A bag of apples

I was on my way to my new apartment one day when I saw her. I wouldn't have noticed her in the swarming crowd if she didn't extend her hands out to me when I passed her. I didn't stop at first and she got busy on other people. But I went back and gave her a quarter. Her face lighted up. She looked at me with her wrinkled lips parted into a big smile revealing her yellow crooked teeth. It was only a quarter, I thought. When I saw her again, she was sitting on a newspaper spread out on the pavement eating rice from a paper bag. All her belongings which included a bottle of water, a paper plate, a bowl with some coins in it and dirty rags were gathered around her. She didn't look up when I passed. She was too busy gobbling up her meal. I stopped in front of her and handed her a bag of apples. She beamed. She gazed at me with an open mouth and then took the apples. The hopelessness in her eyes made a little space for joy. She said a prayer and then asked God to bless me. Her crinkled hands were thanking me. She watched me walk back all the way with a huge smile on her creased face. In the evening, she was munching on the apples. I guess she liked them. Weeks went by and I gave her a quarter every day. She was always so happy to see me, even at times I didn't have anything to give her. Others like her never stayed in the same place but she could always be found under the old sturdy tree by the parking lot. In rains, drenched from head to toe, she found shelter under a plastic sheet. I wondered what was her story? Where did she come from? Had her life always been like this? Or was it because some misfortune had befallen her and left her homeless? Did she have any family? Where were they? Or was she all alone in the world? A month before when I was leaving for work, she was still at her old spot but something was different. She was not in her usual stained loose old clothes anymore, rather she was wearing a neat dress that was not shredded from anywhere. Instead of the newspaper, there was a basket full of ripe and fresh apples spread out on a mat in front of her. She waved when she saw me. The concrete cracks on her face looked a bit loosened. She offered me some apples. When I tried to pay her, she refused. Apparently, she had saved up all my quarters and started her own business. She did not want my money anymore but told me that I can take as much apples as I wanted from her and whenever I wanted them.

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