October Girl-Ch.9 “Coffee Dates and Book Thieves”
The milk steamer huffed at some distance behind Rain, and her conscious was pulled out of the story’s world as if she awoke and was pulled out of a dream. So many voices filled the coffee shop’s air, words…sentences…conversation all mixed to a cocktail of sounds rather than anything legible.
She looked down at the page, at the part of the story world the sounds pulled her out of, and looked at the words the same way she would try to recollect a dream she awoke from. She quickly scanned the page to remember exactly how she felt from the last sentences she read before the real world demanded her attention and gently placed a burgundy maple leaf (that she had picked up while on a particularly dreamy stroll with Jacob) as a book mark there. And then, with her armor not there to hide behind as she sat alone in a crowded and loud place, she allowed herself to take a good look around at everyone who had someone to talk to.
It had been three months since she and Jacob went on that magical date. They were blissful months filled with butterfly emotions, daydreams and distracted thoughts and she and J sipped on hot chocolate while walking between ember leafed trees as autumn breezes brushed against their skin. He knew so many places that were camouflaged between obscure buildings that either had the most delicious cheesecake ever, or an amazing pianist or live band, or some odd restaurant that is populated by a very eccentric crowd. He introduced her to an underground world of jazz, of culture, of art and music and beauty. The more time she spent with him the more she forgot the forlorn girl that fell before his eyes in a puddle of mud whilst screaming “Rosie” at the top of her lungs; the girl that became an anxious wreck because of a single phone call by her mother and her fear of disappointing her mom.
And speaking of mothers, Rain’s mother was less focused having Rain help her with her business and more focused on enjoying the new Rain that had emerged since Jacob entered their lives. And although she wanted to rely on Rain to help with the business, she instead allowed Rain to be in that state of dreamy lovers’ haze because in that state Rain was a lot calmer, a lot more joyful to be around. She also learned of Rain’s website, and it made her proud of her daughter. So she decided to not push Rain into her business, and instead they had their little chitchats over marshmallow covered hot cocoa, sitting curled on the couch looking at the grey autumn sky and ember maple leaves.
To Rain Jacob entering her life amidst her wreck of an emotional state felt like fate. It made sense to her all of a sudden, her deceiving partners, her return from New York to her Backstreet Boys plastered bedroom, her crumbled self esteem that was to be rebuilt by this amazing guy. In fact, any thoughts of other plans she had, one of which was Japan, were a world away. She had long since shoved the mysterious brochures aside and instead began working on paintings, and photography and enjoyed indulging in a good book and a good cup coffee. Jacob’s presence in her life brought that back to her, and the cloud that she wore dejected and humiliated as she was after returning back to her parents’ house disappeared.
She instead started a website, a personal journal for the public, where she shared her photography and her writing. Especially when Jacob took her to a particularly interesting place that she couldn’t help but be inspired by, she would pull out her camera and photograph every little detail and then she would write down anything and everything that popped in her mind about the place. Jacob always looked amused, and although he didn’t say anything she felt silly a lot of times for getting so excited over these places. She wouldn’t linger too long on that thought, though. He never said anything directly to her or joked about it, so she convinced herself not to be too bothered.
Back in the buzzing coffee shop Rain checked the time. She was waiting for Jacob. He had recommended this coffee shop to her boldly claiming the place had the best hot drinks in their little town. The place felt like they took traditional cozy and sprinkled it with modern elements here and there. What she liked most that noticed when she walked in was a big bookshelf filled with used books and new books donated by loyal customers. The personal connection each book carried with it intrigued her. Tickled with interest she headed to it, too conscious of the crowded tables that she had to walk between to get to the bookshelf.
