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The Red Market
“Hey, hey- would you stop that noise already?”
Jenny Davis, high schooler, fifteen years old…
“I said stop it, it’s quite awkward you know sitting here watching you cry.”
Heart broken. Definitely, for sure, heart broken.
“Okay, okay- um, you’re in my English class right? What’s your name again- Jenny or something right? Jeez, you’re awful plain looking aren’t you?”
This girl beside me, she’s Anna Fieldings, sixteen years old, and she’s been kind enough to lend me her shoulder, however unwillingly.
“Well anyways, where do you live because we’ve been on this bus for a whole lot of time now, you haven’t missed your stop have you? I saw you get on, you looked sort of dazed- do you even know what bus you’re on?”
I’ve been in the same classes as her since fifth grade and until tonight we’ve never spoken to each other.
“Listen, could you shut your sobbing for a little bit? If you do, maybe we’ll get somewhere.”
I’ve never heard her say anything with any sort of tact to anyone. Ever.
“Hey hey, this somewhere I just mentioned it’ll be really fun, especially tonight. It’ll probably be enough to make you stop crying over what-his-face dumping you.”
I guess you can say she’s the kind of person you’d say you like while punching her in the face.
“I get off at the next stop, are you coming or what?”
I always thought she was half-crazy. Get off at a bus stop at this hour with a person you’re not exactly friendly with, I mean who does that?
She would, probably.
“Okay, this is it, my stop is coming.”
But, right now my chest is hurting a lot.
“So, you gonna stop crying and come with?”
And even though my head is shaking to say no, my mind is so disoriented I could’ve said yes just as easily.
“Really? You’re gonna stay on this bus and cry all night?”
She’s been in the same classes as me since grade five, but we’ve never spoken until tonight.
“Don’t you ever wanna do something different?”
So it’s unfair that she gets to know that about me.
“Oh god, don’t start crying even more. My stop is here,” She stuck her hand out to me with a half-irritated look on her face. “Are you coming or what?”
I wanted to tell her, no thanks.
“If you take my hand right now and get off this bus with me,” She grinned at me, laughing a little. “I promise I’ll show you something good.”
But it’s unfair.
“I said it already but, maybe I should say it again? I swear it’ll be fun so, don’t you ever wanna do something different?”
Because my mind is disoriented right now, and it’s enough to make me get off a bus in the middle of the night with a girl I’m not exactly familiar with.
It got me thinking, that maybe I’m the one that’s half-crazy.
After we got off the bus a lot of scenarios ran through my mind about where we she was going to take me. Was she some sort of druggie or maybe she was a secret agent and we were going off to her secret base or maybe she’s the illegitimate daughter of a billionaire and we’re heading towards the condo she got in exchange for keeping quiet?!
But when we finally got to this place she was taking me to all I could hear was myself repeating whatisthisplacewhatisthisplacewhatisthisplacewhatisthisplace?
There were lights everywhere- and I mean everywhere- the whole place looked as if it was lit entirely by paper lanterns! And there were all these shops that sold what looked to be about basically everything a person can imagine existing. But it was more than just that- if you closed your eyes you could here water rushing by leaving a tingly sort of coldness throughout your body and the entire area smelled like freshly baked bread. It was…exhilarating.
It reminded me of what my mother used to say, that the best opportunities only ever knock once.
“Really? My mother used to say that opportunity will only ever knock once, because if it has to knock again it’ll break the bloody door down.”
Oh no, did I say that out loud?
“Yeah, you did,” She said laughing. “It’s okay though, makes for good conversation I guess.”
I felt my face heat up, god I feel so embarrassed.
“Uh, um…w-where are we?” Jenny asked, hoping to distract Anna from commenting on her cherry red face.
“Well the market, that’s what this place is called, doesn’t really have an exact location,” Anna bit her lip, trying to find a way to explain their whereabouts. “That is to say, it takes the same amount of time to get here from anywhere in the world and to anywhere in the world. Does that help?”
“No, not really,” Jenny cried frantically. How was she supposed to get home?
