All characters are mine and mine alone. If they look like anybody you know or think you know, it’s sheer coincidence. This story does contain some matchmaking, love, letters, and obscure media references. If you don’t like any of these, please try your call again.
Synopsis: Mar is a matchmaker. Every day she receives letters telling her what to do so someone can fall in love. Yet no one can fall in love with Mar until she earns the right to be loved.
Questions? Comments? Rude remarks? email@example.com
Love does not happen as organically as you think it does. Humanity is so busy these days that people fail to look up and notice others. That’s where people like me come in. I’m Mar Nichols and I’m a matchmaker.
The world has called people like me different names over the centuries. The most common words in the United States were cupids, valentines, or cherubs. I hate being called a cherub. I do not have wings and I certainly do not have a thing for diapers.
There are more of us matchmakers out there then you think. We have a forum on the Dark Web and the last count of members was around twenty thousand. We’re all over the world.
This isn’t a professional corporation or anything like that. I didn’t apply to be a matchmaker; I was born one. No one knows how matchmakers are chosen. There’s a whole section of the forum dedicated to possible theories. Some matchmakers seem to be genetic and those families are how we know so much about matchmaking history. There are some matchmakers who can trace their history back to the Xia Dynasty in China.
Did you know that some matchmakers speculate that the matchmaker in the movie Mulan, which takes place during the Han Dynasty, was actually a real matchmaker?
At first watch, you think she’s this mean, non-observant woman who was totally cruel to Mulan. But several matchmakers hypothesize that the scene was staged by the matchmaker. This woman probably saw dozens of girls every year and she would have been trained to notice all the little details about a girl. She knew previous girls hid the final admonition on their fans and probably saw a few hid it on their arms too. She knew the ink was there. How could she miss it when she walked entirely around Mulan who had her arm showing? Every action the matchmaker did with Mulan was on purpose and her last sentence was specially tailored to haunt and drive Mulan until she discovered her honor, saved China, and happened to find a nice love interest at the end.
I got off on a tangent. As I was saying, we have most of our history documented by those who have a matchmaker every generation. Other matchmakers are just born. Some speculate that it was because their parents were brought together by a matchmaker or that a matchmaker touched their already pregnant mother. No one has been able to find out for sure because it’s not exactly data you can track. It’s not like matchmakers wear signs are anything.
Mom, did anyone touch you while you were pregnant with me? Yes, child, hundreds of strangers.
We do actually have a sign that we are a matchmaker. From the moment we receive our letter, we have a heart outline tattooed on our inner left forearm. Not an anatomical heart shape which would just look strange, but a metaphysical heart. The thing about our tattoos is that only the individual can see it. I can only see mine and another matchmaker can only see his or hers. To gain access to the forum, you have to describe two things to an admin: what does your tattoo look like and what did the letter look like. I’ll get to the letters in a moment.
The tattoo can be different colors, but for less experienced matchmakers is a golden outline. The outline is not so much as a line as it is tiny written letters. No one has figured out what the letters represent or mean. Everyone who has tried to copy the letters of the outline finds they can’t. The words start to blur or smear as you write them down. The tattoo doesn’t show up pictures. Even those matchmakers who studied languages don’t understand the symbols. It’s no language known to man.
The colors of a tattoo are important but before I explain why, it’s best if I discuss the letter. At some point in a matchmaker’s life, they receive a letter. It’s a plain white envelope with a red stamp on it. Only you can open the envelope. Even if you’re ten and your nosey dad wants to see who was sending you a letter, your dad finds himself suddenly occupied with other things every time he goes to open it.
I received my letter when I was seventeen. My dad was one of those nosey dads, but he became strangely distracted when he tried to open it. Inside was a normal sheet of white copy paper with a typed message on it. Everyone’s letter, no matter what language it is in, goes something like:
“Dear so and so, you are a matchmaker. You will now be able to see the tattoo on your inner left forearm. Don’t tell this to other people because only you can see it. Follow the instructions exactly and you will be rewarded.”
It is not a detailed letter or a comforting one. One moment I’m just a normal seventeen-year-old girl and the next I’m a tattooed matchmaker. I did ask other people if they could see it, but carefully. I showed my forearm to my parents and asked if they could see anything. With confused looks, they reported no and asked why. I remember fibbing about it being itchy.
A week later, it’s usually a week to let your mind absorb what’s happening, another letter came. Same envelope and stamp. Inside the letter was a location, date, time, and directions. I had to be on 3rd street in front of Starbucks, on the 5th, at 4:03pm, and I was to “Run across the street exactly when you see the blue bird.”
I was terrified, but I followed directions. I was there at exactly 4pm because I didn’t want to be late nor too early. I leaned against the wall to hide the fact I was trembling. I watched the vehicles drive by me, going right since 3rd street was a one-way street. I looked nervously at my watch every five seconds and between those five seconds, I would scan for the blue bird. At 4:03, I started scanning around me constantly, mostly up at the sky. Where else would I find a blue bird in the city?
