For years, people bought fruit from Imelda without realising that it was special. She knew, but she kept it a secret. She didn’t think a street market was a good place to unveil to the world that things were not always as they seemed. Then came along The Black Pages, the global directory for everything magical, mystical, ghoulish, ghostly and fantastical. Imelda adored it. She could find her nearest witch if she had a problem with self-animating brooms. She could find a real medium to help her ask her mother for the recipe to her famous chilli con carne. And, when she plucked up the courage, she could place a listing in the book for herself, and her mystical wares.
On a busy market street, she sold fruit. For years, she had regular customers. She made a small living for herself. Then magical beings came out of the proverbial closet, and she found herself having to admit to them that things weren’t exactly normal as far as her fruit was concerned. Now, with the newest copy of The Black Pages appearing spontaneously around the world, she had a new challenge: sell to customers who already knew what she did.
“What’s this do?” a man asked her.
“Apples? They help for calm. Stress is one of the biggest contributing factors to ill health, after all, so eating one of my apples every day will help keep the doctor away.” She smiled pleasantly. She didn’t like to shout like the other people at the market. She suddenly found she didn’t need to, either. The crowd was coming to her.
“And these?” a woman asked, holding up a lemon and lime.
Imelda chirped, “The lemons are for bitterness, and the limes to feel uplifted. Excellent palette cleansers when life feels a bit too much. Add sugar and water to the juice of the lemons and you have some pretty exciting lemonade.”
Selling her fruit was never any easier, but it did come with certain drawbacks. She couldn’t leave. She hoped that she wouldn’t need to use the toilet throughout the day – she had a specially trained bladder, anyway – but she knew she’d have to eat her own wares just to stay on her feet. She took a bite from a calming apple as the crowd swelled around her.
“The pears are for a little bit of happiness, especially when everything goes wrong,” she told a man as he picked up a few in his hands.
“Is this normal?” he asked her.
She hadn’t considered that. Normal was a relative term, to her. It felt normal to her to eat plenty of fruit throughout the day. It felt normal to her to look to different foods for different moods. She still turned to chocolate when she felt miserable, no matter how many pears she had in stock.
Imelda shrugged to the man, calm as could be with half an apple in her stomach. “It’s normal to me. Maybe it’s not natural, but that’s how we make change.” He looked at her sceptically. She could tell he was having difficulty with the concept of magical fruit. But she could also see a sadness in his eyes. “Tell you what, take a pear on the house. Try it. But make sure you eat it before it goes off. The magic sort of…breaks.”
“Well, you know, the pear will make you feel a bit sad.” She pointed around at different fruits on her stall. Others were listening to her warning. “The apples will make you stressed and flustered. The lime will make you melancholy. Gentlemen really don’t want one of the gone off bananas, let me tell you that.”
Someone chuckled, and she supposed it must have been funny. The man took the pear gratefully, and the crowd filled in his space.
Imelda was not used to this amount of pressure. When her apple was gone, she began to eat a pear. She felt she needed the smiles to keep her going. She tried her best to fill every order, whether it was for sensual strawberries or apathetic white grapes.
But she couldn’t shake the feeling that the man had come to her as a last resort. She hoped to see him again. She was used to having regulars. She wasn’t used to wishing she had them. Imelda wasn’t sure if she had feelings for him, or if she just felt things about him. He was handsome, and he was sad. The former made him easier to look at, and that only made the sadness shine through.
Her father had been good with feelings. He could tell someone’s mood just by looking at them. He supposed that maybe he was a bit special, but he didn’t see it as being particularly useful when he worked as a landscape photographer. He said he didn’t have the capacity for social work.
Her mother, on the other hand, was just a wonderful chef. Imelda wondered if she was magical, but she had been assured on several instances that she was just a regular human who loved a good meal.
Imelda grew up with their passions. Food was special to her. Moods were special to her. Eventually, she learned to combine the two, almost entirely by accident. It worked best with fruit, but her homecooked meals always made people feel better about themselves, no matter the ingredients.
She thought that all of this could make running the market easier. She thought that mood fruit would help her make a difference in the world. But as the day came to a close, she couldn’t stop herself crying. Tears streamed down her face. Customers continued to arrive, buying out most of the rest of her stock.
The man returned to her as she was packing up. “It worked,” he said to her, then paused. “Are you alright?”
She nodded, but she didn’t believe it. She looked for her pear, for a boost, and dropped it immediately to the ground. “Gone off,” she said under her breath.
The man placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “But it does work,” he reminded her. “Just like you said. And people wanted it, whether you were charming and upbeat, or crying in their faces.” She tried not to wail in his face. She tried not to weep when he bought her remaining pairs. She tried not to whimper when he suggested that his sister help run the stall tomorrow.
And, she realised, she laughed when he wiped away her tears. Some magics, like human kindness, were stronger than others.
The Happy Pear is part of a collection of stories about a magical phone book that exists within the supernatural community – The Black Pages. These stories related to my new book, A Death in the Family, which launches at K-Con on April 1st. Read about the book below:
Benjamin Cooper is about as close to death as someone can get, without actually dying. Literally.
In the wake of the Worst Year of the Century, the Coopers are visited by a man straight out of folklore, Death himself. Ben is forced, by way of fulfilling a supernatural debt, to take over the mantle of Reaper.
But life as Death is more complicated than Ben could ever imagine, and perfectly executing every order is rarely an easy task.
A Death in the Family is a tale of paying for others’ decisions, seeking to understand dying, and falling hopelessly in love.