An Open Market

She thought a Friday morning would be perfect to run out to the farmer’s market. Nobody would be out because kids are all in school. Then she shook her head and corrected herself instantly.

“Yes, because when they aren’t in school the number one hang out for teenagers is the farmer’s market.”

After chiding herself through mockery she reexamined her reasoning. Friday morning all of the normal people will be at work. The rest she can just swiftly maneuver past, grab her things and go. The only types out on a Friday morning would be the elderly and the jobless. Neither are that adept at the kind of ninja-esque skills that she liked to think she possessed.
The only problem was when she woke up the next morning she opened one eye and looked at the alarm clock. It’s single eye with red pupils in the form of the numbers 6:45 glared back at her. She groaned and closed her eye and hit the button on the alarm to kindly give her peace for another few minutes. The next time she opened her eyes she rolled over to look at the clock and then leaped out of bed as there was a nine followed by a four followed by a seven stationed in the alarm clock’s eye. Her sleepy smack of the button misfired and she turned it off completely and now her entire plan was ruined and going to have to be improvised.

After the quickest shower any human being has ever gotten, or so she thought to herself to give her some semblance of accomplishment this morning, she tossed on some clothes without giving much thought of how well their color schemes and patterns fit together. Rather the main criteria fell into one of two categories: were they on the floor and were they inside out? If they fit any of these two items then they were not eligible to be worn today.

She settled on a light blue dress that hugged her down to her hips and then flowed out the rest of the way to her knees. It was modest but cute and fit the sunny day the weather app had promised her. She did have to give it a second look to make sure she wasn’t looking at the wrong day as had happened before. It would be a terrible tragedy, but on par for the way things were going, if she had gotten to the market only to have the skies open up or a blustery wind howling through the stalls.

No, sunny all day. Quite warm actually. She grabbed a hat as well to keep the rays off her pale shoulders so she didn’t cook too much. Hopefully a little though, she didn’t want to be over done but a nice toasting would be appreciated.

When she finally arrived at the market she let out a deep sigh and laid her head on the steering wheel for a moment.
“Busy…how is it busy. It’s not even lunch time yet.”

She let out a sigh and headed into the stalls. Hopefully everything wouldn’t be picked over just yet. Rarely does she ever make it out to the market and if this didn’t go even partly well she feared she might not even bother in the future, but having fresh fruit and vegetables felt like a rare treat and she didn’t need the discouragement.

The situation did begin to kick upwards though. As she held her wicker basket at her front and made her way inside she smiled at the bustling market. Everyone seemed to be smiling. The sun was peeking its way through the stalls and she was put instantly put into a great mood.

“Positivity is a mindset,” she said to herself before walking valiantly up to the first stall in search of something that would catch her eye.
There she found the reddest, plumpest strawberries she had seen in a long while and instantly grabbed a bushel. Right next to them she found a lovely flat of blueberries that she grabbed as well. Her smile was almost too hard to hold back. She paid and flashed her teeth at the man behind the counter and practically had a skip in her step as she made her way deeper into the market.

As the stalls whizzed by she picked up a few more things. Some celery and avocados. A fresh loaf of bread that felt still warm as if it had been driven at the highest speed possible right out of the oven and into her hand. Some romaine lettuce and a bottle of raspberry lemonade. There was a brief moment where she considered purchasing a slab of meat rolled up in a pinkish sheet of paper but she wasn’t sure she wanted it mixed in with her garden choices and feared it might bleed all over her basket. Next time maybe a plastic bin for such purchases, she thought.

As time moved on she noticed it getting closer to the lunch rush hour when all of the business persons would be about bustling to and fro to grab the ready made bites to eat on their walk back to their offices. She didn’t want the ambiance of the morning soured so there was one more thing on her list and she would be off.

After a short search she spotted a table of peppers. They were bright as brand new crayons and as big as her fist without a bruise on them. She wiggled her way through a few people past the orange and red peppers and stood with a frown on her face in front of the green and took a moment to make a disgusted face when she saw the yellow peppers had been all but taken. There was one lonely yellow pepper left. It was misshapen and a tad on the small side.

“Excuse me?” She called out to the woman behind the counter, “is this your last yellow?”
The despair in her eyes was received but confirmed by the woman.
“Yes, I’m sorry. We didn’t have much today and they all seemed to move pretty quickly. Tomorrow promises to have a much better lot.”
She nodded at the woman and turned back for the lonely yellow pepper. At least this poor little guy will have a home with her. Maybe she can find solace in an orange as well, even if they aren’t quite the right sweetness as the yellow are.

