I froze where I had been dancing – alone in my apartment.
Was that what I thought it was?
As if in reply it came again, a soft:
I went into a crouched position, as if somehow whomever was outside my door might be able to see me. When in fact they probably could hear the soft music I had up until this moment been swaying to in my kitchen.
As if aware of my apprehension a voice belonging to the knock attempted to squeak through the peephole, “So sorry to bother you, but I have a package for a Prim Addison.”
My eyes narrowed, I slid one sock forward narrowing the distance between me and the mystery voice. My finger hovered for a moment before pausing the music on my phone. This action would definitely alert the person that the space had been inhabited prior to their knock.
I heard the clearing of a throat before another attempt was made, “Mrs. Dwyer couldn’t make her regular deliveries this week. I have your latest package from Bickering Books.”
At the mere mention of Mrs. Dwyer I met the door with a thud. How my feet had propelled me so quickly came as a shock. I doubt I had ever moved that fast before.
I blinked through the peephole, trying to quiet the slight uptick in my breathing. Was it the excitement of a new book or my cat like scramble which had my heart racing?
The person on the other side of my door chewed on a grin having obviously heard my body meet door thump, he backed up a step and waved the intricately wrapped brown paper package at the peephole.
“I think you will really like this one.”
I coughed. And before I could sensor myself blurted out, “How would you know what I would like?”
He choked on a laugh, the package dipping out of sight. “Did you like the last one?”
I had never seen this person before. Could there possibly be a staff member at Bickering Books I had never met prior to this day? Doubtful.
As if reading my mind he came back into view and simply said, “I’m Nigel.”
“Not, thee Nigel?” I heard myself voice the question but it had only been intended for the recesses of my mind not for actual reality.
The laugh he had stifled now fully bloomed throughout the hallway. “Yes. Thee Nigel.” And with a flourish he bowed.
Nigel, the owner of Bickering Books, had been as elusive as a first edition copy by a beloved author. I had never even seen a photo of him and now he stood outside my door.
The critical reader in me pounced, “Liar. Why would Nigel Bennington be delivering for Mrs. Dwyer? I’m sure there are other staff members available for such a task.”
My question was answered by the brandishing of ID. He was in fact Nigel Bennington of 221 Brae Drive, and not a liar.
“My apologies.” My view was disrupted by my forehead meeting the door in a thump of shame.
The smile was there in his words even if I could not see him. “Mrs. Dwyer fell ill…”
I gasped. Loudly.
“… its not what you fear.” He continued. “Just an infection of her sinuses. She tested negative.”
Sweet relief filled me. If there were indeed one or multiple higher powers above (I’m not entirely convinced), I would send positive vibes Mrs. Dwyer’s way.
“She must be so distraught, not being able to deliver the books.” I could just imagine the forlorn look on her face.
Regaining my peephole view, I saw him bob his head. “She has made me check in after every delivery. If she were more technologically inclined I would think she would make me video call her so she could be apart of every drop off. I could try to get her on my phone if you would like?”
He reached for one of his coat pockets.
“No need.” My attempt to wave away his gesture met with my knuckles striking the door. I cursed, below my breath, but it was still audible.
He stepped closer. A hint of worry glinted off the hallway light in his brown eyes. “You okay?”
“Physically? Emotionally? Mentally?” A chuckle escaped my side of the door unchecked.
“All of the above?”
Nothing blurted from my mouth this time. Resignation hanging slightly from my shoulders.
When I did not reply he let the question lay on my mostly likely quite dusty welcome mat. “Mrs. Dwyer was quite insistent I deliver your package at the very end. She said she would sit against the door and you would chat about your previous Blind Date with a Book even if she had never read it before. That you always made her a cup of tea.”
“I do. I did.” I corrected. “She’s really one of the only humans I speak to these days.” A confession I didn’t want to make even to myself, let alone out loud. “I’ve even ordered special mugs I always make her take home.”
My eyes blurred but I watched him caress the edges of the brown paper package which held my latest bookish date.
“I’ve read your last five Blind Date with A Book picks.” He looked down with what could possibly be a reddening of his cheeks before continuing, “I like Earl Grey with a splash of milk and a spoonful of sugar if you have?”
My cheeks almost hurt from the instant smile pinching them.
“I’ll put the kettle on.”