When I looked down, I saw it. The blue bird was Toucan Sam. A kid walking by with his mom was wearing a Fruit Loops shirt with Sam on the back. The letter had been right about the bird. So I ran across the street despite the fact it was jaywalking and the traffic light was green. My heart pounded and jumped into my throat as I heard brakes squeal and horns honk. I flinched even as I made it to the other side because of the unmistakable sound of a fender crunching against fender. I slowed to walk but kept moving. I didn’t want anyone to catch me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a white truck that had stopped for me had just gotten rear-ended by a red Sedan.
A Latino American man got out of the truck to argue with African American woman about the accident. I couldn’t understand why that was supposed to be a love match when you start off shouting at each other. The truth wouldn’t have dawned on me until much later if I hadn’t lapped around the block to check back up on them.
The directions we follow might not have a direction causation to the people we interact with. I didn’t cause the man and woman to fall in love. I caused them to stop and deal with an accident for an hour. This lead to their sons, each about seven, to sit beside each other on the curb as their parents argued with each other, insurance agents, and police officers. I noticed them because they had a golden haze around them as they giggled and laughed with each other. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I like to think those two kids met up later in life and fell deeply in love as they remembered the first time they met.
So every week or so, I get a new letter. You have to have a flexible lifestyle to be a matchmaker. You never know what day, time, or location you will have to be. There is no use in making plans further than a day or two out because you never know when you have to make a match. It’s actually worse to make plans because the letters always seem to know. The letters seem to test your loyalties. The more you make plans, the more the letters seem to specifically overlap and ruin your plans. This means you have to make a choice: the letter versus your family/friends.
To keep my lifestyle flexible, I run a booth in a large warehouse that rents booths to people who want to sell antiques, crafts, or anything else. I pay the owners $300 dollars a month for a very large booth plus ten percent of what I sell, and I keep the rest. I usually sell about $1800 dollars per month worth in items. It’s not a lot, but with my rewards I make it by.
If you follow the letter’s instructions, you will be rewarded. When I was dead broke and about to be kicked out of my apartment, I found this nice old man, Mister Tom. Mister Tom agreed to let me stay in his guest house at the back of his yard for half of what I was paying for rent if I agreed to help him around the house and yard. Even better, he agreed to let me use his old workshop. That’s where I build and make all the stuff for my booth. That is one example of a reward. If you follow instructions, life will take care of you. If you don’t…well…I’ll get to that later.
Of course, all of us matchmakers work up to the big reward: love. We work and follow directions so that one-day someone will fall in love with us. We can love people, but it’s like being in a permanent friend zone. People like us, have fun with us, enjoy sex with us, but no one falls in love with us. You have to keep working until one day you earn the reward of love. When you do earn love, your tattoo fades to a soft silver color and you get to retire. There are several retired matchmakers on our board. They act as wise sages or pain in the butts, depending on which one you talk to.
You get four warnings in this job. The first time you mess up or choose your life over being a matchmaker, your tattoo stings. It’s a dull pain for about a week. The second warning is a pretty painful burn that just keeps hurting even if you take drugs. The third warning is painless. Your heart tattoo turns pink. The fourth warning is also painless: your tattoo turns dark pink and a faint line starts creeping down the middle. The fourth warning is your last warning. The fifth time you don’t follow directions your heart turns blood red and is separated in halves where the line was. These means you will never find love and no one will ever love you.
There is no one on the forum with red, heart-halves. We refer to them as half-hearts. Matchmakers only know about the final stage from others who have done research. The thought of never loving anyone drives some people to drink or do drugs. Others take their lives. Some half-hearts go insane; usually the European-American males. Most white male serial killers were half-hearts driven deeply crazy and they did horrible things. You probably know the most famous serial killing, half-heart: man in the Whitechapel part of London in the late nineteenth century.
I’ve had two warnings in my life. The first time was because I wanted to go out with friends rather than running across town in the rain. The second time was just after my girlfriend broke up with me. She told me she didn’t love me, no matter how hard she tried. I didn’t want to help someone else find love when I couldn’t find it. So I got my second warning. The week long pain made me rethink my point of view. This was before I found the forum and knew what all this was leading up to.
I can’t even remember where I saw the ad for the forum. Someone had posted somewhere “Are you a matchmaker? Come join us.” It was simple, but it was enough to catch my attention. Clicking on the link took you to a simple white webpage with three questions, three boxes for your answers, and links at the bottom if you wanted to change the language. The first question was what color is your heart, the second was what was in the letter, and the third asked for an email address.
I knew from the moment I read the first two questions that I had found others like me. I typed in everything and waited by my computer. Within a few hours, they sent me instructions on how to get to the hidden site. Before you could post, you had to make a username and read through all the pages of history they had posted. That was no problem because I was eager for information. That’s where I learned of the warnings and reward.
