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They sat on a hill by the shore and subconsciously tore the frail grass from the earth as they talked. She molded about the damp roots, compressing them between her fingers until it produced a grainy clay. Hands in the grass, they snapped and uprooted twigs but paid no attention to them, their conversation was too entrancing. She met him at the market today when she accidentally dislocated a pyramid of peaches by taking one too close to the base. A simple mistake that anyone could make, with or without her condition.
She could hear what sounded like hundreds of bassy pounds hitting the floor in succession. The sound seemed to surround and overwhelm her at first. The scene the quieted, and the rate of thumps decreased to fewer and fewer per second. She acknowledged the situation and bent down in her long linen dress. She sunk into it as she knelt down, almost making her feel as if she was submerged in water. She grasped somewhat aimlessly for the fallen peaches, like a swimmer eager for the shore. She suddenly heard footsteps approach her from casual clamor the of the marketplace ambiance nearby.
"I can help you pick those up if you like," said an assertive but concerned masculine voice out of the ether. At first, she felt a sense of pride well up within her throat, preparing a "No, thank you. I have it under control..." as a response she realized accepting the help in this situation might be best for herself and the food.
Still conflicted she did not say much, only uttering an "Oh, umm, yes. "
The reconnaissance for the peaches was hasteful. She could hear his footsteps going places she could not have imagined the bulky fruit would have fled to. In her hand, she held up the last peach, the gentle furry skin pressed against hers, compelling her to study it some more and perceive the imperfections of the spherically inexact object. She fell into a light day dream over the concept of a peach in her mind, extracting feelings and depth from it.
Suddenly a warm and leathery type of skin seemed to touch her hand, wrap around the peach and with a slight pry, take it from her. "That is the last one," he said.
"Thank you," she replied. "I usually don't ask for help, but I appreciate it."
"Well, you didn't need to ask," he stated with almost a humorous inflection. "Generally if I see someone struggling, I stop and help them."
She didn't like the word struggle. Its connotations seemed to put dent her ego. The vision it put in her mind was that of her body squirming in helplessness, like holding down a small animal, or the feeling of a tight scarf her mother draped around her neck as a child.
"Struggling- isn't a word I would use." She seemed to blurt out.
"Why not? We all struggle sometimes." He replied casually.
"Yeah, but you don't just tell someone they're struggling. It has a rude sound to it; especially to a blind woman." She said, the words seeming to come out of the side of her mouth.
There was a silence after her thought escaped from her mouth. The said words echoed back in her mind. All of a sudden, she felt silly. She broke the silence with laughter and the ego seemed to dissipate from the scene. The man joined her in laughter, and they could sense they were about to be formally introduced.
"My name is Daniel," he spoke as they both came down from the laughter together.
"Cheri." She added in response.
He extended his hand forward, but she did not sense it, thus it stood idle in mid air and slowly retracted. He felt stupid for a few moments.
"If I offended you, I'm sorry about that. For what it is worth, ha." He awkwardly joked.
"No. That just means you're a good person, and I am an incredibly stubborn one." With her defenses dropped a bit more, she realized he had a certain unique but fragrant smell, like that of an herb. The bass of his voice, also comforted her like a song on the radio, or a person leading meditative prayer.
"Well, I guess you are correct in a way." He analyzed. "I can't say that to everyone because you never know how they'll take it."
"True. One can always try, I suppose."
The pace of the conversation switched gears, and Daniel took his opportunity. "Well, I see you like peaches. Then the restaurant next door has some of the best cobbler you could ever taste. It is also my family's recipe. Would you care to join me once you finish shopping?"
"Hmm," she hummed with a smile, her main visible feature in contrast to her thick sunglasses. "I don't think I have anything that will spoil. So, yes. I would be delighted."
"Great! It is straight out the main door to the left, one door down! Called Fernado's."
"Cafe. Yes, I know it! That is something I don't need help finding, thank you very much." She said in a joking tone. She heard him laugh and with a quiet "see ya" fade away.
She finished shopping and found herself drifting though the door of Fernado's Cafe. A waft of warm pastries behaved as a doorman, welcoming her in. Among the scents she sensed a familiar one, a product of a pungent but sweet herb that she remembered from the grocery. She sat at Daniel's booth.
"Hi. Glad you could make it, Cheri."
"So, your family runs this restaurant?" She asked.
"Yes, but I'm the only one of my siblings that still works here. My parents are the true owners."
"So, what do you do for them then?"
"I am the head chef. Although, today is my day off."
"Ah I see. Culinary School is quite-"
"I never went. My father taught me everything I know. We're guided by more feeling than logic when it comes to our dishes."
"That must make them taste interesting then." She said with an uncertain smile.
"Well, it doesn't always work out. We generally have a lot of trial and error periods, and at times,our customers can be the test subjects."
"Mmm. That's unfortunate. But, you really seemed to hype up the Peach Cobbler back in the store?
"Well, that is the one thing which is worth trying, here. In fact probably the only thing. We just can't seem to come up with other pastries that match it." He seemed to say in slight lament.
"That is unfortunate. But, you're lucky. Ask me what I do."
"Ask me what my profession is, Daniel."
"Uhm, what do you do?"
"I am a food critic, and I used to be a baker. I have judged the last 3 pie tournaments in the county, and I believe Fernado's Cafe has won them all three years I have been there.
"Jesus Christ! So you were that blind judge!?" He abruptly shouted.
"Yes. Your pie is something I still remember, and I've looked forward to it since."
"That pie is what kept our business afloat so far! Just barely!" Daniel, exclaimed brimming with excitement. "And, uhm, we actually won 4 years."
The slice of peach pie, radiated a warm presence as it was placed in front of her. She delicately placed her hand upon her utensil. The roof of the crust broke with satisfying texture. She felt the hunky weight, and could almost sense the viscosity of the syrupy peaches. The contrast of the slightly salted shell with the warm subtle taste of nutmeg reminded her of what it meant to be a baker.
She sat in silence in front of Daniel, taking her time with every bite. Then another scent seemed to descend upon her, a smell not as favorable, but adequate.
"Now this, is a sample of our other selections." Daniel began.
Still silent, she took her fork to the dish. The roof of the crust wrestled like hardened rubber against the fork, and gave no appealing fragrance when she finally broke into the meat of the pie. An awkward and over-saturated tag of cherry amalgamated around the inside of her mouth, almost felt like it was going up into her sinuses. It was revolting and dwarfed in comparison to the peach delicacy she had tried before hand.
"I see what you mean." She muttered, trying to mask the sincere displeasure with the dish, conscientious of Daniel's feelings. "The difference is night and day, really. How does this happen?"
"God you are right." Daniel said in some despair. "When I saw you, I knew you could possibly help us, like your vote helped us win all those years. We have the passion for this, just the logic to reproduce it is not there..."
"Come on, let's walk down to the shore."
"Because, Daniel. I can see you are struggling with something." She smiled briefly but then became serious. "Only you had the courage to ask for me help."