“Excuse me?” A man’s voice interrupts her grasp. She flips her head around just as she feels his fingers sliding along hers, each of them gripping a portion of the lonely yellow pepper and giving it a slight tug in their respective directions.
“Did you want this pepper as well?” He asked.

“I um. I, sorry,” she shook her head as she turned to look at him, “yes I did.”

“Are you sure? You don’t seem sure,” he asked with a smile.

“No no, I’m sure. I’m sure of it. I was just inquiring as to whether they had anymore and then thought maybe I could have an orange pepper as well.”

“If you’d like an orange pepper there are plenty over there,” he nodded towards the abundance of the color a foot or two away.

“Yes, I can see that,” she frowned slightly at his suggestion that she wasn’t aware of that already.
“I just prefer yellow so I thought I might just have both colors.”

She gave the yellow a slight tug in her direction but his hand didn’t move from the vegetable.

“Oh okay. But, if you wouldn’t mind, I kind of need this one so if you were going to have a yellow and an orange would you be able to make it an orange and a red or two orange or an orange and a green?”

She scrunched up her face at the last suggestion and pulled the yellow further towards her causing him to have to pull back slightly or risk losing the tug of war.

“I don’t like green,” she replied with a matter-of-fact tone in her voice. Each word said a little slower than she typically would for effect.

“Ah well, that I can respect. I apologize for assuming. I only ask because I was planning on buying one of every color and making a bit of a rainbow dinner this evening for a very special girl. This is her favorite market but she couldn’t make it today so I thought I would surprise her.”

He looked at her and gave her a smile, hoping a bit of sympathy might find its way into her heart. She seemed like a sweet girl, even if she did possess a bit of stubbornness as well.

“I see. It seems were in a bit of a pickle here then aren’t we?”
Neither of them loosened their grip on the misshapen bell pepper. He starts to open his mouth to reply and she runs her hand up with a single finger and cuts him off before he can speak.

“Please, no awful vegetable puns. I don’t think I could bare it.”

He simply laughed and nodded and closed his mouth.

She tilted her neck and looked up at him. He had a few inches on her but not as if she had to crane her neck to look towards the sky. His very short brown hair was just too short to block the sun shining directly in her face, so she shimmied to the left a bit to catch a better glimpse.

He looked back at the odd girl in their moment of silence, both still connected at the pepper. Her dark hair with color mixed in as it cascaded down her back. Her eyes with had such personality. They matched the rest of her, this formidable circumstantial adversary.

“Hi, I’m Ben by the way. I figured we’ve known each other long enough that an introduction should be in order. I mean, we’ve been holding onto the same pepper for about five minutes now. Don’t you think we should at least know each others name?”

She nodded but was still focused on winning the battle of the yellow pepper. She would tell tales of this some day. Have bards write songs of her triumph over the giant. Her swift moves and words dizzying him into a stupefied state where she would then pry the pepper from his grasp and duck quickly into the crowd, too quick and sly to follow.

“Of course. I’m Kinzi. Or, that’s what people call me. It’s my name too but,” she shook her head without an absolute sure reason as to why she introduced herself like that.

“Hello Kinzi. Nice to meet you. Now, about this pepper?” He gave it the slightest pull in his direction.

“Hi Ben. Yes, the pepper,” she pulled back on it.
“You see I don’t often make it to the market. I am typically at work on Friday’s but I was able to have today off. Saturday’s are such a chaotic mess with people about here that I can’t reason with myself enough to come down here and fight the crowds. And fresh grown produce is such a treat for me I was really looking forward to my favorite bell pepper from my favorite market today. Plus I’m sure you’re lovely wife or girlfriend will be fine if you told her my sob story and maybe had a less than stellar but still not so bad store bought yellow pepper just this once.”

Ben laughed and smiled and finally let go of the pepper, still smiling as Kinzi slipped it into her basket and rummaged hurriedly for some money to pay for it before he could change his mind.

“If it means that much to you, Kinzi, absolutely. It’s yours,” he watched her pay but before turning away, “oh and the girl isn’t my girlfriend or wife.”

“Sorry?” Kinzi looked back.

“The girl I was doing this for isn’t my wife or girlfriend, I don’t have either of those. It’s for my daughter. She’s 10. She loves rainbows and peppers are one of her favorite vegetables.”

The look of horror washed over Kinzi’s face as she felt a pang in her heart and stinging in her eyes.

