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Caroline reached for the pink carnations.
"Oh, no," the man said. "You don't want those."
"Why not?" she said. "They're for my sister."
"Do you even like your sister?" he asked.
"No." she said emotionlessly.
"Oh... Well then why are you buying her flowers?"
"She just had a baby."
She stared at him, and made a confused look like a dog does when it hears an unfamiliar sound.
"It's what you do for these sorts of occasions."
"But what are flowers really good for?" He took off his apron and placed it on a chair behind the flower stand and walked around to stand next to her. She took a step backwards, feeling uncomfortable by the sudden closeness of the stranger. She picked up the white lily and sniffed it. It didn't smell much like anything. It had already wilted a bit.
"You should give me a discount on these." she said, referring the lily she was holding.
"Why?" he said. He motioned towards her again to examine the lilies.
"They've wilted." she said.
"Because... When they're wilted they're less pretty and they don't last as long."
"I don't see anything wrong with them. A flower is a flower to be quite honest."
"Huh, coming from the guy working at a flower stand."
Caroline shifted her head away from him, and began to glance at the various goings on around the market. Next to them was a postcard stand, where a large bald man with various tattoos and piercings neatly organized the cards. On the other side was a produce stand, where a tiny old woman clasped her hands together, and smiled at those passing by. She seemed sweet. Caroline wondered if she were like her granny, and made muffins with her grandkids like she did, and then immediately let the thought go. The irksome flower guy remained in her face.
"You know, my sister just had a baby a few months ago too. She named her Mary, like she was trying to keep her an innocent virgin all her life. Total bulls***. But! You know what I did when she had the thing? Nothing."
"Well, she must be lucky to have you as a brother."
"At least I didn't waste my money giving her some damn flowers."
"What do you want from me?" Caroline spat.
"I don't know. I want you admit that this is tedious and just a complete waste of it all."
"Fine. Maybe it is a bit tedious, but you don't have to freak out about it."
"It just bothers me how no one realizes it! They just go on their merry way, completely ignorant of what everything is and why we're all here and what a bunch of stupid flowers will do for a new mother."
Caroline exhaled and widened her eyes fiercely as she came up with a response. She noticed a little girl skipping by, wearing a tutu and holding a shiny red balloon. Caroline had never seen such a big smile.
"Because," Caroline said, "flowers are pretty to look at. They don't really have worth or purpose other than that. And most people like to look at pretty things, because they make us happy. And even though the flower will wilt and you're just going to have to throw it out, I still think at least having something pretty to look at, even for just a little while, is worth it being there at all."
Caroline picked up the lilies and the pink carnations and handed him a twenty. The man went back around the counter for change.
"Would you like a bag?" he asked.
"No, thank you." She dropped the change in her pocket and began to walk away from the stand.
"Oh I forgot to ask...” the man shouted to her. She turned around and shouted back.
"Um...what the baby's name is."
She smiled and sighed. "It's Mary, actually."