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Romance Fiction Friendship

"Please, don't do it." I blush as I realize that I've said this aloud. Two of my employees give me concerned looks and one customer glances up in bewildered amusement. I continue my prayer silently as I watch you through the glass, hoping you don't notice or recognize me. I am working, but I am also watching to see if you move.


You have stopped and seem to be surveying the store. Are you remembering a youthful dream spoken excitedly underneath twinkling stars? Are you thinking of me? Do you realize that I have made that dream my reality? Maybe you are just looking for your latest fix. What are you into these days? Back then it was adventure. How excited you used to get. Do you remember who your favorite used to be? I remember. It was so very long ago, but I remember.


Do you remember how many times our parents got on to us for hogging the phone? “Other people need to make calls,” my mom always said. We could talk for hours at a time. Do you remember all our old haunts? The treehouse, the abandoned railroad station, the old shed? Do you remember how we used to bring our books there? Reading aloud our favorite passages. Talking about characters created by someone else.


Please don't come in that door. Keep walking. Find another quaint shop to frequent. Don't walk back into my life because losing you again would kill me. I know you like places like this because I remember everything you like. I remember how much you wanted this, how much you wanted me. I remember because I wanted you just as much and we both wanted this.


Have you noticed it's set up just the way we talked about? I always liked the spiral staircase idea, even though that one was yours. Do you wonder if you're dreaming? I think perhaps I am dreaming up you because you stay right there, looking through the window, surveying the fruits of my labor, the fruition of our hopes. Your eyes seem fixed on the staircase. Yes. You remember, don’t you? “I wish…” and then the ideas just flowed through us. Our speech could barely keep up with our thoughts as we spoke. The minutes turned into hours and we didn’t know what time it was and we didn’t care. I wish we could go back to that. Some days I wish I’d never loved you. But no. I can’t wish away our first kiss. The softness of your lips and how my heart felt like it would come right out of my chest and stop at the very same time. How we couldn’t stop. Our first night. It just got complicated after that. Why is love so hard? Why can’t I hate you? It would be so much easier if I could just learn to hate you, or even just stop loving you. Then we could go back.


I pay out another customer hoping that when I'm finished you'll have gone, decided this place didn't look that interesting after all, but you are still here. Did you catch sight of me while I was ringing up the customer? Did you recognize me? Are you still there because you feel the same? Please don't wreck my life again. I only just woke up from the nightmare of losing you.


If you walk through that door, I can’t go back to being just friends. I can’t pick up talking to you and exchanging books like we did so very long ago, before things got complicated. Am I crying? I never cry. What are these people going to think? I should stop looking at you. Maybe if I look away, you’ll go. Does anyone else around me realize? Some of them know about you. Only those closest to me. Those who have worked with me the longest. None of them have ever seen you, not even pictures. I couldn’t bear to see your face so I’ve stashed all your pictures away. Now I can’t stop looking. I am drinking you in like someone in the desert drinks water. I am parched and only your face can quench my thirst.


The sounds around me die and the light fades. Something is happening to me. I see you move, but I cannot tell where you have gone. I am vaguely aware of falling, knocking over a stack of our latest acquisitions. I hope I haven’t damaged them. I hear concerned voices but I can no longer see. I cannot tell if my eyes are open or closed. I cannot tell where I am or who is around me. I am back in the past.


“They didn’t have it?” the disappointment on your face, I want to hug you. I am disappointed too. I was so excited. Every book we read was an adventure. I loved talking about our favorite characters, but especially the sparkle in your eyes as you spoke.


“Just sold out.” I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t know how to soften the blow, to ease your disappointment. I wish I could fix it somehow.


“And the library copy is reserved for the next six months. Why do we always make it too late?” You kick the ground as if it would make things better. Anger? Frustration? Disappointment? It doesn’t matter. You aren’t smiling. I want to make you smile.


“I wish I owned my own book store.” I wish I could give you everything you want. Smile for me. That’s right. Let’s plan it out. Let’s stay together forever. You and me.


“Oh, that would be amazing. We could…” and before we’ve realized it the sun has set. Our families will be worried, but the grass is cool and the stars are twinkling just like your eyes and we are making plans. Excited, youthful, grandiose plans.


I hear sirens. I feel someone holding my hand. Who is there? Is it you? Have you come back to me? Please don’t leave me again.


June 15, 2022 16:49

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