Shahin gave a bow of the head and took the smartly wrapped gift box in hand. “Thank you again, for everything.”

Mei’s smile refused to blend past her lip liner. Her cheeks suddenly tinged pink and she looked away. “Sorry, it’s a little hard to see you go.”

“It’s okay. I’m going to miss you too.” Shahin winked. “I’ll visit.”

Shahin collected hugs from habitually stoic coworkers and stopped by the venue to make sure preparations were on track.

Well ordered picketers were careful to not physically stop the aids who were busy unloading crates.

They looked like ants, carrying boxes many times their size. The Designer’s assistants worked swiftly to secure the shipment inside, only two used pallet jacks. Shahin couldn’t help but wonder if they were interns.

Positive that the fashion displays would meet expectations, Shahin slipped out the back. Fifteen stops on the six line, and Shahin stepped out onto Canal Street and made a beeline to the cafe, pausing to pollinate souvenir shops in the name of friends back home.

The butlers inside the cafe blotted away pH neutral eye lubricant. Shahin hesitated to call them tears.

Two of the butlers proffered a silver tray with a doily-framed pouch of their most popular tea and a cream puff.

“Be sure to visit! We know it will be hard since you don’t Net-travel, but we can’t wait to serve you again… Shahin.”

Shahin couldn’t help but smile as the butler stuttered over the break in their formal speech protocol.

Shahin, unsatisfied with binary-gendered honorifics, had opted to be called by their first name, instead of Master or Lady, as was proper form at such cafes.

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