By Joshua A. Smith
“You lucky dog, you!”
Arthur looked up from watering flower bouquets and regarded the purveyor of this half-compliment with a suspicious eye.
“What are you prattling about now, Ben? Got another scheme in mind?”
Ben, a tall lad with an expressive face and wildly gesticulating arms, grinned widely. He leaned over the flower stall, the top of his head brushing the sign above.
“It’s Edith,” he confided in a stage whisper. “I heard her talking about you.”
“So?” Arthur offered a nonchalant shrug, but his hand stopped pouring.
“Yeah. I heard her talking to Rachel. You know Rachel; she works for those folks who run the tailor stall down at the other end of this mud festival. Cute thing, too, with her hair all…”
“Never mind Rachel’s hair,” Arthur interrupted. “What did Edith say?”
“Well, I was walking by and I heard her talking, and she said she’d never seen more beautiful golden-yellow hair than she had on the far end of the market. She said it was just begging her to run her hands through it.”
Arthur felt his face warm.
“Ha!” Ben crowed. “What do you say to that, rose-cheeks?”
“Could be anybody,” he mumbled.
“Not likely in this town.” Ben beamed. “Nobody else here has hair like that.” He ruffled his big hand through Arthur’s long golden locks. Arthur slapped him away, then carefully rearranged his mussed hair.
Ben leaned in close and put a hand up to his mouth to provide the illusion of privacy. “She said she was coming back here later. ‘Art’s got it,’ she said, clear as day. You should’ve heard them giggling.”
Arthur felt the warmth of his cheeks increase. He peered down the gravel path, past all of the other stalls and passerby, towards the end where Edith and her family kept their bakery stall. Could it be true?
Frantically, the young man grabbed the metal watering can—the only reflective surface within reach—and cleaned his face with its hazy aid. He straightened as many wrinkles as he could from his shirt. Thankfully, he had his apron on, and it had absorbed most of the splashes and accidents of a typical workday. He gave himself a quick smell. Pleasant, actually. It was one of the benefits of working with fresh flowers all day.
“How do I look?”
“Like a moon-eyed calf. You should wander down to the stalls and see if they give you a ribbon.”
The heat in Arthur’s cheeks moved to his eyes. “Ben, don’t mess around. Really, how do I…”
Arthur followed his friend’s gaze. He caught his breath: Edith herself was coming through the crowd.
She smiled at everybody as she passed, her graceful step keeping her out of the crowd’s way. A basket hung on one arm, no doubt for some casual shopping. Her face… To Arthur, her face was bright enough to darken the whole world by contrast. Her dancing green eyes settled on him, and his legs buckled.
“Steady,” mumbled Ben. The taller boy stepped back from the flower stall with an obvious wink.
“Good morning, boys,” Edith said as she strolled up. Ben just smiled.
“Good morning,” Arthur managed. He dusted his hands against his apron, wiping away more nervous sweat from his palms than actual dust. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I was by this way earlier, and I saw something I just had to have.” Edith’s long fingers played across the petals of a nearby bouquet.
Arthur nodded dumbly. “What was it?”
She looked into his eyes. “Something yellow. A wonderful yellow. Just waves and waves of it. I felt I could stare at it for days.”
Arthur’s mouth went dry. His mind raced, trying to find something—anything—to say.
“Oh, there it is!”
Confused, Arthur looked down. Edith pointed to one of the bouquets arranged on the stall. As she had described, it featured several bunches of bright yellow butterfly bush blossoms arranged in staggered waves.
Edith snatched the bouquet out of its bucket and held it close. She breathed deeply. “It’s perfect! How much?”
“Uh, ten,” Arthur stammered. Edith dutifully counted out the money and then was off once more, her new purchase poking out of the basket.
A long moment passed before either Arthur or Ben spoke.
Finally, Arthur turned to his friend, his eyes blazing. “Golden yellow hair, eh?”
Ben shrugged, a sheepish grin spreading over his face. “Maybe I misheard.”
A splash of water from Arthur’s pitcher sent the taller boy running, his laughter echoing through the market.