BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A LITTLE ROMANCE (OR A LOT)

AN EXCERPT FROM MY 3rd NOVEL: ONCE UPON A CUPCAKE SHOP

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THE FARMER’S MARKET on Niagara Street teemed with life. Fresh, earthy smells and vibrant, indescribable colors found nowhere else except amid the splendor of a street bazaar—a true farm-to-table experience. Eva knew nothing matched the sheer enjoyment of an open-air market. The endless rows of vendors under battered awnings and tents formed a multi-colored landscape as far as the eye could see. Tables and crates overflowing with nature’s harvest: the egg-nog yellow of summer squash piled high on wooden baskets, the impressive pyramids of the fire-engine-red plum tomatoes and bell peppers, mounds of vibrant purple eggplants and red onions, the citrus potpourri of a table stacked with Valencia oranges, limes, lemons, nectarines and bright green lemongrass.

Eva’s absolute favorites were tables stockpiling a medley of apricots, peaches, mangoes, gooseberries, and warm summer cherries—these were the fresh delicate summer fruits she would soak in a sugar bath, drizzled with honey or coat with confectioners’ sugar to use as toppings for her iced cupcakes.

“This place is amazing.” Leandro took slow steps to match Eva’s leisurely pace.

“Is this your first?” She figured he must have bumped into many farmer’s markets throughout the years; after all Manhattan was known to have some great ones, from Columbia University’s Greenmarket north of Central Park down to the Tuesday market on Broadway and Battery Place, with offerings from local farms to Lower Manhattan’s Bowling Green plaza.

“No. I’ve seen a few pop-ups in Hell’s Kitchen on Thursdays along the pier. But I’ve never quite gotten over how these places shock the senses.” Leandro smiled and walked beside her.

They strolled past the section of the market showcasing the seasonal fruits and vegetables. At the southern entrance of the lot, a toothless vendor with a propensity for haggling over the price of his fresh produce shouted bargains at whatever passerby happened to be within earshot. Leandro stopped to smell the farmer’s plums and apricots. He felt the warmth of the sun in his palm.

“I’ll take these three.” He decided.

“Make it a whole pound for just five dollars and we have a deal.” The vendor swayed in anticipation of Leandro’s negotiating tactic.

The toothless man seemed almost dissatisfied when Leandro agreed to his price, handed him five singles from his wallet, took the plastic bag full of freshly-picked summer apricots and joined Eva at the next stall.

“How’d you make out?” She asked, admiring his selection.

“Five bucks. Can’t beat that.” He smiled and his irresistable dimples controlled the moment.

“You could’ve gotten them for four.” Eva pointed to a basket of apricots near the Valencia oranges she was inspecting.

Leandro saw a handwritten sign propped by a popsicle stick in the middle of the apricot pile that announced a special deal that would fetch $3.89 a pound. “What can I say, I’m a sucker for sweet things.”

There he was again, Eva thought. Leandro and his metaphors were fast becoming famous. Always flirting, taunting, with his innuendos and cute little dimples. If Eva wasn’t careful her Leandro-free days would soon come to an end. Truth be told, Eva didn’t want any days without Leandro. For someone who hadn’t dated or had the pleasure of a man’s company in eight years, she felt completely at ease with Leandro. Completely relaxed. She could be herself. She felt at home. Home? She freaked and pretended to calculate how much oranges  would cost her. Could Leandro be the home she was yearning for, the home she’d been missing? The home she deserved?