This year marks my tenth year as a matchmaker. I keep wondering when will my reward come. Some people receive their reward after a few short years and some have waited twenty or more years.
Right now, it’s the week before Valentine’s Day and it is, as you may imagine, the busiest week of a matchmaker’s year. Valentine’s Day is actually a break for us. I’ve never had a letter on the morning of V-Day. I guess whoever sends the letters thinks it would be too cruel to send someone to create love when they are unable to find it themselves on the most commercially romantic day of the year.
Yeah, we don’t know who sends the letters. Each of us believes something different. Those who believe in Christianity think its God. Others believe its Cupid or Eros. I just believe I have a tattoo no one else can see, random letters show up at my door, and l see a golden haze when I make a match. I think it’s best to not ask questions.
On the morning of February 11th, I walked to my front door to find five, white envelopes with red stamps in front of it. Mister Tom thought I was crazy to install a mail slot in a guest house’s door when the regular mail gets delivered to the front of the house, but I charmed the old fellow into letting me do it. Whoever delivers the letter will shove them under the door or throw the cracks on the sides if they had to. There is no worse way to start the morning then having to unwrinkle your assignment.
I opened and read each letter before sorting them by time. They were all assignments for the next day and I would have to schedule how I got around the city.
I had no less than six assignments to fulfill for that day. I had received those six letters the day before. Two of the assignments required driving out of the city. Luckily I had a truck to drive around in. It was one of my rewards I got near the beginning of my matchmaking career. I’ve always been extremely lucky with keeping up with the maintenance and care. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve won free oil changes in contests or about the time a nice old woman bought me four new tires because I stopped to help change her flat one. If a matchmaker does their job right, they are some of the luckiest sons of guns.
I was really nervous for my first assignment. Sometimes my letters have me break the law and I’m not talking about something as simple as jaywalking. My first letter directed me to run a red light at the corner of 11th and Roderick at exactly 9:16am. Running a red light meant I was either going to hit, kill, almost hit, or almost kill someone.
The crime could be worse though. I’ve had to steal from people before. Let me tell you it’s not fun to run down a busy street with a woman screaming bloody murder at you for stealing her leather, Fossil purse. It’s a good thing matchmakers are lucky because I’m sure that would have landed me in jail normally. On that assignment, the letter had me wipe down the purse and leave it on top of a cop car. I never did find out who fell in love with whom on that one, but it’s best not to ask questions when you just committed a felony.
So at 9:16am, I have to run a red light while going north. Then I have to drive out of city and order three slices of triple chocolate pie at a Waffle House off the interstate at precisely 11:11am. I’m not supposed to eat the slices; only to order, leave a ten on the counter, and walk out the door. At 12:46pm, I have to pump into a man wearing a red shirt in front of CVS on Townsend Road. At 5pm, I have to pick to attempt to steal someone else’s cab and get into a loud argument about it on 8th and Davis. For dinner, I have to go to a Chili’s and trip a waitress so that she has to spill a plate of drinks. To finish up the day I have to drive down a backcountry road at 11:43pm with my brights on.
It was going to be a long day and between all of my letters I have to: clean Mister’s Tom kitchen, go to the post office, work on items from my booth, and place the new stuff in the shop. It was going to be a long day, but I’m pretty good at time management. You have to be to be a matchmaker. Everything depends on time.
Running the red light turned out to be the easiest part of my day. I sat reading emails in my truck while timing the traffic light about thirty minutes before it was time. Timing is just right. At 9:15, I started my truck and eased out into traffic. The light was already yellow as I approached it and it turned red before I even got to the stop sign. I whispered “Please” as I kept on driving. I don’t know who I was praying to, but I was praying.
It’s easy to run a red light with your eyes closed. It’s a rather “Jesus Take the Wheel” kind of moment. I heard cars slamming on brakes and horns on either side of me and a few screams. I opened my eyes after a moment as I kept on driving, my heart pounding in my chest. Looking back in my rearview mirror, I saw two people lying beside each other on the curve. I was willing to bet someone had just saved someone else’s life.
I got the ninth degree at the Waffle House. Who knew it could be so hard to order three slices of pie, pay, and leave? The waitress asked me why I wanted the pie, if I had ever had it before, why did I need three slices, where was I from, did I know Billy Nichols, was I related to him because I looked like him, and so forth and so forth. I know she was just doing her job of being friendly, but I’m not in a chatting mood when I’m on the job. I had a headache by the time I left the Waffle House. I didn’t even stick around to see what happened.
Sometimes I worry I’m getting jaded about love. I can’t imagine it’s good to do this job when you no longer care about people falling in love. The best matchmakers are the ones who have a touch of hopeless romantic in them. I was that way once. Three pretty bad, bitter breakups will knock that out of a person. It wasn’t even their fault. They couldn’t love me no matter how much I loved them.
