This story is by Carlene Shuler Brown and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jason walked into the small bookstore at 6:00. He began to look over the shelves, when someone moved some books on the other side.
“Hi,” she said.
A beautiful girl was staring at him from the other side of the bookshelf through the hole. She had dark brown hair and eyes that danced when she smiled.
“Hi, yourself,” he answered back.
“Do you come here often?”
“Nope, first time.”
“It’s my first time too. Why are you here?” she asked.
“Well, I’m looking for a book that my professor wants me to read. What kinds of books do you like?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I’m into romantic fiction or suspense.
“I haven’t read a lot of books lately, except for textbooks. I guess that’s why my professor wants me to find some fiction. He loves it and says he thinks I will too.”
“He’s probably right. I love a man that loves fiction.”
“Why don’t you come around here and we’ll talk.”
“No, let’s just talk from here.”
“But I can only see your face from here.”
“That’s okay, it’s more mysterious like that,” she said.
“I’ll come around there then.”
“No, if you come around here, I’ll leave.”
He held up his hands in surrender.
“Okay, okay, I certainly don’t want you to leave. What’s your name?”
“Hi Emily, I love your smile.”
“Why, thank you. You have a lovely smile too. What’s your name?”
“Well, Jason, I think you’d like a suspense novel. You could be like the handsome leading man in one.”
“Why, thank you. And you’d be the lovely leading lady, I suppose.”
She threw her head back and laughed.
“Of course, I would.”
“We could make our own novel, or at least we could try.”
Emily laughed again and he was entranced as he watched her eyes sparkle.
“Get the book, Dangerous Entanglements, and while you’re reading it, pretend that you’re the leading man and I’m the leading lady. It will make it much more interesting.”
“I’ll read it tonight. Will you come tomorrow so I can tell you how it was?”
“Of course, Jason. Oh, my goodness, where has the time gone? It’s been nice to meet you, but I have to go now. I’ll see you tomorrow at 6:00.”
“Okay, Emily. I really would like to get to know you better.”
And she was gone. Just like that.
Jason started reading the book when he got home, reading straight through and thinking of Emily. He finished the book and went to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
The next day was Saturday. All day he kept looking at the clock, waiting for 6:00 so he could go to the bookstore and meet Emily again. Finally, at 6:00 he walked in the bookstore. She wasn’t there yet. He went to the same bookshelf he was at the day before and waited. Then, the books parted.
“Hi, yourself. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“Of course, I came. I wanted to see your beautiful smile again,” she said.
“I read the book last night and couldn’t put it down until I finished. It was a good book, and you were right about it being more interesting by thinking of you as the leading lady.”
“Of course, I knew it would. And I love a book with a happy ending, don’t you?”
She was delightful and witty, and he loved talking with her. Again, he asked her to come over to his side of the bookshelf – but she refused.
“I like it like this,” she said.
He wanted to see more of her, but every time he said he was coming to her side, she threatened to leave. He didn’t want her to leave, so he stayed put. They stayed and talked for an hour, then she said she had to go.
“Will you come again tomorrow?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said. “6:00?”
“I’ll be here.”
Day after day they’d meet at the bookstore at 6:00 and talk. She always wanted to be on the other side, or she’d threaten to leave, and he didn’t know why.
He was curious as to what she looked like, so one day he got a friend of his to go with him. He was supposed to go to the other side of the shelves and tell him what Emily looked like. Jason and Emily talked, as always. Then Jason signaled his friend to go to the other side.
His friend peeked over the to the other side, then said, “Dude, what’s up. There’s nobody there. Is this some kind of a joke?”
Jason looked back at the shelves and she was gone.
“But . . . she was just there.”
He went home, upset that she had left and he hadn’t been able to talk to her more.
The next day, he went to the bookstore at 6:00. At 6:15, she still wasn’t there. He was afraid that she wasn’t coming. Then, the books parted.
“Don’t you ever pull that on me again.”
“I won’t . . . I promise. But why is it so important to you that I only see you like this.”
“It just is, so leave it at that.”
Every day at 6:00 they went to the bookstore and talked. He would breathe in the scent of her wafting through the hole in the bookshelves. Just listening to her made his heart soar. He didn’t remember ever feeling this way. He wanted to be with her more than anything.
She talked a lot about her sister, the things they would do together and what a wonderful person she was. She loved her sister dearly, and he began to feel like he knew as much about her sister as he did her.
“I would like for you to meet my sister. She had a bad breakup about 6 months ago and I’d love to see her find a wonderful man like you to be with.”
“I know what that’s like. What about you?” he asked.
“Me? I’m free as a bird.”
“Then why can’t we go somewhere together?”
“We just can’t. Not now. Don’t ask me to explain, but we can’t yet.”
“We’ve been meeting like this every day for a couple of months now. Why can’t you be with me? Please Emily, I want to be with you other than across this bookshelf.”
“Soon, Jason. It’ll be soon now.”
Then, she stopped coming.
A week passed. He came, day after day, but she didn’t come. He would come, sit at his spot at the bookshelf, stay an hour and then leave. He yearned to see her. She was all he could think about. She was all he wanted and he was devastated at the thought that he’d never see her again.
He made his usual trek to the bookstore, hoping against hope that she’d be there. He had to see her again.
As he walked into the bookstore, he saw her. She was sitting at a small table softly crying. He was overcome with happiness that she was here, and he was ecstatic that he could finally see all of her. He ran to the table and sat down beside her.
“What’s wrong. Why are you crying?” he asked.
She looked at him. “Jason?”
“Yes, why are you crying?”
“My sister died last week and I miss her. We buried her yesterday.”
“I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved her. So that’s why you haven’t been here this week.”
She dabbed at the tears in her eyes and looked at him quizzically. “What? I’ve never been here before.”
It was now Jason’s turn to be mystified. She couldn’t be serious. Why would she say that?
“But we’ve been meeting here at 6:00 every day for a couple of months until last week.”
She stared at him quizzically. She didn’t understand what he was saying. “I’ve been by my sisters’ bed at 6:00 every day for the last couple of months. I’ve been holding her hand and talking to her, even though she was in a coma. Last week, she finally opened her eyes. I started to get the nurse when she stopped me. She said there was something she wanted me to do. She made me promise to come to this bookstore at 6:00 to meet Jason. I told her I would and ran to get the nurse. When we got back to her room, she had died. I couldn’t come before today.”
“I’m so sorry, Emily.”
Bewildered, she looked at him. “Wait . . . I’m not Emily. Emily was my twin sister that died. How do you know her?”
“I’ve been talking to her every day, until this week.”
“But, you couldn’t.”
Confused, they stared deep into each other’s eyes, searching for answers. Then, realization came. Emily wanted them to be together.
After a long pause, Jason smiled and took her hand in his.
“Hi, I’m Jason.”
She smiled back.
“Hi, I’m Ellie.”