And I did check out his store. I googled it as soon as I got home. I tried to restrain some level of self-control, and seem a little bit less like the stalker that fate was making me out to be, but I just couldn’t help myself. You see, I was a sucker for cute book stores, and my pride was a little bit wounded that I hadn’t found this one before. So, the very next day, after my shift watching the terrible/tremendous threesome, I headed out to the little bookstore tucked into a shopping mall that I’d driven past my entire life and never looked at twice.
As I walked in the door, Amanda looked up at me from one of the little tables in the front of the store, where she had several notebooks and textbooks spread out. “Couldn’t stay away, huh?”
“You peaked my curiosity.” I answered quickly.
“Fair enough. Come on, Nickel tour.” Amanda got up and left her textbooks over the table.
The store was quiet, and cute. It was bigger than I would have thought looking at it from the outside, and went farther back than anticipated, even seeming to have rooms behind some of the other stores in the complex, giving it an almost t-shape to the whole thing. They had a substantial collection of some pretty good condition used book, and before the “nickel tour” had finished, I’d picked up about thirty dollars’ worth of books that I was about to buy. “We don’t have a lot business here, but we have enough regulars and loyal shoppers that we keep our head above water.”
“So, it’s your brother’s store? But “we” have loyal shoppers?”
“Well, yes. He bought the store from his its previous owner with his business partner when he was twenty years old, so I was ten at the time. I grew up coming here after school every day for my entire middle school and high school careers. That table you saw me sitting at is my table, dutifully decorated for me by Zach’s partner ages ago. When I clean up all my stuff, you can see it. This place is my home.”
“That’s—wonderful.” I grinned. “I wish I had something like that to grow up with.”
“Yeah. I’m blessed.” Amanda blushed a little bit, but seemed to be genuine in her thought process.
We made our way back to the front counter, where I set my collection down next to the cash register and Amanda started banging on the little brass bell by the register with rapid action of someone who’d done that once or twice before. “CUSTOMER!” She bellowed in a voice much louder than I had anticipated. “Customer who wishes to exchange money for goods. Stop making out back there and be of service to her.” She called, looking at closed door behind the desk.
“We’re not making out that would be wildly inappropriate. This is Zach’s place of business.” A leggy blonde creature came out through the door way, and I tried my hardest not to gape open mouthed at her. She was Victoria’s Secret runway good looking, and not at all who I expected to be in that back room.
“Yeah, what she said!” Zach chimed in, coming out of the room behind the Angel Model, but then he saw me and smile a little wider. “Ah, Elliott, couldn’t pass up the offer, hmm?”
“You don’t know me very well yet, Zach, but I’ll let you know right now. I never pass up the chance to visit a book store.”
He started to ring the books into the register and made a quick introduction. “Elliott, this is my girlfriend, Riley. Riley, this is the girl I told you about last night. Ran into her three times in as many weeks.”
“Ah yes—You spilled his coffee. Well done.” She held out a perfectly manicured hand for me to shake.
“Good to meet you.” I answered.
“Pleasure is all mine. Zach, give her the friends and family discount, huh?”
“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that, I’m willing to pay.”
“Please,” Riley held up her hand, “I’ve got this feeling you’ll be back. Never pass up the chance to visit a bookstore and what not. Go on, hun, give her the discount.”
Zach pressed a few buttons on the register and the price dropped from $34.56 to $25.92. “Thanks.” I said to riley as I handed over the cash.
“No problem. I should bolt, sweetheart. See you at home.”
“See you at home.” Zach replied, kissing her softly on the cheek.
“Mandy,” Riley turned to Amanda really quickly, “You don’t need the car, right? You can come home with Zach?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine. Thanks.” Amanda was back to her school work on her table. “See you.”
With one more graceful wave, Riley left the store, leaving me slightly flabbergasted, and not quite sure what to do with myself.
“I guess, I should go.” I finally decided, holding my new purchases in one hand, looking back and forth between the two siblings.
“No, stay.” Zach insisted, “Amanda is no fun when she gets into work mode, and we’re always slow when it comes to the afternoons. I could use the entertainment.”
“Well, what is there to do in a bookstore with no café and no customers?” I asked almost sarcastically, looking at the bag of books in my hand.
Zach shrugged and turned to look at all the book shelves, holding his arms out wide. “Play word games, of course.”