‘Books to be read in the Café only, do not take home. If you would like to donate a book, run it by the staff. Thank you. Café Rivoli’ was written in white chalk in cursive on a decorative framed blackboard. The bookshelf was as she had expected: a mishmash of very old and new. From autobiographies to poetry to Jane Austin novels to history books and art books and classic novels, it carried every possible taste any random person could have. She decided she would run her fingertips along the books displayed there and randomly stop at one, and that would be the one she would pull out. So she closed her eyes and ran her fingers along, touching canvas books, paper books, even velvet books, big and small. When she finally stopped, her finger tips where touching an old book encased in worn silk. She pulled it out, and it turned out to be a book on the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony. The cover was meticulously decorated with abstract looking sakura blossoms. She was just about to open the book when a warm breath whispered in her ear, “there you are”.
Rain almost screamed as she turned around, only to find Jacob’s apologetic face looking at her.
“Jacob! Don’t do that again”, she said as he pulled her in for a hug and repeatedly apologized.
“People are looking,” she whispered embarrassed.
“They were looking before I came in,” he said quietly, flirtingly, and winked.
She melted a little and her mind lost focus on this old book she was still clutching.
They walked back to her table, and she absentmindedly placed the book on her bag while the hand Jacob had held was still tingling with imaginary jolts of electricity. There he sat, with his two day beard, his messy head of hair (which seemed to have been attempted to be made presentable but the weather outside decided otherwise) and his smile.. ..oh his smile.
“So, what do you think of the place?” he asked, looking expectant.
“It’s…well, it’s definitely something,” she replied.
Then she turned and pointed at the bookshelf.
“That, however, is like a Narnia world for books. It’s incredible! In fact I randomly picked this up, look at it!”
She picked up the ancient looking silk book and dropped it on the table, and looked at Jacob with a wide grin.
“Cool,” he said, absentmindedly, and took a quick at it.
He drummed his fingers around the edges of the book, and casually turned it around, inspecting it with very little interest, “Looks old.”
“Yeah it is,” replied Rain as she took it. She was about to open it, then Jacob stole her attention.
“So, coffee?” he asked.
She nodded and asked him to get her what he was getting; she was still in awe of the book and he clearly knew what was good here.
The coffee was, of course, delicious and so was everything that Jacob ordered. Without realizing it she put the book inside her bag, and they chatted the rest of the afternoon away and she hadn’t had a second thought about it.
They left the cozy coffee shop only to be hit by the autumn chilled air. Jacob immediately put his arm around her waist and pulled her in, and she naturally placed her head in that nook between head and shoulder. She loved that nook, and she couldn’t remember feeling any safer than she did when she was with him, like that. The walk took them to her favourite bookstore. Mrs.Bauer already met Jacob, and she let Rain know that she really, really approves.
“Ah, my favourite couple!” greeted them Mrs.Bauer.
Jacob gave her his charming smile and hugged her.
Rain felt herself get a little embarrassed, though. She wasn’t used to the term couple, especially in reference to her, ever. B, who broke her heart, was never really attainable and she felt like it she was the problem, like she couldn’t be seen as someone’s girlfriend. He always gave her the feeling that he was looking down on her and that she wasn’t good enough, or enough for any relationship with him. And then Jacob came along, better looking and more interesting and very very kind, and she felt like she didn’t deserve him. And while she gradually got used to the idea that such a great guy does want her, the feeling was still a foreign language to her.
“Cool down, her heart won’t handle too much of that smile,” she whispered to Jacob.
He looked down at her and held her tighter. That look right there; that was the look that slowly made her feel she could be worth something or someone’s time.
They had been chatting with Mrs.Bauer for a while now, especially Jacob. Mrs.Bauer shared anecdotes of Rain’s childhoods and embarrassing moments and Rain fled to the bookshelves to avoid Jacob’s reactions. She scanned through the photography section to look for something to inspire her. A small magazine had approached her to photograph an event in town, and she agreed to do it despite the anxiety she felt. She began posting a lot of the photographs she took while she was out with Jacob; the jazz bars, the little coffee shops, the hidden secret restaurants. She was initially inspired to post the pictures when the owners of these places loved the pictures so much they asked if she could post them online and review the places.
