The orange seller’s smile

As the girl who’d smiled his way slipped through the crowd a map fluttered to the ground. It contained a simple route and a warning—Keep always to the path. Sure it would lead to her he set off. When dark fell he lay down to sleep. But on waking he found the map altered, the route more circuitous. Had he dreamt the way it had been? No matter. He set out again, into the mountains. At dusk he made camp. But again when he woke his task had been redrawn. Determined to find her he decided not to sleep. He would walk day and night. If he did not rest the map would not change. After six days and nights a house came into view, the same as the drawing that marked his goal. Preparing to meet her he heard a call for help. Unthinking he pushed through the thicket lining the track. A woman had fallen. He tied a splint to her leg and asked if she could walk. As he helped her to her feet she kissed him. Unused to such tenderness his head became light. He dropped instantly into a deep sleep. When he woke she was gone, and the house with her, and the map had changed once more. He goes on walking.