The night air hung heavy with the smell of spice and smoke and the sounds of people. All along the street, lantern-lit tables were set up and flocked with customers.
He picked his way through the chaos, smiling to himself and enjoying the feeling of simply being there.
One table, tucked between a food vendor and a bead seller, was full of candles. Short ones, tall ones, some oddly shaped. All were lit, and all burned with brilliant white fire.
The woman behind the table watched him eagerly with honey colored eyes.
"These are special," she said in a molasses thick accent. She leaned over and raised her hand, as though divulging some secret. "They burn with holy fire. They burn with pieces of God." She straightened. "Come, look through them."
He had to stop himself from laughing. "No, thank you. I don't think I need any burning god bits. I'm just here to look."
Her merchant's intuition told her otherwise.
"Look," she said, pointing to a green and brown one near him. "You don't believe me? Look into the flame."
He did so, smiling. As though he were some superstitious fool-
She crossed her arms and smiled. "You see?"
"Oh." He coughed. "How much?" he said, keeping his eyes on the candle.
"Fifty American dollars and a kiss."
That got his attention, though only for a moment, as his eyes were inevitably drawn back to the candle. He fumbled through his pack and tossed her a few crumpled bills.
"Good," she said. She leaned over and grabbed the collar of his shirt with both hands.
The kiss was short, but thorough. After a moment, she pushed him away.
"Take it and go."
He nodded uncertainly. He took the candle and walked unsteadily into the night.
She waited until he was gone before discreetly spitting into her palm.
Out of her mouth poured the soft light she'd taken from him. She examined it closely. It was a bit spotty, but no more so than usual for Americans. It was good enough.
She reached behind the table and pulled out an unlit candle. She eased the light onto the wick and coaxed it until it began to burn. She then placed the candle in the spot where the green and brown one had been a minute before.
PostcardQuest2011, inspired by this picture