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Riverside Farmer's Market, Freedom City

Saturday, June 29, 2019

12 p.m.

 

"I can't believe you invited your boss."

 

Mia Mustafic Markov leaned against the car in the farmer's market parking lot, a sour expression on her face. She looked a lot like her mother, Serena Mustafic, but stretched out and paler. She stood 6'00" tall, making her a bit gangly, which dwarfed her mother's 5'04". A smattering of freckles dotted the bridge of her nose and checks, breaking up the milky colour of the rest of her face while being partially obscured by a pair of big round sunglasses. Her jet black hair was done up in a high pony tail held up by a baby blue scrunchie. She was dressed for the weather, wearing a black tank-top with Mr. Yuk on the front, though she had no idea who Mr. Yuk was, along with a pair of jean shorts. She had opted to only wear flip-flops on her feet, partially due to the promise of time at the beach later.

 

"Lynn's a nice lady, give her a chance. Oh, and call her Ms. Epstein until she gives you the go-ahead."

 

Serena didn't really look much older than her daughter at the best of times, and her choice of attire today didn't help. She wore a promotional t-shirt for Bad Religion's Empire Strikes First album, the art of a man praying in front of a black and blood coloured American flag now faded some, along with a pair of high-waisted pastel blue shorts. As always, she wore her worn Doc Martens, but for today accessorized with a wide brimmed straw sun-hat and teashades. A red pleather purse hung from her shoulders, clearly having seen better days.

 

Serena pulled out her phone, and quickly shot Lynn a text message.

 

'hey, we r here in the parking lot. C u soon :)'

 

Then, she stowed her phone back in her purse, and shot her daughter a glance.

 

"You're not going to be a sour puss all day, are you?" she said to her daughter, peering over her sunglasses.

 

Mia rolled her eyes. "M'not bein' a sourpuss."

 

Serena smirked. "The sourest puss."

 

Mia frowned. "Could be in Philly right now. Could literally teleport there," she said sulkily.

 

"You do and the next place you better teleport is the moon, because I will kick your butt so hard it'll fly off," Serena said. She used a jokey tone, but Mia knew she would be in big trouble if she crossed her mom.

 

"I wooooon't," Mia whined.

 

Serena smiled. "Good. Now keep your eyes peeled for Lynn."

 

Mia folded her arms and sighed. "What am I looking for?"

 

"Tiny Jewish lady with more energy than a four year old on Halloween."

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For several decades while living on Otherworld with Bill, Lynn Epstein was unable to eat human food; apparently it was a side effect of her increasingly Fae nature. Sure, she could conjure food, and it could taste delicious, but it was incapable of making you feel truly full. So she made do, and took vicarious enjoyment in watching her family eat her wonderful Jewish home cooking. But then last summer, during her disastrous road trip vacation with Gretchen, the changeling had to sacrifice some of her glamour to save her girlfriend's life. And even though that was the beginning of the end of their relationship (or whatever it was you called it), one positive side effect was a return of her mortal appetite. Since then, she'd once again begun shopping for food, something she missed so much. And whenever she could, she loved to take in a local farmer's market.

 

At five foot three, with a petite frame and brown curly hair, Lynn definitely fit Serena's description. This afternoon, she wore a white peasant blouse with embroidered blue floral designs, a denim shirt and Teva hiking sandals. She also wore a black Stetson and big sunglasses, and had a hemp shopping bag over one shoulder. She was indeed energetic, and almost unnaturally attractive.

 

"Hey, stranger," she cheerfully called out as she waved at the pair; however, once she got a glimpse of Mia, her reaction was comedically extreme. "Holy s###, you're tall! I take it that comes from your dad's side?"

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Mia blushed at Lynn's reaction. She had gotten that reaction a lot since she had hit her growth spurt the year before. She had always expected she was going to be closer to her mom's size and shape, and instead ended up tall and thin like her dad's mom. She was still getting used to it - a lot of guys didn't exactly know how to handle a girl that was taller than them, and she was worried she wasn't done growing and was going to get even taller.

