Change of plans, part ten

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For the first time in years Harbend locked his office going out. Burglaries were almost unheard of in Keen, but the waiting relatives had him deciding against leaving his home open to anyone who wanted to enter. Making it a habit to leave it locked in the future was an easy way to avoid unnecessary surprises, he thought, coming up to a woman standing behind a cart. Harbend almost passed her by, but driven by a sudden impulse he halted and reversed his steps ending up in front of the woman selling flowers.

She could have been his own age, maybe a few years older, sun tanned face and hands. She stood on the sidewalk, a pallet behind her for when there were no potential customers in sight, and the cart still half full with flowers of different colors and sizes. This close the mixed scents were overwhelming.

"Flowers sir?"

"Yes. Long ones. One red, one blue and one white." He pointed at the flowers he wanted, not knowing their names.

She looked up and squinted at him. His singing accent gave him away as a foreigner more clearly than his dark complexion. "A girl waiting for you, eh?" she teased, all business again.

"No, a man."

She glared disapprovingly at him.

Harbend stepped aside momentarily to give way for a passing couple. "Where I come from we sometimes buy flowers just to show respect."

She frowned and squinted at Harbend again. He realized she must be nearsighted.

"I'm sorry, sir. I shouldn't have assumed. He a foreigner just like you?" she asked.

"Yes, yes he is," Harbend said thoughtfully, and without knowing why he bothered telling this stranger on the street, he continued barely audibly: "but most of all he is a very lonely man."

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