The Bookshop

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl who has become so at one with her local bookshop that she's almost part of the furniture, enjoys welcoming someone else to her little corner of the literary world.

Submitted: December 21, 2012

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Submitted: December 21, 2012

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I love how this place never changes.  I have been coming here for longer than I can remember and it has always been the same. The warm and waiting books tower above me as I enter, almost leaning off their shelves in anticipation. The lighting is bright but warm, making the room seem otherworldly and magical. As if the words of the books, the characters, and the ideas have permeated the air, spreading and mingling constantly. Being breathed in and out, filtering everything anyone sees or hears or smells or touches, so everything is better.  The same people work here that always have, and they know not to bother me anymore. They just let me be. Like I’m another character in one of the books, wandering the carpets, looking for company.

My chair is even still there. The battered, foam, moss green chair in the corner. When people come in they don’t even acknowledge me, think I’m just part of the scenery. I like that. I always read a different book. Never buying, always absorbing. As soon as I’m inside the shop, my fingers ache to hold a book. To feel the words that are my sweet chariot to over there. Because, as Thomas Edison said “It sure is beautiful over there”, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

It was half ten when I entered this train from here to there, and half seven when I grudgingly catch the return train home.  By that time there is no-one in the shop. Since it is winter, night has descended like the silent army it is and the street lights stand on guard, staving off the attack. There is only one lady working in the shop still, and she’s shutting up for the night. I silently grab my backpack and leave, carefully placing my book back with its brothers to sleep and create wondrous dreams.

I’ve always liked that idea. That the books we read create the dreams we dream. That the tangible, solid, definable things we buy with our cold money and store in our cold houses can find their way into the most private expanses of our minds, and talk to us in ways nobody else on this earth can. And they whisper such wonderful things, personify our thoughts and feelings, and paint our hearts on the backs of our eyelids.

The problem is when we wake up. We forget. Because no matter how strong those books are, they can’t exist along with our self-sabotaging minds. Nothing can, because we’re too full of empty space to accommodate anything else.

People suck. When I get home, my brother is asleep on the couch and has left a trail of Doritos leading from the kitchen to his place of uncomfortable rest. He sniffs in his sleep as I enter, then is silent.  The fact that it is only a quarter to eight doesn’t faze him. He was up all night working on his essay that was due last Tuesday, he’s tired.

I wonder what he’ll dream tonight.

I quietly exist until morning, when the shop opens again.

I’m not the first in when it opens, but I’m the only one not greeted with a good morning. Because they know I’m going to have a good morning. I’m going to have a fantastic morning. And they know I won’t respond, too distracted over which life I will live today to stop and trade pleasantries.

I settle down, with my bag tucked behind my calves, a cup of tea nested in my lap, and a leather-bound copy of a Miss Marple omnibus in my hand. The world no longer exists.

At least, it doesn’t for a few hours. Then it suddenly springs back into existence like a slingshot finally released. The reason it comes back: somebody is blocking my light by standing in front of my chair.

I use my now dry tea stirrer as a bookmark and politely fold the book in my lap and gaze up at the stranger. He just stands in front of me, arms folded, legs slightly spread, somewhat long blonde hair ruffled with the obvious removal of a woollen hat. Hands still in fingerless gloves, almost the same shade of blue as mine.

“Nice gloves”

“Women always comment on my wonderful fingers”

I just stare at him. He doesn’t even crack a smile, his face is deadly serious. I can’t help a brief smile. He reaches out his gloved hand towards my lap. I hand him the book.

“Agatha Christie” He remarks.

“You sound surprised” I raise my eyebrows at him.

“I just imagined you to be more of a Nicholas Sparks kind of girl”

“And what’s wrong with that?” I read half of one of his books once. It is the only book I ever put down from sheer lack of desire to read a single syllable more.

“Nothing”

“I don’t like Nicholas Sparks”

“Thank goodness for that” I cock my head to the side, taking him in more. He is quite a large build, a rugby player probably. He has a brown coat on, which brushes his calves, undone over dark jeans and a green t-shirt advertising Montreal. He really is quite handsome. He has a round face, without it being chubby. It is a very warm face. His eyes are very calm. The kind of eyes that see and understand all. Intelligent eyes. Perfect eyes.

I extend my gloved hand towards him. He relinquishes the book to me. I reposition myself into a comfier spot, and open the book to once again greet Miss Marple. He doesn’t leave.

“Can I help you?”

“I was hoping so”

“How could I do that?”

“I’m looking for a book”

“Well it’s a good thing you walked into this bank; you’re in the perfect place” I close my book once more.

“A good book”

“There’re a lot of good books here” I spread my arms, indicating the vastness of the seven foot shelves surrounding us.

“Well that’s where I need your help”

“You’ll have to narrow it down”

“Not an adult book about mortgages and marriages. Something younger. Freer”

“Have you read any by John Green?” I pick my favourite author’s name straight away.

“No. Should I?”

