The line for the fear merchants stretched three blocks. Juana’s hand sweated in Nick’s as they inched forward.
She’d sold fear once, the night she crossed the border. It wasn’t courage like the No Fear Association claimed. It was a bright room, cheerful music, two fingers against her forehead. Then days in a numb fog. When she’d first stepped onto American soil, she’d felt nothing.
Now Nick wanted her to sell fear with him. Juana had thought of the ring she meant to hide in his habanero brownie tomorrow. She’d agreed, but she was not afraid. Not then.
“How often do you do this?” Her voice wobbled.
“Just on Valentine’s. Are you okay?”
Juana didn’t want to lie. “You know the Valentine’s specials on those old twenty-first century shows? Everything goes wrong but they actually still have fun?”
“Yeah.” He sounded wistful.
“I’m not a junkie or anything, but I feel like losing your fear, you lose something else. The fun.” She was scared to spend the rest of her life with someone afraid of feeling. “Why do you come?”
Nick hesitated. “Seems like I always get dumped on Valentine’s Day. Maybe, if I’m not afraid, maybe I won’t mess up so badly that you…”
Juana chewed her lip, then slid an arm around him and squeezed.
They were silent until they entered the shop.
“You both selling?” the receptionist asked.
“He’s selling.” Juana’s voice was steady as she slid the cash across the counter. “But I’ll buy his fear.”
Jameyanne Fuller is a space lawyer by day, writer by night. Sometimes she sleeps. She was a finalist in the 2014 and 2015 Dell Award, and her other fiction has appeared and is forthcoming in Cast of Wonders, the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, New Myths, and others. When she isn’t studying or writing, Jameyanne enjoys reading, cooking, and plotting world domination with her team of black labs, retired Seeing Eye dog Mopsy and current Seeing Eye dog Neutron Star.