After a few minutes’ drive, the large strip mall comes into view. The Trinidad Commons is what they decided to call it. The commons consist of many stores in a C formation and in the center of the C are more stores still. Restaurants are nestled into the different center buildings like little bastions of culinary delights. I park in front of the bookstore taking in as much cold air as I can before heading in.
The small wallet my mom got me for my birthday lays light in my purse. Opening it, I see my driver’s license, debit card, my school ID, an ID for the band and practice rooms. My heart sinks. Only a few dollars are tucked inside, meaning no books until next week when I get paid from the student office. Maybe I should ask for an advance or a pay rise.
I run my hands along the spines, the smooth covers gliding under my fingertips. I had a system. Each book needed it’s back to be read and then the book itself peered through. Next, the authors who seemed most interesting became part of a list to check when I got back to my laptop in the dorm. If the dorm wasn’t a shared, I would certainly line all the walls with books. If I could afford them, they would certainly become a fire hazard.
I peel back page after page, inhaling the fresh smell of cut paper. The scent always seems to remind me of my grandma’s house. She and her late husband were the only others in my family who loved books. Often times we would read to each other until I fell asleep in the lounge. Musty with a spot of Earl Grey in the kettle.
Leafing through some more books, I finally settle on a few to start with. I look over the bookshelves orienting myself with my surroundings. The help desk and kiosk is right in the center of the store and branching out is the different genre sections both fiction and nonfiction. The movies and music are set to the far right side. The wall adjacent is the kid’s section and next is the coffee shop. I assume the coffee shop is close by to keep children close to their parents as they grab their preferred cup of joe.
I eye the help desk seeing a familiar face. A girl dressed in all black stands behind the counter with a somewhat bored expression. I know her from somewhere. Black messy hair and red highlights? Maybe not. Warmth starts growing in my face and I try to shake my mind off her. I wasn’t here to people watch, at least not this early in my process anyway. Her eyes meet mine. Forcing a smile and averting my eyes, I focus my attention to the fiction section of books, stretching across three long aisles. I round the corner, trying to keep my eyes on the books in the second aisle. The same girl eyes me from the help desk. Our eyes meet again. Shit. She probably thinks I’m stealing or something. A few moments later, she’s a few steps from me.