My Fall Flash Prose Challenge entry.
It was a never-ending day in my father’s used bookstore that had every indication of being the death of me. Despite being open for the previous six hours I’d seen a grand total of two customers walk through the door, and one of those had been lost.
The other had left the moment he figured out we didn’t have an Erotic section, the dirty old man.
I was daydreaming about being outside, of the sun’s rays making actual proper contact with my skin - as opposed to whatever had managed to work its way through the grimy street level window at the front of the shop. That could have been the work of a bored kid with a flashlight for all I knew.
When the bell above the door chimed I struggled to fit it into my outdoor fantasy. A bell tower in the distance, calling the monks to vespers loud enough to be heard in the midst of my meadow bursting with wildflowers? I gave my head a shake and brought my gaze back to reality and the customer who had just entered.
Sunglasses. That was the first thing I noticed about the young woman. She didn’t take them off, made no move to. I didn’t peg her for a mislaid fashionista, as she didn’t seem disturbed by all the dust. Nor was it a vision issue, since she weaved her way toward me without any trouble with the teetering stacks of books on the… well, everywhere.
“Afternoon,” I said with a dip of my head, too under her spell to risk anything more.
“Hello,” she replied, her lipstick red lips curving upward. “Do you have anything at all by Piers Anthony?”
“We’ve got a couple on that shelf over there.” I pointed and she nodded her thanks. “You a big fan of his work?”
“No,” she replied as she moved away and I tried to keep my eyes off her swaying backside, “just doing some research.”
That struck me as odd, but I kept that to myself. None of my business, I figured. Besides, I didn’t want to do anything to ruin my chances with her. Which, I’ll admit, were somewhere in the vicinity between slim and none.
She pulled both novels off the shelf and brought them back to the counter. I watched as she flipped through the yellowed pages, an oddly familiar sound coming from her lips. It took me a few moments to pin it down in my memory and then several more to be sure of it.
I know this is going to sound strange, unbelievable even, but I swear it’s true: she sounded just like Callie, the fat tabby cat of my childhood. Yeah, she’d been dead for nine years by then, but I’d never forget that purr.
“I’ll take them both,” she announced suddenly, slapping them closed in unison. Plopping her purse onto the counter she asked how much she owed.
“That’s… uh… sorry, fifteen please.” I took the proffered twenty and gave her back a five, staring at her purse all the while.
“Is there a problem?”
“No… not at all,” I replied, blushing furiously. “It’s just… well, your bag is the exact same shade of orange as this cat I… never mind, it’s silly.”
“Not nearly as silly as you think it is, Jeremy.” She gave me a warm smile and turned away, leaving me in an awkward lump against the counter. A final wave and she was gone.
It wasn’t until I was closing up hours later that I remembered I’d left my nametag at home that day.