 

"Uh... Hey Ms. Epstein," Mia said, avoiding meeting the woman in the eyes. "I'm Mia. And yeah... My dad's huge too."

 

Serena smiled, and pulled Mia in for a hug. Obligingly, Mia dipped her head so Serena could kiss her on the forehead. "You're acting real shy all of a sudden. What's up?"

 

Mia shrugged. "Dunno."

 

Serena looked over at Lynn, and grinned. "Looking good, Lynn. Got kind a... 70s Frisco thing going on. I dig it."

 

Mia snorted. "Dig it?"

Serena rolled her eyes. "Sorry, I mean it's lit. Straight fire."

 

Mia groaned. "Mooooooom."

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As soon as the words had left her mouth, Lynn instantly regretted them. You know what teenagers really like? Adults pointing out unusual things about their appearance! If you needed any more proof she was a mom, you had it now.

 

"I'm sorry, Mia, that was rude as hell; tall girls are cool. In fact, I make myself tall all the time." She held a hand over her head. "Five eight is about as tall as I can go and still look normal, since I can't increase my mass; taller than that, I start to look scary."

 

Serena's compliment made her grin, and oh what a smile it was! The changeling tended to smile with her whole body. "Oh, thanks! Yeah, I spent a lot of time out West on Otherworld, and the style kinda stuck. So, what are we shopping for today? I don't anything specific planned, besides salad fixings "

 

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Mia smiled at Lynn, a crooked little grin to show that all was good. She straightened up her posture, standing at her full height instead of slouching, and started walking with her mom and Lynn.

 

"Well, it's a bit of a new one for me," Serena said, smacking her lower lip. "I am making something called sarma with my dad, which are like, these Bosnian cabbage rolls with lamb in them. So I need cabbage and ground lamb first and foremost."

 

Mia looked at her mother quizzically. "Grandpa runs a deli, he's gotta have lamb." Her voice was softer than her mom's, and her mother's North Jersey accent had fused with her dad's South Jersey one to form a new and unique combination.

 

Serena shrugged. "Yeah, but I am sort of surprising him. He's been getting all nostalgic for the old country," she said, affecting a mimicry of her father's accent for the last two words. "So I am gonna cheer him up a bit."

 

Her gaze shifted back to Lynn. "Also gonna pick up whatever catches my fancy, really. There's a guy who makes great gelato around here."

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"Oh, I love a good cabbage roll," Lynn said with an appreciative groan. "My bubbe has an amazing recipe from back in Poland; we'll have to swap recipes!"

 

This led to an impromptu rendition of 'Hava Nagila', as she was talking recipes like an old woman, and feeling particularly Jewish just then. After the moment has passed, she turned to more serious subjects, raising her hand to be recognized by the chair. "Okay, point of order! On the gelato question: when, how much and what flavors? I need answers now.She playfully drove her fist into her palm to show the gravity of the situation.

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Serena smiled at Lynn. "I will save you some," she said. "And uh... Zuppa Inglese, hazelnut, coffee, peach... Cherry..."

 

Mia, on the other hand, felt the need to comment to Lynn. "You remind me a lot of my dad's dad. He's uh... I mean. Like he's also..."

 

Serena smirked at Mia. "Her dad's parents are Russian Jews. I didn't find that out for months after we started dating. They didn't really approve of me."

 

Mia nodded. "Grandma still calls you the sh-"

 

"Oof, let's not say that word in public in New Jersey," Serena interjected. She looked back at Lynn. "Yeahhh, one of the many factors in Pete and I's divorce."

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"They played the shiksa card?" Lynn shook her head sadly. "Ugh, old Jews are the worst. Well, they can be; some of them are super-cool." She winked, but then her eyes went wide as they finally approached the stalls. "Omigod, check out those eggplants! You get the best eggplant here in Jersey."

 

And it was true; they were beautiful, as were the cucumbers and radishes beside them.

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Mia looked at Lynn in confusion for a moment, obviously wondering why Lynn was calling herself old, but Serena noticed it and intervened.

 

"She's magic, older than she looks," she said quietly to Mia.

