Devin blinked his eyes. She had just been there, sitting crossed-legged in the oversized red chair, singing Moon River in a high falsetto…
and now she wasn’t.
Or rather, Devin had watched her disintegrate into iridescent sparkles. She had gone from corporeal to disappeared, Devin knew that because only moments before she had vanished, they had been kissing.
Admittedly, it had been a weird week.
On Monday Devin had begun his new job at the bookstore. It was a small town, quiet bookstore, with a solid cast of regulars. Sarah who loved queer romances with happy endings, and was always doing Instagram posts from inside the store. Debbie, who was possibly the coolest retiree he knew, and who had worked at the bookstore and didn’t really need his help at all. There were parents and their small children who made him smile with their need to touch everything.
In the corner of the bookstore was a red chair. It was a soft, plush, oversized chair that drew people to read in it. Devin loved the chair. It was the kind of chair that made a bookstore.
Devin worked again on Tuesday. At 2 o’clock she came in. The first thing she did when she came into the bookstore was make a beeline straight for the red chair. She didn’t say hello until she got there.
She was roughly Devin’s age, with a giant mess of hair, a crooked wide smile and a gleam, nay…shimmer in her bespectacled eyes.
Once she had settled in, she turned to stare intently at Devin.
“Your favourite book, please.” She smiled and her grin got even more crooked.
Devin was taken aback. He had never seen her in the bookstore before, or even in town, and he was from here. She seemed so comfortable. There is no possible way he wouldn’t have noticed someone like her.
Devin walked shyly to the young adult section of the store, right near the chair, and the human sitting in it. He grabbed The Little Prince off the shelf and handed it to her.
She tilted her head to match her smile, and stood up abruptly and said “put it on my account!” She said it with such confidence, that Devin didn’t question her, and she marched right out of the store, book in hand, bells jingling as she vanished out of sight.
On Wednesday both Debbie and Sarah came in after getting coffee for him across the street. Devin was surprised. Getting free coffee from two of his favourite customers was definitely a perk. They asked how his first week was going so far and he immediately blurted out a garbled version of his interaction with the girl in the chair.
Debbie looked at him with a wise smirk and suggested that he might be pulling their leg. Devin shook his head in a solemn fashion.
Debbie went to the back and found a copy of The Little Prince. “How many of these do we carry?” She had a habit of talking like she still worked there, and she knew full well they only carried one copy of The Little Prince at a time. Almost everyone in the town had already read it, being that it was one of her favourites to recommend. She had, in fact, recommended it to Devin when he was twelve.
Devin knew the answer too. “One…but I saw her take it.”
Debbie laughed conspiratorially with Sarah, who also worked at the bookstore during the Christmas rush.
“I think you might have met our very own bookstore entity.”
Devin’s eyes widened. “No one has ever mentioned a bookstore entity to me!”
Debbie shrugged. “It doesn’t always show up. When I started work here…oof, 40 years ago, how is that possible?! 40 years?! Anyway…it appeared to me as a small old woman with big messy hair and a crooked smile, and she had asked me for *my* favourite book. And of course I gave her The Little Prince. She took it, and much like what happened with you, the book didn’t actually leave our inventory. I haven’t seen her since.”
Devin shook his head. “That has to be a coincidence. I don’t believe it.”
“Believe what you will. Maybe it was just a girl who was really good at prestidigitation. Sarah saw her too. Sarah?”
Sarah shook her head. “I didn’t believe it either, when Debbie told me her story, but now that I’ve heard your story…I think I might have met our entity too. For me she was a young girl, hair sticking out everywhere, sparkling little eyes…and when she asked me for my favourite book I gave her the board book version of…you guessed it…The Little Prince. I didn’t stop her from leaving with it because I knew I could cover the cost, but when I looked in the children’s section that night…it was right where I left it.”
Devin knew Debbie and Sarah liked to pull his leg, so he just nodded, and smiled. “Thanks for the coffee.”
The two former booksellers left. That night when Devin was closing up shop, in she came again.
He didn’t notice her until he went to check the back, and there she was in the chair reading The Little Prince. He noticed she hadn’t cracked the spine.
“It is a very good book. Maybe one of the best. I never tire of reading it. What’s your favourite part?” She seemed genuinely interested.
“Is it okay if I lock the door?” Devin didn’t want more customers coming in, but he also didn’t want to scare her.
“I feel safe with you, go ahead.” She replied with a smile.
