I saw you.
You entered the shop and looked around and immediately started angling yourself to get the best photo. I couldn’t see at first if you were taking a selfie or a shot of the books.
God I hoped you weren’t taking a selfie. Selfies are obnoxious. They’re a way to display to the world the false reality that people live in.
I moved slightly towards the A-E section and now I could make out that you were taking a normal photo and my estimations of you went higher. Amateur photographer? I tracked how your eyes were looking for the best light, your fingers skipping over the screen to set the focus.
God your fingers are so fucking dainty.
I briefly think what it may be like to lace my hand through yours. I briefly think what it may be like to have your hand run down my chest and hold it there, so small. There’s a protective feeling that flits across my emotions.
I take some of the volumes that sit on the desk ready for sorting and move to F-K. Well I can’t be fucking obvious about it. Some people get funny about personal space. I’m going to let you come to me.
You’re walking backwards, taking in everything and I can see the wonderment and something like a sense of peace in your expression. It’s magical to watch. Alice down the rabbit hole and here is your Wonderland.
You’re in the F-K now and I can see your phone screen out of the corner of my eye. I’m expecting the photo to end up on Instagram with some inane hashtag like #vintage or #mood. What even is a fucking mood anyway and why do you all feel the need to express it to the world? Nobody just feels any more. We have to announce it.
But wait…you’re not uploading it to any social media. You’ve just set it as your lock and home screen. There’s a long exhale as every muscle in your body relaxes and maybe, just maybe you feel comfortable here. Like it’s home.
Then you look up to the books, putting your phone away in your back pocket and now you’re just begging me to follow that motion to your ass. Your jeans hug well and I can see the faint outline of your underwear. Sensible cut, no dimpling to suggest lace. You enjoy your comfort. That speaks to me. You’re not trying too hard.
Your hand reaches up, scanning along the row of books.
Where will you stop?
There’s a brief moment where you hover over Thomas Harris, Red Dragon. You like your thrillers, huh? Maybe you fantasise about a sense of danger, maybe that’s what gets you off. I make a mental note because you’re probably the type of girl who likes the brooding and mysterious man. Possibly a silent-ish protector.
Then you pluck a Robin Hobb book out. A fantasist. You like your fantastical worlds and mythical creatures.
Who hurt you so much that you have to escape into high Fantasy books? I would make them pay. You deserve to be happy. Then again, you could just be whimsical. After all, what girl in this day and age just takes a photo for her own personal viewing?
“Excuse me?” you turn to me, big eyes. Such big innocent eyes. “Do you have The Mad Ship? Maybe I’m going mad myself but I can’t see it.”
Your voice is not what I expected. I expected something lilted, something light, something like a fairy or an elf. It’s so husky, so seductive and it doesn’t suit your face but there’s the smallest part of me that thinks there’s this side to you where your expression changes and you’d become the worst kind of temptress. That maybe you’re absolutely wild and that fucking voice would drive a man to the brink.
“Huh, it should be there,” I frown, pretending to look and knowing full well some ingrate has taken it and shoved it with wild abandon into the Jim Butcher section. “Let me just….”
My hand roves over the entire shelf and then I turn before I spot it and take it out with an ‘a-ha’. The pretence works perfectly and I can see the relief on your face when I hand it to you.
Fuck, those tiny fingers…
“Thank you so much! I didn’t want to have to order it from Amazon.”
“You don’t like multimillion dollar conglomerate despot companies?” I joke and you giggle to yourself.
“Does anyone? I don’t know, I always try to support local bookstores. There’s just something homely about physically visiting one and I don’t want to see any stores go bankrupt because people stop coming.”
“Ah so a philanthropist,” I put one hand in my pocket like a cool guy would and lean against the shelf. All of this creates a debonair attitude and you’re appreciating it, I can tell. “Are you new in the area? I’ve not seen you in here before.”
“Just moved,” you nod and I can see your breasts bounce slightly.
You wanted me to notice them, didn’t you? You could have just said yes but you moved your whole body.
“Then welcome to Mooney’s,” I bow ostentatiously and you laugh even more.
Hmm, maybe brooding is not your type. You like sarcastic.
“Why thank you,” you curtsy back. “And thank you kindly for finding this. Do you have any other recommendations?”
“I would be a terrible bookstore clerk if I didn’t,” I smirk.
God, smirking? Is this what I’m reduced to? I see your big smile though and it’s worth it. This role I have to play is only temporary.
