"When It Rains"
It was raining cats and dogs that night. The earsplitting thunder made Shaima jumped out her chair. She was alone inside the old dusty bookstore which she had inherited from her parents. Her wrist watch told her it was already seven in the evening; an hour before she could finally closed the store. Business had been so bad lately, people became uninterested with books. Perhaps, the modernity made it more entertaining than a book. The idea made her feel a sudden surge of sadness. Books are pretty much her best friend since childhood. She glanced around the store and stare at the towering bookshelves she keep neat and tidy.
A strident noise caught her attention. She felt her heart skip a beat with fear. No one else was inside the store except her. She slowly let her eyes wandered to where the noise came from. It surprise when the oak wood front door opened. She wanted to scream for help but no voice came out. Her consciousness reminded her that it was useless open her mouth. She wanted to run but her feet remained frozen on the wooden floor, fright totally paralyzed her body. All she did was silently pray as the stranger slowly approached her.
"Can I stay for awhile?" the stranger asked, "heavy rain outside and I don't have an umbrella."
She stared at him for a while. By the looks, he was two years older or less than her age. He was wearing aqua blue checkered polo shirt dripping and his black jet hair was damp with the rain. It was pretty obvious that he had nowhere to go under cover.
Lawrence could see that the girl in the bookstore was having a second thought to let her stay or not. He smiled when she simply responded his question with a nod before continuing arranging the books on the counter table.
He walked toward the fiction corner near the counter table and started browsing the books. "You got a bunch of cool books in here…," she looked up at him as if amazed that he was actually making a conversation with her, "…do you love reading books?" he asked.
She just nod and gave him a smile. A smile that he had never seen before from any of those girls he had met. It made him stare at the way this girl face looked peaceful in the middle of a bad weather. There is something in her that radiates an indescribable aura. Lawrence could not tell whether it was the girl's long, black hair half covering her serene chocolate brown eyes which reached your soul once you look at them.
Silence grew louder as the rain outside slowly turned into soft humming shower. It seemed to be that the rainy night had ended with stolen glances and hidden smiles.
"Thank you…I'll keep going." He smiled at her once more. She watched him walked out the door and it gave her the odd feeling of sadness and… loneliness. It may be the last time she'll see him. But, she was wrong. Even if, she wanted to tell him something she know it can't be.
The next day, a familiar face was standing in front of her. It was him, the stranger that came last night. He smiled at her as he handed a box of cake to her. She wanted to tell how grateful she was but she couldn't. She gave him a smile.
That day was not the last visit she got from him. He started to be her daily customer. Day after day he would come to buy a book or two from the fiction corner. It had been a routine for her to see him inside the bookstore. There were times she thought that the girl he would marry gets to be the lucky one.
"Can I possibly know your name?" he asked.
When Lawrence noticed the hesitation on her eyes, he said, "It's okay if you don't want to tell me."
The silence between them grew discomfited. As always Lawrence just started to pick any book from the fiction corner while he secretly stole glances of her face. He admits that he was never into books before but he was now hooked on it just like how he feels for her. It was never clear to him what she is. He just realized that as the days passed by the simple attraction grew into something deeper.
That night Lawrence couldn't sleep at all. He spent the whole night sculpturing her face, the girl in the bookstore whom he wanted to promise a life time. He knew that if any of his friends hear him talking about this girl they will all laugh. But, it does not matter. It took him years to find a girl like her and he knows that he should never let go of her.
The next morning, the sky had been amusingly dark despite the bright yellow sunlight hovering above. Lawrence decided to go as he put his chances on fate. He immediately went inside the bookstore. His body tensed and got nervous when he discovered the bookstore empty. The girl was nowhere to be found. He was calling out for her but there was no response except for the complete silence.
Something startled Lawrence; it came from the backdoor beside the Mythology book corner. He rushed to open the door as his heart continued pounding hard inside his chest. As he entered the room, he saw her childlike face. She smiled at him and knelt down to pick up the books that had fallen from the shelves. He helped her up and when they're about to leave the room he stopped.
He held her hands and took a deep breath. It may not be the right place and right time to confess but he could not keep it anymore. She looked at him, confused.
"When I first saw you… I know you're the girl I wanted to spend my lifetime with. Can you give me a chance to just make you believe that all I said was true?"