Anna grabbed Jenny’s hand and started dragging her to one of the stalls that was being run by an old man and woman.
“Ah, Mrs. Ellis could you give us some bread please?” Anna asked cheerfully.
“Oh, is that you Anna dear?” the old woman laughed. “You come here too often m’dear, you should consider moving to the market! It would certainly make your trip to my shop easier, ahahaha.”
“Oh-ho-ho, now don’t give her any ideas Ellie,” the man beside her said happily. “If she were to move here well- we’d have no bread left!”
As the old couple laughed heartedly together Jenny tugged on Anna’s cardigan whispering, “People live here, too?” drawing the attention of Mrs. Ellis and her husband.
“Got a friend with you, have you Anna?” Mr. Ellis asked. Jenny thought it funny how he pronounced Anna’s name, Ann-nahh. Somehow it sounded better with the accent.
“And she looks like such a sweetheart too,” Mrs. Ellis peered over her half-crescent shaped glasses. “Well, be a dear and introduce us!”
Anna stood up straight, like how soldiers do when they’re called to attention, and even saluted while grinning, “Of course Mrs. Ellis!”
Anna grabbed hold of Jenny’s arm and pushed her uncomfortably close to Mrs. Ellis. “This is Jenny Davis, she goes to my high school and um, we have some classes together right?”
Jenny nodded nervously thinking, we have every class together.
“Jenny meet Mrs. Ellie Ellis,” she said pointing to the old woman before moving on to the old man. “And her jolly ol’husband, Mr. Everryy Ellis. They’re breadmakers and do they know how to make bread!”
The old couple laughed once again before asking what the two girls would like to order.
Jenny chuckled quietly, “Some bread of course!”
“Any kind in particular?” Mrs. Ellis asked sweetly.
“Um,” Anna paused to think before looking towards Jenny, who looked like she was about to have a mental breakdown. Anna smiled at this before saying, “The kind that calms you nerves.”
If someone had tried to convince Jenny that such a thing as bread that calms your nerves existed, Jenny wouldn’t have given the idea any merit. Until today that is, today when she tried the bread baked by Mr. and Mrs. Ellis.
But, Jenny thought, they should really have a list of side effects of eating the bread. Like the sudden feeling that you weigh about as much as a feather and the sudden warmth that makes its way all the way down to your toes even though January is like living inside an ice cube and how your brain turns to complete mush.
Still, Jenny had enough of her brain that had not turned into something squishy to ask Anna to try and explain where they were one more time as they walked around the market.
“That’s a really difficult question you know. Here, take one,” Anna said, putting a very big and round lollipop into Jenny’s mouth receiving an irritated muffled reply. “It’s kind of like asking what a Twinkie is.”
Anna scratched her head sighing, and then took the lollipop in her mouth out so she could talk better. “I mean, I could tell you what makes up a Twinkie but you wouldn’t really understand its fatty goodness until you had one would you?”
“Are you, um, are you comparing this place to a Twinkie?” Jenny asked out loud as she stopped walking. Anna stared at her in a half-confused half-bored manner, before Jenny snorted incredulously. “Because, that actually making a lot of sense to me.”
It was probably because the bread had turned her brain to mush that resulted in a Twinkie scenario sounding logical.
“Really?!” Anna yelled, her hands clasping to together as she jumped up and down excitedly. “Then I guess what I should ask is, are you ready to experience the best Twinkie of your life?”
“Er, um,” Jenny looked around uncomfortably before thinking that here she was, standing in a place one can only dream of and what her mother used to say about opportunity knocking only once until all there was left to say was, “…okay?”
“Okay,” Jenny breathed in and out, as if to prepare herself. “Where do we start?”
Anna smiled, perhaps a little wickedly before answering, “We start by visiting Chocolat.”
Chocolat ended up being, what Jenny thought must be the most gorgeous boy I’ve ever seen.