“Third shelf to your left, fourth row down. Pick up An Abundance of Katherines”

He does as I say, easily selecting the book and returning to me.

“Buy it. Read it”

“Yes ma’am”

And with a swipe of his card, and a gentle smile from the lady behind the desk he bids me adieu and leaves. I go back to Miss Marple.

That night it rains. Hard. It rains like God trying to banish sin from the world. All night, the wonderful music hits my skylight. Zeus’ lightning bolts light up my room. Every drum in the world plays a solo to me, reaching right to my bones. I lie in the heavy navy light cast by the rain and the sky and the street lights, in a state of bliss.

--

“Where do you go all day?” My brother grunts at me with a mouthful of cereal.

“Home” I reply as I shut the door to him. It’s still raining, the navy light turned to grey with the feeble attempt at daytime that is English winter. I don’t run, though. I’m going to get wet anyway, so I enjoy it. I enjoy the water caressing my face, rejuvenating my smile. I enjoy the cold sensation of it dripping down the back of my coat, cooling my hot back. I enjoy the sound of my feet on the wet pavement, rhythmic and peaceful. I enjoy the barrenness of the streets, save the odd car being overly cautious of the slippery roads. Nobody is outside. Except me.

When I get to the shop, its warm lights welcome me in. I hang my coat on the ornate old-fashioned coat rack behind the door, carved into the pattern of peacock’s feathers. I admire the number of umbrellas resting on its base, all belonging to staff, since the shop is empty.

I select today’s book and recline in my chair. I can still hear the thunderous rain beating its tune against the door and windows. I fall into a peaceful trance of words and music, presenting themselves as one.

The door’s bell rings when somebody else enters, but it doesn’t wake me from my reverie. I only look up when my light is blocked once again by a tall, handsome boy with navy gloves on.

I hold my finger up to him, telling him to wait a second. I’m not even reading the page I’m looking at, I just like the fact that he does as I say unquestioningly. After a few seconds I close my book, fold it in my lap and look up at him.

“And?” His hair is plastered to his face from the rain, his coat is dripping onto the floor, and in his gloved hands he holds a perfectly dry copy of An Abundance of Katherines.

“It was... great”

“As I knew it would be”

“Your turn”

I don’t reply; merely raise my eyebrows questioningly at his tall figure.

He extracts another book from the inside of his coat, handing it to me. It’s the first book in the Game of Thrones series.

“Read it” He says, zipping up his coat once more, crossing the shop and once again entering the wall of water. It’s somehow raining even heavier now; how is there this much water on earth?

I finish the book I was reading before he so abruptly interrupted me within the next hour. It was only short, and I start on Game of Thrones. My stomach unexplainably tingling as I open the book.

I read non-stop until the nice lady who owns the shop has to ask me to leave. I lost track of time, and apologise and leave quickly. The rain has stopped and the streetlights glitter off the wet pavements like dozens of fallen stars. Cars whizz past, spraying up wheels of murky water along the curb, on occasion splashing my purple jeans. By the time I get home it’s nine o’clock, I make myself a bowl of soup, curl up on my bed, and meet Bran where I was last speaking to him. I stay up reading, finishing the book by four and settling into a peaceful and welcome sleep.

I dream I’m on a train, negotiating the skyline of a busy city, void of people. The busyness arises from the presence in the city. The there-ness of its imagined inhabitants. This city isn’t a normal city. It looks like it at first: it has tall, towering office buildings, interspersed with small green parks and walkways, weathered from hundreds of people, yet traversed by none. Upon prolonged inspection, the brick and cement waver and dissolve into words and pages, in the easy, unquestionable manner of dreams, and the souls which litter the City are now noticeable. Every character in every book, from the Analytical Chemist in Our Mutual Friend, to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Every class, every age, every genre, every language, overflowing the city with thoughts.

The train stops at a station at 100 feet off the ground. I tentatively step off, smiling as I see Bobbie, Peter and Phil waving from the end of the platform. I intend to descend the stairs and, since this is a dream, I am instantly at the bottom. I wander round the City of words, listening intently to every conversation I hear, so drenched are they in human spirit. I am most amused when I find a Park named King Henry square, and every literary interpretation of every King Henry that ever lived is crammed into this Park, interacting with each other, discussing politics of long dead noblemen, confusing sons with fathers due to the obsession of passing down names and titles that was so fond in the first half of the last millennium, and getting into fights over honour and pride. I almost get stabbed with a sword, so engrossed was I in a discussion between Henry VI and Henry VIII about the Howard family’s place at court.

I quickly leave that hub of history in favour of a quieter place to sit back and soul-watch.  I find it in a cafe with outdoor seating, overlooking a large square with a statue in the centre. I sit on a wicker chair under a canopy of deep blue netting, shaded from the sun which is getting hotter and hotter. I sip my unspecified drink (since specifics aren’t necessary in dreams) and gaze all around me, absorbing everything and everyone. Until I wake up.

 


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