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A Stubborn Subset This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

“Can I get you lunch? You look hungry.”

Mia looked up, turning her head sideways so only half of her face was exposed to the biting London air. She took a moment to assess the speaker. “Ah.”

The boy frowned, crouching, careful to keep his immaculate khaki-covered posterior above the grimy sidewalk. “Was that a yes or a no?”

Mia sighed and lifted her head, “Neither. It was an ‘ah’.”

His frown deepened, so she elaborated. “There's a certain type of charitable individual who is only charitable if they know that the person they're being charitable to is using their generously offered money on food rather than alcohol or drugs. The ‘ah’ was my acknowledgement of you as that type of individual.”

His lips quirked, “Do you have anything against that?”

“Nothing whatsoever. You don’t know me; I could be a raving heroin addict for all you know.”

“Does that mean you’ll have lunch with me?”

She considered him carefully, “Not necessarily. You see, I must take into consideration that there is a subset of your type who charitably take females such as myself to lunch and then expect something in return once he has her to himself.”

His brows rose at this, “I don’t expect anything.”

Mia shrugged, “That could very well be true, but I don’t know you any more than you know me, so it would be just as foolish for me to go with you as it would be for you to hand me cash.”

His lips had quirked into a full-grown smile, “Then it seems we are at an impasse.”

“Not at all. You are under no obligation to be charitable and I am under no obligation to accept charity. Therefore, we can both go our merry ways with no harm done to either side.”

“Except that you will still have had no lunch.”

“If I don’t have a problem with that, there is no earthly reason why you should. Good day.” Mia turned her face back into her knees. She could feel the boy staring at her, then heard him sigh and stand up.

“Good day to you as well.”

***

Mia was roused by the aroma of fish and chips, becoming aware of a warm presence inches from her side. She turned her head, raising a single brow at the sight of the boy. He was sitting next to her, seemingly ignorant of the fact that his pants would never be the same. On catching her gaze, he held out a paper bag.

“I figured it would be a fair compromise if I brought lunch to you and we shared it here, in a public location.Thus you can be assured that I don't fall into that undesirable subset of charitable individuals, and I can be assured that my generous donation won't be used to further your possible heroin addiction.”

Mia smiled, reluctantly amused, "We have yet to be introduced."

The boy managed a creditable half-bow from his seated position, “Rhys Carter, at your service.”

“Mia Brandon, at yours.”

"What subset do I fall into now, Miss Brandon?"

"A very stubborn, very polite one, Mr. Carter."




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