Devin locked up and he went and sat on the rug near the chair. He motioned for her to give him the book, and she handed it over. “I have so many favourite parts. Sometimes I identify with the prince, sometimes the fox, sometimes the rose…but more often these days, it’s the narrator.” He flipped the page to where the little prince was asking a serious question about his rose, and the aviator narrator gets mad at the little prince because he is nearly out of drinking water and is afraid for his life. And the little prince begins to cry and the narrator writes , “How clumsy I felt! I didn't know how to reach him, where to find him...It's so mysterious, the land of tears.”
Devin rolled up his sleeve and showed her the tattoo he had just recently gotten that read C’est tellement mysterieux le pays des larmes, in the original French and the font that Antoine de St. Exupery created for the cover of the book.
She looked at him. “Are you sad?”
“Sometimes,” said Devin. “Not right now.”
They talked about everything until dawn began to peek through the bookstore window, and Devin’s eyes closed for just a moment, and when he opened them, she was gone.
Devin didn’t work Thursday, thankfully because he was exhausted, but he was afraid she’d come back and not finding him, she’d disappear for good.
He emailed Ann, the owner of the bookstore, and asked if he might be able to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ann seemed surprised, but liked his drive, and really did need a weekend off so she agreed. On Thursday night Devin spent the entire day reading about beings beyond this sphere, just in case his new friend was in fact actually some sort of entity.
On Friday Devin got to the bookstore bright and early and started building a display about magic people, children, spirits, and entities. He drew paper stars and coloured them silver with his non toxic marker. He wanted to let her know that he valued her existence without prying, if it turns out she was a magical person.
She didn’t come in Friday, and Devin locked the bookstore hoping she’d see the front window display and know that it was a message for her.
On Friday night Devin had a dream. In his dream she came into the bookstore and asked him to close the shop so they could go for a walk. The dream seemed to last an eternity, and she told him all about her life as a bookstore entity, and how she could only appear to people who loved books with all of their being. She asked if she could hold his hand, and she took him to the river near the bookstore and they stared at a pink moon, waning and nearly gone. I’m like the moon, she said, always there but not always visible to the eye.
On Saturday, Devin picked an aged dandelion, hair white, and blew the seeds away and made a wish like he used to do as a child.
On Saturday, just before close, she came bursting into the store. “The window!!” she exclaimed with joy. “You made it for me! Did you not?!”
Devin beamed softly, like a waning moon. “I did.”
“It is perfect.” She beamed gently back.
Then she asked if he would go for a walk, and it all happened again, just like in his dream.
As they were looking at the moon she grabbed his hand quickly, and asked if she might kiss him. Devin nodded enthusiastically. He closed his eyes and felt his lips tingle like they had been brushed with mint and velvet.
When he opened his eyes, she was gone again. Devin looked at the moon, a teeny pink sliver, and felt a kind of grief for what he knew must be coming. He had read too many books not to see the foreshadowing of her disappearance.
On Sunday Devin put on his favourite pink socks, and his most comfortable sweater to match his silver pants. He wanted to sparkle for her. He went to the store with a hopeful but heavy heart. He brought another dandelion, full of unspent wishes just for her. He made it to the bookstore without losing a single seed.
He served his customers with such excitement that they left the store with new favourite authors, and taking chances on books they might not have before.
He watched out the window for her shape. She did not come. He put the key in the lock, and began the end of day procedures, and wondered if maybe last night had been their final night. But outside the moon was still a tiny sliver, and as he opened the door, reluctantly to leave, she appeared slightly more dishevelled than usual.
“Can I sit in the chair?”
Devin grinned. He opened the door and she ran over quickly. She snuggled into the chair as if it were a long lost friend.
“I don’t have much time. I have never been here this long, visible, before. You are so very special. Know this.”
Devin went to the counter, and picked up the dandelion, and handed it to her, sitting in the chair. She took it carefully, one magic thing interacting with another. She held it in front of her crooked mouth and she pursed her lips and blew. The wishes took flight and instead of covering the carpet with their softness, they disappeared one by one.
“I wished I could stay. I wished I could kiss you. I wished I was real. But I have to go home.”
She beckoned for Devin to come closer. She stood up and their mouths pressed against one another’s, mint and velvet and wishes come true.
Devin inhaled a breath like he’d never felt before. It brought him a calm joy he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
Then she sat down, and started singing Moon River…and the room filled with iridescent sparkles, and she was gone. The air smelled faintly of mint, and whimsy.
When he looked at the chair, The Little Prince was on it, opened to a page.
He read it and one sentence stood out.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
On Monday, when Debbie and Sarah came in, he didn’t say anything, but they both grinned at each other knowingly.
The air still smelled of mint, and the chair was even more velvet than usual, and the moon…it wasn’t there.