 

However, her attention was drawn to the eggplants, and she moved over, eyes twinkling. With purpose, she picked out the fattest and best looking ones.

 

"This is perfect," she said to the other two women. "I can make malidzano with this. Dad will love it. Just need to get bell peppers."

 

Mia blinked. "Where'd you learn all this weird stuff?"

 

Serena side-eyed her daughter as she paid for the eggplants. "It's not weird, it's your heritage. It's no different than when your dad makes solyanka or borscht or whatever."

 

Mia snorted. "Dad hasn't made borscht in a bajillion years. We mostly eat like... Spaghetti, or burgers and stuff."

 

Serena sighed. "Look, your grandpa really misses Bosnia and I'm trying to give him a taste of that, you know? Besides, it's... It's a bonding thing. I didn't get time with him when I was young so this is a chance for us to do something together."

 

Mia fell silent, and then nodded. "Sorry, mom."

 

Serena blinked. "Why are you sorry?"

 

"You got a little misty eyed there for a second."

 

"I did not!" Serena protested, then looked at Lynn and Mia. "Did I?" She asked, sounding unsure of herself.

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Posted (edited)

"A little bit," Lynn admitted, scrunching up her nose and holding her thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart. "But that's perfectly normal; keeping kosher kept me connected to my culture and spirituality, even all those years when my stupid faerie body wouldn't let me eat. Making fresh challah for my family on Shabbat, or making my grandmother's mahzo ball soup for my kids when they were sick, kept me sane."

 

Then an idea struck her, and she got very excited, slapping Serena repeatedly on the arm. "Oh, oh, you guys have to come over for Shabbat dinner some Friday; I haven't done a proper one since Gretchen moved out, because it's no fun if you're alone. How about it?" 

 

Could those brown eyes get any bigger?

Edited by Heritage

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Serena nodded sympathetically at Lynn when she talked about being unable to eat yet going through cooking for her family to keep herself grounded. She had no real comparable experience, but she knew that it was essential to keep connected to what was important to you.

 

She was incredibly surprised, and a little confused, when Lynn started bapping her arm. She was about to ask her what she was doing when Lynn presented her idea. Serena's face split into a big smile, and she looked to Mia, who had more of a little grin.

 

"Yeah, I think we'd be good with that," she said.

 

"We're going to the beach after this," Mia interjected. "You should come. I mean, you'd hafta pick up a bathing suit, we're wearing ours under our clothes, but like that wouldn't be too hard, right?"

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Lynn literally laughed out loud at Mia's invitation, but without any sort of mockery of malice. "Kid, I am like the Cher of the superhero community; I do more costume changes than, well, Cher. Here, lemme-"

 

She ushered them around a corner, then stepped inbetween two stalls, blocking her from any view other than straight ahead. After cranning her neck to make sure there were no witnesses, she waved her arms in a flourish, transforming her look with a swirl of mist into a wide straw hat, oversized sunglasses, tiny black bikini and pair of open-toed wedges. Even her shoulder bag was now a blue canvas tote. Tilting down her shades to give them both a playful look, the changeling grinned.

 

"See? You grow up in Atlantic City, you know how to beach."

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Mia whistled in appreciation. "See, when I tryta do it, I just end up making something weird that's not much of anything. Mine's not magic though, just rearranging the molecules," she said, before pausing. "I should probably focus on chemistry. Might be able to do the cool stuff you can do."

 

Serena nodded appreciatively. "Yeah, that's a handy trick. I'm more good at breaking stuff than making it." Her gaze lingered on Lynn for a moment, before she turned and looked back at the market. "So, yeah, after this we can head to the beach."

 

Mia's eyes flew up for a moment. "Ohhh."

 

Serena looked back at Mia. "Hm?"

 

Mia folded her arms, smiling off at some point in the distance. "Nothing. We should get that gelato next."

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"Yeah, gelato sounds great," the bikini-clad fae chimed in. She made a sort of 'unzipping' motion, starting at her head, and her previous look quickly returned as she stepped out into the market. "If you're going to make clothes, I suggest some design classes, maybe even some textile science stuff. The animators at Pixar always do a ton of research before they start any project; you have to understand how something works before you can create it out of whole cloth." 

