Sweetest.

Sweetest.

Constance Sloane hates the summer.

She works the farmer’s market, spending hours selling and transporting fruit under the South Carolina sun. The days end with Constance sticky, plum-scented, and dark.

She could rinse the sticky, scrub the smell, but that dark is staying until the mid-winter.

She hates it.

The calendar by her mirror has a date circled in red. July 13th, first day of peak plum season. Next to it is a picture of her from winter. She’s smiling there, face full of sun-dodged skin.

Constance turns to face her reflection. Her face now is sun-swarmed. She presses a calloused hand to the smooth skin, mouth tilted halfway into a frown. Her face is warm under her touch. The sun burns inside and out.

“Connie!” Her mom calls from downstairs. “You gon’ make us late!”

She shakes her head, braided plaits moving with her. Her sigh is heavy as she leaves her room.

**

The Sloane Farmers stand is set up. The plums are stacked in crates. The sun blisters the ones that rest just past the awning. Constance shades her face with her hand.

“Hey, how you?” A girl asks. She doesn’t wait for a response; immediately busies herself with the plums. Constance watches her dig through the crates. Every so often she’ll stop. Hold one up to the sun, squint at it. Either throw it in her basket or back into the crate.

“Um, ’scuse me, what you doin’?”

She finally meets Constance’s eyes. Hers are bright and brown. Sun-warm. 

“Lookin’ for the darkest ones.” She shrugs, turning back to the crate. “Them the sweetest.”

Constance scoffs despite herself. “The darkest ones?”

“Yeah.” The girl throws another plum into her basket. She looks up again, smiles at Constance’s disbelief. Constance feels antsy under her gaze. 

“Y’know,” The girl cocks her head to the left. “I bet, as dark as you is, you real sweet too.”

She slides a twenty between them, much more than the total, and raises a plum as a goodbye. It’s the darkest one in her basket.

Constance is sun-swarmed all over again.

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