Solara pulled into a parking spot and glanced at the clock on the dash. She grumbled as she walked towards the market entrance. “If only I could transport on a sunbeam, but no. I have to arrive in a clunky mechanical thing so the humans don’t get scared.”
She saw her mostly-human friend, Gemma, waiting for her by the gate. “Coffee?” Solara handed her one of the paper cups she carried.
“Thanks! I am so excited about this. I’m sure there are a lot of treasures here. What are you hoping to find?” Gemma’s enthusiasm bubbled in her voice.
“I want a unique container to use for one of my plants that needs repotting. Oh, and maybe a narrow basket to put on the windowsill for some seashells.” Solara kept her pace languid, which forced Gemma to slow. Gemma always moved at a quick speed, which Solara found exhausting after a while.
The market they were currently visiting was a pop-up style full of vintage wares and hand-crafted goods. It was a showcase of various vendors scattered throughout eight barns surrounding a central courtyard on the fairgrounds. Any organization could rent the space as long as it wasn’t during the fair.
“What time is Keyara getting here?” Gemma asked, looking at some jars.
“She said maybe in an hour.” Solara touched a slightly wilted plant on a shelf of the next vendor over and infused it with some gentle sunlight. The plant immediately looked healthier. “I told her the shopping was all indoors, which is the only reason she agreed to come.”
“Being a vampire must be hard when the sun goddess needs her power boost,” Gemma teased.
“Well, I gave up most of October, and all of November through March, so I am going to make the most of July.”
“I don’t blame you,” Gemma said. “How are things going with Brad? Last time we talked, you were mad at him.”
“We’re good. It was a misunderstanding. His communication isn’t that great, and since he’s human, well.” She shrugged. “He apologized.”
While they looked at some vibrant clothing on a rack, the booth owner told them there was a small changing area in the back. Solara picked out a fuchsia-colored dress to try on.
“That looks fabulous on you!” Gemma gushed when Solara stepped out of the changing area.
“Does it? It’s a little tight across the shoulders, but not bad. I don’t know if I really like it.”
“Well, put it back and think about it. This is only the first building. Maybe you’ll find something better.”
“True.” Solara stepped back into the changing area.
“I’ve been trying to reduce my belongings,” Gemma said from the other side of the curtain.
“Oh, yeah? How’s that going?”
“It’s hard. But I just have so much stuff. And a lot of it I don’t even use anymore. Why do I need to keep an old food processor when I’ve lost the lid?”
“Uh, dragon,” Solara said, pointing at Gemma as she returned the dress to the rack. They drifted out of the back door of the barn and headed across the courtyard to another building.
“Part dragon,” Gemma corrected. “An extremely tiny part.”
“Well, apparently, you got the hoarding gene.”
“Oh, earrings!” Gemma rushed over to a large jewelry display. Solara laughed and followed her.
Solara’s phone chimed, and she pulled it out of her pocket. “Keyara’s here! I’ll go meet her.” She gave Gemma a stern look. “You are not to leave this building until we get back. I don’t want to spend half an hour searching for you because you’re hunting for more treasure.”
“There are lots of jewelry booths in this building. I’ll be here a while. Besides, I bet Keyara could sniff me out if you lose me.” Gemma waved her away.
“That’s disgusting.” Solara wrinkled her nose.
“But true. Go, I’ll be fine.”
Solara made her way out of the open-ended pole building and headed to the front gate. She began scanning the crowd for a short woman in a hat. She didn’t know what hat Keyara would wear, only that she would have one. There weren’t that many people near the gate since it was an hour after the market’s opening, and Solara didn’t see Keyara anywhere. She began to text Keyara as she walked back towards the center courtyard, but then she spied her friend. A black floppy hat obscured Keyara’s dark, shoulder-length hair and violet eyes.
“There you are! I’m so glad you made it.” Solara gave Keyara a quick hug, then flipped her long blond hair over her shoulder. “Gemma’s at a jewelry booth and made her promise not to leave until we came back. I love your hat! I knew you would wear one, so when you texted you were here, I just looked for a stylish hat.”
“It was your idea, remember?”
