A large handwritten sign caught her eye as she was walking to brunch with Alex and Kate at Cervantes. It said BOOKSALE – AS LOW AS A DOLLAR in painstakingly written black letters. The sign was hanging outside of a small shop she had never noticed before, wedged between two of her favorite clothing stores. That’s odd, she mused. I figured I would notice this before. In the window there was a display of classic love stories lovingly stacked in a tower, their covers old but still eye-catching. Marie looked inside. A few people were milling about, looking at covers and rustling through bins of books. She took a deep breath. She was feeling inexplicably nervous for some reason. To hide her nerves, she opened the door quickly and stepped inside, raking her hair back with one hand and tilting down her sunglasses with the other.
The bell on the door chimed noisily, but no one even looked up or glanced her way. Marie suddenly felt stupid. Of course none of these nerds would know her and expect a showy entrance. She stepped inside lamely, feeling anticlimactic, and looked around.
The shop was bigger than it looked from the outside and extended farther back then she thought it would. It smelled like old paper, an oddly familiar scent. She suddenly recalled the library where she used to spend hours as a kid and smiled fondly. At the front by her feet were bins full of books that seemed like the source of the musty smell, with a sign that said 1 DOLLAR in the same bold print as the sign outside hovering above the bins. Marie crouched down in front of them, her feet in her three-inch heels protesting, and grabbed the book off the top. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, in paperback. The cover had been ripped off and taped back on badly. She fingered the creases in the tape with one hand. Wasn’t this a movie with Colin Firth in it? She hadn’t realized they had written a book about it. She put in on the floor next to her. She was a big Colin Firth fan.
Twenty minutes later, Marie stood stiffly, wincing and kicking her feet, but triumphant. Her legs were sore and asleep, but she had five books bundled in her arms – Pride and Prejudice, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, My Life in France, by Julia Childs, a prettily bound hardcover of the Ramayana, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was proud of herself. Marie hadn’t read any of the back covers, but the assortment would look good on her coffee table.
She looked around for the cashier and was surprised to find the store was deserted, save herself and an older looking man reading quietly behind the cash register in the back. Walking up to him, Marie was overly aware of how every click of her heels on the floor disrupted the silence of the store.
The man at the cash register looked up as she approached and smiled, leathery skin crinkling along long worn laugh lines.
“Hello,” he said, still smiling. “I see you found what you were looking for. You were digging in those bins for quite a long time.”
She put her books on the desk and dug in her purse for her wallet. Finding it, she took out a twenty and dropped it unceremoniously on top of the pile but stopped as a cover caught her eye.
On the wall behind the cash, on a ledge built into the wall, there was a set up of old children’s books. Side by side sat The Neverending Story and The Phantom Tollbooth. She stared for a second and stopped him as he was about to hand her change back.
“Wait,” Marie said slowly. “I’ll take The Neverending Story as well.”
The cashier pulled it down from the shelf and put it in a bag with the other books, then put the money back in the register and handed her change and the bag of books. She took them without thanks and walked hurriedly to the exit, pulling her cell phone from her purse as she did so. The old man watched her go curiously, then shook his head and reopened his book.