"Did we need onions?" Rosemary called from the other side of the tiered vegetable cart.
Laura, examining oranges, replied, "I don't know, are they on the list?"
"Good point. Now, onions, was it?" Laura made her way round from her side, meeting Rosemary coming from the opposite direction.
"Oh, who knows? Notice please how we always come out with good intentions then seem to end up wandering aimlessly, bemoaning our lack of direction. And we never arrive home with what we were after."
Never a morning person, Rosemary was still crotchety going on eleven. It was that sort of a day; grey skies and a damp chill in the air. It was just as well no one ever turned up a dead body whilst out shopping on a Saturday morning, otherwise the gloomy weather was the perfect setting for it.
Laura dug her hands deep in her coat pockets. "Funny, I thought that was the point. Go where fancy takes us, stop and smell the -" she paused as a truck rumbled noisily past down the street, "lorry exhaust - that sort of thing. We're only shopping, not as if we're on a military campaign."
"Just as well, you'd make a terrible general with that sort of attitude," Rosemary said dryly.
"Aha!" Laura turned away, and turned back brandishing a baguette aloft. "Give me liberty or give me death!"
"And now, give me onions or... give me bad breath!"
At that Rosemary merely looked at Laura, who lowered her bread-wielding arm.
"They'll want us to pay for that, now," Rosemary added.
Laura considered the baguette. "It'll be lovely with onion soup. Sorry, it's all I can think about, now."
Rosemary about-faced smartly and lead the charge back towards the onion display. "Give me liberty, or give me broth," she muttered, unable to help herself.
They turned off the street down into a narrow lane crowded with market stalls, making their way amongst other browsing weekend shoppers.
They hadn't gone far when Laura zeroed in on one particular table like a trouble-seeking missile.
Rosemary found her making faces at a cardboard box, propped up next to which was a sign that read, £20 TO A GOOD HOME.
There were tiny squeaking sounds coming from inside the box. Rosemary briefly hoped it was a box of rats. Or any sort of rodent, really; Laura would almost certainly not want to take home a rodent. Not if she had to pay twenty quid for it, anyway.
"Oh, look," Laura said. "Oh, I miss having a cat. Who knows where these poor things will end up. It would be irresponsible not to at least consider -"
"We can't have a cat," Rosemary broke in before Laura's fancy could properly take flight. "We're not home enough."
"It could come on the road with us. Plenty of room in the Rover."
"Mm," Rosemary agreed, "cats adore travel."
Her tone was ignored, along with all attempts to progress along the footpath past the box of adorable little fluffy things, most definitely not of the rat persuasion.
"Look at the grey one, isn't he handsome? He could be like our mascot, or hm, our familiar? Is that the word I want?"
"We're witches now. Shouldn't the thing be black in that case?" There was a black kitten in the box, albeit with white patches. The stall owner seemed to be more interested in her book, so Rosemary did as Laura had been for a good two minutes now, and indulged the urge to pet. The kitten bit her.
"Well, I've been known to work magic with a hoe and a bit of compost," Laura was saying. "We should put that on the website."
Rosemary looked at her askance. "The cat, or there being a mystical component to our gardening skills?"
"That's not a bad idea."
"I know I've often thought the odd sacrifice to the nature gods - or goddesses - wouldn't go astray. Who's that again? Goddess of nature or something?"
"Hm? Oh, Demeter, mother of Persephone."
"Oh yes, the business with the pomegranate seeds. Ever wonder why it was only six? I mean, that's barely a mouthful."
"Picky eater? Teenagers. Never been able to stop at just six of anything, personally."
"You'd know better than I."
"Anyway we've gone right off topic." Laura withdrew her hand from the box with a final ear-fondle and a sigh. "I've been thinking we should spruce up the website a bit - or maybe send round a flyer, even. Something with a catchy slogan. Couldn't hurt. We're not exactly run off our feet these days."
"Off-season, can't be helped."
