Market Day (chapter 16)
Freedom smells of overcooked meat, distressed flowers, and exposed trash.
I stand before a bustling market, truly on my own for the first time in over a month. The man intended to show me around, Garth, disappeared ten minutes ago after shoving a small bag with coins into my hand and muttering something about not being a babysitter. Grumpy sucker.
The bustling market is full of colors and sounds as traders shout their prices and colorful stalls display their wares. Richly dressed men and women weave through the stalls as some young boys play what looks like tag around the edge of the market. On the far side of the market a tall imposing stone building stands with an elegant green roof and magnificent carved statues of men line its wall between large windows. Two smaller identical stone buildings line the two sides of the square. On the roof of the one, a statue of their naked goddess proudly stands with her carved head covering, on the left one a man holding a sword, there is nothing covering his proud handsome head. Cafes or restaurants are run from the basements of the buildings with their tables and chairs lining the edge of the square and servers running in and out of the buildings delivering food and drink.
I don’t know what the coins in my bag are worth or if I’m supposed to buy anything in particular. I’m hoping they don’t haggle here because I’m not sure I’m up for it. I decide to just dive in. Its window shopping for me until I can figure out how everything works. Maybe I’ll just watch some people and see how they do it. Then maybe I’ll buy myself some lunch; surely I have enough coins for that. I shake my pouch one more time as if that will tell me the answer.
Walking through the crowd, I notice that people don’t have a sense of personal space here. They walk right into me! Sure it’s crowded but there is space to go around if they put in the slightest bit of effort. I feel like I am playing Frogger and I’m clearly losing.
I find myself wandering over to a section filled with flowers and leafy plants. Here six or so stalls lined up next to each other display their wares. The colorful flowers are somehow familiar yet exotic. They have the similar sweet smell of earth flowers. Their bright petals reminiscent of the spring tulips in the flower shop in my little hometown where my parents still reside. With that thought I become sad.
If I had just stayed in my hometown instead of moving to the city I would still be on earth. My mother would be decorating the house for fall. I can imagine the carved pumpkins on the front porch. I can almost smell the faint earthy scent of fall leaves mixed in with the scent of Pinn flowers and damp earth. I imagine my little niece being chased around the yard by my younger sister. My father talking to a neighbor about his latest hobby. I left them all to seek a life of excitement in the city.
I have to shake my head. This isn’t helpful. As much as I want to return to that life, as much as I want to blame myself for my fortune, this isn’t the problem at hand. That is an alien who I am supposed to spend my life with who clearly doesn’t want me around. A brooding alien who is far too handsome for my liking.
“I give you for 5 harrings each”
“Hmmm?” I look up to see a middle aged man with a friendly face looking down at me.
“5 harrings per rose” he gestures to the bucket before me.
Indeed there is a black bucket filled with water and multi-colored roses leaning over one side bucket in front of me.
“Right. Um… I want to get some food first. How long is the market open?”
The man turns his pale blue eyes towards a clock on the largest of the stone buildings surrounding the market. “About 2 more hours”
I nod and looking longingly at the roses. Roses were never my favorite, but they are familiar.
“The colors are so brilliant”
The man just smiles. “Yes, earthling females often like the roses, but Pinns are used to bright colored flowers so we crossbred roses from earth with local Pinn flowers”
“Lovely. I will get some food and then return and get some” With that I stroll away. I need to pay more attention to what I am looking at before it gets me into trouble.
I let my nose lead me to the next couple of stalls. Delicious scents of baked pastries and slow cooking meats waffle. The first stand I see has some sort of thick dough pastry with a cooked egg on top. Another stand has cubed meat on skewers over a fire.
After examining my options I finally settle on what looks to be a pita with three different colored dips. I cradle my small straw plate with my lunch in hand and make my way over to the stairs of the largest stone building. Others have done the same thing and the stairs are littered with people eating, drinking, talking. Children run up and down the stairs almost running into me twice.
It is all so normal. So human. And I feel too comfortable in this moment in this alien land.
I am truly unsure of what to do. Should I fight it to the end? Should I make Giddean’s life a living hell until he sends me home? Can he even do that? Or maybe I should make the most of what I have- maybe I should try to find friends, find hobbies, try to get along with the handsome alien and see if I can’t make a good life. I could also bide my time, see if there is a way out of this mess. There are other women around maybe I can make a friend that will help me get home…
I feel ears of frustration starting to build in my eyes and I know that I need to interrupt my thinking before I make a fool of myself on my first day out. Finished eating, I stand and begin to walk down the stairs to reach the trashcan I had seen sitting beside the stairs. Even trash is the same here.
As I round the banister at the bottom of the stair case, I see him. And it shocks me.