Catherine trailed her fingers on the curling edges of damp lettuce leaves. A few pieces of sandy wetness clung to her skin as she considered each bushel for freshness. It was her favorite Sunday morning tradition – the farmer’s market in her small neighborhood that brought local vegetables, honey, and baked treats from all over the state, right to her.
“Picked today Frank?” She smiled at the weathered, jolly-looking face peering from under his striped paddy hat. A little sweat, pooling along his upper lip.
“Yep, right at dawn. I knew those’d catch your eye.” He smiled, revealing a chipped incisor that Catherine assumed was lost back when he’d had an accident on the farm, turning over his tractor and breaking his leg in three places. Frank still had a slight wobble to his gait, but the tooth was the only real sign from that mishap. The tractor, however, didn’t make it.
She picked up two large bunches of the red leafed romaine and tucked them into her straw basket, brushing the white roots of its last dirt. Catherine didn’t taste much of a difference between all the lettuces, but she loved the vibrant color of the crimson-tipped greenery – how it faded down the leaves to a deep, hearty green. If color was an indication of nutrients in a plant, she was sure this one possessed more than just a little cellular magic.
“For you, gimme three bucks.” The last s whistled through Frank’s chipped tooth.
“Sold,” Catherine laughed. He always gave her a break on her lettuce, but he didn’t have to. She was more than happy to support his farm and knew his latest expansion into hydroponics had not been cheap. She counted the dollars and placed them gingerly into his outstretched hand. His gaze immediately moved to his next customer, juggling carrots and potatoes in his arms like a baby. “I’ll see you next week Frank,” she tossed over her shoulder then glanced down her list at the last remaining items.
“Citrus,” she mumbled to herself, thinking of the week’s recipes she had planned. Fresh salads, grilled veggies, and light meals were going to hold her through the hot weather, and she had prepared this shop accordingly. Catherine picked up a selection of fresh pasta from the two widowed sisters at the end of the market, then swung over to the citrus stall she’d been frequenting for years.
The sun illuminated the white canopy from above. It looked like a spotlight, highlighting the mounds of florescent oranges and grapefruits stacked neatly into little mountains, labels all in a perfect line. It looked like a film set. As she approached, Catherine noticed a man she had never seen before. As if her gaze made a sound, he suddenly glanced up, his green eyes unblinking as he watched her approach the counter where he stood. She looked down at the nearest batch of ruby red grapefruits as if they were the most exciting things in the world. Picking one up, Catherine brought it to her nose to smell the fizzy, floral aroma of the skin, then glanced from under her white hat to the counter. With the green-eyed man no longer staring at her, she could give him a more thorough look. His eyes, covered with dark lashes, gazed down at the weighing machine that sat atop a checkered tablecloth. His brows furrowed as he took each type of fruit and placed it on the scale. Tall and rangy, he appeared strong as an ox, his blonde hair light, as if kissed by the sun. It reminded Catherine of a summer she spent surfing in Hawaii. To say he was good-looking was putting it mildly. As she observed him, a pair of unruly lemons rolled off the scale.
Catherine had never seen him before, which was strange. She knew every farmer at the market and most of their families. There weren’t that many to distinguish between, and almost all but a few had been there for years. The Halton’s who owned the citrus farm had no children, as far as she knew, so Cathrine assumed he must be a seasonal helper. He seemed to be looking for seasonal enjoyment too.
She gathered up a few lemons, two grapefruits, and a collection of blood oranges, and placed them on the red and white plastic surface.
“The navels are perfectly ripe,” the green-eyed man said to her, their eye’s catching. Catherine could feel her cheeks go pink as he spoke to her. His husky voice sounding more intimate than if they were just discussing citrus fruits.
“Oh,” she exclaimed softly.
“Here,” he said, picking up a cutting board full of sticky sweet orange slices. She picked up a piece and took a bite. Sharp, delicious flavor hit her tongue.
“It’s good.” Catherine ate the rest then sucked the stickiness off her thumb and forefinger. Green-eyes was looking at her with a wry grin. “What?” she said.
He shrugged. “You’re cute, that’s all.” Catherine’s eyes went wide, a little mortified considering the woman behind her in line was her 2nd-grade science teacher. She glanced back at Mrs. Goeltz, who was impatiently eavesdropping, before looking at the man with a stern look. Sure, she was flattered, but interested in buying her fruit rather than fraternizing. Especially in front of an audience.
“I’ll just take these.” She gestured to her gathered citrus. He was close enough that she could see tiny flecks of gold in the emerald green of his eyes. Then he looked back to the scale and started weighing everything, typing into a little ancient calculator along his right side. His finger tapped quickly as the moment passed slowly, and as he set the fruits on the table, Catherine slipped them into her bag. First the lemons, then the grapefruits, then, finally the blood oranges. Despite his efficiency, he didn’t seem to be in a rush.
“Sixteen dollars.” He looked at her expectantly. She quickly shoved the money into his left hand. His fingers tightened slightly around hers, then relaxed. She drew away as if he were a venus flytrap attempting to capture a meal. “And this,” he whispered, “is for you.” From his right hand appeared an orange.
“You don’t ha-“ she started, shaking her head.
“I want to.” Her heart beat in her chest as she took the fruit, an innocent orange that suddenly felt like it had been wickedly plucked from Eden, and placed it slowly into her bag. She could feel her cheeks were hot, and she wasn’t sure if the bead of sweat she felt trickling down between her breasts were from his eyes, or the heat of the morning beginning to rise. She promptly walked off, glancing back as the man started helping Mrs. Goeltz with her limes. He looked up, their eyes caught again, and he gave her a look she didn’t quite know how to take. It looked like a challenge – a haughty determination – rather than an invitation.
Once back at her house, an old ancient thing, Catherine examined the navel orange as if mapping its peel would give her answers to who he was. Her stomach fluttered as she touched the pebbled surface and thought of his green eyes. Her cheeks blushed when she imagined what he thought when he watched her lick the fresh orange juice off her thumb. And her palm began to get damp, as she thought about his hand reaching out for hers. She looked down at the orange and started to peel it slowly, sensually, as if it were a fruit to cherish and savor. And when she tasted the first cool slice, she thought of more than just the flavor. She thought of the possibility of seeing the green-eyed man again, next week at the market.
Thanks so much for reading! The above photos are my very first set of self-portraits, taken using a timer. I hope you enjoyed them, along with the story I’ve written, because I’m planning to make them both a regular occurrence on She’s So Bright! So stay tuned for many more stories, love or otherwise. In the meantime, for a few other quick reads, check out a short detective story here, and another romantic story here. Oh, and if you’d like a poem, here’s a funny one. And you can find the outfit details at the end of this post. Hope you have a great weekend – until we meet again next week!