Chapter Eight

I let my fingers trail along the worn book jackets, taking in the peeling gold writing which declared that this collection was written by Jane Austen. It was an entire collection of her works. My hands itched towards my purse, but I knew I couldn’t buy the books now. It would be too difficult to carry them in to the theatre and on to the bus. I let my fingers fall from the texts. Besides, I didn’t need them; I already had an almost full collection. I sighed and continued my hunt for something new to read. I heard the shop bell go, a twinkling sound that made me smile. This shop was so peaceful, and the smell of books filled the air, mixed with the scents given off from the candles. If I wasn’t a teacher, I would own a shop like this I thought. I could imagine waking up every day to open this place up. A small book caught my attention on a high shelf. I reached for it, but my fingers brushed the shelf, unable to reach the actual book. Suddenly a hand appeared and took the book from the shelf.

“Oh, thank you...” I said gratefully, turning to see who was handing me the book. Charlie stood in front of me, smiling. “Oh. Hello Charlie.”

“Hey. I thought I might find you here.”

“You were looking for me?”

“Sort of. I just wanted to say that Gemma is feeling much better now.”

“I’m glad.”

“In fact, she’s feeling so well that she’s been dragging me in to shops full of clothes that I don’t want to wear.”

“I know the feeling.” I smiled. “Do you like reading outside of school?” I asked, gesturing round at the shop.

“I love it. I think the best part is curling up in a comfy chair, or in bed with a book that you can lose yourself in. It helps me to escape from real life for a while.” She glanced at my face and blushed. “I sound silly.”

“No, I understand exactly what you mean. Like, when you read about someone else’s life, yours doesn’t matter so much, and all the things that are troubling you seem trivial to what the character is going through.”

“Exactly!” We smiled at each other, and I thought how nice it was to find a young person with such a great respect for literature.

I looked down at the book Charlie had reached for me. It was The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a favourite of mine when I was younger. The book looked exactly like mine used to, before I’d had to leave it behind in my parents’ house.

“Are you ok?” Charlie asked. Her face showed concern, and I realised my face must have given away how upset I was with the memory of my childhood.

“I’m fine. This used to be a favourite of mine when I was little, but I haven’t read it for years. I was just thinking what a shame that is.”

“What is it?” She asked. I showed her the cover and she smiled. “I’ve heard of Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Little Princess, but I’ve never read it.”

“You should. I tell you what, after I’ve read it again, you can borrow it if you want.”

“I’d like that.” She smiled at me again, and I found myself feeling completely at ease with her. If it wasn’t for the fact she was a student, I was sure we’d be good friends.

The sound of a clock chiming made me realise that we had a schedule to keep to. I checked my watch and saw that we only had ten minutes before our announced meeting time.  Jen would be looking for me.

“Charlie if we don’t leave right now we’re going to be late. Come on, let’s go.” I paid for the book at the counter, and then Charlie and I exited in to the street. Jen was in the process of making her way across the street towards the shop.

“Sum... Miss Gregory, you do realise we’re going to be late don’t you?” She smiled at Charlie and began leading the way down the road. I rolled my eyes at Charlie who giggled, and then we began to follow Jen down the road.

“Charlie, you didn’t leave Gemma on her own did you?”

“No, we were in a big group. She’ll be ok.” Charlie’s hand went in to her pocket and pulled out her phone. “That’s her now.” She picked up. “Hey Gemma....I’m coming now... It’s ok I’m with Miss Gregory and Miss Richards... Ok see ya.”

“I guess they’re already there then?”

“Yes. Gemma says that most people are.”

“Ah well, it’s the teachers prerogative to be late.” We grinned and hurried to catch up with Jen, who was marching at rather a brisk pace through the crowds culminating near the theatre.  

The End

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