The autumn festival was coming. There would be rice cakes and sweet treats, and the children would eagerly await the mages' fireworks show in the evening. The men would gather and compete in contests, trying to impress the women. In a particularly auspicious year where the harvest and bounty is plentiful, even the King and Queen would grace us with their presence. It was a time for celebration.|
But for me, it was a chance to see her again. She came every year from another city to sell her wares; trinkets for the women, toys for the children. Some she would craft on the spot for a choosy customer. When I saw her fingers moving, transforming bits of string and stone into a piece of jewelry, I would be reminded of a street magician.
The men found her plain-faced. When my friends found out about her, they laughed and said I should aim higher. They said that maybe if I were a butcher or an innkeeper, I can go for a trinket seller. But because I was a poet and a member of the royal army, I should aim higher. I didn't care.
Every year we would talk to each other, but never for long. She said that she liked my city and wished to come more. I hinted that she should, but she said that she doesn't have enough time. Every time, we would part after promising to see each other again in one year.
When the night of the festival came, I eagerly waited for her. But she never came to her usual spot in the market. I walked around searching but never found her. Eventually the fireworks show started, and I watched half-heartedly. Although the mages outdid themselves that year, the colorful sparks and fire flowers did nothing for me.
I made my way back to my home, looking at my feet as I walked. My mind was racing with questions. Why wasn't she there? Is she alright? Did something happen to her and made her unable to come? Could she have found someone else?
I looked up, and there she was.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be at the usual spot. All the booths were taken... I had to stay outside at the smaller markets. I asked around and someone told me that you lived in this neighborhood."
"I thought something happened to you... I feel stupid now."
"Never. Didn't we promise to see each other in one year?"
"Well I couldn't leave until I see you again."
"You don't have to leave at all."
I held out my hand and she wrapped her fingers around mine.
I haven't let go since.