The Freedom That Paper Gives

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As the weeks wore on

“So you really like the premise of my book?” Marie asked, and while she was sure of the answer she still needed it to be confirmed.

“It sounds great and different. I’m sure it will do really well when you publish it. In fact once you do you should put the link to the petition in the book and vice versa.” Percy replied.

“I was going to, any profit I make on the book I’m donating between charities that help with things like this and other various charities I support.”

Percy was more shocked at that statement than anything, mainly because he could tell she meant it. She was not going to take any potential profit that she makes.

“I look forward to reading it then.” Percy said.

Marie looked at Percy, a bit shocked as she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“You... you mean you want to read some. Some of my book?” She stammered.

“Of course, only if you’ll let me.”

Percy really couldn’t wait to read some, he could tell from Marie’s passion that it was going to be good. Besides he was already invested in the characters even though he knew nearly nothing about them. Besides he still couldn’t help but hope they end up together in the end. Marie herself found that she couldn’t wait for him to read it and give his feedback.

“I’m only on the second draft and still editing so excuse me for some of the inevitable mistakes.” Marie exclaimed as she brought up the document.

“I’m sure I won’t notice.”

“I hope you do for your assignments sake.” Marie teased.

Marie and Percy smiled at each other before Percy began to read, as he continued he leant closer to the screen, muttering words under his breath, clearly captivated. He was, this was a really strong opening. It started in action, but still gave a sense to the character of Dakota. While everyone else was panicking she was calm and defused the situation. Marie even poked fun at typical plot holes within the genre by simply solving them and explaining things. Percy was glad that it didn’t begin with an info-dump Marie only told you exactly what you needed to know, adding a sense of mystery and making you want to keep reading to find out more about the characters as well as see the plot play out. While Percy was reading Marie had taken a notebook out of her bag and started to jot down ideas. Seeing Percy’s reactions told her everything that she needed to improve upon, perhaps some parts were too graphic and others not expanded upon enough. As Percy studied the page Marie studied Percy, both learning from each other.

Every once and a while Percy had to go back to work because it had gotten busy but he always came back, he couldn’t keep away from Marie or her book. And Marie found she enjoyed his company, even when they weren’t speaking he was easy to relax around. She started to look forward to how close Percy would sit. This carried on for a few weeks whenever Marie would come in and Percy was on his shift, he would always have her order waiting for her on her table (which he secretly reserved for her) and Marie would always have the exact change needed and tip. At every spare moment he had Percy would come over and read, at first he tried to pace himself to make this last as long as he could, but soon he couldn’t help himself, he needed to know how each chapter ended. Every time he was working Percy would give Marie a cake to ‘keep her energy up’ but really it was because of the huge smile she gave him when he presented this small snack to her. He would spend every break he had with her either reading or discussing her book or discussing something else entirely. Sometimes it felt like he was talking with her for hours and others like no time had passed at all. Percy started to look forward to his usually exhausting all day shifts because that meant he could spend all day with Marie. Percy was disappointed when she was in class or busy with work so she couldn’t talk to him. He always offered to help her with her classwork and she did the same. Percy found he was happy to read anything she had written whether it be her book, her work or a text.

Marie herself was happier and more relaxed around Percy in the passing weeks. She actively enjoyed his feedback and found that his critiques didn’t hurt as much as she feared they would. She looked forward to the weekends when she could spend all day at the cafe without the disruptions of class, Marie had noticed that Percy was taking a lot more weekend shifts since they had become friends and she wasn’t complaining. She was happy she was getting to know him better. Marie found that she actually missed Percy if he wasn’t working and often looked forward to whenever he would bring her a cake, as he always seemed to know which one she wanted that day. Marie noticed how he always had her order ready and had saved a seat next to her for himself. In fact it got to the point where she didn’t need to go to the counter anymore while he was working because he could almost sense when she needed a refill. Soon Percy started to spend his breaks with her and they would discuss everything under the sun and they found that they had a lot more in common that they thought, both enjoying art and music and literature. They both shopped at the same small independent stores, they both liked the same films, they both wanted to travel the world. Marie had learnt that Percy still lived at home, along with his sister, but that was mainly due to the lack of accessible accommodation in the area. Percy was very active, he was a regular at the local rock climbing centre, often trained for travelling on his own and played in the local physical disability football team. When he wasn’t in training for that he was in physio preparing for his future of travelling the world alone. Which explained, Marie thought, why he was always tired on the weekends. He must have no free time. Both Marie and Percy often exchanged book recommendations and would spend ages talking about themes and other things they found interesting.

Percy always let Marie in early and let her stay late if he was opening or closing the cafe. She always offered to proofread his essays in return for him proofreading hers, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and historical context to back up his arguments. Marie found that the more time she spent with Percy the more time she wanted to spend with him. He was like a calming influence on her, he quietened the anxiety and made her forget about the side effects of her medication for a moment. It was actually Marie who made the first move and asked for his phone number, taking herself by surprise as she was never usually that forward. But Percy accepted and they exchanged numbers and on more than one occasion spent nearly all night texting, and once actually talking, about their shared interests.

But the anxiety was starting to build up in Marie again as Percy was coming to the end of her book, he was on the last chapter and Marie thought he would be done by the end of the week, ready to give his final feedback. She knew he was enjoying it but she always got the sense the he thought something was missing, a twist or a subplot. She was worried that he wouldn’t like the ending, but she was also worried that after he finished reading they would have nothing left to discuss and the friendship that they had built would start to rot. Marie found that she would miss him sitting next to her, and how when there was a shock he would make a small jump and on one occasion he accidentally put his hand on her knee. Marie found she didn’t mind at all. She would miss his ideas for her book and how to get the word out about her petition and her other charitable events she was a part off. She would miss how excited he got when he found that they had something in common and when he got excited he couldn’t stop himself from talking.

Percy wouldn’t admit it but he had the same worry, that once he had finished reading Marie would go back to work and ignore him. He hated when the cafe was busy because it meant he couldn’t be with her. He found that she helped take his mind of his sore muscles after physio or training and allow him to forget how draining it could be. But mostly if Marie did ignore him he would miss her. He would miss the way her smile brightened her whole face and was contagious, especially how easy it was to make her smile now he knew her better. He would miss the opportunity to discuss art and music and literature with her because he didn’t get the chance with anyone else. He would miss her passion about changing the world for the better as it made him feel he could too. He would miss how she would stare at the cake cabinet and how he was starting to wish she was in fact staring at him. Percy would miss the simple act of sitting next to her in silence, in short he would miss her even though she wasn’t going anywhere. He tried to make himself read slower but he couldn’t. He needed to know how it ended, he needed to know how this ended.

It came to the fateful day when he reached the final chapter when he decided that after he finished he was going to ask her to discuss it with him somewhere other than the cafe. He would be sure not to make her think it was a date because he was nearly completely sure that Byron was her boyfriend. But Percy wanted to talk to her somewhere other than work where his attention couldn’t be taken away. Who was he kidding, his attention couldn’t be taken away now.

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