Steph enters the shop before she can talk herself out of it again. Before she becomes convinced that the old biddies down the street are watching her, judging her, catching her doing something she shouldn’t.
Within seconds she’s forgotten all about them as she finds herself thrust into a whole new world – the lights, the posters, and, upon closer glance at the nearest bookshelf, titles that might burn her fingers if she dares touch them.
It’s so much more daunting than she had believed. Caught by her own reluctance Steph fights down angry tears and ducks her head so that the man at the counter won’t think to speak to her.
On a drizzly October day Steph almost takes a copy of Annie on my mind off its shelf. She’s aware of – Gethin, that’s his name – watching her. He seems friendly enough, for all that he sees her being here, knows why she’s here.
“...time is it?” she asks him, and he tells her, all friendly-like and with a barely-there Welsh accent, unassuming although his eyes are sympathetic in an un-annoying way. “Got to go then,” she says more brightly than she feels. Turning, she spots the giant clock on the wall and is amazed that the man brave enough owning a queer book store isn’t making fun of her.
“I have – work,” she tells him, which is the truth, thankfully, and he nods, still not mocking her - but he might, maybe, gently, if they knew each other better.
Last week, Steph was seconds away from kissing a woman for the first time. She has a feeling this might be every bit as important.
Steph closes the shop door behind her and soaks in the warmth getting rid of the chill the November air has left in her bones.
Jonathan is here today, she is relieved to see, and she smiles at him and gets a wave in return before tracking down Gethin, holding up her copy of Orlando for him. “Oi, d’you know anything about a rumour of a lost sequel?”
She is careful not to drag any of the outside mud in, something she hardly ever bothers with elsewhere.
“And then Billie told her to shut her gob and put on sensible boots already,” Steph tells Jonathan, hearing his incredulous snort and grinning, “can you believe it?”
She passes a bloke at the counter who is reading the paper but she hardly pays him any mind.
“I might just slap her if she ever tries that with me, job be damned. My self-expression is worth more than that.” For the moment, Billie is tolerating Steph’s choice of earrings, as long as it lasts.
Her eyes trail the bookshelf until - ha - she triumphantly snags a copy of The Guerilleres between her fingers.
This year’s January is cold and her coat is a bit too thin. It’s evident that she’ll need to find a better paying job sometime soon but Steph wants to forget about that for a minute, as well as about how even talking to her room-mate is quickly becoming a chore. She is comfortable in the chair she has commandeered, with a steaming mug of cocoa Gethin put in her hand.
Eventually she’ll get up and see if she can turn up new reading material but for now she is content to listen to Jonathan going on about his newest play.
The next time he stops for breath she intends to stop him with a “Right, right, but let me tell you exactly what I think about your director forgetting about all the female characters.”