Sometimes change is inevitable.
And so far, Magnus hasn't seen good change much.
Like the time when he moved to Boston with his mom due to the death of his father. Or at homecoming when someone finally kissed him but then forgot the next day, claiming it never happened and that he should just stay away from them. Or when he left for college, hoping for something different, something remarkable to happen. Or maybe when he left his mom on her own, hoping for a brighter future. It never sat right in his stomach. He wanted to be next to her to protect her, to take care of her, to make sure nothing like at the Hike will ever happen again. But then, his mom is just the empty husk of a beautiful, awe-inspiring woman. Staring out of the window waiting for a dead man to return to her.
But Magnus never thought, never dared to let the thought occur to him that maybe, just maybe, something or someone will come. And will change his life for the better.
The bookstore that Magnus worked at was rather old but magnificent nevertheless, with high ceilings and large, wooden bookshelves. Dust would collect in the nooks and crannies in between the spaces from years of neglect. There was a coffee shop in the bookstore where people would sit and read or study. And thus, the place would always smell like freshly brewed coffee and new books. The air would be filled with sounds of the whirring and churning of coffee machines and the sound of pages being turned. The silence was comfortable, with few conversations struck up every minute or so. The entire place gave off a very calming vibe.
And Magnus was absolutely miserable.
Ever since the death of his mother a few months ago, Magnus has been miserable. He remembered sitting in the stark white room with his mother, the heart rate monitor beeping and setting a steady pace as his mother lay in the hospital bed. Her eyes were closed, wrinkles and grey stringy hair framed her once beautiful face. Her breathing was slow and raspy while the nasal cannula connected to her nose was trying to help her breathe.
He sat in the hospital for days, his mother falling in and out of consciousness all the time. Sometimes she would speak to him, ask him how his day was. They would talk and occasionally laugh a little. But some days, she would lie in bed and stare out of the window next to her bed. She wouldn't acknowledge the fact that Magnus was there and that he was worried. She wouldn't speak or eat or do anything even when Magnus begged, begged her to do something so she doesn't get sicker.
After that, Magnus didn't have much time to go to the hospital. He had his job, and it was the only way he could pay for college and the hospital bills.
A week later, the hospital called.
The funeral was to be held exclusively for family members, although most of his family never showed up.
Uncle Frederick was there with Annabeth, who flew all the way from San Francisco during a very important project of hers to be here and Magnus was very grateful. Randolph wasn't there, typical of him. He drowns himself in whiskey and misery. Randolph never cared about his sister anyways, just the family he lost to the unforgiving jaws of the ocean.
Although this was a private ceremony, Magnus’ friends showed up afterward to show their support. Magnus’ flatmate Sam brought a bouquet of flowers but all Magnus really needed was for her to be there for him that day. Mallory came and expressed how sorry she was for his loss and hugged him tightly. Although Magnus doesn't like physical contact, he was glad he had someone close by to comfort him. Gunderson was a man of many words but at the funeral, he was quiet. Only mumbling softly to express how sorry he was. TJ also came, his usually upbeat aura gone.
Natalie Chase was cremated, her ashes put in a black container to be poured out into the wild. The “funeral” took place in the same place they buried Magnus’ father. They found the same secluded area they let his father's ashes go and poured out the remains of his mother. The ashes swirled and danced for a second before the wind picked it up and carried it away into the air.
Magnus didn't cry at the funeral, his expression remained stone hard. He accepted the good wishes from his friends and other family members with a poker face.
He cried himself to sleep for days afterward, waking up with red, swollen eyes.
Magnus took a few days off after the funeral, the co-manager Hunding understood and patted Magnus sympathetically on his back before sending him off to rest. Magnus bought him a box of chocolates afterward to say thanks, knowing that he especially loved the ones from the chocolaterie two blocks away from the bookstore right opposite the small but well-kept boutique owned by his good friend Blitzen.
The days passed like a blur, it was the same every day. Get up, eat, college, work, eat, sleep. Magnus hardly ever felt like doing anything he loved, like reading or working on his novel. He didn't feel like going to his favorite falafel place and talk to his roommate's fiance, Amir. He was depressed and stayed in this miserable state for a long time.
That is until one day, a certain individual with a head of bright green hair appeared in the bookstore Magnus usually worked at. Never did Magnus imagine that a set of heterochromatic eyes and a sly smirk would capture his heart at lightning speed.
