9 | A Fleeting Moment

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The food court was located on the lower ground floor. When Evanna walked in, her eyes fell on the leafy decor that clung to walls under a cheery yellow glow. Beyond a glass wall, an outdoor space extended out, bedecked with greenery and many bulbs of light. Conversation and clinking cutlery formed a vibrant soundscape that enveloped her.

"There you are," Janet's voice called over the noise.

Evanna turned, her bags rustling with the motion. Mary and Janet approached her, dressed in business casual outfits.

"Sorry, I got a bit lost," Evanna said as her aunt lifted a bag off her aching arm. "Thanks!"

"You bought yourself a plushy?" Mary asked, taking in the panda she was holding. "Honestly, Eva, how old are you now?"

"Mom!" Evanna scowled as indignation stirred inside. "I like to hug one to sleep."

Janet eyed her bags with a smile. "Someone's gone all out!"

"Mhmm, I'm changing my style."

Mary arched her eyebrows. "You are?"

"Yeah. Anyways, let's eat."

"We should check what restaurants they have here and—"

"Why don't we eat here in the food court?" Evanna said quickly, not keen on ending up in a restaurant that might not offer good plant-based fare. "Lots of options here."

Thankfully, the sisters acquiesced. They were soon seated in a corner with piping hot plates of food.

"You're eating rice?" her mom asked.

"Yeah, I like fried rice." Evanna took hold of the spoon, her nose tingling with the tang of fried onions.

Janet stared at her rice, which appeared rather dry with scant pieces of vegetables. "That looks a bit bland."

"Well, they've just put it together minus the meat and stuff that usually goes in. There must be good options here—I just don't know them yet."

"Or you could've just eaten like a normal person and had a good dinner," Mary said as she tucked into her meal—a sumptuous-looking dish of noodles with what seemed to be fish chunks.

Evanna bit back her retort and looked away. Her stomach constricted in dread at the prospect of more conflict. And this is a public place, Ev.

"So, what did you get for yourself?" Janet asked, nibbling at lettuce from her light dinner of salad and soup—an attempt to lose weight despite her shapely figure.

"Stuff." She propped up her face with a pout and squeezed a dollop of ketchup onto her rice.

"Oh, you went to Natty Nymph too?"


As the conversation progressed about shopping, her mood gradually improved. They were halfway through their meal when three people approached their table.

The short woman in the lead smiled brightly. "Oh, it's so nice to see you again!"

It was Anukie's mom, Natasha, and just behind her was Anukie herself and her older brother.

It was as if an iron hand curled around Evanna's chest, tightening painfully with each passing second. She tried to slow her breathing. Get a grip, Ev. Get a grip!

When Mary and Janet stood up to greet them, Evanna had no choice but to follow suit.

After all the hugs and pleasantries were exchanged, Natasha said, "Evie, how you've grown! It's wonderful that you and Anukie are in the same class now."

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