Ever since she was a little girl, Mary had dreamed about living in a bookstore. She imagined curling up with some pillows and nice thick comforter in between two shelves. When she woke up, she could see the books smiling down at her, and if it struck her fancy, she could just reach up and pluck a book down and start reading without ever leaving the comfort of her blankets.
She didn’t imagine it would be like this. That the store would be packed to the gills with people who had no power in their own homes, assuming that their own homes were still standing. (Mary had heard enough of her parent’s frantic late night whispers to know that their home wasn’t.) The store wasn’t even technically open for business, but the building had been fitted with an industrial generator some years ago, and the owner ran a food pantry for the homeless out of one of the back rooms, so it had turned into a nice place for people to hide during the storm and in the aftermath that followed.
Mary’s family had been there for three days now. They made themselves a little home in the section that was label “Teen Paranormal Fiction.” Her younger sisters both had buried their noses in books off the shelf, since their iPods and phones had long since died. Mary’s father was monopolizing the one little plug in their area, keeping his laptop charged, constantly firing instant messages and e-mails back and forth between various friends, family members, and coworkers, trying to figure out exactly what was going on, and where they might be able to relocate to more permanently. Mary’s mother was snoring lightly as she stretched out along the aisle, her face turned towards the bottom shelf of books. As for Mary herself, she just fantasized longingly of a real shower. In the middle of the night, with the help of her twin sisters, she had managed to take a “sink shower,” crudely washing their hair, under their armpits, and getting all the dirt and mud off their feet and lower legs. It had made her feel worlds better, but she was still longing for a real, head to toe shower, where she didn’t have to fear someone bursting in at any second, or test the limits of her flexibility to get body parts under the water jet.
Her dad looked up and caught her eye, offering her a soft smile and blowing her a small kiss. Mary gave him a teary eyed smile in return.
“Hey,” he whispered, “we’re going to be okay. You know that right? We’re alive. We’re healthy. We’re making a plan. We’re going to be okay.”
“I know,” I whispered back, “I do. I know.”
“Okay. I’m just checking.” He held up his hand in the one handed sign for ‘I Love You.’ I held up my hand to mimic his. He gave me one last smile and turned back to his computer, to keep working on that plan. They were going to be okay.