The Freedom That Paper Gives

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“I figured you might need a burst of energy.”

Marie looked up to see Percy again and a smile came over her. He had brought her over another cake, just the one that she had been looking at earlier.

“Thank you so much Percy. How much do I owe you?” Marie said, grateful and already reaching for her purse.

“Nothing, I get a free cake everyday and figured you might like it,” Percy replied, knowing free food is a foolproof way to make friends. “But I can get you a refill if you need one?”

“How did you know?” Marie replied as she handed over her tumbler and money.

“Intuition.” Percy said.

Percy headed back to the till, oblivious to the look he was getting from Ian. That went well he thought, he hadn’t managed to embarrass himself or her. Besides there is no better way to make friends than to bribe them with his bosses vanilla cupcakes and hot chocolate. Marie was having similar thoughts and while she didn’t believe in signs she took Percy’s offer of a sugar rush as one and did something she had never done before. She called out to someone.

“Hey Percy, if you have a minute I’d be happy to tell you about my book.”

Marie was shocked at what she had done, this was very unlike her. Not only had she called across a cafe, granted it was pretty much empty now, but she was also willing to discuss her book with someone. But Marie had made up her mind, she liked Percy and was sure that everyone else would too. She was going to adopt him into her friend group. And Percy himself was shocked too, as Marie had never been so direct before, in fact he didn’t think he had ever heard her be so loud unprompted. Percy looked over at Ian, who rolled his eyes.

“Is there any point trying to stop you?” Ian said.

“Nope, its dead in here anyway. Besides my physio said I need to take frequent breaks.” Percy replied.

“I’m sure they did.”

Percy smiled and went over to Marie, and he found he was excited to hear what her book was about. Besides it was technically true, his physio had encouraged him to take short breaks, just not after the long one he had just come off.

“What made you change your mind?” Percy asked.

“Well I figured I could get an English Lit student’s opinion, so don’t hold back.” Marie replied feeling strangely at ease.

Percy was definitely going to hold back, even if this was the worst book he had ever read he was going to tell her it was good. But he was sure it was going to be brilliant.

“So what’s the genre?” Percy asked.

Marie looked down at her lap suddenly a bit embarrassed. She had only really spoken to Byron about her book before and he didn’t even know the entire plot.

“It’s an adventure. But I wanted to make a twist on the original genre.” Marie explained.

Percy made himself comfortable next to Marie as she brought up some images of two characters on her laptop. Percy looked in awe at two brilliantly drawn women filling the screen. One was tall with red hair in a side plait, a stoic and slightly threatening look on her face. She wore what would be considered typical gear for exploring a jungle. While the other was shorter with a light brown bob, glasses and a business suit. She looked slightly afraid of the first character and Percy would explain why. He would immediately tell that these characters would have great connection and play well off each other.

“Those are really good! Did you draw them?” Percy asked, leaning closer to the screen.

Marie laughed and shook her head, “No, definitely not. Byron did, he’s the artist, I can’t draw at all. I’ll be sure to tell him that you think they are good.”

Percy was slightly disappointed to learn that Marie hadn’t drawn the characters herself. Not because that meant she couldn’t draw, he couldn’t either, but because it meant that he wasn’t the first person she had shown this too. He wanted to feel special to Marie and being the only person to read her work would do that. But that still didn’t deter his interest one bit.

“So who are they?”

Percy noticed that Marie became more relaxed as soon as he asked her, she looked as excited as she was when she talked about her childhood. And Marie was, she found that she had been waiting to tell someone about this for ages, but had never found the right way or had feared she would be judged. But she was calm around Percy. She knew he wouldn’t judge her and that he was genuinely interested. She also found for the first time she was willing to let him read some of it, if he wanted to.

“The one on the left is Dr. Dakota Steins an anthropologist who is employed by a rich eccentric old man to go to museums and either buy or take artefacts that are no longer on display and return them to where and whom they were originally taken from. She is very tough and no nonsense along with a slightly threatening aura.” Marie said, her excitement clearly growing and being matched by Percy.

“And the character on the right?” Percy asked.

Percy had moved closer to the screen to get a better look and inadvertently closer to Marie, but neither of them minded. Percy was too busy looking at the artwork and how it perfectly fitted Dakota’s character.

“Dr Zara Lowell, an astrophysicist and curator of the science museum that Dakota is stationed at in the novel. Zara is Dakota’s foil, she is a complete pushover who lets her bosses and employees walk all over her so Dakota sees Zara as an easy target. But she finds that Zara is protective over the artefacts, even those that have been in storage since before they were both born. In order to get Zara to agree to let Dakota take the artefacts Dakota proposes that she join them to return them to make her see how happy people are when their heritage had been returned. So the novel follows Dakota, her team and Zara as they go across deserts and jungles to return stolen artefacts. Along the way Zara learns how unethical museums are and how a lot of them get their exhibits as well as Dakota teaching her how to stand up for herself. While Zara teaches Dakota to relax and have fun. They both go through a lot of character development. In the end Zara returns to her job and changes the rules of the museum so that only artefacts that have been explicitly donated can be shown. That and all artefacts have an agreed lifespan at the museum before they are returned.”

As Marie finished speaking she had begun to go a bit red, she had never revealed the entire plot to someone before and she found that her anxiety wasn’t as loud as it usually was. Sure there were some thoughts that Percy wouldn’t like it, but it was almost as though deep down she knew he would.

Percy did like it, he liked the plot a lot. He liked the characters and their differences that made not only for humour but potential for growth, which Marie was going to explore. He liked the plot itself because it was different, it was ethical and educational but not in a way that came across like a lecture. Percy was too shy to admit it but he was already shipping Dakota and Zara, he had a weakness for the opposites attract trope.

“So its an adventure novel that subtly teaches about the immoral antiquities business, clever. I don’t think that has been done before and I think its about time. How much research have you put into the actual antiquities business?” Percy asked, because he didn’t want her to fall into the trap of under researching.

But he was pleasantly surprised by the answer.

“It’s what my papers on, so more than enough. I’ve also started my own petition that the amendments made in the book become a real thing. So artefacts that are just sat in storage can be returned. It’s something I am passionate about.” Marie replied.

Percy could see that from the way she was talking about it. He also knew that Marie was something of an activist, she often had asked to leave flyers around the cafe for different causes. She went to marches and protests and convinced the owners to change to recyclable cups and offer a discount for customers to bring their own. Percy was sure she was the type to buy second hand and at zero waste shops. If anyone could change the world it would be Marie, and Percy decided he was going to help her in any way he could.

“Where is the petition? I’d like to sign it.”

Marie smiled brighter than she had that day as she brought up the petition on her laptop and Percy signed it. Her petition only had a thousand signatures as Marie spent the majority of her time educating people on how museums are often unethical and immoral. She had tried to get the university involved but they wouldn’t. When Percy finished signing the petition and sending it to a couple of friends Marie hugged him again. She found she was unable to stop herself yet again, and he found he liked it when Marie hugged him. While Marie was a tactile person she was never this tactile with strangers. But for some reason Percy didn’t feel like a stranger anymore.

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