"That will be six dollars and fifty cents, Mill." I
flashed a smile at the little seven year old that was standing on her tiptoes
at the counter. "Here are your books." I handed her the bulky parcel
as she counted the cash and gave it to me carefully. "Will you be able to
carry them yourself?" She nodded vigorously and spoke with a lisp. "Don't
worry, Jennie. I'm a big girl; I'm seven now." I bit back a smile.
"Of course you are! I was just wondering if you needed some help."
Her pigtails swung in the air as she shook her head again. "I'll do it
myself, I'm grown up now." She took the parcel and held it securely in her
arms, clutching at it as if it was her lifeline.
My eyes followed her till she slowly reached the door and entered her father's car, and I let out a breath of relief as the car drove away without any mishaps.
I inhaled the musty scent of the books that surrounded me. This bookstore, my bookstore, it was the last thing that my mother had left for me. My brother and my dad both always wondered why I still ran it and why I even bothered to take care of it; we were rich enough to buy libraries of our own.
What they didn't understand that this bookstore was a part of me, and that a part of my mum's soul still resided in it.
I felt it every time I picked out a book from the racks, every time a little kid with her mother came to the store to buy fairytales, every time the laughter of kids echoed off the walls, every time I packed the books for some tiny customer.
But these memories didn't make me sad, or cry. They made me smile, they made me happy. They reminded me of the happy times with my mum, and they never made me bitter. They made me hopeful, they made me want to strive harder.
And it was them who made me want to sit at the counter at the bookstore, and feel the happiness engulf me every time a little kid bought a book with her eyes shining.
But sadly, it was impossible to explain this to my father, who never had time for us; he was always gone for shootings and premiers.
And my brother, I hear you say?
Let's just say that I he doesn’t get along well with things that don’t made horrendously loud noises.
I was shaken out of my thoughts with a loud clattering of falling books, and I sighed as I stepped out of the counter towards the very familiar sound.
I expected to see a small, weeping toddler standing with a very
apologetic expression and stammering about how the books fell and how it was
not her fault at all.
But what I didn't expect to see was a teenager of my age frowning, lost in his own world as he held a stack of books in his hand, a sea of books surrounding him. He was muttering something under his breath as he picked up the book at the top of the stack and threw it on the floor.
Threw it. On the floor.
Now he's gonna hear me roar.
"What exactly do you think are you doing?" I stood in
front of him with my hands on my hips, trying to look intimidating. He looked
up and grinned at me, and I took in the details of his appearance for the first
He was tall and lean with dark eyes that sparkled with mischief; they seemed oddly familiar. His ash blond hair flopped over his forehead as he leant comfortably against a book shelf.
"Just wondering why the daughter of one of the most famous directors of Hollywood would want to do something as common as running a good old bookstore in her winter break, rather than snapping photos with hot actors and showing off in front jealous schoolmates."
"Excuse me?" I narrowed my eyes at him, but he continued. "I mean, your brother had not even read Enid Blyton, and you own a bookstore!
I forgot your name -- It was something rhyming with, penny ...?" His forehead furrowed, trying to remember.
Okay. That does it. My lid was blown off and I was about to erupt in five, four, three, two.....
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOOKSTORE!"
I heard somewhere before a torrent of pink, soft stones was
showered upon me. I sputtered as some of it went into my mouth, it was sweet.
Mr. Marshmallow. I realized as I chewed it a bit.
"Candy?" I turned to see my brother standing with an idiotic grin plastered on his stupid but handsome face.
"Okay.... So your name is candy. A really – – sweet name, I must say." The crazy guy behind me laughed and I somehow contained myself from tearing his perfect face off. But I had someone else to take care of.
"Care to explain, Theodore?" Theo apparently
sensed the danger as he gulped visibly; I never called him Theodore unless I
was absolutely livid.
"Oh come on, little sis. It's the birthday of your lovely, beautiful, precious BOOKSTORE! So, I just decided to surprise you, and what way better than candy, right?" He said, gesturing with his hands to the tiny pink stones which had mangled in my curly brown hair.
"Did you know it took me three hours to set the bucket in a way that they would all fall right on you?" He said, dramatically, and I rolled my eyes.
"We are TWINS, Theo. I am not your little sis. And you couldn't think of anyway better than showering me with candy unexpectedly? I could have died of a heart attack, for all you know!" I looked down and saw a white cross beneath my feet. I gasped, "And how did you know I was going to stand here?" His face split into a wide grin as he threw his arms out. "Theo was here to take care of it; we had already discussed it on the phone. He felt that his shifting here it won't feel real unless he gets a chance to annoy you, and we thought of this as the best way.” For a second, I couldn't understand what he was talking about. And as horror dawned upon me, I realized that it was the crazy guy whom Theo was talking about.
Oh No. No. No. No. No. No.
Theodore and Theodore.
In my preschool and primary, every teacher knew their names by heart, and their terror was spread to the whole school; even the principal.
My brother and his best friend, who both initially became friends because of their same names, were a reason of nightmares to every teacher. They both were inseparable and as they were always together, there was a danger of their class blowing up, or a wild dog let loose in the room or the drainage pipes bursting , or ...
You get the idea.
Sadly, when we were in the eighth grade, Theo's parents had moved to London for some important work. And so, the Theo duo had to break with many tears and sadness.
Me? Well I preferred to stay away from the two and the trouble that seemed to follow them like ants follow sugar. Or honey. Or chocolate.
Also, if there was anyone on this planet who made me want to tear my hair out and could turn me into a Jenzilla, it was him.
Even in the Eighth grade, he had been devilishly handsome, with his dark skin and mischievous eyes. He had girls drooling around him all the time and I was perhaps the only one in existence who thought that he was nothing but a fat head.
I met him for the first time when he put chilies in a birthday cake.
And unfortunately, it was my birthday cake.
Since then, we had been sworn enemies and every night, I prayed to God that he vaporizes off the planet Earth, or some aliens abduct him and turn him into a Theo pie or something.
And finally, it had happened. He had left me in peace to London, and I had forgotten all about him.
He grinned at me, his white teeth flashing.
"Jennie! Right. How could I forget you, birthday girl?" I clenched my
fists when he shook his head. "But from now, I'll only call you candy. It
fits you, you know. All pink and soft and delicate." I was about to give
him a demo of my 'delicacy' when my brother pushed me away as he strode over to
his long term friend with his arms outstretched.
My square root!"
My brother stopped instantly, his nose scrunched up. "Why should I be the smaller one?"
Rivers looked puzzled for a minute before he grinned. "Theo, if I am your square, you'd obviously be my root. That's elementary maths."
My brother still looked confused, but he shrugged and gave Rivers a tight hug. "Whatever. Good to see you back, bro."
Oh boy. Or in this case, Oh boys.