There aren’t too many young people browse in our bookshop, unless they fancy a latte on their way into town and get sidetracked. But this one looks like she’s come here specially and hasn’t even looked at the coffees. I wish I could carry off red hair like that. Look at it glinting in the sun, ruby and copper, auburn and golds setting off her greeny eyes and pale skin.
She looks rather serious though, perhaps a little too much like I was at that age. I wonder if she has hopes of escaping this town, moving to a big city, marrying a handsome doctor, just as I had. I hope she isn’t disappointed too. It’s worked out OK here, but not exactly what I’d planned for my life. I wonder what a 16-year-old me would say to this 45-year old me. Tell me not to give up so easily? Or that I did the right thing sticking with Mother and Father?
The girl walks over to the shelves of the special collection and I see her tilt her head to the side, reading names on spines. She glances from one to the next quickly until her gaze stops on a book, in the history section it looks from here. She removes it from the shelf and holds it carefully in both hands. I may be wrong but I think she just inhaled the old books smell.
She approaches the counter and I look away, wiping a spill so she won’t know I’ve been watching her.
“Can I get a coffee and read this for a while?” she asks. I smile back and she asks for black, no sugar, fair trade, so I tell her all our coffee is fair-trade.
“It’s for my boyfriend,” she nods at the book. “He’s in college with me, studying history. I think this might have some of the people he’s mentioned in. I’m not really good with that kind of thing.”
I can’t imagine her being not good at anything she put her mind too, but I don’t tell her so. “Take your time,” I say. “Maybe something will jump out at you. But we have plenty of modern history books if you’d prefer those.” I point out the shelves for her.
“No,” she says. “One like this. A special one. He’d prefer that.”
I know what she means and I’m sure she’s right.