Margaret was standing in front of the bookstore again. She'd dreamt of it at a dozen times now. Her eyes studied the old wooden nameplate as if for the first time.
The name somehow filled her heart with something she couldn't quite place. December winds rushed through, messing her already tangled brown hair. She pulled her coat close to her body, protecting herself from the cold.
She knew she was in a dream, yet, it felt so real. Without further thought, her legs took her into the store. Her heart was beating twice the normal pace and she could feel the excitement rushing through her.
The bookstore had a small, comfy interior, making someone feel like home. She blinked twice, focusing on the sections in front of her. And like she did the previous times, Margaret's head turned to the left Section, right behind the counter.
The genre that was close to her heart. The genre which made her start reading. She was the typical kid who grew up reading fiction and fantasy books. It was no wonder that she waited for her Hogwarts letter when she turned eleven.
She shook her head in embarrassment, when the thought of waiting for the letter even after all these years crossed her mind. Always, her mind shouted and she never wanted to facepalm so bad.
Heels clicking against the creaky wooden floor, Margaret made her way to the 'Fiction' Section, fingers brushing against the spine of the books. Feeling the different material that'd bound the books was something she loved to do.
He should be here by now...
The recurring dream was not just about the bookstore. There was a man. She had to admit, she's been reading and watching too much fiction. He looked like a million dollars, she'd say. Everyday, he'd wear the same outfit and an overcoat, all black, and a hat.
She'd hear the bell above the front door chime first, before he entered. His arrival seemed to progress with every dream since the first time she dreamt of him. She couldn't even remember his face the first time. It was quick. Then the next day, well dream, she saw him.
There was everything about him that screamed British. Piercing blue eyes, that'd make someone drown in those. If someone thought it was only his eyes that would do the trick, then they're dead wrong!
Her eyes would then fall on his cheekbones. Those God-carved cheekbones. So sharp that they could cut through anything. He always had a hat on him, so it was upto her imagination on how his hair looked like. As if all of this is real, she scoffed internally, well aware of being in a dream.
As she kept on having the same dream for quite a while, his arrival progressed. The last she saw, he sent her a smile from the doorway and she woke up. She prayed not to wake up this time. And as if on cue,
The bell chimed...
Her head snapped to the door in a heartbeat. How could someone look so handsome with that same outfit and well, in a freaking dream?!
This time, he shivered a bit while entering the bookstore. Winter, she guessed. In a moment, his eyes looked up from the floor to her, making hers widen at the unexpected movement. He flashed the same smile she saw yesterday and then... started walking towards her! His pace was soft and slow, yet her heart was hammering against her chest.
Please don't wake up...
Please don't wake up...
And she woke up...
The 6am alarm rang through her ears, making her groan in frustration. The only thing she'd been expecting in her life was this dream, only to be robbed by reality. Ugh...
Her life, reality came rushing back and Margaret felt like she's been hit by a car. With an excruciating sigh, she dragged herself to the bathroom.
Exactly one hour later, Margaret was having beacon and scrambled eggs with her mother. Her mom was unusually silent today and she exactly knew why. It's been three months since her father left them...
"So..." mom drawled, serving her some orange juice, "When is your story releasing on the website?"
She was definitely trying to start a conversation, Margaret thought. Yet, she played along.
"Mom, it's not just a website. It's a Role-play game kind of thing. Well, we're still brainstorming. We're looking for actual historical facts that'd fit the story and make it more... relatable. Then, we have to create the characters, write the dialogues and develop it to be an actual Role-play game. It's a long way ahead, mom"
"Hmm..." she nodded in response as Margaret sighed.
They soon turned quiet and an awkward silence lingered in the atmosphere. It was not long after her mother cleared her throat.
"Margo... I know these are difficult times but you can always talk to me. I know it's hard for you-"
Margaret set her fork with such force that shook the table, making her mother startle for a moment.
"It's fine!" Margaret gritted through her teeth.
She was sick of pretending to be alright. All these years, she looked up to her father for everything. She always took him as an example on how to behave or react to any situation. Now, she didn't know if she was doing things right. Didn't know if she was just like her father, since she literally followed his footsteps all these years.
Realising her rudeness, she looked at her mother apologetically. She was going through the same or more than that, than herself.
"I'm sorry, mom. I-I didn't mean to" she mumbled before getting up, "I have to go"
Mom nodded glumly and spoke her tone unaffected, "By the way, I checked with some of the nearby bookstores but I couldn't find the book you asked for..."
Margaret's heart took a hit at those words. Her mother, despite all the heartbreak and trauma she's been going through, looked out for a book she asked for. She wanted to hug her and cry.
But she forced a small smile, masking the hurt, "It is Dan Brown's bestseller after all. You can't get it that easily mom!"
"Oh please! Stop bragging" mom let out a small laugh, "I don't understand why you find his work interesting"
"Mom!" Margaret let out a fake gasp, "If I'm not late for work, I would've lectured you about Dan Brown's fine work for at least an hour"
"Thankfully, I'm spared" mom played along, "Oh yeah, will you join me for movie night?"
"I'll try..." she muttered before leaving the kitchen. Margaret wouldn't say she'd come but she always did. For her mom...
The day at "Fictopia: A World Beyond" was no less than stressful for Margaret Winters. Her team barely made any progress in the historical facts needed for the story (or game). Brainstorming led to more confusion among the team and being the Story Lead, she was this close to restrain herself from punching the wall.
"I guess including Sir Francis Drake's history would be interesting. You know, tricking the Her Majesty and hiding the treasure..." Mike Williams, her character developer suggested.
