The wind scratches at your cheeks. You cross your arms and make your way down the path, away from the blocks of flats and through residential roads that cut across town and lead to the office. Burnt orange and ochre leaves cascade to the ground, glistening wet from last night’s rain, and create a path of fire ahead of you.
A voice bursts through the chill air.
‘Get your hot soup here! Fresh from Poppy’s kitchen!’
A small girl stands across the road, her tinny voice bouncing across the street. A cherry-red woolly hat sits on top of her dark bob, pulled down to cover her ears. She grins, waving a ladle in the air from behind her wooden stall. It’s set up outside the house with a cheap paper banner taped to the top, flapping in the wind, which announces POPPY’S KITCHEN in swirly red scrawl. Stacks of colourful plastic bowls sit in small towers on and around the stall. In the centre is a huge plastic pot. The girl dashes the ladle inside it and waves at you again.
You frown and fold your arms tighter.
‘Hey, you! Come on, get some soup!’
Keep going. She won’t notice.
You walk straight past, the girl’s shouts and shrieks fading, until you reach the end of the street and breathe a sigh of relief.
Now she’s right behind you, holding a bowl. Like a squirrel with curious dark eyes, her head cocks slightly to the left, sizing you up. She shoves a green plastic bowl into your stomach.
‘Go on, have some. It’ll warm you up.’
Hands still in pockets, you look down at the bowl.
It’s empty, except for a mismatched purple spoon.
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