I had a panic attack in front of the CVS because there were two gentlemen walking by the store at 12:56pm wearing red shirts. I didn’t know which one was the one I was supposed to bump into. So I angled both of them in my line of sight and started running. I bumped both of them in the shoulder and had to keep running as they shouted very mean things at me. Luckily I had parked my truck around the corner. People get really upset when you hit them. Go figure.
It was a really bad night to have dinner at Chili’s. They were short-staffed and the food wasn’t that good, to be honest. I felt bad about tripping the waitress. She seemed like a nice woman. So at the right time, I stuck my legs out of the booth as she was walking by. I made it seem like I was getting up to go to the restroom. The poor lady didn’t have any time to stop or sidestep me. Down she went with two diet cokes, one sprite, and a sweet tea.
People must think I’m a real dick. Part of being a matchmaker is that you rarely can stop and help the person you bumped, tripped, hit, or almost killed. That’s somebody else’s job which leads to falling in love somewhere along the line.
So I got a lot of glares as I went to the restroom. I actually left instead of going back to my table. I had left enough to cover my bill and a good twenty percent tip. I had to work in the food service industry through my brief, unsuccessful stint at college and I know how hard the job is. You always tip your server.
Driving down the back country road with my high beams on wasn’t hard, it was just tiring. It had been a long day and I just wanted to go home. I actually pissed off a lot of people around 11:43pm. There were a lot of cars going down that road and everyone one flashed me to alert me to the fact my brights were on. I ignored them, of course. I’m surprised none of them didn’t turn around and follow me home.
It was almost 12:40 AM before I got home. It had been a lot drive out to the country and back. I stripped off my clothes, brushed my teeth, and got into bed. I didn’t go right to sleep though. I took my laptop from beside the bed and turned it on. I had to be very careful with my old laptop. I couldn’t put it on my bare skin because it would burn me after a while. I couldn’t put it on too thick of a blanket because it wouldn’t ventilate. I had to layer myself with a sheet folded just the right way for optimal laptop in bed use.
The only reason I grabbed my laptop was because I wanted to talk to her. ‘Her’ was Bluefrost55. That’s her username, obviously. I called her Blue and she called me Zig. My username on the forum is ZigZagging because that was what I felt my life was like at the time I made it.
I know lots of bits and pieces about Blue. She’s a matchmaker, just like me. We’re both stationed in the US though we didn’t go into specifics. She got her letter when she was nineteen. Blue’s two years older than me so that means we’re both been working ten years since I got my letter two years earlier than her. She hadn’t gotten her ultimate reward yet either. She’s funny and she makes me laugh.
Okay, yes. I had a crush on a woman I had never met or seen. Blue could have been a middle age man for all I knew. Anonymity wasn’t enforced heavily on the site, but Blue took it seriously. She said she had previous bad experiences with online stalkers. I respected that and let her have her space. It’s not as if she could love me.
Now I know a thought may have just crossed your mind. If Blue is a matchmaker, how could I have a crush on her? No one could fall in love with her either. But I didn’t say I was in love with her. I just had a crush on her. Or at least the idea of her. Crushes are allowed, but they never extend past admiration or likability between matchmakers.
Blue was online, just like I hoped she would be. I had told her I was having a late night so I had hoped she would stay up late for the chance to talk to me. I messaged her across the private chat system.
ZigZagging: Hello there.
BlueFrost55: Hey there! How did it go?
ZigZagging: I probably blinded several nice people and ruined a waitress’s career.
BlueFrost55: So a slow day then?
ZigZagging: LOL. Yeah. Slow.
ZigZagging: How was your day?
BlueFrost55: Oh, same old. Hacked this account, posted on that account. Created a dozen ads and pop-ups.
Each matchmaker has a specialty. Most of us seem to be runners like myself. We run around doing what the letters tell us to do. We’ve been around since the beginning of matchmaker, whenever that was.
The next specialty is the bartenders. Not all of the bartenders are in fact bartenders though on a pie graph, bartending would take up a fair share of the bartenders’ occupation percentage. Being a bartender matchmaker means those matchmakers are good at listening and making small nudges to notice other people. Bartenders receive letters just as us runners, but they stay in one place most of the time.
The next type is the mailers, but this subtype of dwindling fast. The mailers have been very popular throughout history. They are responsible for sending out written matchmaking items. They used to forge letters and scroll throughout time. Most people trash any mail that isn’t a bill or it gets tossed into a forgotten pile. Now mailers mostly do a lot of messages in bottles and writing appointment cards with the wrong times.
The baby of the archetypes is the electronics. Blue is an electronic. They first started as people who specialized in wrong telephone calls. Then they started slowly migrating towards computers with the affordability of the personal computer. Once the web browser was invented, this niche of matchmakers exploded. Just as technology is the fastest growing industry, electronics is the fasting growing type of matchmaker.
They do everything. They hack email accounts, messaging apps, and shopping accounts.
How strange that your Amazon shipping label says 19B instead of 19E and the nice guy in the apartment was nice enough to bring it to you.
They post or send messages that people don’t remember sending.
