Certain Interests
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A professor of Middle-Eastern art history meets with an interested grad student over lunch.

Jefferson Cafe, Arlington, VA

April 24, 2013

"Eager minds must be fed."

With high ground to sky-rise windows reflecting the picturesque trees and colorfully paved walkways, the Jefferson Cafe's a quaint destination with a touch of city; its outdoor seating, on a sunny day like the one now, popular. At an outer table near one edge of the chair arrangements, a young woman with a light hoody guarding her face against the cutting breeze — sunlight only does so much — and ball-cap underneath for the same said sun, jolts up in her seat, spine straightening, to lift an arm and wave over a looming man of notably darker persuasion.

"Hey! Professor!"

Turning crisply, he cuts a curt smile, barricaded by a flickering glance about his surroundings before he strolls up, pulling out the chair and sitting with an unguarded stare to get underneath the woman's shadows to her features. "You call too much attention to yourself."

"Do I?" Maia retorts, unmoved, her face a soft and easy smile irreverent to any topic, "Innocent people don't think about being noticed." With a big grin, she scoots her chair forward in a display of eagerness, offering her hand above a set of books and a notepad on the table in front of her to shake her guest's. Her book bag's by her feet on the ground, in towards the restaurant's front door, and Ahmed carefully sets his briefcase parallel.

"You're with the service company?" Ahmed questions coolly, unconvinced. He may not clearly see her features, but he can hear her voice. She's young; she's casual. A foolish American student.

"I represent certain interests." Glancing up, Maia catches the eye of the approaching waitress, beaming while Ahmed subtly lowers his chin to shade his own face, refusing to look the woman on. "Umm… iced tea?" His companion poses, biting her lip hopefully then smiling, full of gratitude, when the wait-staff approves, bobbing off. Maia's look cools neutrally as she regards Ahmed's state. "Customers like me all blur together. And just think of me as an eager grad student, hoping to interview a respectable source." To demonstrate, she flattens a hand on her notepad, sliding it a few inches forward to lean over it with her pen. At the top is scribbled 'roger' the wrong way around amongst a few other reminders to herself. Ahmed notes it with a swift glance down then up and his cheeks loosen, allowing an amiable mood to settle.

"Well," he delivers, "Eager minds must be fed." Leaning down, he undoes the snap on his briefcase as Maia looks out onto the city walk, stretching her legs contentedly. Her boot hits the book-bag and it slides with soft bending towards the middle of the table. Ahmed pulls out a folder, gliding it up and over both accessories. There's a gentle thump of fabric. He straightens, mid-lean beckoning the waitress, who's made her full row and is on the return, "On second thought— a water?" The waitress smiles, eyes the glaze of the service business as she takes this to mind, and moves on.

Ahmed places the file on the table and opens it to a picture of an ancient structure. Maia smiles; they pass the time discussing fine, historical pieces of art.

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