“Old Words, New Stories.” That was the name of the book shop I was going to visit. Again. The first time I visited was just by pure chance - it was raining, I was cold, and I like reading so of course, I went inside a book shop to take shelter from the rain. Inside it smelled of old stories and hidden mysteries. Grabbing a book and just paging through it by hand is a feeling I’m never getting bored of. Yeah, yeah, I know, eBooks are the shit right now, but… Somehow being able to physically turn the pages is a feeling I don’t want to lose. And the stories within the pages! Dragons, Detectives, Dying Stars, and Deadly Traps. I’ve always loved stories, most of all romance though, I must confess. I’ve read gross upon gross of romance stories, but I’m never getting enough of those, I don’t think. Probably mainly, because I thought I’d never experience anything like it in the real world, myself. That’s why I’ve held the love of the characters in the stories so close to my own heart. For one, I thought I’d be too old for anything like that, I’m almost 30. I live alone in a tiny apartment, even though I could afford more - I just don’t need it. And the other point, I’m gay. Straight as a corkscrew. I like men as much as I like fire, contained and preferably far away from my books. On top of all that, I have a boring name, Anita Jones. Anita Jones, the slightly mad step-sister of Indiana Jones, Jr. That’s what it sounds like.
So it was kind of a shock when I noticed that my feet brought me back to “Old Words, New Stories” time and again, and I noticed in the last few trips there that I had no intention of buying anything in the first place. I just went there and… talked to her. The person that makes me walk in freezing rain and scorching sun. The person who can make me smile after an 80-hour workweek simply by looking at me. The person who makes my heart flutter when I think about her. Jasmine. Jasmine Holbrook. Her strangely colorless grey eyes, that have a permanent joyful glitter in them. Her slightly reddish-brown hair that she keeps in a neat bun. Her tiny lips. Her seriously beautiful neckline, her earlobes. She works at the store or owns it, I don’t know. I’ve never talked to her about anything much. Just everyday stuff and me, when she asked. I only know she’s almost ten years my junior, has worked there for two years and lives nearby the shop.
So why, then, have I fallen for her? Why did my heart choose to grab onto her so bad I can’t even sleep at night. I keep thinking about her and staying up, dreaming and wishing. Dreaming about those eyes looking at me, those slender fingers holding my hand. I can never tell her how I feel. I’m older, much older than her, and we’re both women. I think society is slowly changing towards it being okay, but it surely is not fine just yet. She’d hate me if I’d tell her. So I keep it all in and just look at her from the sidelines and behind the shelves. If she remembers me at all, she’ll probably think about me only of “That weird older woman who likes that particular book series and reads a lot of romance. Probably desperate old maid who’ll end up with three dozen cats in an old rotting house.” Not that she’d be far off the mark in that, but anyway.
So why then, do I keep coming back here? As I step into the shop once again, I wonder what am I doing with my life. Am I going to spend the next years coming here three times a week, hiding behind the bookshelves and looking at her? I don’t want that, but I can’t imagine a future without seeing her either. So I come here, pretend I had something other to do, and watch her. She’s… she’s everything I ever wanted in my life. She’s intelligent, funny, kind, beautiful and she has a great sense of humor. I hope she sucks at something because that would just make me feel a failure as a woman. Not that I don’t think so already, but you catch my drift. She’ll be the perfect wife for some lucky guy if she doesn’t already have a boyfriend. She must have. A girl like her can just pick and choose anyone as they throw themselves at her. But somehow thinking about her with a guy makes me feel physically ill. My chest hurts and I feel like puking up.
I greet her and try to keep my face straight and myself from blushing. She looks so damn good. I have a fleeting thought of waking up and seeing her next to me and I have to turn around to hide my red face. I walk to the shelves and pick up the next part of the series I’ve been reading. Only one copy, damn I was lucky! I didn’t know it sold so well! They usually have at least five or ten copies of the latest volume, but whoa. All sold? And it came out only last week…? Well, it *is* a good story, not gonna lie. Good on the author. I glance through the bookshelf and she turns her gaze around. Why was she looking here? Has she noticed that I’m spying on her!? I glance around to see if there are cameras around. Of course, there are, it’s the 21st century. I must look like such a suspicious person right now! Hiding behind shelves, looking at the cashier, and then checking the security cams. Dang, I feel stupid. I wander to another shelf and pick up another book at random and leaf through it. Doesn’t seem like anything interesting. Male protagonist and a bunch of guys ogling women, not a good start for a story in my opinion. I walk around the shelves for a while and then turn back towards the front of the shop. Jasmine turns her gaze away again! She’s definitely noticed me staring at her. Oh crap. What do I do now? I can’t come back soon after this. Thankfully the next volume only releases in the summer and now it’s winter, so I don’t need to be back here… but at the same time I know I’m gonna be back here as soon as possible. The pain of not seeing her is greater than the shame of being noticed while looking at her, I think.