Solara began leading Keyara to the other side of the courtyard. “Oh, that’s right! Well, I still like it. And it will help to keep the sun off you. Do you have your cream on?”
Keyara nodded. “Of course. I can already feel my arms tingling, though. Any chance you can tone the sun down just a tad?”
“Not at the moment. I set it up to be hot and sunny all day, and it will take a while to pull it back. But all the vendors are in the various buildings except for the food. We can probably find some shade somewhere or go to a restaurant instead of staying here for lunch.” Solara led the way across the courtyard.
“Well, I can handle walking in the sunlight if it’s just between the buildings and back to my car.”
“I knew being mostly inside would convince you. There’s Gemma!” Solara pointed to a corner where their friend was purchasing a pair of earrings.
Solara rushed over to Gemma. “Which ones did you buy?”
“The turquoise ones I was looking at when you left, and I found these cute red dangles. Hi, Keyara!” Gemma hugged Keyara.
Solara laughed. “Poor Keyara! Two hugs in less than five minutes.”
“I don’t mind it when you two hug me. It’s when humans do it that things become…difficult.”
“Do you need to eat?” Solara asked. She tried to keep the note of worry out of her voice.
“No, I ate last night. I didn’t want to risk any, shall we say, accidents today.”
“Good. I figured you had it handled.”
Gemma drifted towards a clothing rack while Keyara and Solara sniffed candles and selected a few for purchase. Gemma was the one who brought Keyara and Solara together. Despite their various races, all three women adored books, enjoyed camping, and thought vintage and fun clothes were wonderful. They tried to get together at least once every couple of weeks.
About an hour later, Gemma was leading them towards the food carts in the courtyard center. Keyara opted for only a beer, while Gemma and Solara ordered loaded baked potatoes.
“There’s a table over there, under that tree. Will that work?” Solara pointed.
“Sure,” Keyara replied.
As they got nearer to the table, they noticed a pair of women with an infant sitting on one side. Keyara and Solara both hung back a little, but Gemma marched right up to the table and asked, “Can we sit on the other side? The sun is brutal today.”
The women agreed, and the friends sat. Solara and Gemma both moved to the edge of the table with the least amount of shade. Solara noticed Keyara discreetly checking the skin on her bare arms for burn marks. Keyara always tried to dress to fit in with the humans, but still kept to blacks and dark reds despite gauzy blouses and pencil skirts. After a few minutes, the other women put the baby in a stroller and wandered away.
“Are you doing okay?” Gemma asked.
“Yes, so far. I can’t be out in the sun much longer, though.”
Solara tilted her head back and closed her eyes, obviously enjoying the rays filtering through the leaves on her face.
Gemma laughed. “A vampire and a sun goddess. Who would have ever thought you two could be friends?”
“Hey, we make it work,” Solara said.
“Yes, we do,” Keyara agreed.
“Just don’t expect me to hang out with you in a dark alley while you feed,” Solara added with a slight shudder.
“Still squeamish about that?” Gemma asked.
“You weren’t there! It was terrifying. I’m not usually afraid of the dark, but Keyara makes the monster under the bed look tame.”
“You want the world bathed in brightness, and I can’t live in the light. I manage to visit you in the sun, so it’s only fair.”
“True. I refuse to compromise sunshine in the middle of July, but I’m more than happy to allow cloudy days and rain at some point. Sadly, you’re not the one I have to negotiate with.”
“Is the god of thunder still bothering you?” Gemma teased.
“He knows I’m married! I don’t know why he can’t just accept that and move on. He says he won’t stop with the afternoon thunderstorms until I agree to at least have dinner with him.”
“Brad will never allow that,” Keyara commented.
“But Brad is only human, and Taran thinks he has priority.”
“I know! So instead, I’m basically in a weather fight. It’s ridiculous.”
“Well, you’re winning today. It’s so hot out!” Keyara complained.
“I’m sorry, are you still okay?”
“Yes, but I’d like to find some deeper shade now.”
“Come on, girls. We still have three buildings to explore.” Gemma stood, gathering her bags.
Solara slowly stood, stretching her arms up for a moment in the sunlight to gather more power, before following her friends.
A clap of thunder sounded, and the sun goddess scowled at the sky.