Hurrying into the shop, Harriet repeated the list in her mind once again. Grabbing a wicker basket and putting the handles to rest near her elbow, she walked passed the first display units. The air hummed with an overpowering multitude of pleasant aromas, which remained unidentified till you had picked up a few different candles. She clocked two poshly dressed women talking in low voices behind the sale’s desk. They looked like they belonged at a five star hotel desk, with their neat blond hair, black jackets and white blouses.

Looking further around and towards the back of the shop, Harriet saw another assistant with black hair and a cream blouse, talking to two Japanese women. They were dressed casually in tight jeans and t-shirts. Harriet caught some snatches of their broken English and discovered that all of them were engrossed in a conversation about one particular candle.

Harriet came to a pause by the small shelf with the Halloween display. Looking at the offerings, she selected a burnt orange candle tart melter that was in the shape of a Jack ‘O Lantern and looked at it. She noticed a large chunk of paint was missing from its mouth, so she placed it back down and selected another one. Holding it tightly, she looked at the wide teeth showing grin and decided it would do.

Lowering it into the basket, she looked at the candles and grabbed two of the different Halloween scented tarts. She sniffed the orange one first and got a hint of sticky sweets then the black one which smelled patchouli. Harriet put those in, recalling that they smelt just like the candles by the same names that she had brought last year.

She turned and started to walk past the sale’s counter, totalling the price in her head, twelve pounds all ready!

‘Hello, are you all right? Do you need any help at all?’

Harriet smiled at the two women, one of whom had spoken and with a little shake of her head replied ‘no, thanks,’ and went to the bookcase like shelves. Harriet browsed through the Christmas candles and selected the two other wax melters she had come in for. One was her second favourite scent, fresh vanilla alongside a soft gentle flower like touch and the other a new release that she had seen on the shopping channel which was meant to capture new snow and winter pines.

With those safely in her basket, she went around the shop and looked at the other candles. They were divided into further sections in a rainbow of colours; foods, flowers and fresh. The large candles, which she had to crane her neck up to see, sat on the top two shelves. The mediums were under them then the smalls ones, the tea lights and finally the tarts, which she collected. Resisting the temptation to pick any up, Harriet read some of the fancy names off in her head then convinced herself to leave.

Half turning, she spotted a dark chocolate skinned man stacking small candles. Swearing he hadn’t been there before, she looked at him in his prim black business suit. Their eyes met and his face broke into a wider smile.

Keeping his bent over position, he asked ‘Do you need any help?’

‘No. I’m fine. Thanks,’ she replied.

He turned back to work and she watched his large hands.

‘Actually. Do you have any new autumn candles? Or anything you could recommend as smelling like autumn?’

He stood up, ‘Erm, I’m not too sure…’ he responded and had a quick glance around, ‘Maria,’ he called to his colleague who had just left the Japanese women to their own conversation. ‘What would you recommend as an autumn scent?’

She repeated his words in a cheerful voice and looked around thoughtfully. She was actually taller than first seemed, even despite the clearly flat shoes. Her long black hair was in a tight ponytail which added nothing to her too long face and olive skin. She reached out a slender arm and pulled from the shelf a large orange candle.

‘What about this one?’ she asked.

Harriet stepped forward and sniffed the candle lid which Maria offered out to her.

‘It’s very orangey,’ Harriet replied, ‘mmm…too orange.’

‘Okay. This one?’ Maria asked switching for another one.

Harriet sniffed and smelt oranges mingled with other fruits and grass, ‘still not what I had in mind.’

‘Right. Let me see,’ Maria placed the candle back and moved to the next shelf.

Harriet made a small side step to follow her and watched her take other candle down with the grace of a ballerina. Behind them, the man was getting back to restocking.

‘This one. It’s a very warm homely scent. It’s got some cinnamon in it and I’m not sure what else.’

Harriet sniff and caught that waft of cinnamon and mix spices. She nodded, ‘Yes. I like that one. Do you have the melter of it?’

‘Sure we do,’ Maria chirped and slotting the candle back, dipped down and grabbed one of the wax tarts from the tray.

Harriet took it and popped it in the basket. She looked down, that’s enough now, leave!

‘Have you seen the new candles that were brought out this month?’

Harriet snapped her head back up then followed Maria’s eyes to the display next to the door. Maria walked over and Harriet trailed her. Coming to a stop, Maria launched into sale’s pitch about the three new scents after which, Harriet selected two; a dark vanilla coffee and a sweet gingerbread.

‘Have you seen the new Christmas ones?’ Maria chimed in.

‘No, but I think…’

‘Some of them might have the autumn feel you are looking for.’

They spun around and matched towards the back of the shop, passing the two Japanese women who were on their way out. Coming to the Christmas display, Maria selected a few different candles, but this time, Harriet only picked one.

‘Thanks, I’m done now,’ she said, eyes flashing to the inside of the basket.

‘Of course, would you like to pay now?’

Harriet nodded and let Maria led the way to the counter.

‘Please don’t tell me the price,’ Harriet said in soft voice.

Maria smiled, ‘I’ll see what you’ve got.’

Harriet watched her total everything then stated, ‘twenty-two pounds all together, is that all right?’

Harriet nodded and handed over her card.

‘Just think of it as an investment for the rest of the year,’ Maria said soothingly.

‘Yes, I really won’t need any others,’ Harriet responded as she paid.

Still smiling, Maria bagged everything and handed it to her.

Saying thanks and goodbye, Harriet left feeling ninety-nine percent happy and one percent guilty.


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