“Well I’m going to assume you’ve burned through the mainstream fantasy but if I’m being a pompous ass just tell me….the Age of Misrule series is a good one to sink your teeth into.”
“Load me up,” you hold out your arms. “I’ve got a free weekend and I intend to not move from my couch as much as possible.”
A free weekend. Should I ask? No, far too soon. I don’t know if you have a boyfriend, although recently moving indicates no but one shouldn’t assume.
I take a few books out, a speckling of high fantasy mixed with fantasy sci-fi. Some are my favourites and I hope you return to tell me what you think of them.
“This is great,” your smile gets even bigger.
Fuck, why are you so cute? If you do have a boyfriend he definitely doesn’t appreciate how beautiful you are when you’re enthusiastic.
“Here, let me. I’ll take them to the counter,” I take all the books like a gentleman. “The ones with dragons may bite you on the way otherwise.”
“Wouldn’t want that at all,” you catch onto the joke, moving with me to the till.
I ring them up, putting them elegantly into the bag and you’re watching. You’re watching my hands working. I wonder why.
You don’t notice that I’m studying your face and I catch the way your teeth lightly rake your lip. Oh you’re just telegraphing now. You’re shouting it from the loudest mountaintop that you’re interested.
Maybe you’re imagining what my hands could do to you. I certainly am.
“That’ll be $34.88,” I tell you.
“Shoot, do you take card?” you pat through your bag.
It’s so disorganised. I can see make-up, sweet wrappers, old receipts. Jesus Christ. It’s a wonder you can find anything in there.
“Yeah we do. We move with the times in some ways,” I quip.
You take your phone out and you’ve got your card in the back of the case. Considering you keep your phone in your back pocket that is a monumentally idiotic place to have it. Any pickpocket could just reach in and your whole financial life would be turned upside down.
You hand your card over and I note the name. It’s ordinary. It doesn’t suit you either, just like your voice. You need something whimsical, something magical.
“I wasn’t expecting your name to be so…”
“Common?” you venture with a tiny smile like you’re shy. “Yeah I know. I’ve never liked it.”
“I see you as more…a Queen of the Fairies. Something mystical, something whimsical but also a hidden strength.”
You’re blushing. God your self esteem must be awful. Who hurt you? I repeat, Who. Hurt. You? Who made you so insecure that a throwaway compliment you cling onto like a lifeline?
“I don’t think they’d let me have a driver’s licence with 'Titania’ on it somehow,” you start playing with your hair.
“It would suit you more,” I press, knowing I’m sealing the deal. Your body just glows with approval.
“And you would be….?” you’re fidgeting on the spot, you’re not used to being so forward. I thoroughly appreciate the effort you’re making for me. It’s a good sign for our relationship.
“Joe, Joe Goldberg,” I extend my hand and you shake it, a nice grip.
“Joe doesn’t suit you either,” you muse. “Such a keeper of imagination and worlds.”
You’re so fucking perfect. You see me. You see me.
There’s a heartbeat where you’re just staring at me and I don’t realise you’re expecting me to do something.
“Well, thank you…Joe,” you take the bag and prepare to leave.
Shit shit shit! You were expecting me to ask for your number, weren’t you? I’ve missed my window and you’re disappointed. You telegraph all your emotions so clearly.
“No problem. I hope you come back to tell me what you think. Some of my favourites are in there.”
Saved it. The emotional angle works. You’re touched that I’d give you my personal favourites.
“Well if I don’t like them I know who to complain to,” you smile, backing up slightly before waving. “Bye.”
“Bye,” I smile and it’s a warm smile. It matches your own because I can’t help it. You pull this feeling to the fore for me.
When you leave, it’s like the entire bookstore dims. You’re gone and you took your light with you and I’m cursing.
I’m cursing the fact you have such a fucking common name because how the hell am I supposed to find you? How am I to know what your thoughts are? Your opinions? What you value? That’s just not fair.
Then I see it. You’ve dropped one of your receipts on the ground and it’s for a grocery store some blocks away. I know a general location of where you live. That’s a start.
I type your name into Facebook anyway because it’s worth a shot. There’s about twenty girls that come up in the immediate area but I scroll through each one until I find you.
Fuck. Privacy. Settings.
I mean, good for you and all being internet smart but this doesn’t help me find anything out about you. I get it, you’re playing hard to get. You want me to work for it.
Don’t worry. I will. That I promise you.
The next time you come into my store, I’ll be ready.