and then she saw him turn again, facing her once more, with a different key in his small hand. “This is better, for you” he said and this time he actually let her take the key. She smiled a truly beautiful smile thanks exclusively to that “for you”. She started making her way to the room the boy had suggested. Slowly, smiling, smiling at herself. She felt better now. The boy walked leisurely to the kitchen and sat down for supper. Without saying a word, his mind practically devoid of all thoughts, except for the cookie.
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