I wasn’t supposed to be working today. Technically I wasn’t working according to the regional manager. I was assisting with an author’s Q&A that I was luckily given time off in order to attend.
‘You can’t imagine how busy events like this can be,’ the echoes of his voice still reverberated within me. ‘The very least you can do is man the table prior to and after the event. You’d even be doing so with the author. What an opportunity that would be.’ And I only needed to wear my cardigan with the store’s logo on it, not the entire uniform.
But manning the table resulted in my missing the entire Q&A after it had been shortened due to the scheduled author cancelling and the replacement arriving late. There is no better sitting duck for all kinds of book shop questions than someone sequestered to a table right in the middle of everything, especially when the person who was scheduled to take my place during the event, like the author, was also a no-show.
I was fuming. I almost believed the heat I was giving off might actually singe the pages of the book I was now not going to have signed. My knuckles remained white from the resentment I held.
Just as everyone began to slowly file out of the makeshift space for the reading, one of our supervisors (the only one who actually cared) ran over to the table and plunked down a stack of books.
“Why are you here and not there?” Her brows furrowed as she looked between where I currently resided and where I was supposed to be.
“Sheila never came.” I couldn’t even mask my defeat.
“I’m so sorry. Next time I will put my foot down and make sure you have the entire day off.”
I wanted to believe what she said was true but it was highly unlikely.
She disseminated the books from the large stack into smaller ones before tapping the cover. “Have you read this?”
Leaning forward, the title caught my eye: Eight Steps to Win Your Quest. “Nope. And I highly doubt I ever will.”
I rolled my eyes at the exact same time a small cough came from my right. I didn’t even have to look to know it was the author of Eight Steps to Win Your Quest.
The look of embarrassment on my supervisor’s face would have been comical in any other moment. She slowly backed away with a slight wave.
I couldn’t even look at him as he pulled out the chair and sat next to me. I was currently constructing a wall of shame between us. My voice found its way to squeak out past the imagined bricks, “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t judge a book by its title, right?” The last sentence was thrown in with a slight glance in his direction.
His mouth perked up on one side and his fingers twiddled a pen. He surprisingly looked not much older than me.
“No worries. The title is technically an allegory.” His voice held the same hint of amusement as his smile.
A nod was my only reply as a line began to form comprising of quite an array of people, from a mother holding her infant to an elderly gentleman in a dashing hat. Whatever his book was about, he obviously had a lot of fans.
No more words were spoken between us as he began to chat warmly with every reader as the line moved forward. I helped in any way I could by greeting those in line and making sure the books were prepped to be signed. Once the last customer had been met I reluctantly had to admit to myself, from what tidbits I had heard, I was interested in his book.
Only one book remained on the table and as I reached for it a slight intake of breath made me freeze.
“You aren’t doing what I think you are doing?” I didn’t even have to look to know his grin extended to its full potential.
“Do you have enough ink left in your pen for one more?” The words could barely fit past the foot (obviously mine) in my mouth.
“Fresh out.” The pen shook in my periphery.
I closed his book, pulling it towards me. It might remain unsigned but I was still going to purchase it.
Lean fingers reached out and tapped the retreating cover. “I’m kidding. I would love to sign it for you.”
Finally I allowed myself to look into the eyes of the man beside me. They twinkled reminding me of Christmas lights.
Reluctantly I passed the book to him, feeling like it might be some sort of trick. He held it, looking at the cover, “Better yet. How about I sign it after buying you a coffee? You know, to make up for replacing the author of what must be one of your favourite books.”
His gaze dipped down to the worn copy of the book I had been clutching onto when he first arrived.
And from somewhere inside of me came a reply I had not been anticipating, “I think I might have just found a new favourite.”
Hello Literary Lovelies!
I hope you enjoyed this second short story in my latest tiny tales series A Book Shop Meet Cute.
If you missed the first one, The Stack you can find it here!
Wishing you all a fun book shop meet cute in your future.
Postscript: Where would you take this story? If you were the main character would you go for coffee with the author?