Did you really ‘wink’ at that girl’s photo you’ve been looking at for weeks? You must have accidently swiped the wrong way. Nope. You got hacked. Thank a matchmaker any time.
They create advertising and send it to accounts.
That coupon for a free Arby’s roast beef sandwich you received? Not really from Arby’s. You’re scheduled to fall in love over curly fries.
So electronics do a lot of really, fascinating work. I’m always intrigued when Blue goes into the details of how she accomplishes everything. It’s also why she’s very big on anonymity. She hacks people’s lives as a side job.
ZigZagging: That does sound like a regular day for you.
BlueFrost55: Yes, it was. It took some time to complete everything. I didn’t have time to get any real work done.
ZigZagging: Such as…painting?
Blue refuses to tell me what she does for an actually living. She keeps teasing me with it though. She says I will never guess because it’s so different then her job as an electronic matchmaker. Of course, she is completely unfair in the fact that she will not tell me if I’m guessing wrong or right.
A few seconds passed before she replied. A gif popped up of the box of Wayne Knight wagging his fingering at me while saying “Ah-ah-ah. You didn’t say the magic word.”
I got the reference and responded with the next line.
ZigZagging: Please! God damnit!
BlueFrost55: That’s one of the things I like about you, Zig. You know the way to a movie girl’s heart.
ZigZagging: So you’re a movie girl? Not a sci-fi geek or fantasy nerd?
BlueFrost55: No, I wouldn’t declare myself those titles at all. However, a good movie is a good movie. You can lose yourself in a good movie and Jurassic Park is one hell of a good movie.
ZigZagging: What’s your favorite movie?
BlueFrost55: Why do you hurt me like this? How can you make me pick one favorite movie out of all the good movies in our world?
ZigZagging: Because I am an evil runner who had a long argument with a Waffle House waitress today.
We carried on back and forth for an hour until I was typing with my eyes closed half the time and making mistakes the other half. Blue finally sent me to bed with the order to sleep and that she would talk to me tomorrow. That made me smile and I wished her goodnight.
I don’t have many friends left. I had a few in high school, but those have dwindled down to the occasionally Facebook post. Most of them have gone off, gotten married, and had babies. Not necessarily in that order either. I wasn’t in college more than a two semesters. That wasn’t enough time to make long, lasting friendships. Matchmaking doesn’t provide many opportunities to make friendly acquaintances and working to sell items at my booth is a lonely operation.
So the only friends I have are online. There are a few others besides Blue. I don’t talk to them as often as I would like, but we send messages and emails back and forth. They’re in different time zones you see, but they mean a lot to me. There’s Grandin in Sweden and Mai in Vietnam. Grandin is a bartender and Mai is a runner like me. We play games sometimes if we’re online together. I’m not the best at games, but I figured how to play Minecraft.
The next morning of the 12th, I found almost a dozen letters. For a moment, I didn’t even pick them up. I just leaned my head on the door and breathed in and out for a minute. I prayed for an easy 13th since all the letters all the ground would be for tomorrow.
Luckily, eight of the eleven seem to be a connected assignment. That usually meant I would be hitting up a convention or conference. I once had ten letters that directed me to a My Little Pony convention. That was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I did walk out with a cool looking rainbow pony whose name I forget.
The eight letters were all placed at the Watson Convention Center so I went online to see what kind of gathering was being held. I blinked a few times when I saw it was a turfgrass convention. I would be spreading love around at a turfgrass convention? Would I at least get free grass samples when I left?
After sorting the letters by time, I turned my attention for the day’s assignments. There were only six letters, but each required a lot of finesse for a runner. One required breaking a windshield.
You know, I’m an honest citizen when I’m not being a matchmaker. I don’t even pirate movies offline. I guess I know there’s only so far I can push my luck when I’m breaking the law often enough as a matchmaker.
Most of my assignments took place that morning.
First assignment was a domino effect. I had to set up everybody so everything happened just right. I had to bump a teenager who was digging his headphones out of his pocket. He tripped and his headphones flew out of his hands. A toddler walking beside her mom tripped as her feet tangled in the cord. The toddler grabbed her mom’s hand to keep from falling which off balanced her mom who dropped her phone. I then had to walk by and kick the phone into oncoming traffic. A nice woman quickly leaned down to save the phone from being crushed by a taxi that stopped in front of us. As the mother was thanking the man, another man wearing a Slytherin scarf got out of the taxi. I hopped right into the taxi, quickly slamming the door, and telling the driver to drive. The thing is that the scarf got caught in the door. This caused the scarf-wearing to spin around as his scarf unwound around his neck and the nice phone-saving man catch him. I glanced back to see a golden haze starting to form around the two men.
The second assignment was breaking the windshield. This took finesse because I had to do it with a golf ball. It took seven tries to throw the ball hard enough to crack the windshield. I walked away feeling weak and muttered promises of arm exercises.
I’ll spare you the details of the last assignments. They were just a lot of leg work. I was glad to finish up the last one and have time to go put new items in my booth.
