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They came in uniforms to protect themselves from damp days: raincoats hunched over their shoulders, flat-caps, curls hidden under patterned scarves. Every morning they turned up, hungry for a bunch of bananas, a pound of satsumas, or a bag of potatoes to roast, boil, or steam. She was suited in trousers—rose silk. She was sheltered by a cream mac, golf-umbrella, leather gloves. I had my red apron on. The rain popped beads on my forehead. Her look was completed with thick face-powder, red lipstick, and layered mascara. My regulars were made-up with crows-feet, pimples, and laughter lines. Those apples were fresh in that day. But she wouldn’t buy a pound, nor half a pound, not even a quarter. She picked up one. Single. Apple. She stroked it like you would a new lover’s cheek. It was the reddest of them all. It was the biggest, the roundest, and the juiciest. I felt robbed.

Claire Smith’s poetry has recently appeared in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Riddled with Arrows, and Spectral Realms. She is studying for a PhD at the University of Gloucestershire. Find her on Instagram @clairesdivingfornightmares, Facebook @divingfornightmares, and at She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and their spoilt Tonkinese cat.
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17 Jun 2024

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