It wasn’t the first time I had seen him there among the stacks of Rarity, my favourite book shop. But it was the first time I heard him laugh.
He didn’t even look up from what he was reading, not in the least bit nervous about who saw him or what it was he was caught reading. The only part of him that moved was a hand to push the hair that had tumbled into his eyes back before turning the next page.
I studied him like one would a painting at an art gallery, drinking in every aspect of him. His yellow and black checked coat reminded me of a work by Klimt but the book stood in for a woman’s cheek.
Seeing the way he carefully held it, delicately turned the pages, the hint of humour on his lips now reminded me of a Shakespeare quote. You know the one, ‘O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek.’ But in my case I wanted to be that book.
At this point I knew I needed to pull myself away and my brain sent signals to my legs to extricate us from our gawk-fest but my heart rebelled. I was like some poorly puppeteered piece of stuffing attempting to march myself off stage only to swivel around for the audience to enjoy my flailing.
It didn’t help that I was carrying a massive amount of books. As I teetered this way and that, I bumped shoulders and elbows with anyone who maneuvered into the aisle I was trying to leave.
My heart was really fighting my head on direction and it only further tangled my imagined strings. The third book, or perhaps it was the fourth decided it no longer wanted to go home with a book store stalker and shifted against us; it was the start of a paperback mutiny.
An attempt to flap it back into place only upset the rest and I knew I was about to bring even more attention to myself. I was going to have a Gus Gus, carrying too much corn in the kitchen, moment and I was unsure if I could bare it.
Why is it that we panic and push up when holding a pile of things? It really only results in the scattering of whatever it is. I was about to explode books all over the place. Time kindly slowed down so I could really marinate myself in the shame as each book sprouted wings hoping to disembark for better shores.
But before they could make their escape they were clamped down on either side by yellow and black checked arms. Pinkies overlapped my thumbs and a chest prevented the books from escaping forward. It was him and the smile he had graced the pages of his book with now fell on me.
“That was a close one.” He laughed. The same laugh which had stopped me in my tracks just moments before.
“Thank you. It was the beginning of a paperback mutiny.” And my jaw clamped shut just a moment too late. Who says ‘paperback mutiny’? You think it. You don’t say it.
The laugh came again and with it the tightening of his fingers over mine before he stepped back to straighten the pile.
“It definitely was a close one.” His gaze moved to the cover of the book at the top of my word-filled pyramid. He tapped it and the pile shifted Jenga-style in my arms.
Another attempt to save me and the books was now required. His hands sandwiched the top and bottom of the stack only to result in freeing the books. They soared into the air between us, their pages giving them wings.
They fell just as fast as they had flown and I couldn’t help the chuckle which bubbled up to be met by the laugh I never wanted to stop hearing while I bent down to retrieve them.
He joined in my endeavor, “I was going to say that the one on the top was a favourite of mine.”
“And the mere thought angered the others.” I smiled gently pilling them up once more. “Don’t worry,” I whispered solemnly to the stack, “I’m taking you all home.”
He placed the favoured book back on top and assisted me as I stood. “Perhaps I can make it up to you all with a cup of coffee?”
It had a ripple effect.
“If they will not forgive me, I understand.” He looked away sheepishly.
I moved to touch his arm and the books teetered before I secured them, “Oh, its not that. It’s just I prefer tea.”
The corner of his eyes crinkled, “Tea, works for me.”
A yellow and black checked arm gestured for me to lead the way and the tiniest of squeals was muffled behind closed spines.