The strong eyes of the merchant were now searching her face and she felt self-conscious about herself. She silently scolded herself for drifting off again and turned to Eliana, “I think we should keep looking unless you think this is what your mom really wants.”
Eliana upturned smile soon faded, “that’s why I have you here. Do you think she’d like it?”
The merchant’s arms fell from his chest and were now dangling indignantly by his side, “not good enough for you Northerner?” He was shorter than Aimee and Eliana, but bolder and angrier than both of them put together. “You won’t find better quality than with me, foolish girl!”
Aimee was taken aback by the rough comment, but she didn’t expect anything else. She set down the pendant on the table along with the other trinkets. “Sir, I was under the impression that the customer had the right to turn down a buyer for reasons not pertaining to race, gender, stereotype, or ethnicity. Do not get me wrong, please, I acknowledge your merchandise to be of the greatest quality, however, we are unsure about buying it because it’s not for us but for my friend’s mother.”
“Whatever you say,” the merchant waved his hand furiously; dismissing the debate and commotion the “little northerner” would probably create if he didn’t shut her up. Discussing with clientele was bad advertisement for business. “Just move along then and stop blocking other potential customers from buying my “trinkets”, as you have it.” He snorted and walked behind his stand, inviting and alluring other customers.
Eliana was speechless and motionless until Aimee dragged her by the arm and into the Road again. “I can’t believe I still don’t have anything to give my mother.” Eliana whispered miserably. “The day will be over soon.” In fact, the sky was already blushing into orange shades and the shadows of the adobe buildings were growing larger and larger upon them.
“I’m sorry,” Aimee said, “I should’ve just kept my mouth shut instead of mentioning that stupid speech about the customer’s freedom of choice.” Some shops and stands were starting to bring out their argon globes and gaslights were starting to light up. They left the open Road, which provided a place for the temporary and makeshift stands, and entered the store section of the Southern Market. It was a great difference; the stores were built with black blocks or adobe and wooden signs hung from above the entrance.
“It’s all right,” Eliana said consolingly, “I can give her that bead and seashells necklace I made for her last week.”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it very much,” Aimee said, “to be honest, I don’t trust these merchants and their products nowadays. Everything has gone so expensive; sometimes I feel they’re looking for a cheap way to get money out of people like us.”
A clatter of metal caught their attention and their gazes were quickly snapped to their right, into a blacksmith shop. The wooden doors were wide open to a dark room with its walls lined with several swords of different shapes and threats. At the right side of the room, there was a working station with a blacksmith furnace, a water basin, and unfinished sword blades glowing red embers. The noise was provoked by a cat, which had tripped over several swords that were leaning against the corner. The sun had already sailed low below the horizon and the shadows appeared more perpetual in the dark by the light of the flickering gaslights.
A boy, no older than them, with an apron wrapped around his waist walked to the corner to pick up the swords lying on the floor. Both girls noticed his tall, graceful, and fit body as he knelt down, and how his loose shirt clung to his sweating body from the heat. His hair was black and unruly, reaching down to his eyes and down the nape of his neck from the back. His eyes were like burning sapphires in his pale face.
Both of the girls just stood there perplexed and drawn in by his unusual beauty. The boy, feeling eyes and unwanted attention on him, gazed at them over his shoulder and just stared at them for a while. Then, he smiled. The entire universe caved in for both girls when they saw him smile, it was the charming and mystifying smile they have ever seen. Eliana was out of breath at this point, and Aimee prayed that he confused her blushing face with the gleaming of the gas lamp. Aimee forced a smile to her lips and quickly linked her arm with Eliana, nodded her head in a respectful sign to the handsome stranger, and pulled Eliana away in a swift stride.
When they were on the open Road again and out of earshot, they breathe again. The customers began to dwindle at the sight of the first night star; therefore the road was less crowded than it had been hours before. Interesting smells filled their nostrils as the foreigners were preparing their dinner. The girls strolled up the road and out of it and were now walking the path up the hill that would take them to their respective homes.
“I’ve never noticed that place before,” Eliana said, willing herself not to let the image of the boy fade from her mind.
“It’s a blacksmith workshop, they forge swords in there,” Aimee said, trying to force the image of him out of her mind. “I’ve seen this place before but I’ve never entered; only Daniel has. Oh and, speaking of which,” a string of memory slipped into Aimee’s mind, “I totally forgot!” She slapped her forehead in disbelief, a wide smile spread in her face, “I’m going to gather Dust tonight!”
“Are you really?!” Eliana exclaimed, “That is great news Aimee! That’s what you always wanted; go up in the sky with that flying machine of yours, first class view of the Lights!”
“You’re totally right, I’ve been looking forward for this day ever since I had memory,” Aimee took Eliana’s small hands in hers, “please wish your mother a happy birthday. I promise to bring some of the Dust we gather tonight for you and your family first thing tomorrow.”
Eliana laughed, “Run Aimee or your brother will leave without you!”
“He better not,” Aimee said and sprinted up the hill, waving good-bye to her friend. The cool night air refreshed her skin and her heart tickled with emotion as she pictured herself airborne between sheets of bright, colorful Northern Lights.