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It’s hard to imagine a safer space in Houston than West University Place. Its unofficial motto is “The Neighborhood City,” and on a sweet spring night that was blessedly cool and clear, with mature live oaks spreading their protective branches over the tidy streets and the azaleas blooming in a riot of coral, fuchsia, and the whitest white, that’s what it seemed to be: a cozy, friendly oasis in the middle of a big, complicated metropolis. A place where four girls just entering their teens could head out for ice cream and cookies, unaccompanied, to a spot called Tiny’s Milk & Cookies. It was March 31, 2018, the Saturday before Easter. They were coming from a church group meeting.
West U is a prosperous place—the median household income is well over $200,000 a year—but it isn’t as flashy as wealthy neighborhoods like River Oaks or Memorial; it’s an orderly quarter where older brick bungalows and modest two-story colonials reside in peace alongside grand—but not too grand—new construction. Rice University professors and Texas Medical Center doctors live there because of its proximity to both places; so do many successful lawyers. Its schools are well funded and well appointed. It has playgrounds and parks with secure, nontoxic equipment. The police department is famous Houston-wide for enforcing speed limits with a vengeance.
Girls - Age - Fourteen - Hair - Braces
So there they were, four girls around the age of fourteen, with long, shiny hair and braces on their teeth. They were chatting and giggling as they took their places in line at Milk & Cookies, which is basically a take-out window for a restaurant called Tiny’s No. 5, which itself is pleasantly appointed with assiduously tended gardens of Texas wildflowers and other natives.
There’s often a line at Milk & Cookies because its chocolate chip cookies are considered some of the best in...
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