When they got close enough, Jenny could see that he was wearing a long v-neck sweater, the kind that looks like it would rip easily, his black dress pants were scrunched up to knee length, and for some reason he wasn’t wearing any shoes. His light caramel hair stuck out on all ends that gave it a messy-type look, soft pale blue eyes, and a very slender figure.
Jenny was ready to melt at the sight of him, so when he smiled at them the possibility of death by beauty seemed all too likely.
“Jenny, let me introduce you to the local chocolate merchant, Chocolat,” Anna said, waving at the beautiful boy.
“Ah, um, hello.” Jenny said blushing.
“Anna rarely brings friends, so it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said softly, smiling. “What kind of chocolate would you like?”
“I, uh, w-ell I do like m-mars bars,” Jenny stuttered quietly.
Chocolat stared at her for a bit before laughing, “You’re new to this place, right? You have a sort of dazed look on your face too.”
“It’s because I’m squishy inside,” Immediately Anna slapped her forehead, stupidstupidstupid, never have that bread again.
“What?” Chocolat looked at her confusedly.
Jenny sighed loudly, “I have no idea.”
Chocolat started laughing again, this time more loudly.
“Hey, hey- don’t laugh so much,” Anna pouted putting her arm around Jenny’s shoulder. “This is a matter of love, you know, love.”
He looked towards Jenny, who just recently discovered how fascinating the ground is to look at.
“I’m sorry for laughing,” Chocolat said, frowning a little. “A broken heart is very sad.”
At this, Jenny put her hands up in defense, “No, no! It’s nothing. I’m fine so, it’s okay.”
Chocolat turned to look at Anna who was shaking her head vigorously while holding up a sign that read:
‘Not fine. Found her crying on bus boyfriend broke up with her.’
“I can see the sign you know,” Jenny whispered to Anna, irritated. “It’s true that my boyfriend broke up with me, but I’m fine now so…”
But, Jenny thought, I doubt they believe me, because now I’ve gone and started crying again.
At the sight of Jenny sobbing Anna rolled her eyes and quietly whispered “not this again” to which Chocolat laughed gently before sighing quietly.
Anna rarely ever brings friends, Chocolat thought reaching into his pocket, and she’s never brought anyone like Jenny before.
“Here, take these,” Chocolat stretched his hand out to Jenny, opening it to reveal two perfectly wrapped pieces of chocolate. “People call it Cherry Red Chocolate, however its real name is Amour. It’s on me this time, so please take them.”
Jenny slowly unwrapped one of the chocolates, sniffled a little, and popped it in her mouth.
Her face immediately scrunched up, her tongue sticking out a bit, “It’s bitter!”
Chocolate put his hands in his pockets leaning closer to Jenny’s face, smiling brightly at her. “Yup! It is.”
Anna tugged Jenny’s faced to look at her grinning face, “That’s because love-
“Is sometimes bitter,” Chocolat said chuckling. “Right?”
Jenny couldn’t say anything to that.
“Don’t look so depressed, this place has really great food,” Anna said sitting down on a stool, the food stall had to offer.
Jenny jumped on to a stool beside her only to realize that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea because the stool spins really fast and really easily.
“Whoa,” Jenny yelled almost falling off the stool.
“Watch out!” Anna grabbed Jenny’s arm trying to stabilize her. “There’s a lantern behind you.”
Jenny looked behind her to see three red paper lanterns, similar to the ones she’d seen all over the market. “I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Jenny said holding on to the counter to make sure she wouldn’t fall. “Why is this place completely lit by lanterns? I don’t think I’ve seen a single light bulb around.”
“That’s because- wait one second, let’s order first,” Anna turned to the cook, who Jenny was sure wasn’t standing there two seconds ago. “Can we have two bowls of noodles to start with please?”
“So, the lanterns?” Jenny asked again.
“Right. Well, first off you haven’t seen any light bulbs around because nothing here is lit by electricity,” Anna said stretching her arms. “But if you really want one there’s a light bulb shop down this street. And anyways, I don’t really know why the market’s lit by paper lanterns. It just is.”
“You don’t know? Wow,” For some reason, Jenny had gotten the impression that Anna knew well, everything about this place.
