I watched her go, resisting the instinct to follow her, although I knew I could. She was already freaked out by the strange familiarity between us, and the spark that she had felt when our hands touched. It had happened just the same as all the times before.
I didn’t see much point in hanging around in the coffee shop much longer, the waitress was conveniently ignoring me and there was no chance of me meeting Xaria here again. She would find me when she was ready. I dug into my pocket and left the money for the coffee, plus a very healthy tip to apologise for my coldness, and left the shop, the door slamming behind me.
I shuddered as the wind hit me and dug my gloved hands into my coat pockets to keep them warm. Shoulders hunched I walked down the street. It was a lot different to how I first remembered it all those years ago when I was a child. Back then it had just been a small market town and the orphanage had stood by the town gates. But now it had grown and had transformed into a large modern town with hundreds of shops lining the streets.
I paused outside a bookshop, a beautifully bound copy of Oliver Twist sitting in the window. The library at the orphanage had owned one similar. Stuck to the glass near the book was a torn bit of paper advertising for a shop assistant. It then hit me that I had spent the last of my money on that coffee and this month’s rent on my small flat. I would have to earn some more if I was going to stick around and a bookshop was as good a place as any to start. I walked in, stamping my shoes on the mat before walking into the main body of the shop.
There was a man who I assumed was the manager standing behind the desk. I guessed he was middle-aged but was still looking good. He had all his hair, although quite thin, and his body was in good shape. He looked up as I walked in, smiling at me like an old friend.
‘Can I help you young man?’ His tone was friendly but I was still a bit nervous as I approached the desk.
‘I saw the ad in your window for a shop assistant and was wondering if the position had been filled.’
‘Not yet,’ he said, straightening up to his full height, still a good few inches shorter than me. ‘Are you interested?’
‘Yes. I have a little experience working in a shop and I’m willing to work hard-‘
‘The job is yours.’ I blinked. Getting the job should have been a lot harder.
‘Yes. I’ve been looking for someone for weeks and you are the first guy to come in asking about it. I’ll see you tomorrow morning nine o’clock sharp.’ I thanked the owner for his generosity and left the store safe in the knowledge I had a job to keep me alive.
My flat was just around the corner and I was grateful to get inside out of the cold. I flicked the light switch on and looked around the room at my dingy apartment. The walls were an uninspiring beige colour and the worn out sofa was the colour of mud. The kitchen was tiny but at least everything worked. I collapsed onto the sofa and sat staring at the tiny TV in front of me. What now?