"And that's exactly why we cannot have his backstory. What if it becomes controversial?!" Ashley Brooks, their Trivial Expert retorted, "Henry Avery would be the best choice for us. How many of us loved The Pirates of the Caribbean?"
The room nodded in agreement.
"His story will be something new to the audience. They'd be freaking out when they learn about the Gunsway Heist!" she added with a dramatic gesture.
Margaret sighed as Mike put up another adventurous incident Sir Francis Drake, trying to prove his point. As the Story Lead, she had to make sure that everyone in her team are satisfied with the decision. And that needed time...
The only thing that kept her at bay was the dream. She couldn't take her mind off the bookstore... of him. Whenever she gets the window of opportunity, her mind would drift off to the dream and she'd just think of it.
The session concluded at five and she gave them this usual speech on how well they're doing before leaving the rather suffocating room.
Margaret loved her job. She was one of very few lucky people who got the chance to do the job they love. It was just that she had too much on her mind. Or just one... Her father...
Clenching the coffee cup on one hand and holding the coat close to her body, Margaret made her way through the streets. Something crossed her mind, which she couldn't quite place, made her stop mid-way. She turned to her left, like someone was calling her. Her eyes focused on the alleyway for a couple more seconds, before making her way through it.
Margaret have never ever changed her route home once, in the past year and yet, here she was, walking through an unfamiliar alleyway on a December night.
She had no idea where she was headed but let her instinct do the job. Soon, her pace fastened, like she was close to the destination. Her legs stopped in front of a small building by the end of the alleyway. With a loud gasp, the air left her lungs.
A Victorian Era building stood in front of her, the nameplate reading,
Margaret had the slightest awareness that she was in the middle of a strange alleyway as she gaped at the bookstore from her dreams. She adjusted her cat-eye glasses, as if making sure the sight in front of her was real.
Blinking twice, she headed to the entrance and opened the door. The bell chimed. She took a breath and stepped in. The wood creaked as she shuffled her feet, taking in the place. It was just like she had dreamt about the bookstore. To verify that, her eyes moved to the left, just behind the counter and there stood
Her heart filled with something that was gone three months ago. Happiness... She skimmed through the spine of the books with her fingertips. Just the way she liked it. The smell of old parchment and new leather books mixed in a delirious way, filled the atmosphere. Margaret closed her eyes and took a deep breath, feeling ecstatic.
While skimming through the books, a certain paper-bound copy caught her eyes.
Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code"
A surprised gasp escaped her lips as she took the book from the shelf. Margaret, being a literal worshipper of Dan Brown, couldn't manage to get a copy of his now famous bestseller. She's been looking for this book for weeks, even asked her mother to look for the same. But couldn't get her hands on a single copy, until now. The very thought of buying the book, made her lips form a triumphant smirk.
Clutching the book close to her heart, Margaret made her way to the 'History' Section. Ashley and Mike would be more than excited if she bought the some books related to Henry Avery and Sir Francis Drake. It would also boost the team's morale, she thought.
The place was a perfect epitome of books. They literally had everything! Margaret had no idea how much time passed from checking on those books. She could happily spend the rest of her life here.
She was about to check the third shelf of the 'History' Section when a soft voice cut her train of thoughts, "I'm sorry Miss. But we are about to cl-"
The bell chimed...
Oh my god! Could it be...
Her body turned towards the door in lightning speed. She was thankful that her neck didn't break at the impact. If seeing the bookstore took her breath away, the sight in front made her forget to breathe.
Heavens help her... It was him... Him!
He was just like she'd dreamt. He wore the same black over-coat, collar pulled up. White crystals rested on the shoulders of his coat. It started to snow, she realised.
And this time, he didn't wear a hat. She watched in awe at his slightly messed up hair. The platinum blonde, successfully camouflaging the snow. The piercing blue eyes, sharp cheekbones... it was all perfect!
She then realised he was looking at her too... his pupils dilated. She was able to see that even from the distance put between them.
"I'm sorry, Sir" the lady called out and both of them blinked, "I just asked the Lady to-"
"Is that-" he cut her off, his voice laced with excitement.
Margaret looked again and realised he was pointing his finger at her... No, the book!
"Is that Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'?"
She glanced at the last copy of her favorite author's book. Before she could conjure a reply, she was walking towards her. Margaret's breath stopped short, still reeling from the fact that the person she had dreamt for quite a few days was standing just a few feet from her.
"May-may I?" he asked and she realised he was asking for the book.
She thought for a moment before giving it to him, hesitantly.
His eyes brightened with enthusiasm as he reached for the book. There was the same triumphant smirk on his lips as he skimmed through the pages. But she wanted the book. She couldn't afford to lose the Dan Brown's book!
"Uh-I-" she started but he cut her off.
"You bought this?" he asked, clearly unaware that he cut her off.
"Um-no..." she drawled awkwardly.
"I'm sure this is pretty much the last copy in the whole city. So why don't we just share?" he suggested with a smile, "I mean, I can see you're a fan and I've also been looking for this book for a while now..."
Margaret blinked. They don't even know each other and he was now what... asking her to get a book together?!
As if sensing her nervousness, he chuckled, bringing warmth to her heart, "Oh! Pardon my manners. I just got carried away! The name's Tom... Thomas Ramsey"
He extended his hand and she didn't hesitate to shake it. His eyes brightened in a way she couldn't quite place when she said, "Margaret Winters"
"So, what do you say?" he asked again.
She nodded in agreement and felt something different form on her lips after a long time. Something genuine...