For Sale

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I open the shop the moment the sunlight touches the leaves of the oak tree outside. If it’s rainy, I don’t open it at all. In the winter, I open late. I’ve explained my system a few times, especially to annoyed customers who came too early and had to wait. They told me that my policy is bad business.

I told them that dreams are temperamental and never run by a clock.

A young couple is waiting outside when I unlock the doors. She’s never had a dream, they tell me. He’s going to buy her one. I can already tell he’s going to spend too much on this date, so I leave them to browse and go back to the counter to measure out and fill another glass rose to replace the one they’re going to buy. A box, one of the patterned kind with sweet-smelling sandalwood and mint oil rubbed into the joints, would be the most economical choice—and a more practical gift for a first date—but the glass roses are flashy and romantic. The way he’s working to impress her, he might just end up with a whole bouquet.

Poor fellow.

My bell rings again, and I look up. My heart falls, and the cheerful morning dims as an older gentlemen with a flower in his buttonhole wanders in. He looks as though he doesn’t want to be here, not again, and I wish with all my heart that he wasn’t. But I smile anyway. “Morning, Simon. How’re the tulips?”

He shrugs, not quite looking at me. His eyes roam the boxes and jars littering my shelves, straying to the couple in the corner looking at the roses. “Just fine. I’ll take my usual, thanks.”

I bite my tongue before I can tell him no. His usual. A dream about his dead wife, a way to bring her back into his arms for a few hours. Seven years he’s been coming to me. I want to tell him that he’s wasting his money, that he needs to let her go now. But I don’t like to meddle. Instead I say softly, “It’s in the back.”

He nods, still looking at the couple with the roses. I think they’ve chosen one now. She’s blushing.

I disappear into the back and mix the dream. A dash of memory, a bit of mint, a little stardust, some lily pollen. Dreams are easy. I’ve been making them since I was twelve. My shop sells everything but nightmares. I’ve even dabbled in foreshadowing.

But I don’t want to sell this one. I hesitate, stirring the contents absently, then do something that I never, never do.

I meddle. I interfere. I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it anymore. A dusting of powdered willow leaves changes the shape of the dream, and I wrap it up quickly before I can change my mind. It will be a good dream, one that will wake him smiling, but it won’t be about his wife.

It will be about the life he still has left. About the grandchildren that bring him cookies every Saturday. About the next door neighbor that smiles at him. About sunshine, wind that smells of apple blossoms, and fishing on the lake with his grandson. About the high school sweetheart he’d very nearly forgotten about.

He might bring it back tomorrow, might complain that it wasn’t what he wanted, and I’ll give him a refund and my apologies. But I can’t give him the dream he wants. Not this time.

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