This is my new ongoing serial. Hope you like it 🙂
1. The Girl In The Bookshop
You could say it was on this day I first became aware that things were changing in my life. This was the beginning of my descent into darkness, or at least my first awareness of this descent. In reality she had been influencing my life long before this point, but I only learned this later on. It’s like one day you go to the doctor because you’re feeling unwell and it turns your body is riddled with disease. The last few months your body has been eaten away but you only come to notice it because one day you’re feeling under the weather. Because of this you think of it as this day you first became ill, even though you have actually been sick for some time. This analogy holds truer than you would think. Or it is like the closing of a net around you, a net that has been there for sometime slowly closing around you unawares, but you finally only see it once it begins to snap shut.
I don’t know when I began noticing her. I know she had been in several times previously before she began to appear on my radar, before I would notice the way she would furtively look up from a book she was reading to stare at me. Once I saw she was looking at me I would smile back with my weak half smile. I wasn’t good at smiling, or making eye contact, or even talking for that matter. In fact the whole human interaction thing was one thing I had never really got to grips with. I don’t why I was working in a book store, but here I was.
She never seemed to buy anything but hang round looking though books and sneaking glances at me. Occasionally I noticed she was in the horror section where she would look through books and quietly chuckle to herself. She had long blonde hair that was slightly wavy and very pale skin. Definitely an ash blonde. Her clothes were often very dark too. Sometimes she wore black dresses with high black boots, sometimes pants with ballerina flats and a polo neck jersey. All I mostly wore were flannel shirts, jeans, and converse sneakers. Helen, who I worked with and who owned the store, often harassed me to dress a bit smarter, but so long as I was tidy she didn’t do much about it. I had a degree from college and here I was selling books, stranded in my hometown.
One particular day she came in and after I did my usual run of pretending to tidy up the shelving to get a closer look at her, she came to the counter with a book in her hand. It was a thick book of black and white photography stills.
“Hi” I said, trying to smile. She smiled back at me and grabbed her wallet out of her black handbag. She had piercing green eyes.
“I like this book” she said with an accent that was hard to place. It sounded vaguely European, but could have been anywhere in Europe for all I knew. It wasn’t French, German, or Italian, so I guessed it was either from the north or the east. Not that I was an expert on accents and their provenance. All I could say was that she definitely wasn’t from around here.
“Well for $49.99 it can be all yours!” I replied with slightly too much gusto, which left me starting to blush. She gave a soft laugh and handed me her credit card.
“My name is Astrid by the way” she said as put the book in a bag. I smiled.
“My name is Melissa.” I replied. I wasn’t sure why I was giving her my name, but it seemed the right thing to do. She nodded as I handed her the bag.
“I know.” She said with a finality. She took the bag and walked out the door. For some reason I felt unsettled. Like someone had just walked over my grave. How did she know my name? I didn’t wear a name tag, though Helen was thinking of getting some. Maybe she had heard Helen say my name. That was probably it, I reflected.
A couple of days later Astrid returned to the shop and came straight to the counter. I usually dreaded those moments as it usually meant a customer had a question they expected me to answer, but this time I felt a slight thrill as she came up to me.
“I was wondering if we could meet for coffee after you finish work? I know this is very forward but that’s my way.” I was dumbfounded. Was she asking me out?
“Today?” I asked in a surprised tone of voice.
“Well if today doesn’t suit, what about another day?” She looked at me expectantly.
“No today is fine. I was just surprised is all.” I replied with my heart doing a somersault.
“I understand” she said softly. “I’ll be waiting outside once you finish.”
“Ok. I finish at five today.”
“I know.” She said with certainty. “I’ll see you later.” She smiled again. She had extremely white teeth, like the colour of bleached bone. Then she was gone.
The rest of the day at work was spent in nervous apprehension. I hadn’t dated anyone in ages, and I wasn’t totally sure it was a date. I was convinced I was the only lesbian in the whole town, or so it seemed. Maybe she was new to the area and was looking for friends? Maybe she wanted to sell me something? Or maybe she was some religious nut wanting to convert me? We had a lot of them around here. I guess I would find out shortly.
Five o’clock rolled around and my legs, which suddenly seemed to be filled with lead, walked me slowly out of the shop while my heart pounded in my ears. She was waiting outside standing in the middle of the footpath not far away from the store entrance. She wore dark glasses which hid her very beautiful eyes. Her long blonde hair framed her face. As I walked out the door she smiled at me.
“I thought we could go to the café in the next block” she volunteered.
“That sounds nice. They make great coffee there.” I replied.
I had been there often, so I knew the place well. I felt a little bit more at ease since I knew I was going to be in familiar territory. We both walked in silence while in my head I went through all the possible things I could say to her on the way there, but as usual I couldn’t come up with anything that sounded remotely interesting.
Next episode: The Café
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