They passed carts of fruits, vegetables, pottery, baskets, iron pots, knives, leather goods, shoes, and numerous other items, most of which Joan had no clue about. Everything was new and intriguing.
“Marshmallows!” called a voice. “Get your grilled marshmallows here!”
Joan’s enthusiasm was suddenly dampened when she heard this. “Disgusting,” she commented.
Tim stepped up to the man and sold him his harvest. He came away with some coins in his pocket and a skewer of toasted marshmallows. He bit into one, the gooey mess pulling apart and settling on his chin. He licked it off, and Joan barfed.
“You sure you don’t want to try it?” he asked.
“Quite sure,” she managed to say between heaving breaths.
Seeing how the marshmallows caused her distress, he stepped away. “Wait here,” he said.
After he disappeared into the crowd, Joan collected herself. Upon recovery, she took some time to watch the people. Her kingdom in the sky did not have such lively crowds, and it astonished her. So many wonderful sights, so many glorious smells. She decided to bring some flowers back with her when she returned home.
Tim reappeared from the market, holding one hand behind his back. How considerate, she thought. He’s hiding the marshmallows so I can’t see them. He stopped in front of her and smiled. He was up to something.
He brought his hand forward. Joan expected to retch again but didn’t. Instead of a skewer of marshmallows, he held out to her a flower, bright red and beautiful.
“Thank you,” she breathed out.
Joan took the flower, buried her nose in it and inhaled. Her smile was more beautiful than any flower, thought Tim.
“Seeing how more has come out of you than gone in since you mentioned you were hungry,” said Tim, “I’m guessing we need to get something to eat.”
“Anything except marshmallows.”
They made their way to the cobbled main street. It was not as crowded here as in the market. Children ran up and down the lane chasing each other, men and women carried their business back and forth, others stood in doorways chatting. Up ahead, a few dozen marshmallows fell from the sky, bounced off of heads and skittered across the cobblestones. Children, and a few of the spryer adults, rushed to gather the morsels and stuff them into their mouths.
Joan stopped walking and closed her eyes.
“It’ll be over in a minute,” Tim sympathized.
After the fluffy white nuggets had been consumed, they made their way into a tavern with a heavy wood sign over the door that read The Three Marshmallows. Dark timbers spanned the ceiling, and tapped barrels lined the wall behind the high counter. A number of people clustered about and carried on a friendly conversation with each other across the room. Tim and Joan sat at a long table in the dim light of a grimy multi-paned window. A lady with arms like granite stepped over to them.
“Watcha got today, Maude?” he asked.
“Marshmallow soup’s always good,” replied the barmaid.
“Oh, no,” mumbled Joan.
“There’s the usual,” Maude sighed. “Roasted marshmallows, fried marshmallows, breaded and baked marshmallows, honeyed marshmallows coated with walnuts and, of course, the marshmallow cobbler.”
Joan sank lower at each named item until her head thunked onto the table.
“Anything without marshmallows?” asked Tim on Joan’s behalf.
“Your own marshmallows you sold us yesterday not good enough for you today?” She eyed Tim suspiciously. “What was wrong with ‘em?”
“Nothing,” Tim was quick to point out. “They were fresh. Still sticky.”
“Oooh,” groaned Joan with her head down.
“Just in the mood for something different,” offered Tim. “What else do you have?”
Maude impatiently described the coconut encrusted rosemary lamb tips with a side of roasted sweet potato medallions, and a frisée salad with garden tomatoes, a lemon garlic dressing and marshmallow crumbles. She paused to glare at Joan. “I suppose we could leave off the crumbles.”
“Yes, please,” said Joan. “That would be perfect.”