Saturday 9th June 2018
‘This is Charing Cross. This is a Northern Line train to Morden. Please stand clear of the doors’
Pushing my fragile body through the crowd, on the flight of stairs, I stepped on to Trafalgar Square. Squinting my eyes, I look up at the Sun shining bright through the green luscious trees, smiling down on Mother Earth as clouds took a day off. I had dressed up to the spirit and walked along the crowd, headed to join in the parade. I, Rain, a 75 year old lady, born and raised in this very city have been a part of ‘Pride London’ since it commenced in 1972.
I ran a small book store in a quiet part of north London which I had fondly name ’Literary Apothecary’- Books for the soul. Books to buy or borrow. I had my books sorted in shelfs based on genre. Some customers would come and head straight to the counter, get the book, pay and leave. There was this other category of customers who were my favourites. I had special arrangement just for them. Few tables and chairs laid out with a coffee and tea maker to give them enough room and time to decide what would heal their soul. I would occasionally sit with them for that little peek into their mind and heart, so I could bring out a book best suitable for them.
A regular there, she would pop in twice or thrice a week at around 3 PM and linger on until 6 PM when my lights turned off. Turning pages, smelling books, tossing and turning the front cover, back cover. She would head straight to the section titled “Romance” and indulge herself in the many classics.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon when she had turned up in a pleated skirt and a buttoned up collared shirt. She gave her usual smile and as she headed towards the books, she began to fold up her sleeves, one fold at a time, very meticulously. I caught myself staring at her, stared away and back again. She moved from one sleeve to the other. I kept on staring. Something was turning me on. I pulled myself back from my thoughts and turned it off.
The following week, I waited, for the clock to strike three in the noon. I waited for her to walk by. I waited to see her, all of Monday and Tuesday. She came in on Wednesday in a bright yellow dress. I giggled like a small girl. She smiled back at me and went to her usual section. ‘Can this day freeze right here?’ I thought to myself.
I was under the spell of an emotion that I can never explain till date. It was weird, but real. It was scary but enjoyable. It gave me a thrill but calmed me down.
A couple of months later, on a rainy evening, as I was about to turn off the lights and leave, she walked in.
“Hi there, are you closing down? Can I just pick something quick? This ‘rain’ caught me up.”
“Oh no dear, take your time. Let me make you a cup of tea.”
She removed her coat and sat down on a chair. I made two cups of tea and went to join her.
“I am Rain, the owner and store keeper.” I introduced myself.
“Romance is your genre. Neck deep in Love or lost in Love? ” I asked.
“Love in real life has eluded me. I see myself in every love story that I read and that is how I fall and rise in Love. I feel love in the pages of a book and loose it there, when I am done with it.”
“You are attractive. I will be surprised if you say you have not been proposed by any gentleman. If the world comes to an end and there is a single door open to immortality, a typical London gentleman would still open it for you and say ‘after you’“
“Haha…yes sure. Then I guess, I am not floored by chauvinism.”
She took the cup of tea and took a sip. I could not take my eyes off her drenched hair and wet lips. She took me by surprise when she got up from her chair, walked around the table , stood next to me and planted a kiss right on my lips.
2 years later, 1971
It’s been 2 years to that evening. We would meet only at the store. She would stay until I locked the doors and then we parted ways.
Until one day, she came in and rushed to the far end corner of the store.
Within few minutes she was back, joined the queue of customers with a book in hand. I waited impatiently for her turn.
“I am in a bit of a hurry today. Have a train to catch to Manchester. If you could tell me how much I should pay for this book”. She placed the book on the counter.
“Wow, a good pick. Why don’t you borrow it and return it next week.”
“I can’t. Just tell me the price. There will be a car here to pick me up soon. “
I was taken aback with her tone, devoid of any emotion. It was as if she was indeed talking to a store keeper. She paid and began walking towards the front door.
I ran after her. “What is it? I have customers waiting, can you not wait for 10 minutes and we can talk.”
“Rain, I am getting married next month.” She said with her eyes down, turned around and left.
That was the last I saw of her. I lost her but she made me realise what I was missing in my life. I moved on. Next year, 1972, I joined in the first ever ‘Pride London’ and have continued to do so in memory of my first love, ‘June’.
This is an entry for UniK-4, a 1000-word writing event at ArtoonsInn.
Check the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/pride-unik-5-writing-event-artoonsinn/
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