I walk to her and put my book on the counter. She glances at me but doesn’t make eye contact. That’s unusual. I glance at her and notice her cheeks are blushed and she’s nervous. Oh, my goddess, she has definitely noticed me staring and is embarrassed and anxious about me being so close. I feel my own cheeks reddening. I need to get out of here as fast as possible, I don’t want to make her feel bad. I pay for the book and almost run outside. The book safe in a plastic wrap, I head home. It takes me almost an hour to get home. Ten minutes to the bus stop, 45 minutes in the bus. 2 minutes from stop to home. I don’t dare to open the book on the bus since I’d most definitely not notice my stop and would just stay on the bus until the end of the line. I’ve dreamed about doing that at one point after reading about it in a manga or something. I plan on getting home, grabbing a tea, sitting in my chair, covering myself with my warm blankets, and reading the book until I fall asleep. All in all, not that bad of a plan, if I do say so myself.
So here I am, sitting in my chair, under three warm blankets, deliciously smelling tea next to me, my new book in hand. I open the book and look forward to spending the next few hours being engrossed in the story when a piece of paper falls down from between the pages. What’s that? I think. Maybe some inventory note, maybe a warehouse slip left there by accident. I open it and stare at it. It’s hand-written and it takes me a few seconds to understand this fact because I fully expected a printed slip of some obscure numbers. Not lines of text beautifully written by hand. The writing is really pretty, flowing, almost flowery. It seems like the person who wrote it lives in a rustic cottage in a lush forest, surrounded by foxes and fairies. Written with a delicate hand in a candle-lit room at evening, while thinking about their heart’s desire.
“Ms. Jones, Anita,
I have noticed you watching me. I’m too shy to ever say anything about this to you, so I decided to write you a note. I just hope I’m right and it is you who picks up this book and not anyone else. But you’ve always bought the newest volume of this series the week after it has been released, so I’m confident. It doesn’t sell so well, so I hid the rest of the volumes and left only this. I felt so stupid doing it, I hope you don’t think I’m an idiot. But I am, right? I’m such an idiot. Here I am, writing a note for a woman who barely knows me and probably doesn’t even remember me of anything else than as ‘that bookstore girl.’ I can’t get my eyes off you. I’m always watching you when you come to the shop. I’ve noted when you are coming and have arranged my schedule around it. Stupid, right? I’m such a failure. I don’t even know what I’m hoping will happen if you read this? You’ll probably think of me as crazy, or at least a freak, a stalker. I know it’s not proper to think about a person of the same sex like this, but I can’t help it. My heart flutters when I see you. When you are here, I feel so much better, so much lighter, like you’d be the light in my life. My goddess, that was a stupid sentence, why did I write that? If, for some wonderful reason, you don’t think I’m horrible and should be admitted to a hospital, please write to me! Tell me what this makes you think. I think I’m in love with you. I’ve never felt like this about anybody else. Are you married? I just had a horrible thought that you’ll read this together with your husband and I feel sick to my stomach. Please don’t hate me! At least come back and tell me what you think! Don’t disappear from my life without a word.
ps. And if, by some godly miracle, you happen to feel similarly about me (oh my god), please wear something different that you usually do. Like a pin or a white scarf. If you own any, that is.”
I read the letter again, and then once more for good measure. My heart beats probably faster than a hamster on steroids in a wheel. My hands are getting sweaty and my chest hurts. But not in a bad way. I feel like laughing. I’m smiling like a madman, I can’t stop. I roll around in my chair and squeeze the letter against my chest. I can’t believe anything. I read it again just to be sure. Just to make sure I didn’t imagine the whole thing, I put it back between the pages, set the book on my table, and return the teacup to the kitchen and go take a shower. I can’t concentrate in the shower, I almost washed my hair with a conditioner and my face with shampoo. I dare not even think about shaving my legs in this condition. I finish shower in record time, wipe myself up with a towel and sit back at the chair. Carefully, I open the book, half expecting no to see the letter and putting it all on tiredness and stupid hopes. But there it is. Jasmine’s letter. For me. I take it carefully out of the book again and read it once more for good measure. It hasn’t changed. Her feelings for me are still written down there, in her beautiful handwriting. Her feelings. For me. I can’t believe it. I know I won’t be able to sleep at all, and I’ll be back there tomorrow, no matter the weather. Hail or snow, I’m going to be behind that door as soon as my workday is done. My workday! Oh, my goddess, I’m not going to get anything done tomorrow at work. I grit my teeth and head to bed.
So, after all, that is said and done, here I am. Nervous and shaking as a bucket of eels in a washing machine. Standing behind the door to ‘Old Words, New Stories’. I squeeze the letter in my hands. I carefully fold it and put it back into my pocket. I spied through the shop windows earlier and saw she’s there, working, Jasmine. Jasmine whom I share feelings with. Similar feelings. I swallow hard, straighten my skirt and jacket. I glance at the shop window and use it as a mirror to adjust my brand new white scarf and step inside the store.
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