Almost immediately Sean felt attracted to a stall in the market hung with purple and orange swaths of cotton fabric and rickety metal tables that were piled high with brightly colored wares. He loved things like this, as did Sophie. One of their favorite activities to do together was shopping at questionable places like this late on Saturday afternoons. He walked around, touching scarves embroidered with bright green parrots and contrasting black crows. Slowly his mood dropped almost imperceptibly until he felt horribly depressed. Everything here reminded him of Sophie. She was smiling up from the bright colors of the fabrics and glaring at him from glazed earthenware urns. He saw her eyes in the sparkle of a Dasani water bottle.
Sean sat down exhausted from holding back memories that he knew would kill him unless strictly repressed. A tiny sparrow landed on the table in front of him and cocked his head at Sean, staring with black beady eyes. The sparrow chirped expectantly and snipped its little beak at the human before him. The bird hopped tiny little hops to the edge of the table where he took flight with a distinct air of confusion and surprise maybe, that the air had held him aloft. Sean laughed.
"They're cute aren't they? I just love birds. I used to have three parakeets that were named after book characters, although I didn't name them all as they weren't all mine. One was actually named Pebbles, which I think is an odd name for a parakeet, or any bird for that matter, especially as it was named after the dog that belonged to the lady who lived next door to us," Sean looked up to see Jules headed across a busy stretch of road. She was wearing a floaty plaid dress with oversized sunglasses and a huge wooden necklace that seemed to be fashioned in the likeness of large pears.
"Why are you wearing a string of pears around your neck?"
"Well, it's actually very surprising that you asked that. You see once I was on a holiday in France with my friend Anna because she had just broken up with her boyfriend and was in desperate need of a holiday. Anyway, there was horrible food there and so we hardly ate anything. They kept trying to serve us the infamous French delicacies but we thought they were disgusting, as of course they are-"
"Wow. I'm sure you have a great story there, but I think the mystery of its origin is where you necklace gains appeal," Sean smiled in what he hoped was a sincere way," And now I have to be heading back to the hotel, you know, places to go, people to see."
"I'll go back with you. I don't think I'll find what I'm looking for today anyway. I was wanting to find a beige suit for my aunt who I had to leave at home as this is a strictly business trip I'm on and I'm supposed to focus instead of going out to the shops but I really can't help it. My aunt doesn't get out much, but she has the best fashion sense of anyone I know-"
Sean stopped listening. He realized with horror that he might have to listen to this incessant noise all the way back to the hotel. He couldn't take it. He had managed to stay sane through Sophie leaving him. It would be a shame if she returned to find her boyfriend in prison facing life or the death penalty.
"I'm sorry but I cannot go back to the hotel with you Jules."
"Why not? Are you still angry that I knocked you out the other night? That really was your fault you know. If you hadn't run at me like that-"
"Well you see orange isn't my color Jules. And I'm very very definitely heterosexual. In fact I can't go back to the hotel with you because I want to spend my life with the woman I love," by this time Jules had begun to give Sean the look you give to people who talk to themselves or wear Hawaiian shirts in winter.
"I'm not hitting on you! I'm not interested in that way. You would be LUCKY to have even a chance with me. But that's alright. I know men get easily confused about female friendships. Don't worry Sean. You're not alone."
"Regardless, Jules," he said interrupting her once more," I think I should stay away from you from now on. I don't want to scare you any more than I already have," he was getting desperate now. What was wrong with the girl? Couldn't she tell he was trying to give her the slip? Was she totally socially inept? Apparently so!
"I see. You've fallen in love with me haven't you?"
"No! I have a fiancée-"
"And you're threatened by the strong feelings you have for me aren't you?"
"You're being ridiculous! I was trying to get rid of you until-"
"It's okay. You don't have to make excuses for me. I understand, but unfortunately I just don't love you Sean."
He sighed. What a fantastic day this was shaping up to be. "Yes. You've found me out. I'm in love with you. I'm so heartbroken Jules. I'm going to go cry now." He said all this deadpan, no emotion whatsoever, knowing the insane person he was walking with wouldn't notice. Nope. It would just sail over her head with one big whoosh.
"I'm sorry I had to hurt you like this Sean. I hope we can still be friends."
Sean really couldn't believe he was hearing this.
"Well. I don't know exactly what to say. You're too kind. Really. Um. I have to go now…" He trailed off vaguely while melting into the crowd in the same manner. He could hear Sophie talking at him and trying to follow but he ducked behind a group of tourists eager to find the perfect kitschy addition to their homes. Sean took shelter in a tiny four-walled stall made of wooden beams and swaths of bright fabric that had seen better days long, long ago. A wooden rack displaying tiny black velvet boxes sparkled and caught his eye. Sean really loved sparkles. He really loved sparkles.
Expecting to find some glittery artifact he went over to the rack and was surprised to find, instead of the junky crumbly stuff he expected, an array of beautiful bangles set with diamonds and emeralds and delicate necklaces made of silver with tiny leaves and foxes and ships hanging around the edges. There were huge chunks of amber ensnared in buttery gold and silver diamond rings with stones the shape of roses.
In the middle was a cladagh ring. It was gold with a tiny ruby cut into a heart shape with small diamonds set in the crown above the heart. The miniature hands that held the heart were delicately worked so Sean could see the individual fingers.
This was Sophie's ring. He knew it. She was Irish and constantly collected cladagh rings. She had ones with stones of every color. He had always meant to buy her one for their engagement but he couldn't find one in any of the shops he visited. It was like a sign. A sign that Sophie hadn't abandoned him at all. She still loved him he knew deep down. She was still his fiancée.
He bought the ring.
Even though he had no idea where he would get money to pay for his rent in a week.
It didn't really matter.