"It's poor old Persephone again. Stuck down in the dumps, waiting for Spring to be sprung. Oh, this is depressing. You know what might cheer us up?"
"Not entertaining thoughts about pets we can't keep."
"Well," Laura continued more philosophically, "Maybe a nice drop, then."
"Yes, or six."
"Sad," Laura sighed, as they left the kittens behind.
"Come on, shall we find somewhere for a coffee?"
"There's that place up that way that we like. They have that lovely apple-walnut thingamy."
"Yes, and also the greasy fellow behind the counter who calls us 'Mrs and Mrs Flower Ladies' and leers at us. How much are you willing to put up with for your apples and walnuts?"
"Skip it, it's almost lunch time, anyway."
Now Rosemary felt a little bit bad for bringing it up. But it did persist, this notion. "Why do people always assume, well, you know?"
Laura shrugged. "Could be anything, I suppose. Like your hair."
"My hair, what's the matter with my hair? I've had compliments. Well, a girl in a shop the other day said it suited my face, which I suppose could go either way. But I chose to take it as a compliment."
"As I said, it could be anything."
"You dress like a hippie."
"Anything, true or not. Oh, you know what it probably is?"
"Now I'm afraid to ask."
"The sexual tension."
Rosemary snorted. "Oh yes, that."
"Oozing from every pore."
"Doesn't that sound attractive."
"And here you were concerned about your hair."
"Oozing with sexual tension."
"Among other things. I don't know about you but I regularly find myself oozing with unbridled something or other. For horticulture, mind."
"The ancient and noble art of horticulture. But then we're middle aged women, we can get away with that sort of thing."
"Now there's your flyer," Laura concluded with a nod.
"I can see the bold print already. Oh, look." Rosemary was temporarily distracted by the sudden appearance of green amongst the handicrafts. "Late in the year for seedlings."
In silence, they perused for a minute or two. Soon it became apparent Laura's attention was not being held by the ancient art of anything.
"Rosemary," she began.
"Oh look, we still can't have a bloody cat, Laura."
"Well if we're going to go about being practical, you can't have those hothouse tomato plants."
"We don't have a hothouse."
"Laura, do you know what I've been thinking?"
"I've a definite inkling."
"We really need a hothouse. Tell me who doesn't like a nice hothouse tomato?"
"That was it."
"They're doing wonderful things with plexiglass these days."
"We're not home enough."
"A hothouse isn't a pet."
"Nor is that tomato plant, which is why I am wondering -"
"Why are you stroking it?"
"It could come on the road with us. I'll keep it warm in my jumper."
"Nothing wrong with a good hothouse tomato. Or a good hothouse, for that matter."
"Or a kitten of questionable pedigree."
Together, they sighed and moved on.
"I suppose if one got everything one wanted, all the time, one would find life rather boring."
Rosemary held up one of their string shopping bags. "You're getting your blooming onion soup, aren't you?"
A look of resolve suddenly settled on her face and Laura stopped in her tracks. "Lunch will have to wait," she said, and turned abruptly and went back the way they had come.
"Did I mention I think I'm allergic to cats?" Rosemary called after her, before rolling her eyes and following.
"Fifty for the lot, that's my final offer, and you'll be lucky I don't get the animal welfare authority down here to fine you for the unlicensed selling of unregistered domesticated animals."
They left the stall the proud owners of four kittens of questionable pedigree.
"And just what, exactly, are we going to do with a box full of cats?"
"Phone up the RSPCA when we get home."
"After we've cuddled them a bit." Laura paused to point out the smallest one, the black-and-white kitten who was currently treading on one of her sibling's heads. "I'm calling that one 'Rosemary'."
"Well that does it, you'll never get rid of the bloody thing now."
At that, they shared a smile. The sort of smile that didn't ooze anything much at all, but then, it didn't need to.
"I don't suppose you remember where we parked?" Laura said.
"Haven't the foggiest," replied Rosemary.