And she was a graphic designer so creating the website was easy.
And so she began a little project of her own, completely unintentional. She shared this with Jacob in previous conversations; although, as encouraging as he was, he didn’t treat it like something big. But for Rain it was, and it took a lot of her broken courage to put herself out there again. She stayed in contact with a lot of those places that she visited with Jacob, and she appreciated that it was through him that she had been able to start anything at all. Some of the places even paid her for her pictures and articles.
The event she was going to was a slightly over hyped local art exhibition; some minor celebrities were visiting. While it was easy to photograph restaurants and cafes and the streets of her beloved town, she needed to learn the art of capturing art. She picked out a bunch of books and walked back to the front of the store only to find Jacob and Mrs. Bauer still in the same places and chatting away. By Jacob’s loud laughs she surmised that the two of them were still on the same topic: Rain’s embarrassing childhood moments.
“Alright, alright enough guys. J, we need to head out I have to do some research for the art exhibition.”
Once she was home she rushed upstairs and dumped all the books out of her bag to start her research, and then it suddenly dawned on her. She accidentally stole the Japanese tea ceremony book. There it was under the new, shiny photography and art books in its old worn silk cover. Her heart raced; she felt like a criminal. She pulled it from underneath the pile and ran her fingertips across the surface. The old fashioned abstract Sakura blossoms were slightly raised. Even though she was supposed to research for the art event, the book was beckoning her to open it and look inside. She turned the cover page over and found an inscription in Japanese, very old, and in black ink. She grabbed her mobile phone and took a picture of it, incase she would run into someone who could read Japanese, although she doubted it. Just in case.
She put the book to the side and went ahead with the research, which she hadn’t planned would take so long. Message from Jacob, her mother popping in every few minutes and her necessary caffeine dose made what should have taken her a few hours go well into the rest of the night. When she was finally done, notes taken and pages marked, she tidied everything up and began to let her mind drift to her website. The photography success she had achieved had caught her by surprise and was not at all what she had pictured would happen since her kick out of her own company. She imagined she would be working for her mother a very mind numbing job, eventually sink so low in depression and self-depreciation that she would turn fat and alone, and even imagined Rosie running of to another owner because of how disgusted she would be with Rain. Instead, she was taken around town by a gorgeous man, to amazing and exciting new places and had managed to collect enough courage to post her work for the public; and some insisted on paying her for the pictures and comments.
She headed to bed, mind filled with too many exciting thoughts that the idea of sleep seemed absurd. But she had to, she had a long week ahead before the event and wanted to study the area the exhibit was taking place in. She did eventually fall asleep, though, and that was when Rosie, who was curled up next to Rain, began to growl a little.
He wouldn’t try to touch her again for a long time. In her dreams he was just fog in the shape of something not discernable. He was standing far this night, although now something bonded him to this house. What he could not say. He stood there. He had once felt this longing for someone before, but when? And who?
The dog’s low growl bothered him this night. He began to float away, slowly. He felt sad, not because she was in love with someone. He had, after all, made sure that someone worthy would enter her life. Why was his presence, whatever he was, so strong this time? He has been here for so long. He was starting to feel a pain, not a physical one since he has no body, but a strong ache still. A dull, strong pulsing ache.
His head, or where he assumes his mind would be, hurt.
He felt the emotion of crying, although he doubted he was physically doing so.
Meanwhile in the town center a very old man living in the apartment a floor over his old medical store awoke from his sleep, his heart racing and his body sweaty. He didn’t know how much longer he could physically handle these night terrors. He was too old, too frail, and what happened in the past remained in the past. But he sensed something had been awoken, and he feared he couldn’t hide anymore what happened. He sat up and drank a glass of water, and waited for his heart to slow down. He got up and looked outside the window, at the cobbled streets and traditional facades of the old town square, and at the corner of the street he could almost sense the presence of something, someone, he once knew.