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Maria was turning twenty-one. It was more than four years since her accident. Her mother, Lucy, noticed that she seemed to have aged many years, particularly, in the last few months.

“Truth be told, at twenty-one, she knows more than you and I will ever know,” Lucy said to her husband.

Most of Lucy’s friends loved Maria. They still saw her as the sweet, little girl who was given to Lucy and Lenny later in their marriage and who then recovered from a terrible accident. They never bothered to look and see if Maria had grown up. Perhaps, it was better that way. Being a more recent friend, Verloren, was different. She could see who Maria was. Maria was what Verloren was not. Verloren was nice to Maria whenever Lucy was present but as soon as Lucy was out of sight, she would dismiss Maria as if she was not worth acknowledging.

These days Lucy, often, found herself asking her daughter for advice. One afternoon in the cafe, Lucy said to Maria, “Verloren was teary today when she was telling me about her marriage. She gets interested in other men and it never works out and then she gets even more upset. I don’t know what to say to her. Do you think you could help her, Maria?”

“I would love to help her but she wouldn’t listen to me. She might listen to you, though,” said Maria.

“What will I tell her?”

“Tell her that her husband loves her, as best as he can, but everyone is absorbed in their own worries. And tell her not to look for other men because they won’t be able to make her happy either.”

“I can’t tell her that, Maria. She’ll never speak to me again.”

Maria laughed, “Well, it’s the truth. She thinks that she can make herself feel better by gaining the love of someone she admires.”

“Don’t we all think that?” Lucy asked without shame.

“Yes, Mumma, we do. And it doesn’t work for anyone.”

Another evening, Lucy and Maria were standing in their kitchen peeling vegetables for dinner.

“Why is Farkas so angry with us?” Lucy asked. “I don’t mind that he doesn’t come to our cafe anymore. I’m not offended, but whenever I see him on the street, he acts like I asked him to leave and he won’t even say, hello. It makes me sad because I don’t hold anything against anyone. Anyway, he came to our cafe for a long time and,” Lucy paused as she searched for the right words, “and I miss him.”

“Don’t worry, Mum,” Maria said softly. “It’s just him. In his mind, everyone has or is going to hurt him. He is protecting himself.”

“Why would he think that? He must have friends who love him. Everyone has friends.”

“Do they? Most have arrangements.”

The conversation was getting too much for Lucy. “Okay, darling, please go get the hens eggs and bring some lettuce back with you from the garden.”

After dinner, Maria walked the few streets to Farkas’s house and left some eggs at his front door with a note saying, These are from Mum. She said that she misses seeing you at the cafe. Maria thought, If Mum knew I said that, she would kill me. She laughed and ran home.

A few days later, Farkas came to get his morning coffee from Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe. He ordered takeaway, had a little chat with Lucy about how good she was looking, and then went outside to wait for the order.

“I’ll take it to him,” Maria said when his name was called.

“Thank you,” said Farkas when Maria handed him his coffee. He then added, surprisingly, “I hate my name, Maria. If I had a better name, I think I would like myself better.”

“It’s a beautiful name,” said Maria. “It means wolf in Hungarian. I know this because wolves are my favourite creatures. They don’t like fighting but are fierce if they need to be. They are very connected to their pack and will be loyal till the death. They have all the intelligence and sensitivity of a dog but much more. They are noble creatures, Farkas. Why would you want to change that?”

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