I headed home to pick up the new items. One of my top sellers was my Terminus signs. The TV show called the Walking Dead had a season based off a place called Terminus. The place was advertised on railroad tracks by painting old railway maps of Georgia to where they intersected in the middle. A Terminus poster can be bought for about seven dollars. I take the posters a bit further.
I took old sheets of aluminum siding and beat them into a nice rippled pattern. Then I cut the siding into a nice sheet to fit the poster on with about five inches showing on all sides. I framed the entire thing in old pallet wood that I left scared and occasionally charred. It gave the whole poster an authentic, post-zombie feel. I got the siding and wood for free in my travels so I only pay for the poster. I sell my creation for forty dollars each. It’s a nice little profit for the amount of work I have to put in.
I loaded six signs and other little knickknacks I had in the truck. I then drove to Springer’s Market. The market was located inside an old factory. It was separated into rows and aisles of booths. Lynn, the main cashier, welcomed me as I walked in.
“You sold out of signs yesterday, Mar.”
I beamed because that’s what I like to hear. “I brought some more.”
I headed down Aisle 3 and turned right by the grizzly bear that never seem to sale. I personally think the bear’s owner had too high a price on the stuffed head, but it was a nice marker for me to direct others to my booth.
I had three signs left to bring in when a welcomed voice spoke behind me.
“Still selling those silly things?”
“Still selling those silly bottles?” I retorted, turning around to see Saba Abel. The dark-skinned bottle seller owned a booth a few booths down from me.
We hadn’t started off on the best of terms. When we first met, she accused me of underselling similar merchandise to make her look bad.
Several years ago, when I first opened my booth, I had a collection of old bottles I had found in an abandoned barn. The owner let me take them in exchange for cleaning the barn out. I did a little research on them and sold them for lower than asking price because I wanted to make some money often, not lots of money occasionally. Saba was a bottle collector and seller and she was not happy with my methods.
Of course, I stood my ground. I told her if she didn’t like how low I was selling them that she could buy them and sell them for higher. I still chuckle as I remembered the shocked look on her face as if the thought hadn’t occurred to her. She did just as I suggested.
I still pick on her about that meeting. I ask, “What kind of dealer doesn’t realize they can buy low priced wares and sell them for higher?”
She gets me back by making me speechless. “I was so in awe of your beauty, Marsha that I couldn’t focus.”
Two things: Saba likes to flirt and yes my name is Marsha. My parents reported they named me after Marsha from the Brady Bunch and I’ve never quite forgiven them for that. Saba found out my real name when she asked Lynn who owned the booth selling cheap bottles and Lynn handed her my booth registering card. She probably would have stopped using the name if I asked her, but I rather like the way it sounds when she says it.
Over the years, we’ve chatted a bit. I’d say we were friendly, flirty acquaintances. Saba discovered I started collecting and selling after my college attempt to stay afloat. I know she has a bachelor’s degree, but she wouldn’t say in what. Whatever it was, it wasn’t her passion.
“Ladies and bottles are my passion,” She had told me once with a gorgeous flirty smile.
Saba also told me she was always interested in bottles since childhood and her favorites are the collection of hand-blown African bottles her grandfather collected and gave to her when he passed away.
She smiled, “Need a hand?”
I gave her one of the signs to carry in and took the other two. I warned, “Make sure you don’t catch one of the metal edges. It could cut you. I tried to cover all of the edges with the wooden frame, but some may still be on the outside.”
“But blood would make it look for authentic,” She retorted. “You could sell it for more and share the profits with me.”
I laughed. “True. But you have really nice hands and I’d hate to ruin them.”
“You should see them in action,” She replied with a wink before heading inside. I took a deep breath before following.
Saba never seemed to want anything more than flirting. I was certain she was single and she never mentioned dating or conquests. I figured she either liked being alone or she wasn’t a kiss and tell kind of woman. Either way, I liked our banter and didn’t want to lose it.
We did have an awkward exchange once, a few weeks after we met those years ago.
I had asked if she wanted to go get a coffee and she thought I was asking her out for a date. I watched as she flushed and turned nervous. “Marsha, I appreciate the thought but I’m not…Right now I’m not…I had a bad breakup.”
My jaw dropped. “What? No, no, no. I don’t mean ‘no’ forever, but that’s not what I was saying. I mean yes I would normally ask you… but I wasn’t.”
I fumbled to find the right words until I settled on a similar truth as her. “I had a bad breakup too. I’m not dating right now.”
She looked utterly relieved. “Yeah, same here. Not dating.”
I added. “It’s not the right time for me to find someone yet. Someday though.”
Saba searched my face with her gorgeous espresso eyes for a long moment before agreeing with me, “Someday.”
We’ve been strictly flirty pals since.
Saba helped me place the signs in my shop. We chatted idling for a long time. I even lost track of time. I was grateful I didn’t have an appointment because I would have gotten another warning for sure. The thought of losing love makes my heart freeze.
