Biana Coles was used to people ignoring her and her beautiful store. As a relatively new business owner, it made sense why she wasn’t being taken seriously. The fact that she was only five foot three inches in a crowd of hundreds probably could have contributed to her problem. She was new, small, and shy. Probably not the best combination to attract people to her new, small, incredibly quaint bookstore on the south end of Evercreek State Mall.
Biana sighs softly to herself, clutching the thin golden chain hanging around her neck with one hand, and setting up a homemade stand in front of her store. Please, Come in! It reads invitingly, written in flowing blue letters that match the font of the store name shining above the store door. Imagination Way Bookstore had been on Biana’s mind since her seventh grade business education class, where they were required to create a brand new business from scratch. Now, 20 years later, she had finally been able to save enough money, convince enough people to invest in her store. Opening a shop and filling it with hundreds of books had been a dream come true for Biana. But now that no one was coming in to buy the books, Biana was having one of her most precious dreams turned into a nightmare. Shivering with nerves, Biana pulls her thin violet sweater closer to her body, and walks back into her store. She greets her one employee, her niece, Madaline, with a nod then pulls a small cart from behind the counter to slowly comb through each of the many shelves lining the floor. She hears her niece walk into the back storage space, probably to make sure that everything was in order, but Biana stays with her task. Keeping everything in order was Biana’s way of emotionally handling her stress, and as she pulls down the handful of misplaced books into her cart she felt her shivers disappating and her breathing become calm and methodical. Then a sound distracts her from her organizing. The ring of the store bell. She smiles hopefully as she leaves the cart where it was in aisle three, and comes face to face with an older gentleman in about his sixties or seventies who has walked into the store. He crouches as he walks, but is without any cane or anything. He wears some worn jeans, and a simple white shirt, covered by a thick plaid jacket.
“Hello, sir!” she says politely, with her sweetest smile. The man nods in her direction, looking away from her to let his gaze travel leisurely across the immaculate shelves. “If there is anything I can do for you, I’ll just be right here, or you can ask my employee, Madeline, for help as well. We are both available to answer any question you may have.”
He mumbles in acknowledgment and slowly starts to roam through the aisles, brushing his hands across the spines that catch his attention. Biana bites her lip then slowly walks back to her cart to finish putting away books. She walks quietly, as to hear if the man calls her at all, but as the minutes pass, she slowly works back into her system, and even starts to murmer the song playing over the speakers.
Once finished with her task, she makes her way to the front of the store, deftly organizing the counter space. Swiftly she sweeps up extra pens and straightens the store membership sign up page, which luckily seems to slowly be filling itself up.
“Excuse me.” Biana’s head jerks up to see the man on the other side of the desk. Her smile is as swift as her hands. “Do you have any second hand books? These new books are fine, but I’m looking for something a little bit more worn.” Biana’s smile widens as she nods eagerly. “Yes, of course. They’re a bit hidden, but we do have a small collection. She guides him past the new aisles and the small couches placed on the sides of the room, until she gets to a large mahogany bookshelf which is situated in the very corner of the shop. Biana had been collecting cheap second hand books for years, from old libraries to garage sales, and she had been able to fill the large shelf to the brim, though compared to the rest of the shop, it was only a small amount. “Here it is, sir. Is there a specific book that you’re looking for?” The man nods thoughtfully as he crouches down to look at the lowest shelf. “A book that my wife got rid of years ago.” He laughs bitterly. “She thought it was too… aah, what's the word she would use? Opinionated. She didn’t like how opinionated it was. I think she was just jealous with how much time I spent with it. To me, it was my most valuable possession. Signed by the author herself, and has a written note from my deceased mother in it, and that woman thought she could just throw it out!” He shakes his head in what looks like a decade long resentment. Biana nods her head compassionately, murmuring her understanding.
“What is the book called?” she asks softly, looking over the shelves herself.
“To Kill A Mockingbird.” Biana blinks, then snorts in disbelief. “To Kill A Mockingbird? You mean one of the most influential books in American literature? Been published and printed millions of times? Yeah, I’m sure that will be super easy to find.” Biana claps her hand over her mouth in surprise and horror. Though she admits to having a sarcastic sense of humor, she has never let it come out unintentionally, especially with a customer. The old man looked up from his shelf to see her face. “I am so, so sorry,” Biana says, her face burning bright red. “I have no idea why I said that. I was just so surprised, that’s all. I am so sorry.” The old man smirks a bit, before looking back down to the shelf. “It’s fine. I have felt the same way for years.” Biana feels her flushed face start to cool down at his apparent dismissal, and continues to nervously roam the shelves. When they meet each other in the middle shelf, neither of them were able to find a copy of the valuable book. The man sighs sadly, with an air of resignation, then stands up to leave.
“Wait, sir,” Biana says as the man starts to walk out of the door. “W-what is your name? Maybe I can help you with your search?” The man looks behind him in surprise, then smiles at her fully for the first time since he walked into her store. “Colby Rowe,” he replies, then he walks out of the door, leaving Biana in her empty store.
. . .
July 11, 2062
It’s been nearly twenty years since my dear friend, Colby Rowe has been declared deceased. What an interesting word, deceased... The legal term for dead. It’s been twenty years since Colby became dead. Lifeless, gone.
And it’s been two hours since I found his beloved book.
I don’t usually write in journals. But Madeline, the beautiful girl who’s been there since the beginning, suggested that I write down this miraculous experience. Let’s catch up, for those of you who are new to all this.
Once Colby left that first day, he came back every day after that. Sometimes buying a book, sometimes not. Always checking the second hand bookshelf, along with almost 12 other bookshops each day (I found out months later). I think he single handedly kept me in business when the virus came, and we were shut down.
Soon, we became closest friends, despite the age difference, and we often went to various stores and yard sales throughout this large country that we live in. Always in search of his most valuable possession, an object he hadn’t had in his possession for years.
When his health was getting worse and worse, he had to stop. But I went on a book frenzy, traveling to dozens of possible places.
I wanted him to see that damn book more than anything.
When he died, it was like my second father was gone. I stopped looking for a while after that. But, like I said before, Madaline was there for me, when it felt like I was alone. She invited me to continue, and so I did. No one else in our family understood, but she did. She was almost as close to Colby as I was.
Anyway, I found the fated book in an old bookstore in Chandler, Arizona, called Forever Yours Bookstore, a bookstore dedicated to only second hand books. They even have a specific area for writing letters in the books pages. So now, instead of just a letter from the author and a mother, there are notes written in nearly every page. When I found it, and started sobbing like a child. I think I worried the other people in the store, but I left before anyone could ask.
I’m going to put it on his gravestone, after I’ve read through it all. I know you can’t take any material to heaven, but I think that he's happy to know that it is so close to his body in death.