My story took place on March 7, on the Eve of Women’s Day[1], and entangled me with the great clairvoyant, Vanga[2], forever. But I will start from the very beginning. I’m a primary school teacher, who used to sell fruit at the local market. It was during the 1990s when everything was topsy-turvy in Russia, so nothing was surprising.

In the beginning, like any novice, I was very lucky in sales. My clear professionally pitched voice of a teacher, touting for my goods, as well as my insatiable lust for money and adventure helped me a lot in this unknown field.

It all turned out remarkable well for me! I was given goods for sale, and I sold it deftly and quickly, attracting eager customers in numbers. At the end of the working day, I counted my receipts and couldn’t help feeling happy about the money I’d made my monthly salary of a teacher in one day. No sooner had some three months passed than I relaxed my vigilance, considering myself a great tradeswoman.

Women’s Day was due. The market was swarmed with people; you couldn’t put a pin between their heads! So, on the spur of the moment, I ventured to take goods with my own money. With ALL my money I had managed to gain by trade (700 roubles), I bought six boxes of apples, at five roubles a kilo.

The apples were wonderful – big and pink – they looked like peaches. I had already counted my possible profit inwardly, when two disasters at once befell me…

Firstly, as I took off the upper layer of the beautiful apples, as if painted on canvas, I saw that all the apples underneath were small and blotched. It was the same picture with the rest of the apples in the rest of the boxes.

Secondly, as bad luck would have it, there came a lot of trucks from Ukraine loaded with apples, fresh and juicy. They were sold at a price of three and even two roubles a kilo, while I had bought my worm-eaten ones at five roubles. I didn’t know what to do now. I just stood there, weeping.

All my money was gone! My husband was at work and would be off duty only the next day. He was a fireman. My head reeled. I was absolutely at a loss. The market, like an untamed beast, showed me its teeth. No logic would ever work for its Great Law. Until today, apples had been rare in the market, and all the stock had been given to me for sale. Apples had been quite costly…

Heaven knows what I had thought of myself! No one would offer a sixpence for my trade! A great tradeswoman! I was wiping bitter tears off my face, while the lyrics from an old chanson song haunted my mind: ‘I am a tradeswoman, a poor tradeswoman, I’m standing here and selling apples!

All my hard labour, the heavy fruit boxes, getting up at dawn, wearing the huge valenoks[3] and a shapeless sheepskin coat – everything went down the drain! All my carefully accumulated money, which I had sweated my guts out earning, lay in front of me in the form of those ugly apples, which no one would take even for free.

I had been dreaming about inviting all my colleagues from secondary school 38 to celebrate March 8. We had always celebrated holidays, but the gatherings had usually been very modest – some inexpensive sausage, cheese, a few salads and vodka. A teacher’s salary is not high, you know. I’d been dreaming of laying a luxurious table for all the colleagues to gasp in wonder! I wanted to boast red caviar glowing on white bread with yellow butter and various kinds of sausage and cold boiled pork sprinkled with dill and smoked fish and fried sturgeon. But most of all, I’d been looking forward to buying some liqueur in a fancy bottle with two necks – the liqueur was milk-white in one of them and chocolate in the other. I had imagined the liqueur to be fantastically delicious – though I had never tried it before – because it was very expensive! So expensive! But I had been dying to buy it for the celebration! Teachers ought to have a worthy feast for a change, oughtn’t they?

I suddenly remembered about Vanga. The clairvoyant used to say that there were four ways out of every situation – the first three were ordinary ones and the fourth was a brilliant one. Now it was necessary for me to find that fourth way out.

I certainly had a few options. For example, I could do nothing and wait until evening. The people who had sold me the apples might have also given them for sale to someone else and they might turn up to get the receipts. In that case I could make a row and possibly retrieve my money.

But usually the sellers of such blemished goods never turned up again…

Secondly, I could grit my teeth and keep selling these apples at any possible cost and reimburse at least some of my expenses. This was the most realistic way out.

I should have plunged into the greatest depth of despair and fury to realize that the only desirable option for me at that moment was to give up everything and run away home. And never ever come back to the market again!

Why was I in such turmoil? I had still got my job at school, thanks God. It was very respectable, unlike this one at the market – I was standing there like a ragamuffin, with my nose red, my eyes so puffy that no make-up could conceal it. The snow had melted and soaked my felt boots, which were without overshoes…

I ought to find that brilliant way out! I simply must! As well as prove that the famous Vanga hadn’t deceived people.

My curiosity spared me from despair that was taking away all hope. When one’s curiosity exceeded the lust for money, one was sure to get one’s money back!

So I literally went to look for my brilliant way out. I asked an old woman, who was selling woolen sock nearby, to keep an eye on my boxes of apples, and plodded my way idly about the market. I soon forgot about my apples…

The market roared, bleeding with crushed fruit, pulsed unevenly, pushing its boiling blood through all its working vessels, like a huge exhausted heart.

The snow was melting away under my feet, the water sloshing inside my felt boots. I was in no festive mood of the approaching Women’s Day at all.

Suddenly, in the middle of the market, I saw a van with mimosa. Next to it, there were two tipsy Georgian men, standing behind a large table, selling these flowers, which were piled untidily like a haystack, and that haystack was being stolen outrageously. Some old women pottered in those marvelous flowers, taking them in armfuls, then, bending down nonchalantly, tucked them awkwardly into their bags, breaking and crushing them. It was probably not very conspicuous, but it was quite obvious for me.

The ground was covered with the fluffy yellow balls all over. They were darkening quickly, helplessly fading away under the people’s feet in the melting snow.

I loved mimosa more than any other flowers. So, without much thinking, I came up to the negligent salesmen and offered my assistance. The exhausted men stared at me suspiciously. One of them was old, the other was young. They were probably a father and a son. Mimosa balls entangled in their curly black hair as if the men had slept inside the van. They exchanged their glances, then looked at me, then exchanged their glances again.

“Common,” I told them, “It’s beyond all descriptions how many flowers have been stolen from you! I’ll put everything in order.”

Eventually, they gave in reluctantly.

“But, you see, we’ll pay you only twenty roubles. No complaints. A deal?”

Twenty roubles for selling such a van of flowers was certainly scanty earnings. But I had never sold flowers before, so I agreed…

I quickly put order both on the counter and among the customers, queuing them strictly to one side of the table.

Hard-core thieves, who usually resold mimosa at the market entrance, immediately assessed the situation and fled to other mimosa sources.

Before I had been hired, these sunny branches were sold at two or three roubles a piece. After sending the younger Georgian to the shop for cellophane and ribbons, I made nice bouquets and began to sell them at five or ten roubles, while the most beautiful ones were sold out at twenty roubles a piece. Nobody at the market could compete with us.

The older Georgian was all eyes, watching me closely. He was afraid that I might steal some of his money. He didn’t even have a lunch break lest he should let me out of his sight. I put the gained cash into the box, which was next to me.

The queue in front of me was growing by the minute. There were no other outlets selling such flowers. I hardly had enough time for both making and selling the bouquets. I was happy and proud of myself. It was a wonderful day, the sun was dazzling. The mimosa balls also looked like hundreds of micro-suns, or like little chicks. I was stunned by overwhelming yellow brightness around me. I enhanced the yellow bouquets by the violet ribbons.

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