For Magnus, it was just supposed to be a peaceful day at the bookstore, with the usual amount of customers milling around the bookstore, quickly finding the suitable book for themselves and eagerly walking up to the till to pay for the item. A small bell hanging above the main entrance announcing the arrival of new customers with a little twinkle, almost like a small light laugh. Although Magnus often asked Hunding why they would have such a loud little item in a usually quiet space and the other man replied with a shrug, saying that the owner liked the small ornament and kept it to announce the arrival of new customers, saying that “everyone has a right to feel special” and that something should be there to remind them of that. The owner, Odin, being a usually obnoxious man, liked to give his employees inspirational speeches and powerpoints at least once a week. Everyone dreads them but no one had the heart to tell him so, for the fear of being fired.
Magnus smiled at a customer as they retreated from the till. It was a father and a small girl. The girl clutched her book tightly, smiled at Magnus and skipped away while his father hurried to catch up, uttering back one last thanks before exiting the bookstore with his small daughter.
Magnus let out a sigh of relief as he saw there were no more people waiting in the queue. He checked his watch, there was still 30 minutes before his shift ended so he swapped roles with one of his colleagues so that he could spend the rest of his shift stacking books.
As Magnus rolled the trolley down familiar wooden bookshelves, he scrunched up his face and yawned greatly. He hasn't slept much ever since the funeral so his eyes were puffy and ringed with red while underneath lay dark bags that made his haunting facial features more suspicious than ever before, his high cheekbones, paler than usual complexion and gray eyes didn't help this situation at all. When he opened his eyes after yawning, they were watery so now it looked as if he had been crying. A few people looked at him sympathetically so he knew they must think that is what happened. He wiped his eyes quickly with the back of his hand before anyone could question it.
Magnus stopped before a bookshelf tucked in a smaller corner of the bookstore, not many people come here due to the fact that these are not new releases and Magnus has only seen a few older people and occasionally middle-aged women pick out a book from this section. Classics, read the place tag describing the genre on the very top of the shelf. For Magnus, this was his favorite part of the bookstore. Although he loved introducing new releases to the customers and occasionally picking out one for himself to read, Magnus thought that nothing could ever beat the great books of old. He spied a few copies of Great Expectations, probably there waiting for a middle schooler to claim it as their compulsory English reading book and copies of the well-known Iliad and Odyssey from Homer. Magnus thought they were great books but the myths were something he was not familiar with and because of that, he found it dull reading books about stuff he barely understands. He vaguely remembers his cousin Annabeth telling him about his boyfriend Percy. Apparently, he knew a few things or two about Ancient Greece and their mythology but Magnus never really paid much attention to her when she's gushing on about her boyfriend, it only reminded him of his own sad love life and how he hasn't gotten laid in almost a year.
Magnus began to load books onto the bookshelf when someone lightly tapped him on his shoulder. Startled, Magnus turned around only to be greeted by a young Asian teen.
“ Hi, um, do you work here?” She asked nervously.
“ Uh, can you help me find a copy of this book?” the younger girl took out a piece of paper where the name of a novel was roughly scrawled on the crumpled piece of paper. Magnus sighed in relief when he could finally decipher what it said.
“ Yeah sure, right this way miss,” He replied with a brief smile, turning his heel to walk towards another section of the bookstore. After scanning the names of the different novels with his eyes, he finally found the book and gracefully tipped the book off the shelf before handing it to the girl. The girl muttered many thanks before retreating to one of the many couches in the bookstore.
Magnus proceeded to walk back to the Classics section where books lie down waiting to be put onto the bookshelves. As he walked back, he thought he caught a glimpse of unusually bright curly green hair. Convincing himself it was simply a hallucination due to sleep deprivation, he rubbed his eyes and turned the corner to his section where he stopped dead in his tracks, eyes wide open and heart threatening to jump out of his chest from seeing the most beautiful person standing in front of him.
A small petite figure with a mop of unruly bright green hair was standing next to Magnus’ trolley and was looking at the titles of the various books that were yet to be stacked. The person’s head snapped up when they heard footsteps approaching and Magnus was met with large heterochromatic eyes, one dark brown while the other was shining gold, like the armor of Achilles before he stepped into battle. He felt like a moth drawn to a flame or a bug trapped in amber, seconds before death consumed them.
“ Hi,” the beautiful stranger piped with unusual confidence and Magnus could feel thousands of butterflies threatening to rip out of his stomach and heat searing through his face, turning it an unattractive tomato red.
Suddenly, Magnus didn't want his shift to ever end. Not if it means he gets to stay with this gorgeous stranger, standing in the bookstore where he worked, holding a copy of one of his favorite books.
“ Hi,” he stuttered in reply.
And this time, Magnus was ready for change.