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the only sour cherry on your fruit stand

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When Amy heads toward the farmers' market, she has no special reason for going there. Maybe she's craving kettle corn, hot and sweet and so fluffy it'll melt on her tongue. Maybe she'll browse the looseleaf teas, breathe in all the spices. Maybe she just wants to go somewhere, anywhere, wants to stretch her legs and feel the sun on her hair. She's been grounded for a month, and now that she's free she wants to walk places that aren't school, eat places that aren't home, smell the outdoors and speak to new people. This is what she thinks as she walks, her braid swinging against her back. But as soon as she gets there, she knows she was wrong. Of course there was a reason.

The reason is this: a white canvas awning with a truck parked to the side. A scuffed industrial press, spilling juice into a glass. And behind it, pressing apples into the machine, red ponytail swinging behind her, is Karma.

Maybe Amy had known all along, let her feet lead her to what her heart wanted but was afraid to ask for. Certainly, she would have known the Ashcrofts would be here, had she thought about it at all. But if she had thought about it, she would have had to plan what to do, what to say. Popcorn is so much easier. One large bag please, extra sugar. Keep the change.

Karma snaps a lid onto the apple juice and hands it off to a customer. Wiping her hands on her apron, she looks up to take the next customer, but her eyes lock on Amy instead. For a second, she freezes, her eyes wide and her lips slightly parted. It's not a face Amy's used to seeing, at least not in reaction to her. It's not normal surprise, not happy surprise, not even a surprised kind of anger. It's the face she makes when she doesn't know the right answer, when she's caught out in a lie or called on suddenly in class. But it doesn't last long. Karma's face softens, and she gives Amy a little smile, waves at her before she takes the next order and reaches for the kale.

It's not too late to leave while things are good. She doesn't have to push her luck. Karma is obviously working, and Amy could still buy herself that popcorn and call it a day. Maybe that's the safe thing, the best thing, to give them both a little space.

She could do that, but, fuck it. No one ever said she was good at making decisions anyway.

*

Karma is quiet as they walk away from her parents' stall, shaking down her ponytail and picking a leaf off her shoulder. She smells like oranges and the fruit she's been crushing in her hands. Amy chews on her straw. The juice Karma's mother gave her is laced with ginger, and it burns her throat a little, gives her an excuse for not speaking first.

"So," Karma finally says, dropping her hands to her sides and letting out a breath.

"So," Amy repeats.

"What brings you to the neighborhood?" Karma's hair spins out as she turns to face Amy. Her smile is a little too professional, a little too tight, but real enough.

Amy shakes her cup, letting the ice rattle around the sides. "Would you believe I was dying for your mom's ginger carrot juice?"

"Not really," Karma says, her smile softening a little.

"Yeah. Me neither," Amy sighs. "I just–is wanting to say hi an okay reason?"

"Of course it is." Karma tilts her head. "But if you wanted to say hi, you could have just done it. You didn't have to creep on me from the other side of the market first."

"I know." Amy lets her head hang back, staring up into the blue Texas sky. "I guess I wasn't sure if you wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see you. That sounds wrong. Can I start over?" She twirls the straw in her drink. "You have every right to be mad at me, and I totally get if you need more time or more space or whatever. But I really miss you. I can't remember the last time we were fighting for this long."

"Okay." Karma clasps her hands together under her chin, thinking. Then she takes a deep breath and says, "No more secrets, right? No more lying. So, honestly? I'm still kind of mad at you. But I miss your face and I've had no one to gossip with for weeks, and it's driving me crazy." She offers a hand to Amy. "I've got half an hour till I have to go back to peeling beets. You think we can catch each other up by then?"

Amy links her arm through Karma's. "Definitely."

*

Amy hadn't realized was just how quiet things have been without Karma around. Shane can hold up two sides of a conversation by himself, and Lauren's voice can carry from the opposite side of the house, but it's really not the same. Even pulling Reagan through her window to sneak a late-night kiss feeds something different than being with her best friend. Now that they're together again, she can't believe they made it this long with just hi's and bye's in the hallways. Because now they can't stop talking, can't stop laughing. They're trying to fit thirty days' worth of conversations into thirty minutes, and they're just getting started. Karma cackles into bouquets of bluebells and fresh sunflowers as Amy describes her last-minute pageant debut. At the face painting booth, Amy laughs so hard at Karma's reverse coming-out that the rainbow on her cheek comes out crooked and smudged. Even their afternoon in jail, though it wasn't funny at the time, becomes just another secret joke between them.

("We always said we were partners in crime," Amy says. "Now it's official."

"Bonnie and Clyde?" Karma asks. "Or Thelma and Louise?"

"I like the way you think," Amy says. They sneak two tiny cups of Prosecco off a tasting board and make a toast. )

But a half hour is a half hour, and it's still over far too soon. Amy walks Karma back toward the Ashcrofts' truck, stopping a few booths away to say goodbye. "So," she says. "I guess this is it."

"Yeah," Karma says. "You know how it is, carrots won't peel themselves."

"I know," Amy gestures to her now-empty cup. "Your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Girls to the yard. Whatever."

Karma snorts and shoves her lightly. "Amy, that's so bad, that's not even funny."

"It is if you're laughing." But neither of them are, really. They fall silent, Karma glancing in her parents' direction and starting to scrape her hair up into a hasty ponytail. There's a moment here, and Amy's afraid she'll miss it, but she doesn't know what to say, or what comes after this. She's already gotten more than she expected, maybe more than she deserved.

"Karma, I–" she starts, but Karma holds up one finger, takes the hair elastic out of her mouth, and ties off her ponytail.

"I'm really glad you came today," Karma says.

"So am I," Amy says. "I'm sorry I just sort of sprang myself on you, though. I wasn't trying to rush you."

"No." Karma reaches up to adjust her hair, snapping the elastic even tighter. "If it was just up to me, we still wouldn't be talking. We wouldn't have had today. And I'm really glad we did." She lets go of her hair and looks at Amy. "I don't know what you're doing tomorrow, if you have plans with Reagan or Shane or whoever, but we'll be here. I usually take my break around one on Sundays, if you want to stop by again. Catch up a little more."

"I'd like that," Amy says.

"Great," Karma says softly. She leans up to give Amy a quick hug, then hurries off towards her parents' truck. Amy watches for a minute as Karma kisses her mom on the cheek, pulls her apron over her head, and picks up a vegetable peeler. Then she turns and heads back to her own family. She feels warm the whole way home, in a way that has nothing to do with stolen Prosecco or ginger or the sun.

When she gets back, Amy realizes she never did get her popcorn. But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all.