Short Story Written by Jacob Thomas
Twelve years ago, I decided to step into a journey around Europe. I was but a youthful and reckless boy and I didn’t care much for my father’s legacy as a mill worker in Aberdeen. I wanted to see the world and I was sure it was within my grasp. That day I was sitting on a bright, freshly painted white bench with an embedded green placard that bore a tribute to a man of which I had never heard. It was with little musings I entertained myself as I waited for my train ride to the coast. There wasn’t much else to occupy my time for all the loud hustle and bustle of the train station.
“Train 36 to the coast will be delayed by one hour. Apologies for the inconvenience,” came the booming voice over the public announcement system.
“You’ve got to be joking” I muttered.
“Well, no sense in taking a nap now,” I thought to myself. I remembered the station being known for pickpockets and unscrupulous characters.
I decided to stroll around the mini-market that was all the station had to offer to pass the time. As I made my way down the red brick arch like hallway, I noticed a large bright red banner that read “Book Fair” inside a small rounded book store.
“Now this is where I belong,” I thought to myself.
The decadent vanilla scent of the paper of hundreds of books begging to be held and read through began to rush through my nostrils sending my heart into a state of excited palpitations.
The lonesome familiarity was suddenly interrupted by a couple of overly excited young women dressed in sundresses rushing through the forest-green trimmed doors leading into the small bookstore.
As I approached, a young stout African-American boy stepped outside seemingly on a mission.
“Book Fair today, one day only!” he shouted repeatedly, attempting to draw in new customers.
The sweet scent was already enough to grab my attention and pull me in.
Inside the store, the shelves and tables were beautifully laid out making for easy browsing. Out of the corner of my eye, my dearest genre caught my attention. A brown yet dusty shelf boar to my left, studded with a brown marker displaying the title “Science Fiction/Mystery”.
I ran my fingers along the bounds of each book as I moved from left to right eyeing each title. I couldn’t choose. Some bindings were inlaid with gold lettering and some inlaid with softer tones slowly succumbing to age. However, among my weary browsing my eyes came across a peculiar book with no lettering on the binding nor covers. I quickly noticed the book had not been touched by age nor was the book new. It was small, visibly stressed and read by others. Something had urged me to pick up the book.
“Find everything you are looking for sir?” asked the gentle store keeper.
“Hmm, yes thank you. However, might I inquire about this book? The bound and covers are bare.” I pointed out.
She took the mysterious book from my hands and rested it in hers. Quickly, I noticed her skin and the lack of lining on her hands. I became captivated with her glowing yet fair complexion comparing it to that of smooth silk. Her bright red hair suggested Celtic descent. Instantaneously, her beauty possessed my soul. And during that possession I realized her expression of keen knowledge of the book in question.
“Sir?” she questioned softly.
“Oh, yes….uh…thank you very much.” I replied flustered, attempting to regain any composure I had left.
During my stir, I noticed she had quickly become aware of my flustering. Her body language spoke of a familiar experience on several occasions yet left hints of a slight mutual attraction. Her seemingly soft lips added to attraction behind her smile making my heart feel as though it was melting.
This feeling was absolutely foreign to me. Experiences like this are a luxury being raised behind high brick walls and strict school rules. Father would burn my hands for straying like this; a small-minded man he is.
“Let me know if there is anything else you need help with.” she suggested softly as she moved to other customers.
“Train 36 will be arriving in 30 minutes. Please prepare to show your ticket upon boarding. Thank you for your patience,” the booming voice called out over the PA.
“Bollocks!” I thought to myself.
I had wanted to continue to browse through this one-day-only book fair yet my attention had seemed to be all but wasted basking in the store keeper’s beauty.
I quickly placed the mysterious book in my brown leather messenger bag and began to make haste towards the cashier.
“Have a wonderful day sir!” the cashier called out as I rushed through the green doors.
The young African-American boy was still outside chanting his repeat message, a job well done attracting new folks.
“Oi, you sir! Smitten over Lady Maggie are you?” the boy inquired with earnest.
“Excuse me young fellow?” I responded, quickly turning to face him.
“Believe in fate sir? Chance encounters? I saw the look in your eyes,” he gleefully revealed in amusement.
“What is it to you?” I asked.
“With what you carry sir,” the boy riddled.
I looked upon the boy with confusion and yet I was intrigued by his words. I was at a loss of words myself and no matter how much I tried, still I was unable to speak. A rush of thoughts and sentences flew through my mind baring a small headache above my left eye irking me to find the nearest pharmacist and quickly.
As I walked away from the boy and the small book-fair taking place, the boy continued his familiar chants like a broken record. And like a broken record, I grew tired of the noise from the crowds plaguing my head. Luckily, the oddly shaped town-center was nearby with a square map resting on a pillar on a corner pointing the way to the nearest pharmacist.
“With what you carry sir,” filled my mind. The pounding in my head felt like a rail worker laying a new track hammering in the nail to keep it in place.
With the medicine acquired I returned to the train station. I had lost enough time.
The train began to make its way from the station. What I saw next shook me to the core.
The small boy was standing at the south end of the train station resting against the wall. As I passed, he tipped his grey English racing cap as if not to say goodbye but as if to implicate he will be seeing me again.
Such lost mannerisms.