The next day Grandma wanted to take me shopping. I accepted gratefully, welcoming the normality of going to our town, which was small, more like a village, but it had a few decent shops to mooch around. And a bookshop, which happened to have a sale on at that time.
I loved books. My room was practically lined with them, and my favorite birthday or Christmas gift was always a bookstore gift card from the day I learned to read. I also spent a lot of time in the local library, reading books. Because I had to watch my funds, I obviously could not afford all the books I wanted, so I often went to the library to check out if a title I'd heard about was worth buying.
I had put in my Christmas order early by telling my parents that I wanted an e-reading device, whether Kindle, iPad, or Nook. I had already seen how cheap books were in electronic form, and looking at my book shelves groaning under the weight of the volumes I had purchased, I knew I would either have to start moving my books to the guest bedroom or get that e-book reader. Seriously, I sometimes imagined that my bedroom floor was going to collapse under the weight and used to joke that it would be the first ever "death by books", though since losing Kitty I didn't really make jokes about death any longer. Anyway, my books were already in double rows on each shelf and the thought of having one device with all the reading material I could ever want in it was almost too good to be true.
But I still loved printed books. They felt like old friends in my hands. I guess I would always have "old fashioned" printed books as well, just like my dad collected old vinyl records. There was that special something in old-fashioned books...
So, of course I wanted to go to the book shop, and Grandma parked her sports car right in front of it in one graceful curve, steering the wheel easily with just one hand. The car got appreciative glances from the members of the male population who happened to be passing by. As did Grandma herself. I hoped I had inherited her genes and would age as beautifully as she had - she looked thirty years younger than she was. Really, not kidding.
The only strange thing gene-wise was that both my parents were quite short, yet I was considerably taller than they were. When I was a child, Dad used to joke that there must have been a giraffe in our family tree somewhere. And I, being in the first grade then, had asked about this possibility at school. After my teacher stopped laughing, I did not speak to Dad for two days.
I smiled at the giraffe-memory now, and followed Grandma through the open door into the book store.
I loved the smell of books and the sight of all those racks, relishing the moment. What should I look at first? Books about cats, I decided and walked over the worn wooden floor towards the books about nature and pets. Grandma vanished somewhere amongst the taller shelves.
I more or less just drifted down the corridors of the book store after that, reading the book titles, picking up some of them to find out more from their back covers, and then moving on. I noticed Grandma at the metaphysical section, in front of a slew of books about angels. Well, where else, I thought. I wanted to tell her what had just happened, and was starting to move towards her when out of nowhere someone almost ran me over. I fell against a bookshelf and hit my knee, hard, right on the bone.
"Owwwww!" I grabbed my knee. I knew there would be a gorgeous bruise later on. For a moment the pain overtook me and it was a few seconds before I could think of anything else.
"Oh, sorry! I do hope I haven't hurt you seriously?"
At a glance, he was maybe a few years older than I was, but it was somehow hard to pinpoint his actual age. He was very tall - a rare exception to the young guys I knew. Looking down on them tended to have a bit of a cooling effect on any romantic intentions they had, to put it mildly. Sure I had been on a few dates, and had my experiences of awkward kisses, but nothing serious. I was certain that me being so tall was the cause. I figured that men, for whatever reason, mostly feel insecure if their girlfriend is taller than they are. Standing on tiptoe while kissing a girl seemed to be too much for the male ego - that was my experience, anyhow.
His T-shirt revealed muscular arms. It wasn't a body builder's physique, though, just the well-proportioned muscles of someone who had clearly done some physical work. Two very blue eyes stared down at me. I almost forgot to be angry with him - he was so handsome. And oddly familiar... I just couldn't place him. I had the weirdest feeling he looked at me as if I was someone he knew. Maybe he was the big brother of one of my friends or classmates? But no, I dismissed that... I knew I would not have forgotten someone like him, even if I'd only met him once before.
"Watch where you're going!" I snapped anyway, a bit taken aback by his ice blue, honest gaze.
"I am sorry," he repeated, looking embarrassed. Oh, and did I mention handsome? Blond hair, blue eyes and a pale skin to match it.
Rather too pale for the midst of summer. His skin was nearly... translucent? It certainly had a glow that looked almost airbrushed. Maybe he was a fashion model I had seen on a magazine cover? Or the net?
He calmly observed me observing him. In fact he seemed to be looking at me such intense curiosity I began to think there was something wrong with my face. Had my mascara run? The pain had momentarily brought tears to my eyes, and I did that thing that you do, where you're trying to see a smudge on your face without letting on that you're doing anything apart from concentrate on the other person in the conversation. He certainly deserved my full attention. Wow, he was pale though.
"No, I am not an albino, if that's what you're thinking. Nor a vampire. I'd be in fashion though, if these books are anything to judge by, don't you think?" He had clearly noticed me looking at his skin, and smiled and waved his hand at the young adult books on the shelves. "I've been traveling for a while and only just came back to the sunny side of the world."
He sounded very educated for his age. Also his smile was.... captivating. I found myself staring at his beautiful lips. He seemed amused, and that of course made his smile widen. His face was heart-stoppingly gorgeous when he did that. Then it occurred to me I was ogling him, and that he had realized it too. I blushed.
Bending down to hide my embarrassment, I began to dust the knees of my jeans even though the bookshelves I'd crashed into - had been knocked into - were clean and completely dust-free. When I looked up again, he had vanished. I glanced around, and quickly even stood on my toes to see over the taller shelving, but he was nowhere to be seen. Surely he couldn't have ducked behind one of the shelves and be hiding there? He was real enough - I had the pain in my knee to prove it.
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