Stories by Mail, Day 27 – Natural beauty has a price

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Since her first mug of cinnamon hazelnut coffee that morning, Haley Middleton had done only two things: munch vegetable sticks that were not an acceptable substitute for edible food, and illustrate the smorgasbord of tiny creatures that lived in her backyard.

The text message arrived from an unfamiliar number as she was sketching a garden snail, the tips of her pencils waltzing slowly, faithfully replicating every intricate detail reflected into her eyes. “Things are getting worse. Please send chocolate,” Haley read aloud to the snail. “Well, whoever this is, I agree with their philosophy.” The snail said nothing. She resumed shading its shell, her gaze shifting between the sketchbook and her indifferent subject. An hour later, another text appeared, identical to the first.

Haley raised an eyebrow. ” Sorry, but you’ve got the wrong number,” she typed, and then pressed SEND. She reached for her auburn-colored pencil when the phone buzzed again, still in her hand. “No, Haley. I did not agree to model without proper compensation. Chocolate, please.”

She glanced up from her phone in confusion. The snail stared at her expectantly.


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