Ink and Paper
The overcast sky was threatening to unleash the heavy rains which had been due to erupt at any moment. Pedestrians moved along the footpaths in haste, wanting to avoid getting caught in any foul weather.
No one looked twice at the woman who was walking very slowly in the opposite direction, glancing every now and then at the colourful window displays. She was wrapped in scarves and wore a long coat. Glasses sat on her intelligent face and her hair was pulled back in a bun. Her boots made no sound against the pavement as she moved amongst the city workers and shoppers.
The sky thundered and the air was suddenly alive with drops of water, the size of marbles. People everywhere began retreating into doorways or pulled out umbrellas. The woman felt a heavy drop fall on her hand and raised it to her wrinkled face for examination. She appeared unconcerned by the raindrops pelting the pavement, and she continued walking before she stopped in front of a grimy window and walked through the door.
All the benches were covered in dust and the shop that appeared seemingly small from the outside was actually incredibly large, lined with rows upon rows of bookshelves. She seated herself on the stool that sat by the window and took off her damp scarf.
As the rumbling of the storm outside grew louder the woman began to look at the piles of dusty books that covered most of the floor and filled the bookshelves. One particular volume caught her eye. It was a hardback, coloured in dull tones of blue and green, stamped in gold, peeling letters were the words 'The Flames of Gothirus'. Frowning slightly, the woman stood, and walked over to where the book was sitting on the counter. She gingerly picked up the familiar book and turned it over in her hands. What was this book doing here?
She blew softly at the dust and it spiralled into the air falling all over her and the floor. 'Meg Roberts'. The words stood out as if they were on fire. What was the book that she had written all those years ago doing here? She had only ever sold one copy. That one copy was sold to someone who she loved dearly. Sure enough, when she opened up the inside cover, the sob caught in her throat; 'Dear Stephan, thank you for being there for me. Always. Lots of Love Meg.'
Why was his copy of the book here? He was gone, he vanished after a car accident the night before their wedding, his car was found in the river. He had been suspected dead by the police and there had been no funeral because the body had been missing. He had carried his copy of the book everywhere. So how did the book get here when she had supposed it was lying on the muddy riverbed.
A surge of emotions overtook the woman and she struggled to hold back the tears which were already flowing down her cheeks. The book brought up a wave of memories which fought for attention. She had searched for this book, and here it was, in a dusty old bookshop, fading away.
After his death she had never written again. Turning to leave the woman placed the book in the inside pocket of her coat and slapped some money on the counter. She opened the door, wrapping her scarf back around her neck, and the bell tinkled. From within the building there came the sound of running feet and she froze. A red faced boy took no notice of Meg and she stood watching. He seemed to be looking for something.
"Where did Uncle's book go? He's gonna kill me!" The boy groaned.
Then he saw the woman watching him and patted the top of his head nervously.
"Have you seen the book that was here?" He pointed at a spot on the bench that was not covered with dust and in the shape of a rectangle.
It was the spot where the book had been resting only moments ago. She pulled out the novel and showed it to the boy. He snatched it from her and held it against his chest defensively.
"I paid for it." she replied in soft tones, gesturing to the money by the till.
"Oh." his face fell and he looked slightly ashamed. To cover up his mistake he quickly retorted, "It wasn't for sale. You can have your money back."
He pushed the ten dollar bill back across the counter.
"Robert where is my book?" a voice roared.
This time a man walked down the aisles and stood before his nephew who was cowering slightly. He was smartly dressed in a suit, tie and black leather shoes. Like the woman, time had begun to age his handsome face.
"Who are you?" he asked, staring directly at the woman.
"Uncle, this woman tried to steal your book." The boy glared at the woman with dislike.
The boy, Robert, pushed the book into his uncle’s hands and disappeared into the depths of the store. The man ignored him as a look of recognition suddenly spread across his face, and he looked the woman up and down with surprise. "Meg."
The book clattered to the floor. She too had remembered the man, his high cheekbones, hollow cheeks and his dark hair against his pale skin. The way he stood, reminded her of someone long gone.
"Stephan is dead! You are dead." she cried jumping away from the man who was surely a ghost.
There was silence as he rubbed his chin, looking down at the woman. His brows knotted for a second and then relaxed. He opened his mouth to speak but was rather hesitant and shut it again. He took a step closer to Meg and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Things have changed since you published that novel,” he gestured to the book lying upon the floor between them.
“You were not meant to be more than ink and paper!” she replied, voice full of uncertainty.
"I am whatever you want me to be," he said, raising his eyebrows, "You did write me after all."
Copyright (c) 2012 Emilie Morscheck