“Don’t be so surprised, the market is older I am,” Anna said, poking Jenny with her fork. “It’s impossible to know its complete history.”
“How old is this place exactly?” Jenny asked curiously.
“How should I put this…well, like I said this place has been 'round longer than we’ve been alive, it’s been here since way before we were born and it’ll be here,” Anna paused to think of a fitting amount of time. “Longer than how long a vampire lives for.”
“How long does a vampire live for?” Chocolat asked appearing from behind the counter.
“Didn’t we leave you behind?” Anna asked surprised. “Since when have you been here?!”
“Forever,” Jenny answered shyly. “They live forever.”
Anna leaned into the counter to get a closer look at him, “Ehh, don’t tell me Chocolat doesn’t know what a vampire is?”
“Nope,” Chocolat said, resting his head in his hand. “Tell me, what are vampires?”
Anna turned her stool so that her body was completely facing Chocolat, and leaned in close to his face.
“What’re vampires? They’re,” Anna gave him a creepy smile. “the undead- OoOoOoohh!”
“But, you sound like a ghost,” Chocolat said snickering. “A really pathetic one too.”
Anna sniffed, annoyed. “Well anyways, what’re you doing here, Chocolat? Stalking us, are you?”
“Hmm, what am I doing here?” Chocolat wondered out loud, rubbing his chin. “Maybe I was thinking that, if Jenny didn’t mind, would she like to go out with, me?”
“W-what?!” Jenny screeched turning red at the comment.
Chocolat nodded excitedly, “How about it? We can watch the fireworks for our first date too.”
“Uh-hun,” Anna said nodding. “I told you today would be especially fun didn’t I? There’s a fireworks display tonight.”
Jenny felt her throat close up, the idea of watching fireworks with him…What should she say?
“So, so,” Chocolat said grabbing hold of Jenny’s hand. “Would you like to go out with me?”
I can’t think, Jenny thought, if you hold my hand like that, and look at me like that and…it’s impossible.
“Huh? What’s this?” Chocolat turned Jenny’s hand over curiously. She was holding an unwrapped piece of Amour chocolate he’d given her earlier. “You haven’t eaten that yet?”
Jenny had forgotten she was holding the chocolate and brought it up to eye level for a closer inspection, “Is it the same as the other one? Amour chocolate?”
Chocolat nodded, frowning at the answer Jenny said, “Then I don’t want any.”
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Try it. You might like it this time.”
Jenny gave him a doubtful look, but started to remove the outside packaging of the chocolate.
“You know I’ve been thinking and, you’ve never given me any free chocolate,” Anna waited for a response but got nothing, because Chocolat’s attention was completely on Jenny.
This chocolate is not normal, Jenny thought. It turns soft in her mouth as it slowly melts reaching every corner of her mouth sending little sparks flying inside her mouth. This chocolate wasn’t normal because normal chocolate was never this unbelievably delicious.
More than that it isn’t bitter, actually…
“It’s sweet,” Jenny said shocked.
“Yup,” said Chocolat, grinning at her. “Because sometimes, love is sweet too, right?”
“Hey! I think they’re starting the fireworks!” Anna suddenly got up from her stool. “When you two are done having a “moment” or whatever meet me by the bridge- it’s the best place to see the fireworks.”
“Wait- Anna!” Jenny yelled at Anna’s quickly shrinking figure as she ran off, until she felt someone tug at her chin. Turning her stool around, she found Chocolat very close to her face, staring at her curiously.
“What is it?” Jenny asked, leaning her head back trying to put some distance between them.
“Your face,” Chocolat tilted his head sideways and kissed her lightly on the cheek sending chills and hot sparks, if that can even happen at the same time, throughout her body making all the hairs on her neck stand up. “It’s Cherry Red.”
If it wasn’t for the sudden noise from the fireworks making her jump three feet in the air, Jenny thought she might’ve stayed frozen in that position for the rest of her life.
And died happy, Jenny grumbled inside her head.