The silver bell chimes through the candy shop, marking the first customer of the day. It is a quaint shop: violet-tinted rectangular glass panes set in crisscrossing wood frames painted over in a lighter shade of violet allow mid-morning sunlight into the front of the shop; a long table covered in a smooth white cloth hosts a variety of candies and chocolates stacked elegantly just by the panes for passersby to see; the other three walls are lined with shelves, their delectable contents alphabetized within their sections; and a shopkeeper stations a little register that sits on a counter perpendicular to the door in the corner.

She wears a faded pink apron with fancily curving letters of the shop’s name stitched into the front. The writing matches the antiquated letters painted onto the upper panes at the front of the shop overlooking the street. She turns her lightly-freckled face toward the customer and frowns.

“Ah!” says the man, stepping into the open space where the morning light flows onto the floor through the panes. He moves a hand through the air and marvels at his shadow outlined in the light. He curls his fingers as if to catch the violet glow. “It’s so beautiful;it smells like purple! Or like soap…Amethyst Sunset!” He looks at the shopkeeper, face beaming.

The shopkeeper gives him a tight-lipped smile, her straw-yellow ponytail bobbing with her slight nod. He doesn’t look like the type to frequent a candy shop, judging from his short dark mullet to his fitness pants to his double-knotted track shoes. Most likely a window-shopper. “Don’t touch anything unless you’re taking it,” she informs the man, who had wandered to the table by the window. Her voice is taut, like a clothespin about to snap and release an all-too-heavy load.

“‘Scuse me,” he replies, withdrawing his hand from a box of chocolates topping one of the neat piles. He progresses from the table to the nearby corner, away from the register. From there, he moves counterclockwise around the shop, looking at every column of shelves from bottom to top. A smile plays on his face as he reads the names of each label, the smile widening in delight every time he sees something of interest. His hands follow where he reads, touching the sides of cartons and wrappings.

“Don’t touch anything unless you’re taking it,” she repeats.

The man glances for a long moment at her but doesn’t respond, his smile growing. He’s already back to appraising the shelves when she shyly looks away, the back of her hand hovering beside her mouth. “Not a lot of people today,” he says casually while he inspects.

“It’s early,” she replies.

He comes around to the final stretch of shelves and nears the register.

“Have you found what you’re looking for?” she asks, though she doubts it.

“Hmm.” His voice is also doubtful as he smooths down his hair. He snatches a candy bar off one of the middle shelves and places it by the register, then picks it back up uncertainly. “I actually don’t know. There’s so much here you forget what you just browsed. I bet you could do it again and again and it’ll never get old. Kind of like going for a walk around a neighborhood.” He turns the bar over in his hand while he thinks. “Okay,” he says finally, putting the bar back on the counter.

She nods slowly, looking for a moment at the bar, and starts to punch the price in.

“Do you enjoy walks?” he asks.

The shopkeeper glances up from the register, curiosity softening her steely chestnut gaze. “I can’t say I do.”

“That’s a shame—Fatty, no!”

“What did you call me?”

“Sorry!” the man blurts and rushes from the candy shop and after a three-foot blur of yellow fur. The shopkeeper scowls, waiting for the man to return. He doesn’t. She replaces the candy bar with a sigh and opens and closes the register, resetting it.

The following day around the same time, the bell chimes and a golden retriever bounds into the candy shop. Its body careens in wild circles across the floor.

“Hey!” the shopkeeper cries indignantly.

“He won’t eat anything, he’s just excited.”

She leans over the counter and sticks a finger in the man’s face. “I don’t know where you’re from, but on Earth, pets aren’t allowed in shops, mullet-head.”

“Fatty!” He snaps his fingers and the dog, which had caught sight of the shopkeeper and was eagerly approaching her, skids to a halt beside her. “Stay,” he instructs, looking at the shopkeeper. “He’s a good boy. Is it all right if he waits there? You like dogs, right?”

“I—well—” the shopkeeper stammers. She glances between the dog and the man who had already begun wandering around the shop the same way he had yesterday.

“Sorry about the other day. I like to take walks with some company.”

“Don’t touch anything you’re not—!” She looks down at the grinning dog, who lightly nuzzles her leg with its snout; its warm, damp breath buffets her leg while its tail swishes the cherry hardwood floor.