He went out the backdoor to get the sculpture he had made for her. When he gets back, he saw her talking to a delivery man. He watched her opened the package and saw a smile lit up her face. She held up a frame out of the box and hanged it to the wall. Lawrence was happy to see her smile but he could not be happy enough for himself.
The frame she put up in the wall, it was her and a guy he had never seen before. But, it seems like that both of them had deeper relationship. He left the bookstore immediately without saying goodbye.
Two weeks had gone. Christmas had been blue for Lawrence. He decided not to visit the bookstore. He had convinced himself that she already had someone. It was over, his crazy love at first sight.
It was six in the evening. Lawrence passed by the bookstore. From the glass window, he saw her looking outside. Her face was dominated with sadness. He felt the urge to go inside the bookstore and comfort her. But, he knew it was not the right thing to do so. Let alone her boyfriend to be there. He thought when he remembered the photo in the frame. He was about to walk away when her eyes spotted him. Her face lit up with a smile before heading outside.
Lawrence knows that if he stayed he would have the hard time again to get over her. He was one step away from him. With all his effort, he managed to run away. He crossed the streets not paying attention to the green lights of the stoplight post. The sound of cars honking madly doesn't bother him. Is this how it feels to be broken? He asked himself.
All of the sudden, an earsplitting noise echoed in the street. The sound of crashing cars and broken glass on the pavement made him turned his head. He saw people running to where he was standing a minute ago.
Somebody had been hit by a car.
"Who is it?" he heard an old woman asked as she passed by.
He walked closer to the scene. People talked about the victim, a girl named Shaima. He doesn't know anyone with that name. Still, there was something that draws him to the crowd. It was never clear. He wanted to see what Shaima looked like but the crowd covered up the view. It was when he almost stop breathing because of what he heard from the young girl in front told her mother who it was.
"She's the girl in the bookstore, Mom."
Upon hearing those words he suddenly found the vigor to push himself in the crowd. He felt tears was about to fall from his eyes. But, he need to be sure. The young girl made a mistake. It was not her. How can he not know her name, the girl in the bookstore?
Lawrence fell down on his knees when he saw her lifeless body lying on the cold pavement covered with her own blood. He wanted to step closer to her but his body couldn't find the strength to do it. He cried as his lips called out her name.
At that moment, Lawrence felt the weight of the world on his back, as if it was making it hard for him to stand up on his feet. The loud thunder up in the dark sky seemed to drown the sirens of the ambulance as the rain started to fall. The girl he loves died because of his cowardice. If he just stayed for a while it wouldn't happened.
"I believe this is yours."
The doctor handed him an enveloped covered with blood. It was found in Shaima's hand, they told me. He opened it and what he read had made him cursed himself all over again.
Good day! You might be wondering how why did I even bother writing a letter to you if I can say everything in person. The truth is I couldn't. I was born a mute. I cannot talk. I was voiceless but then I am still thankful. I can manage to hear people and I think for me it was more than enough to live the life God had given. It had been the reason why I can't answer your questions or even tell you the best fiction book we have. I am very happy to know you. You are very nice. But, I tell you what, I really got scared when you came inside the store that rainy night. I thought it was a thief but I was wrong. You happened to be someone that put hope in my life.
I admit that I like you. Perhaps, it was more than that. I don't know. It was the first time that I feel attracted to somebody. You have no idea how happy I am when you told me that you want me. It was one of the best times of my life. Thank you for loving me.
I wanted to ask why you leaved without saying goodbye. The next thing I knew was feeling so lonely. You didn't visit the store for days. I was worried that something bad happened to you. I don't want to see you getting hurt.
I missed you. That is how I know your name. I read the profile of our customers and then I found yours. I just hope you'll be back again. I wanted you to meet my brother Sonny. Yes, I have a sibling. He is the one with me in the photo frame I put in the wall. I hope you'll get to meet him soon.
So, I'll end up here. Remember I will be here for you. And I want you to know that when it rains just don't forget you can always come in the bookstore and I'll be there to open the door for you.
Lawrence folded the letter slowly and put it back inside his pocket. It had been there always. The December wind had gone cold enough to send chills on Lawrence's skin. He stood still under the shed of the bus stop across the wet pavement staring at the old bookstore. It stood abandoned and disregarded by the people passing by day and night. In fact, that bookstore had never gone unnoticed from his eyes which yearn for her to look out of the now broken glass window. Five years had passed away and he would always wait outside the bookstore hoping that when it rains Shaima will be there smiling back at him.