She passed the fragrant smells of cheap perfumes and diamond dreams. The thrifters and salesmen of the market buzzed past her in negotiations as she neared the dingy wooden table in the corner of the booth. She padded the footsteps that wheezed out of her scuffed shoes, black bag in hand filled to the brim with hope that this would be the week she would sell her most valued possession. The usual pleasantries were exchanged between her and her neighboring stands. The conversation kept closely to the topic of weather and avoided the obvious darkening rims under the two chestnut traitors spilling over her fears down her face. She is patient. She has no more fear of the hours soon to stretch past her. Her frail hands reach into her black bag with barely enough strength to lift the glass jar out of it. She’s given up trying to display her possessions as her fingers, with nails chewed to the bed, had no strength to wrap around the lid. Her stone body sat still, head hanging low as she was unwilling to watch the hands one after another pass her by.
Closed fists with knuckles white from their turn in the jar, squeezing, bruising, crushing, bleeding her dry.
The few hands that took pity and pried her open only left but few cents behind for all her troubles. At first the hands were generous, leaving one or two gold coins. Eventually, the bruises blackened her only good to offer and copper coins rang against the wooden table much more often.
Who would want something so bruised? Who would want her damage?
She snatched her heart in a jar off the wooden table, clutching it close to her chest. This was hers. Bruised and beaten as it was, her heart would no longer be subject to the buyers negotiations. If nobody wanted to buy a heart, it would no longer be for sale.
She couldn’t take anymore and was near her emotional end when he walked up to her table. He tilted his head for a moment, eyes locked on her face. Reaching deep in his pockets, the stranger left all the gold he had. His eyes flooded with hope, but her fingers clutched her jar close. She stared back with her chin pointed forward and her arms clutching the jar. Her eyes were steely, her mouth set in a hard line. He frantically checked every pocket and crevice, his eyes mouth twisted downward, and cheeks flushed. A pocketful of lint, two more coins and a rubber band later, he’d met his wits end with a sigh. Shoulders slumped, he reached into his black bag to pull out a jar with a heart inside the size of a dying rose petal. Blackened, and in shards, the barely beating heart was bloodless with promises bought but never received. He left the jar on the table and began to walk away.
She stood, hesitant at first but presented him with her jar.
“Wanna buy a heart?”