The ringing and clanging of the metal grate echoes loud in Clarke’s ears as she rolls it up, ready to start a new day. The city awake and alive around her, bustling with noise and rush hour as people jostle by on the street.
A few people who live in the neighborhood nod their heads in hello, faces grim and set with the walk to work, headphones in ears blocking out as much of the world as possible.
Clarke grabs her hot cup of coffee from the mailbox outside the door, shoves her key in the lock and walks inside the store. The jingle of the bell as she opens the door familiar and warm.
It’s small, but it’s hers.
The displays in the window need to be changed out today, signs need to go up for the new books they have coming in, the reading for next week. She takes a deep breath and flips the lights on before setting her stuff in the back.
Raven saunters in next, a grimace on her face and a coffee stain on her shirt.
“Trying to walk and drink at the same time again, Rave?”
“Fuck off, Clarke.”
Clarke laughs at Raven’s death glare and brushes her sass off, too busy with the opening of the store to worry about anything else.
She’s known Raven all her life, the girl has never been a morning person.
“I still don’t understand why you don’t switch to the closing shift.”
“Because you know I like to get in and get out and get my groove on when the sun goes down.”
“Ok… no. Just, no.”
Both girls laugh and Raven switches on the music. The day couldn’t start out any better, if Clarke is being honest.
“Shit, I forgot we scheduled that kids book sale today.” Clarke groans as yet another harried parent walks through the front door with excited children. Usually it’s one of her favorite things about working in the bookstore.
Of owning it.
Seeing the look of wonder cross a child’s face as they connect with a book. With the stories before them, rich and alive.
New readers are born every day and Clarke can’t get enough.
“Yeah, you severely understaffed here, Griffin.” Murphy calls out from behind the register, the line long and growing.
“I sure did.”
Clarke hops on the other till and begins ringing out customers. She spies Raven moving around the floor, fixing displays and grumbling at kids. “Raven,” She nudges her head and waits for Raven to come over to the register. “I think you should stay up here, I’ll fix the store, ok?”
Clarke walks over to the display and sets the books back up, answering questions lobbed at her from parents at all sides. She smiles and nods, happily points out her favorites when asked, and offers suggestions.
“Are you always this busy?” A quiet voice pulls her attention away from the display that just won’t stand right.
“Forgot I planned a sale.”
“Ah.” Clarke looks up and her heart stutters for a second. Piercing green eyes are looking at her with a hint of mirth. A smirk on plump lips. Fingers dusting along the books on the shelf behind them.
“Can I help you with something?”
“I’ve never been in here before, wanted to look around.”
“Well, we always love new customers. What do you like to read?”
The girl turns and looks at her, a bigger smile now. “Everything.”
“Lexa… what do you think of this one?” A boy bounds up to Lexa, holding a graphic novel in his hands. Clarke can see the swords and black blood on the cover. Vaguely familiar but nothing she’s read.
“Is that the new one?”
“Yeah, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. Hey, why don’t we-”
“Aden, this is the owner of the store.”
“I’m Clarke.” She holds out her hand for the girl, Lexa, to shake. “How’d you know I was the owner?”
“Lexa, this is my brother, Aden. And… I pay attention.” She shoots Clarke a full smile and Clarke’s stomach swoops down to her feet.
“You know Aden, the guy who works here in the evenings loves that series, he’s got us stocked up.”
“It’s so good, one of my favorites.”
Lexa puts her arm around the boy’s shoulders, “Aden has been an avid reader since he was little. We decided to pop in here on our way to lunch. Sibling bonding time and all that.” Lexa smirks at her again and Clarke can’t fight the smile on her face.
“Nice. You know, we’re really quite a charming store when we’re not being overrun with children.”
“I bet. I’ll have to come back and scope it out sometime.”
“I hope you do.” Clarke blushes as the words leave her lips.
Aden walks over to the counter and pays for his book, and Lexa steps closer to Clarke. “I’ve heard a lot about this store. I’m sorry I never got the chance to come down here before.”
“Well, we’re here… our hours are on the door right there.” Clarke points to the door behind Lexa, the slightest bit of flirt seeping into her voice.
“I’ll have to make a note of that.” Aden joins them again and Lexa ruffles his mop of hair. “Ready, kid.”
“I hate it when you call me that, Lexa.”
“Yeah, that’s why I do it.” She laughs and Clarke thinks it might be the prettiest sound she’s ever heard. “We’re off to lunch now, then the Yankees game.”
“Sounds like good sibling time.”
“Oh yeah, Lexa is the shit.” Aden’s eyes light up when he talks about his sister.
“Have a good day, Clarke. Call in some reinforcements next time.” Her voice is teasingly light and her eyes are sparkling when they meet Clarke’s.
She walks away before Clarke can think of any words to say.
“Who was that, Griff?”
“I don’t know but I hope she comes back.”
Raven nudges her shoulder and winks at her, “I haven’t seen you flirt in a while. You’re a little rusty, pal.”
“Shhh… there are little ears around. I don’t want my boss to yell at me!”
Clarke laughs at that and walks into the back room to take a look at the sales numbers while it slows down. She boots up her computer and hops on the internet to check her mail and the status of the new order that’s supposed to be on the way.
Her inbox is flooded with receipts and shipment information but her eye catches on the one thing that’s not related to work.
A new email waiting from The_Commander, sent this morning.