Chapter 1
Light escaped through the tiny holes of Nahla’s straw hat, splashing her face with golden freckles. She lifted her sun marked face, curious green eyes peering beneath the fraying brim. Blue skies cradled a lazy sun, accompanied by a soft breeze. The Monday morning felt warm and light on her skin. Nahla wished the weather would stay this, but knew the warmth would eventually turn into a midday heat wave. She closed her eyes and paused momentarily to inhale the fresh air, clutching a half full shopping basket to her body. Nahla loved the farmer’s market.

The sights, sounds, and smells were a familiar experience. Customers and shop assistants haggled with farmers and tradesmen over raw goods. There was a lot of shouting, but also much laughter amongst the banter. Children scurried underfoot, doing all they could to add to the noise. Past the layers of conversation, and the clicks and clangs of labor, one could make out faint scattered melodies from various street musicians. The dewy scent of fresh produce and exotic foreign spices made Nahla want to buy everything and cook a king’s feast.

Nahla slowed her steps as she approached the flower merchant. Flowers from every color of the rainbow occupied wooden buckets filled with water. There were simple common beauties and bouquets of complicated arrangements from far off lands. Most of the stock was flowers Nahla had never seen in nature. She often wondered where they came from. The flower merchant was Nahla’s favorite vendor, despite never making an official purchase from the establishment. Sometimes she would daydream about receiving a bouquet from a handsome man, or more specifically the apprentice who helped with the stall.

As she thought about him, the apprentice stepped into view. His fair blonde hair just barely poked over an armload of floral arrangements. He was walking back and forth on the cobbled streets, between the stall and a horse drawn cart. With an order that large, Nahla guessed it was for a wedding or a royal banquet. She almost wanted to help, but the only words they ever exchanged were courteous greetings. Nahla did not know his name. She did know the owners very well. They were an elderly couple who were long time friends of her grandfather’s. On days when she passed through the market a second time, usually near closing hours, they would let her pick out a bouquet from the day’s leftovers.

Nahla felt a bit of disappointment by the time she passed the stall. He was too busy to notice her. She was charismatic enough with vendors, often striking bargains through good conversations rather than verbal battles. But when it came to this boy she never knew quite what to say. He never seemed interested beyond the mandatory hello. Thinking she had spent too much time in the market, Nahla hurriedly made last minute purchases before rushing back to work.