A/N: Update! There’s now a prequel to this story, another short titled ‘The Bookfeet’.
The arch-window door opened with a jingle that signaled my entrance. I breathed in a combination of musty wood and a crisp hint of lemon. The crimson curtains, tucked at the sides of the floor- to-ceiling window by bronze tassels, blocked the heat of the sun and kept the store cool and comfortable.
“What are you looking for today?” A man sat in a plush armchair in front of the window, dressed smart as always in a gray cardigan and tie. He glanced up from the small table that was holding his laptop, a stack of thick-bound books, and what looked liked financial forms, dollar signs scattered here and there.
“Not sure.” I gestured to the store. “I’ll just browse.”
“Take your time.” He smiled before returning to his work, fingers clacking on his laptop as his eyes scanned the inside cover of a book at the top of the pile.
My legs moved of their own accord, weaving around the casual stacks of the books on the floor. My fingers trailed the shelves next to me, feeling spine after spine. Most of the spines were creased and had the roughness that came from being shared by many people.
I turned the corner and was faced with a young girl wearing jeans and a loose top. Her blonde hair was tied back in a messy ponytail, and she was stretched out on another plush armchair, absorbed in a book. Around her, I glimpsed a dark-haired spectacled boy waving a wand, a slender blonde-haired male holding a bow walking next to a scruffy man in a ragged cloak, and dragons of every size and colored scale imaginable. The fantasy section.
I kept on walking and peeked around the next shelf. There was another armchair, this one empty, and a man who looked like he was in his early twenties, sprawled on the floor, his long legs reaching across the aisle. He had earphones plugged into his ears, and he glanced up as he flipped a page. We exchanged gazes before his eyes darted back down to his book. Next to him sat an old, green-skinned creature meditating, and a man leaning against a blue box twirling what looked like a screwdriver. The science fiction section.
As I kept walking past smooth wooden bookshelf after smooth wooden bookshelf, I glimpsed a tall, thin man with high cheekbones in a trench coat in the mystery section, a short-brown-haired girl resting her head on a boy’s shoulder, oxygen tank next to her in the romance section, and identical twin girls with blank eyes mouthing the word “redrum” to me in the horror section.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” The gray-cardigan-man glanced up at me when I had walked a full circle around the bookstore. He was at the counter now handing books wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine to a red-haired teenage girl in a yellow sundress. She said a quick ‘thanks!’ and rushed out the door.
“I think I did.”
The man eyed my empty arms and gave me a small smile. “Next time, you should buy a book.”
“Next time, I will.” I smiled back and with a wave, stepped out of the store, shielding my eyes against the blazing sun as the door closed behind me with a soft chime.
© Jade M. Wong 2016
Yup, you got it. Still dusting off some old stories for old Writing 101 prompts.
TRIVIA FUN! There are
6 7 references (Thanks to lovessiamese for spotting a How To Train Your Dragon one) to specific books, TV shows, and movies in this story. Bonus points to whoever finds and names them all! 😉
Credit for the beautiful photo goes to Anastasia Zhenina.