I spent the evening helping Mister Tom clean up his study and I put a load of laundry on for him. He told me about his day hanging out at the park playing checkers and I gave him pieces of my day. We have a really beneficial relationship, me and Mister Tom.
That night I watched a movie with Blue. It was Groundhog’s Day and she flipped her lid when she found out I had never seen it. So I agreed to rent the movie from Amazon and watch it with her. Most of my screen was taken up by the movie and a tiny corner was kept on a chat box where we would post comments, reactions, or laughter. I did most of the comments and reactions and she did most of the laughing. At the end of it, I had to agree it was a good movie.
Blue and I talked until I couldn’t keep my eyes open again. Again she ordered me to sleep with the promise of tomorrow. It was good she sent to me to bed because I would need the sleep for the 13th.
I will not repeat everything that happened on the 13th. It was perhaps the worst series of assignments I had ever had and I once had to make three matches happen jailhouse bathroom. That is a long story, don’t ask.
I will say that the people in the turf grass business are not amenable to falling in love. They make it very, very hard for a matchmaker.
First of all, it took me forever to get into the convention center. I ended up having to bribe a guard with forty dollars. I almost got my third warning several times throughout the day. I had to sit through four hours of seminars where I didn’t understand four out of five words. One seminar was almost as bad as Vogan poetry. I almost did have to gnaw off my leg to survive. I’m sure the material was interesting, but the speaker was not.
The last two of the eight convention letters took place at the after party. I can tell you that crawling through drunk turf grass people until after midnight trying to make matches is not fun times. Those people are wild, loud, and hands-on drunks. The women were worse than the men let me tell you. Some of those people owe me dinner and one woman owes me an engagement ring after what I had to endure to escape the bar.
I was grateful my other letters had been simple runs that took place before the convention. I was in no shape to do an assignment after that. Those people better love each other for a long time after the hell I went through to make sure they got together.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” I complained when I discovered the envelope as I got home that night. It had been a terrible day, it was after 1am, and the last thing I wanted to find was another letter. It was technically Valentine’s Day and I just wanted to have my day off already.
With a heavy sigh, I bent down to retrieve the letter. I didn’t open it until after I had shed my clothes, brushed my teeth, and got into bed. I knew it was foolish to wait. A late-night letter usually meant a last-minute change and it was important. I didn’t care. I wasn’t reading it until I was in the comfort of my own bed.
“February 14th, Springer’s Market, 10:14am, Aisle 3, round the corner to the left by the bear, bump into the woman.”
My brow instantly furrowed. Was I making a match near my own booth? It was actually about two booths down from my booth. My store was to the right of the grizzly bear. To the left was...Saba’s store.
I groaned, rolling over into my pillow. I was willing to bet the woman I bumped into would be Saba and I would probably end up matching her up with someone. Tomorrow would be her ‘someday’ to find someone. I was filled with jealousy and envy. Saba would find her love tomorrow and I would be alone on Valentine’s Day. Again.
A smaller part of me didn’t want to express that I was also upset that Saba would find her love tomorrow and she would no longer flirt with me.
I mean she might still flirt with me, but it won’t be the same once she’s with someone. There was the idea that she was an option even if it would never come true. I know she can’t really every love me, but it was nice to be flirted with.
So I set my alarm earlier. If I was going to the market on Valentine’s Day, might as well put some stuff in the booth. I wondered how the event would go down. Would I bump into her and then another patron would stop and help her up? Or would she fume about it later to someone and that would set off a chain of love? Perhaps it wouldn’t be Saba at all though I extremely doubted it.
I was so upset about the letter that it made me too mentally exhausted to log onto the forum. I made a mental promise to get on after my assignment to see if Blue was around. She would lend me a sympathetic ear at least.
The market opened at nine and I was there on the dot. Lynn and I chatted for a few moments before I went to work. I spent the first hour bringing in new items and dusting.
I was very nervous about this letter for some reason, but hanging new Terminus signs kept me occupied. They were my best selling items this month. A lot of Walking Dead fans have sweethearts.
Around ten, I snuck outside to my truck and waited. I was on the other side the parking lot, but I watched as Saba pulled in a few minutes later. I took the moment to admire her as she went inside. She was a beautiful woman, after all. I told myself I wouldn’t get upset when she found her love today. I told myself that anyway. That didn’t mean that’s how it would actually go down.
Lynn greeted me with a curious look as I walked back in. “Did you leave something?”
I gave a tired nod and pointed towards my booth. She gave an understanding nod and went back to reading.
At exactly 10:14am, I rounded the corner and sure enough bumped into Saba. She staggered a bit and I flinched as I heard the sound of breaking glass. I looked down to see one of her priciest bottles on the floor in about eight pieces. My heart and wallet broke into as many pieces as the blue shards on the ground. Those bottles were not cheap and she knew my name.