 

Lynn grabbed a few more choice veggies and a little basket of the plumpest, juiciest strawberries she'd ever seen before the group made its way towards the gelato stand.

 

"Hey, if you guys want, we can put our veggies in my interdimensional vault; it'll keep 'em cool and fresh while we splash around at the beach."

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Mia nodded at that, considering the possibilities of what she could create. She liked the idea of being able to make her own costume at any time she wanted, rather than having to wear some dorky school uniform when she dished out raw vigilante street justice. They had uniforms, right? She couldn't remember. She hadn't paid much attention when they talked to the school people. She was more busy sulking and thinking about how she was going to get out of that mess.

 

Serena nodded vigorously at Lynn. "That works out way better. When I get the lamb, that could get in there too," she said. Rather hastily, she snatched up a few cabbages, perhaps the most vital element of her plans. Aside from the meat, she supposed.

 

The gelato stand was a professional looking thing, with a well made sign struck in the colours of Italy proclaiming that it was "Paolo's Authentic Italian Gelato!" A well-built man stood at the front, his black hair thinning but his face still young, with powerful features. His brown eyes lit up as he saw Serena approaching, and he waved happily. "Ms. Mustafic! And Mia! It is good to see you again. It has been too long. I was starting to think you forgot me!" He had a strong Italian accent and a deep, warm voice.

 

"Oh, and you brought someone new!" he said, looking to Lynn. "Have they told you about this place? We make all our gelato at our main store, but I like to come out here on Saturdays to sell it here at the farmer's market. It's made in the traditional Italian style, which means you know you're getting real gelato. I learned to make it back in my home city of Naples, which, if you dunno, is the best place to get gelato. People'll tell you otherwise, but they are wrong."

 

Serena giggled. "Always get excited for new customers, huh, Paolo?"

"Always!" He responded, smiling widely.

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"Once we're done with our shopping, I'll open it up and make an old-school icebox; it's pretty showy, though, so we'll need a bit of privacy first."

 

When they got to the gelato stand, Lynn grinned and began speaking in perfect unaccented Neapolitan, the major Southern Italian dialect. <"Good afternoon! My friend Mia speaks very highly of your wares! What flavor would you suggest?">

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Paolo's eyes lit up like fireworks when Lynn spoke in Italian. His posture straightened even more than it already had been, and a broad smile revealing bright white teeth shone through.

 

"Serena! You've brought me someone who speaks Italian!" he said enthusiastically.

 

Then, he turned to Lynn. <"Well, looking at you, I am getting the feeling you like to experiment. So what I think is three scoops on a waffle cone, on me since you've made my day. Chocolate-hazelnut, custard, and... Hm... I am getting a feeling you are a strawberry kind of woman. The three flavours go well together.">

 

Serena couldn't help but grin at the exchange, looking over at Mia, who mostly just looked lost.

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Lynn's eyes went wide as Paolo described his recommendation. <"That sounds amazing! I love mixing flavors! Thank you so much, you're too kind!"> From extensive experience, Lynn learned a long time ago that immigrants in the US always enjoyed a chance to talk with someone in their native language; it always brightened up their day, and formed a moment of connection. True, it sometimes got you free stuff (heh heh), but that was never her intention. Not that she would turn down free gelato...

 

The changeling, noting Mia's confusion, just looked at her and winked.

Edited by Heritage

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Paolo speedily and gracefully scooped three perfect scoops of gelato into a waiting waffle cone, before handing it over to Lynn with a smile.

 

<"Enjoy!"> He chirped, before looking to Mia and Serena. "And the usual for you two?"

 

Both women nodded, and stepped up to receive their frozen treat. Serena received a scoop of custard between two scoops of sour cherry, while Mia settled with two scoops of mint and a scoop of chocolate. When Serena went to pay, Paolo shook his head.

 

"On the house today," he said suddenly. "I am in a very good mood today."

 

Serena smiled. "Thanks Paolo. Say hi to your husband for me!"

 

He nodded. "Cris will definitely appreciate it! Have a nice day, ladies!"

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