“You can pet him,” the man says without turning away from a shelf with jars boasting multicolored confections, each its own vein of gems. After slowly perusing the three walls in the same fashion as the previous day, he returns to the register. “I’m Pete,” he says. “What kind of candy or sweet do you like, uh…?”

The shopkeeper clenches her fingers that had been inching towards the dog’s smooth head. “Lila. I like carrot cake,” she replies shortly. “But we don’t have that here. Have you found what you’re looking for?”

Pete nods and snaps his fingers, going to the exit. The dog obediently races around the register to the door, its claws tapping the floor lightly.

Lila folds her arms, annoyed. “You can’t keep coming in without buying anything.”

“I’ll come back tomorrow,” he says with a smile and leaves.

True to his word, he returns again with his dog. “Listen, Pete, dogs aren’t allowed in the shop,” she says, her voice clipped as the dog pads calmly to the same spot as yesterday and sits staring up at her.

“What about fish?” Pete asks, a yellow pastry box tucked under his arm.

“Pets aren’t allowed,” she snaps. “And you can’t bring your own food in here.”

“This is for you,” he says, putting the box on the counter in front of her.

She looks down, eyes widening. “I can’t accept things from customers.”

“I’m not a customer today.” He pulls open the lid. “See? Carrot cake, like you like, right?”

“I can’t accept gifts during business hours,” she says, her cheeks a light pink.

“There’re a lot of ‘can’ts,’ ‘aren’ts,’ and ‘don’ts’ with you.” He smiles, closing the lid. “You don’t have to accept it now. Just take it with you when you close up shop.”

She reopens the box and appraises the cake warily. “Did you—?”

“I sure did! Bought it from the grocery store this morning while they were restocking!”

“Hah—” Lila covers her mouth and turns away. The dog shifts its front paws when their eyes meet, its tongue smacking around its snout.

“I hope you like it,” Pete says. He turns on his heel and snaps his fingers. “See you tomorrow!”

“We aren’t—!” She pauses when the bell signals his departure. “—open tomorrow.”

The next day, the man enters the shop alone. He looks at the spot where the shopkeeper stands. “Hey, you’re open!”

“We’re not.” She quirks her head. “Why do you keep coming here?”

He runs a hand through his hair. “I was looking for something,” he says, gesturing at the walls and approaching the one beside the register.

“Did you find something?”

“Yeah, I did.” He turns to her and smiles. She hadn’t noticed before but his eyes are soft like mint ice cream.

“I’ll have this,” he says, grabbing the same candy bar he had chosen the first day.

Lila blinks. “Okay.” She punches the price into the register.

“You’re sweet,” Pete says. “I appreciate you selling me something outside business hours.”

Lila drops her hands onto the register hard, causing the cash drawer to open. “I’m not,” she says tightly, withdrawing her wallet and taking from it the total to add to the drawer. Pushing the register closed, she picks up the bar and hands it to him. In a gentler voice, she says, “Take it.”

Pete’s brow furrows. Then a smile blossoms on his face. Taking the bar, he nods. “All right.” As he paces back to the door he says, “I really like this shop. Do you ever lose track of what you have?”

Lila tilts her head from side to side, a vague yes-and-no. “Sometimes.” Coming around the register for the first time, she moves along the wall clockwise, scanning the columns of shelves. Pete turns and watches from the doorway, hand resting on the knob. It takes her a fraction of the times it took Pete to come back around the shop. She glances up from the table by the front windows as if remembering his presence.

“Have you found what you’re looking for?” he asks, still smiling.

She raises her hand to her mouth, tilting her face away to look out the window panes. “I wasn’t looking for anything.” She returns to the register, places a hand atop it, and looks at him. “You can come back when we’re open.”

With a nod, the bell chimes and he’s gone.

She stares at the empty space he leaves behind. Seconds pass. Her hand falls down to her side limply, brushing the outside of her pants pocket where her keys dully clink.

And then the bell chimes again and he’s back.

“Since you’re not open, do you want to go for a walk with me?” he asks.

Her hand rises, about to cover her mouth, though stops. Instead she lets herself smile openly. “I do.”