I looked up to see her staring at the pieces as well, an upset-and-yet-somehow-calculating look on her face. I glanced around to see if anyone was coming to help her, but the row seemed empty.
Normally this is the part where I would run, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I thought about just grabbing the piece of the bottle with the price tag and running to the front of the store to pay for it. Anything to avoid a confrontation.
Yet I became pinned as those beautiful, honey brown eyes snapped up to look at me.
“What the hell, Marsha?”
I flinched again. “I’m so sorry, Saba. I didn’t see you there.”
She looked really upset. It was an expensive bottle and I was already reaching for my wallet.
Then she sighed. “No. It’s fine.”
“Fine?” I repeated out loud.
“Yes. Don’t worry about it, Marsha,” Saba said with another heavy sigh.
“No, ma’am,” I firmly stated, surprising myself. “I broke this bottle and I’m going to pay for it.”
She seemed surprised by my action not to take the easy way out. She then gave me that flirtatious smile. “Oh, you are?”
That smile made me giddy.
“Absolutely,” I reasserted. “I’m going to cover this.”
I bent down to pick up the piece with the price tag. I tried to cover my wince at the price for such a little bottle.
“So how are you going to pay?” She teased, having seen my wince.
“Debit? Credit? Cashier’s check?” I tossed out. “Equal merchandise from my shop?”
She laughed at the last one and it made me irrationally happy. What slipped out of my mouth next, I blamed on the happiness.
“Or I could buy you dinner?”
I knew it was a stupid thing to do. It wasn’t likely she would say yes given how badly she freaked out the time I asked her for coffee. Even if she did say yes, she couldn’t fall in love with me. It would just end in pain. I guess that makes me a masochist when it comes to love because I was suddenly willing to try all over again.
She seemed stunned by the offer just as she was the first time. A lot seemed to go through Saba’s head in the next few seconds. My heart jumped in my chest at her reply.
“Alright, but it’s going to have to be a really nice dinner. You are probably going to have to toss in a movie.”
A huge smile broke out onto my face. “I can do that. I’ll even make it a good movie.”
Saba beamed, “That’s good. I love good movies.”
“And if you don’t feel I’ve matched the price after a single dinner and movie, I’d be willing to repeat the experience as many times as needed,” I solemnly pledged.
Saba chuckled and I felt my heart swell with pleasure.
The pleasure didn’t stop at my heart. It kept growing and growing until it reached a point where I thought I might die from it. At that point, it seemed to burst out of me and all around us grew a golden haze. Saba was the only thing clear to me in the haze. She was my focal point, but the haze was pretty eye-catching.
My attention snapped back to her because I didn’t want her to get the wrong idea. Then I noticed she was looking around at the haze and my heart paused.
Could she see it too?
Could she see it because it was for us or because she was…
My train of thought stopped as she lifted her left arm and gazed in awe on the inside. I couldn’t see anything on her arm, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t. I knew what she was looking at. She was looking at a heart-shaped tattoo.
The shocking realization that Saba was a matchmaker faded just a moment at the eagerness to see my own tattoo. My heart was a golden blaze for blinding moment before it faded into soft silver. I had been rewarded. I was falling in love with someone who could love me back.
I looked back at Saba to find her studying me in wonder. She was realizing what I had just realized about her.
With a soft, warm smile she took my hand and pulled me close into a kiss. I didn’t mind at all. We’re matchmakers. We know when to skip to the best parts.
“How about we go for a Valentine’s Brunch now and have dinner later?” Saba asked, after what was a really, really nice first kiss. I simply nodded and held tighter to her hand. I was a little afraid to speak in case I was dreaming and didn’t want to ruin the dream.
We giggled as we picked up the broken pieces of blue-frosted glass together and carefully stored them away to retrieve later. We were already arguing about what to make out of the shards as we walked out of the store hand in hand. After all we were both suddenly retired from our main occupation and would have to find ways to pass the time. We found other ways to pass the time.
If I had logged onto the forum the night before instead of falling asleep, I would have seen I had a message from Blue.
“Hey, where have you been ZigZagging? You usually log in at night to chat. I guess I’m just missing you. Please don’t hold that against me.
Anyway, I just really had to share this before I went to sleep. I got a runner assignment! Strange right? I have to work on Valentine’s Day and it’s not even my usually type of assignment.
I have to go to my shop tomorrow around 10:13am and hold up one of the items I own. Yes, I own a shop. Now you finally know what I do. But it might be some time before I tell you what I sell. I have to keep you guessing to keep you interested. It’s so strange to be on a runner’s assignment. All I have to do is stand there and hold the thing? I wonder who is going to fall in love because I stand still and hold a thing?
I’ll let you go now, Zig, and hopefully I’ll get to talk to you tomorrow. I really miss talking to you. I’ll let you know how the runner letter went.
I got a P.S. on my note. It told me not to get angry and to be forgiving. I think that means the thing is going to break which I hope to God it doesn’t since it’s expensive. Do you ever get P.S.s?”
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