“Oh my god. No! No. Please here,” she thrust the pepper out to him and tried to push it into his hand.
“Please, take it. I can’t now.”

“No, no. It’s yours. You take it. I you’ve put a lot of thought into this and it sounds like it means something special to you. I don’t want to ruin your plans.”

“No!” She shouted a little louder than she had intended and had to cover her mouth and shoot all of the nearby people an apologetic cringing smile.
“No,” she said again in a much more muted voice, “I can’t. I won’t enjoy it. In fact it might even ruin yellow peppers for me for good if you force me to take this home and eat it. It will be the most bitter sweet pepper in existence and I can’t stand the thought of your wonky rainbow. Those artificially injected grocery store peppers the size of a chihuahua against these naturally grown jewels. It would be awful. Please, its yours. Take it an say nothing more.”

Kinzi placed the yellow pepper against his chest and stared at him with a demand that he take it from her. He did, smiling a thank you to her and humbly put the pepper into his own bag.

“I have to repay you though, Kinzi.”

“No, you don’t. It wasn’t even two dollars. Consider it a gift.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t. I have to repay you. Let me buy you lunch. Anything here. We don’t even have to eat together if you’d rather not consider it too much like a date. You’re too kind and I need to repay you in some way.”

She felt a heat swell over her face and hoped to everything good in the world she wasn’t blushing. She looked up at him again, this time away from the glare of the sun. His eyes were covered by glasses, small ovals hiding chestnuts blue eyes. A goatee with full lips. She smiled and nodded.

“Sure, if you insist. I could eat I guess. Something small though. A salad perhaps.”

“Well, we’re in the right place for that,” he smiled and motioned for her to lead the way to a salad of her choosing.

 

She made her way over to a vendor who offered freshly made salads using the ingredients from the market. He ordered a ham and swiss panini and they wandered out of the crowd to a tabled area in the middle of the market.

“So you don’t make it to the market very often then?” He asked right before taking a large bite of his lunch as she drizzled hers with a balsamic vinaigrette.

“No, rarely. I always tell myself at least once a month but it never happens. This is the first time in,” she paused a moment to look up into the air to see if the heavens could pluck out the date of the last time she made it in, “goodness it’s been months at least.”

“Well then, maybe you’ll have to come back next week if you don’t want to fight the Saturday crowds. We could perhaps have a duel for the last flat of blueberries next time,” he smiled at her.

Just as he looked up to smile she had a fork full of greens moving into her mouth. The full part was right on as the leaf she had grabbed seemed to be the size of Montana and she had to gracefully slip it into her mouth and turn her head to look away so she didn’t seem like this was the first time she ate in public.

After a few moments of chewing she shook her head, “no I’m not sure that would work. Today was a rarity for me. I don’t typically have Friday’s off work so I took advantage of it and decided to wander down the road a bit for some fresh produce.”

“So you live close? Not to stalk you or anything,” he laughed slightly nervously thinking he’s coming off as creepy but simply trying to show interest in the fascinating girl he has joining him for lunch.

She smiled back, “oh no its okay. No I live about 20 minutes away. The Commerce Center apartment building. So it’s not really too far to drive but it would be a terrible hike to and from.”

“Oh yeah. I know the place. I’ve seen it anyways. It looks nice.”

The pleasantries of the conversation were wearing thin and they both sat through an awkward moment of silence as their food had dwindled down to little more than crumbs and dead leaves. Neither quite knew what else to say. He didn’t care for small talk like asking where she’s from or what she does for work. She wasn’t sure what exactly this social setting was and wasn’t sure to make of it. It left them both in a state of shock and silence that they both wanted to end.

“Well,” he began, “I don’t want to keep you if you’d like to get home or enjoy your day off. It was lovely meeting you Kinzi. I hope maybe you can make it out some Saturday morning and we can fight over something else. I had fun.”

“Thank you Ben. I did too. Maybe that will be motivation enough for me to fight through the crowds then,” she smiled politely and got up from her chair and stuck her hand out to shake his.

He took her hand firmly in his and gave it a friendly shake. There was a moment where they stared at each other where it felt comfortable. Unusually comfortable between two people who had just met in a most silly way. He let go of her hand and stood there for a second, looking at her with a squint in his eye. She tilted her head and smiled back as if to say “what’s that look for?” without the words. Before she could get them out though he nodded and gave her a wave.

“Lovely meeting you, Kinzi. I hope to see you again sometime.”

“Thank you. Same here, Ben,” and off they went in their separate ways.

