Part One: Conversations Chapter One
It was in the corner bookstore where Kirk Hammond first saw her. She wasn’t in his favorite book section, nor was she doing anything ostentatious. She was sitting in a corner, heavily laden in winter clothing, a black parka, brown hiking boots, a knit cap pulled down past her eyebrows, and a black and grey plaid scarf around her neck and face. All that was somewhat visible in terms of skin was the thin portion of face around her eyes and nose bridge, as well as the tips of her fingers, the nails painted a chipped black. This attire, had it been the dead of winter, would not have been so unusual. But, it was already early spring, bright and coming to life.
Kirk, a rather curious fellow, took furtive glances over a random book he had picked up. She was deeply engrossed in an old hardback, jacketless, the corners worn down and soft. The pages were thin and yellowed with age. In golden lettering down the spine it read simply and strangely: ‘Sinistrari.’
The woman seemed completely dead to all that around her, to the point where Kirk had abandoned any sort of subtlety in his watchfulness of her. Not only was her clothing intriguing, but so was her interest in books. Kirk had frequented this little bookstore for five years, and never had he seen that particular text, though, he had an inkling there were certain special books the proprietor kept in the office in the back.
Staring now at the book in her hands, Kirk was consumed by an inexplicable feeling of dread. It was absurd, very few things, especially things of the intangible sort, frightened him. Generally speaking, Kirk was a steadfast man, with the outlook of a realist, lacking any thoughts beyond his work and eating and breathing. Except, of course, his bad habit of wanting to know business that wasn’t his place to know. Yet, this foreboding feeling, associated solely with that book and the name ‘Sinistrari,’ persisted within his chest.
Outside, a car blasted a horn, startling Kirk and the woman both. Her eyes lifted from the pages with such speed it gave the impression that she was rather terrified. Kirk failed to see this as he had been so shocked, the book jumped from his fingers and somersaulted to the floor with a soft flutter of its pages. He gave a self reproaching chuckle and stooped to retrieve it, his ears burning with the hope that she hadn’t noticed that he had been watching her, with a certain level of intensity he would be ashamed to admit.
Of course, she had, and she was now studying him with a fearful apprehension. The hardback in her grasp was shaking in her hands, the fingers as taut as stretched wire, white and bloodless.
“Can I help you?” Her voice came muffled by the scarf, yet still made Kirk flinch with its firmness.
He regained his height and took a nervous, retreating step backwards. Her eyes peered out from between the layers of cloth, dark and glistening in the shadowed light of the bookstore. Kirk put his smile away, knowing it wouldn’t help anything.
“Well, I’ll come at you straight, I was wondering about the parka and stuff, then, I was kinda… taken by your book. I’ve never seen it here before. That name, ‘Sinistrari,’ it’s strange, you know?”
There was a silence as they regarded one another. The woman was the first to move. She shut the book gently and placed it on her lap and let out a sigh like she was setting a mighty burden aside.
“Thanks for being honest, at least,” she said, returning her eyes to Kirk. “It is a strange name, I guess. A strange name for a strange book.”
“Well, what’s it about?”
They lapsed into silence, neither one of them nervous with it. Now past the initial tension, their confidence was shining through. The bell of the front door jingled abrasively. Shoes padded on the carpeted floor. The slide of a book off a shelf, the turning of dusty pages, a distant laugh. The cough of a diesel engine outside, and its rumble receding down the street.
The woman let out a small laugh, Kirk let out one slightly louder. He turned and replaced his book on the shelf. Behind him, he heard her rise. The whisper of the parka material against that of her denim pants and the squeak of her hiking boots rubbing together. It was peculiar, he realized his heart was racing. He turned quickly, before she could leave.
“So, what’s your name?” He asked, perhaps a little too quickly to save his dignity.
She paused and looked at him sideways, as if uncertain whether to walk away now or answer him. She passed the hardback from one hand to the other and played with the ends of her scarf. It was then that Kirk noticed the golden band on her left ring finger. He scratched his head and looked down.
“Actually, never mind. I don’t want to cause any problems, and I’m sure as hell not one of those guys that says they ‘just want to be friends.’ So, uh, you have a good day, miss.” Now it was his turn to go.
“Wait!” She said with the same quickness Kirk had at first. He froze and looked back. “I’m, well, getting divorced. It’s a long story,” she paused to laugh mirthlessly. “I guess all divorces are long stories, though, aren’t they? Um, well, it’s no harm knowing each other’s names, right? I’m Asenath Murray, I mean, Legrasse. Asenath Legrasse. My maiden name is Legrasse.” She shook her head and laughed with embarrassment.
Kirk blinked and turned around slowly. He mulled it over for a few moments.
“That’s a really nice name. Asenath. I’ve never heard it before. Well, I’m Kirk Hammond, nice to meet you, Asenath.” He extended his hand. She stared at it for a while, enough to make Kirk half pull it back.
“I’m sorry!” She reached out and shook his hand, only vaguely, he barely felt her skin. But, the gelid chill surrounding her fingers and palm felt as if she were made of ice.
“So, would you like to get some coffee or something?” Kirk asked, trying to sidestep the returning silence. “I’d really like to know the story behind the scarf.”
“I bet you were the kind of kid everyone told to mind your own business.” They both laughed, she genuinely enough, Kirk with a certain degree of humiliation. “But, um, I have to get home, maybe some other time?”
Kirk screwed his mouth up disappointedly. Their eyes met, and what he read there wasn’t rejection, instead, it felt almost like supplication. Ordinarily, Kirk would dismiss this sort of notion, as he felt such impressions were often false, but this time, he was compelled to receive this differently. He could tell this woman, this Asenath, was different from the other people out there, and not just because of her chosen attire, her strange book, or her name.
“Alright, but let’s make it a promise,” he replied, then added swiftly, “Please?”
“That sounds very nice,” she said, and Kirk felt as if she were smiling under the scarf. “How about we meet in the park down the street, Saturday at noon?”
Kirk considered this, and ultimately decided to skip work in favor of this meeting. He nodded with a smile.
Asenath raised a hand and said, “See you then, Kirk.”
Looking at her retreating form, Kirk called out, “See you then, Asenath.”
His last glimpse though, wasn’t of her over bundled back or bouncing hood. Glinting in the dim, dusty light of the bookstore, like a mocking, broken toothed grimace that tased like unnerving incense to the eyes, the spine of her hardback floated by her side. It read ‘Sinistrari.’