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The Man In The Book Store

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When you're a child, every adult seems to be old. If they even have grey hair, they seem ancient.

 

Clara was still a child when she met the Doctor. He was a tall, slim man, always impeccably dressed and his hair was silver.

 

He owned a book shop across the street. It was one of these shops that don't exist anymore nowadays. The interior was dark and dusty, the furniture made of oak wood. Books were everywhere. They stood in piles, they were scattered across the floor, they were pressed together on book shelves that seemed to collapse every second.

 

The Doctor himself was grumpy, hardly ever talked to someone and if, only to tell him or her how stupid he is. He liked no one: Not grown ups and certainly not children. But he owned the rarest books on the planet and so people came to him anyway.

 

The Doctor's clothes were always black. Black were his shiny shoes, black was his coat, black were his pants – but red was the lining of his coat.

 

Clara could see that one day, when he climbed up a ladder to reach a book high on a shelf and nearly tripped.

 

Red is Clara's favourite colour. It was back then and is still. It fascinated her, that this man behaving and looking like a scare crow could have hidden something that bright under all that black as a red silk lining.

 

“Why is the red hidden?” Young Clara Oswald asked the old grumpy man boldly, as she crossed the threshold to the book store called TARDIS.

 

The Doctor eyed the child up and down curiously. “What's it your business?” he snapped.

 

“I want to know,” she shrugged.

 

“Ah. And why do you want to know?”

 

“I'm curious. I want to know everything!” Clara replied, eyes shining bright from curiosity.

 

“Everything, huh? That's a lot to know.” The Doctor tried to hide a little smirk - and failed.

 

“So the red – why is it hidden?”

 

“So it's closer to my heart,” he replied ominously. “And they can't see it, find it, or take it away from me again.”

 

The Doctor's expression was wild as spoke, fear sparked in the depths of his eyes and his brows furrowed in concern. The child Clara Oswald didn't knew he was mad. The grown woman Clara Oswald knows now – too late.

 

“They?”

 

“They!” he nodded.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Why is red your favourite colour?” Clara repeated her question.

 

“A Rose is red. Well no. A Rose is pink. But they all say that. Roses are red, right?”

 

“So you like roses?”

 

“No, no, no! You humans! You never listen! A Rose is red. Singular. Not roses.”

 

“You like only one rose then?”

 

“Yes, yes – just the one.” He nodded again. “Anything else you want to know?”

 

Clara shook her head and came back two days later.

 

She hopped on a pile of books and ate a pear.

 

“Put that away!” he yelled. “No pears in my book store. Pears are disgusting!”

 

“You haven't tried my pear,” Clara replied. “It's very sweet.”

 

“It's still disgusting – and I should know, I'm the Doctor.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why are you called the Doctor? You don't treat patients.”

 

“Of course I do! People come to me for answers, guidance, advice, help and I can give all that. There's a book for every problem and for every question.”

 

“But the books have the answers. You just sell them.”

 

“I know what's in the books. My head holds all that wisdom,” he stated haughtily. Straightening out his shoulders, he wiped the dust from his sleeves.

 

“All these books are in your head?” Clara asked incredulously. “You're head must be bigger on the inside.”

 

“Perhaps it is. Books are. There's a different universe, a whole new world between the pages of each book.”

 

Clara picked a book and left. She came back when she finished reading.

 

“I'm ready for another adventure,” she announced.

 

“All of time and space at your fingertips,” he replied. “Just chose.”

 

“Where would you go?” Clara demanded to know.

 

“Me? I've seen all the places. You pick a place and tell me later – this might spark my own interest again.”

 

So she does. Clara comes to pick books and after reading, she tells the Doctor. He knows all the stories, but he likes the different aspects she sees.

 

“I never see you reading.”

 

“I don't read anymore.”

 

“But why?”

 

“I've seen all the places. I don't want to see them again.”

 

“But don't you have a favourite place? One you'd like to come back to?”

 

“It wouldn't be the same place.”

 

“Wouldn't it?”

 

“I changed, grew old. The place would look different through older eyes – I prefer the memory.”

 

“And if it was better than your memory?”

 

“That's impossible.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I'd go there alone this time. Back then I never travelled alone.”

 

“Who was with you?”

 

The Doctor doesn't reply but gives her Grimm's fairy tales. There's a book mark at the story “Red Riding Hood”.

 

“It's terrible what they did to the wolf!” Clara cried.

 

“But the wolf was bad.”

 

“She did what wolves do,” she contradicted stubbornly. “She tried to protect her cub and feed it!”

 

The Doctor hums. “She did.”

 

“Is the wolf really dead?”

 

“Ah no. Turn back the page, Clara. See? There! She's still alive.”

 

“But I know how the story ends!”

 

“So invite another ending,” he suggested.

 

“But now I know what the real ending is!”

 

“It's just real if you want it to be.”

 

Clara goes home to think about a different ending. She comes back a last time.

 

“Did you find another ending?” the Doctor asked her.

 

“No.”

 

“I'll have to keep waiting then.”

 

“Are you waiting?”

 

“Yes of course. For the wolf to return. Somebody has to find another ending.”

 

“But why is the wolf so important to you?”

 

The Doctor didn't answer.

 

When Clara came back later, he had already died. He left her the book though and a picture of a blonde woman. The backside said “Rose 1949 – my beautiful wolf.”

 

The wolf had been his wife. They buried the Doctor next to her.