Kinzi made it back to her car and drove home. She put away her winnings and smiled about her losses. Her day danced by with her continually thinking back over her sparring match. How meet-cute it was and that nobody is going to believe her when she tells them. Or more so that they aren’t going to believe that she didn’t even ask for a follow up or another way to meet him other than wandering through a busy market place on a Saturday. She groaned and didn’t even think of that.

“So many people, how will I even-,” she dropped her face into her palms before muttering again with a sigh, “positive. Be positive.”

Kinzi went to bed that night talking to herself. Her nightshirt hanging off her shoulder as she lay staring at the ceiling. Her eyes wide open as she muttered thoughts aloud.

“I can go. I’ll just go. I don’t even have to buy anything. Or, well no I have to buy something. I can’t just go wander around the market with nothing because then it looks like I’m looking for him. I’ll buy one or two things and then walk around.”

She paused and thought for a second, “but when?”

He was just at the market today, he surely wouldn’t be there tomorrow would he? What would be the point? He already bought all of his produce for the weekend, or he should have. And what time would I go? Someone would sure call the police about a girl stalking the peppers stall for hours on end every weekend. The Bell Pepper Peeper they would call her. She would be back page news with bat boy and the aliens in the inquirer.

She pulled the covers over her head and groaned, “hey, what’s your number? Is it that hard to say that Kinzi? Ugh.”

“Maybe just for a minute tomorrow. Pick a random time around 1130. Wander in, buy some yellow peppers and wander out. It makes sense, right?”

She was hoping the walls would creak and agree with her, or some kind of sign. There was nothing but silence. She sighed again and closed her eyes to drift off to sleep.

When she woke up the next morning it was as if she never even lost a beat.

“Yeah. I didn’t get any yellow peppers so that’s not weird. Not at all. I just delayed my gratification another day and I’ll enjoy them then. So if we don’t run into each other I still get my yellows and if we do I have a perfectly good excuse. Yeah. Yeah.”

She bounced out of bed and into the shower. It was early and she had much more time to prepare. Her body was scrubbed and her hair was fancied, but not too much. She didn’t want to look like she was trying too hard. How much did she even like this guy anyways? Why is she trying to impress him so much?

“Whatever,” she thought out loud while slipping through her door and into the elevator, “it’s something to do anyways.”

As she made her way through the lobby the front desk called out her name, “Miss! Excuse me?”

She was startled but turned to the desk, “sorry, me? Yes?”

“Hi, I’m sorry to grab you as you’re walking out but I had a question. I believe you’re the only Kinzi in the building and we received a package this morning. Are you familiar with a person named Ben?”

Kinzi side-eyed the front desk and slowly nodded her head, “yes, why?”

“Oh well, here. It’s-,” he lifted a small milk crate onto the table and she let out a loud laugh and a smile that enveloped the entire room.

She reached out and grabbed a yellow bell pepper off of the crate filled with yellow bell peppers and gave it a smell. It smelled fresh. The entire lot of them did. The front desk handed her a folded note.

“Hello dearest foe,” it began.
“I felt bad that you didn’t get your yellows and that you don’t really care for the market on Saturdays so I went out early and bought everything that would fit into this crate and had them couriered over to you so I could save you the trip. I hope you enjoy them. Also, and there is no need to follow through but, if you’d like to give me a call or a text or some kind of message to set up another battle of some kind I’d love to have another go at it. I’d like to win this time fair and square with no stories to weaken your resolve. 1-902-XXX-XXXX.

Respectfully Yours,
Ben.”

The grin on her face couldn’t be stopped or dimmed.

“I can have these taken up to your apartment if you’d like?”

She nodded. She thanked the front desk and slipped him a five dollar bill and then went out the front door. There wasn’t a need to go to the market now but she was in too good of a mood to go back and sit inside.

“Maybe a stroll through the park or along the water,” she thought while staring at the card and his number. She wondered if she should just text him now or wait. Does it seem too eager to ask him to get together later that afternoon? She didn’t want to scare him away with a rambling message asking him to come out right now and meet him but at the same time that’s exactly what she wanted. What do you do when someone gets up early on a Saturday morning to buy you vegetables?

She decided to text him. This entire thing had been so bizarre already why not go with more.

“Hi. This is Kinzi. Thank you so much. That was entirely too much. Are you busy? Would you like to join me somewhere?”

She sat in her car and waited for a reply. It’s amazing how long a minute can feel when you’re waiting for someone to answer a text. She practically bounced in her seat when his response came through.

“I’d love to. Anywhere.”

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