[It has helped me a great deal in posting the first two chapters, so I am posting part of chapter three as well. I have been able to see some needed edits and changes that I just could not see because I have been keeping this in hiding. Please feel free to share any comments. Are you interested in the characters? Would you like to know more? Does the story seem interesting? I don't know, if you think of anything please share. These are still rough drafts and need edits ... so be gentle. ;-)]
I did make it to the front doors of the bookstore.
I loved that bookstore. On the outside, it had big glass windows featuring wonderful book displays. I would walk past it often thinking that I would go in, but then, I would lose my nerve. I am not exactly sure why I did not go in, except that the timing just never felt right. I do that at times. I save things until it is the proper time, I have held off on movies or songs for decades to make sure it is the exactly the right time for me to experience it. I feel like I should never rush something, it takes me time to prepare for certain treasures. I saved this bookstore for precisely the right time.
I will never forget the unwrapping of this tiny present. It had been sitting in the heart of our curious downtown. It was one of the most delightful experiences for me. I stood outside looking at the numbers above the door flashing their smiles, and singing in colors of yellow and silver meshing 202. They pranced around my eyes. They giggled inviting me in. I went to place my fingers around the black iron door handle. As I laced my digits onto the handle, it felt a little loose, and fragile. 202 rapping its tune into my ears, swarming me into the warmth of its colors, and the embracing doors continue to fill me with every moment of that night – the beginning of my entire world colliding with a new reality.
Possibly reality had been there all along just waiting to peel its layers off right in front of me.
I opened the door, old mildew stench hit me consuming my air with pleasantries of antique words. It had that nice old book whiff. I was startled by the sounds of pages flapping, it sounded as if an orchestra of book covers and laughing pages were playing sweet piano tunes into my heart. As much as the odor was unpleasant it was pleasant - familiar and safe. The curvy walls, wrapped in colorful delights of books. My eyes chortled. The rows are perfectly, neatly organized, and making the environment much more soothing. While I gazed across each shelf I half smiled. I would have loved to count them at that very moment. I wanted to touch their covers and caress their introductions. I noticed in the far back a black metal spiral staircase that went straight up to a tiny loft.
I fought the urge to run up them to see what treasures hid upon those shelves. It would have to wait, I was zapped out of my awestruck state by a woman who was short, with a little pointy nose, and a mouth full of glistening white teeth wrapped with some sort of red liquorice colored lipstick.
“Hi! Are you here for the book club?” Her large blue eyes jumped into my face. She had a high pitch voice. When she began to speak her red lipstick crinkled into the crevasses of her lip lines. It began to flake tiny sparks and then, flecks popped onto her sparkly teeth the more she spoke.
I stood silent unable to take my eyes off of her teeth, but as much as I wanted to stop staring I could not. I stood with my eyes sealed to the red dots that started to swim across each front tooth, as if they were waving at me every time her lips crossed and her tongue thrust saliva. Finally, after her third question I was able to get out. “Oh, yes I am here for the book club” while glaring at the happy faced red dots that passed by.
She led me to the back area where there were 11 chairs in a circle, I felt the tiny ridges of the floor grip at the soles of my boots. I was distracted for a moment by the odd number of chairs to form a circle and rolled my eyes at 11 because it had been messing with me for some time. I immediately added 1 +1 to make two because I did not want to leave 11 mocking me. I wore boots that night because they made me feel safe.
My Converse were too casual and free. I did not feel free yet. I was not about to let my feet walk in their freedom among strangers. My boots were much better equipped for new social encounters. I chose my tall, knee high; black boots with a block rubber heal. The zipper demanded confidence and respect.
Anyone who noticed them would definitely think that they should not mess with me or at least think that I was an emo chic – no one wants to disarray an emo chic. Either way they made me feel better and I loved my boots. Boots were always stable and strong.
The bounce of the light sucked me into the floor again. It was stained concrete that had a yellowish green tint to it. There were cracks throughout. I wanted to get on my hands and knees to study the small cracks. I was fascinated with every tiny vein. I wanted to see where they vesseled off to – what grand pathway did they lead to. It was a glamorous shiny floor. It looked smooth, but its grooves reached for me with each step.
In an instant, I was overcome with knowing that I had to come back on a day when there was no book club. I had every intention of plopping down on that cold, slab floor, surrounding myself in books, and daydreaming of walking up the spiral stairs straight into book heaven.
It looked much like my therapy group. I thought that was a good thing, it gave me some sort of script. There was another woman sitting in a chair close to the spiral stairs. I knew I had to sit across from the stairs so I could attempt to see what was hidden away up there.
The squeaky black hair chic asked, “Would you like some tea? We have green and Earl Grey. Do you prefer coffee? How about some cookies or pie?” I don’t know what else she offered I felt as if I was at gourmet cafe with Seven-Eleven products. My ears felt as if cotton balls had been shoved into them and muffled everything I did manage to say, ‘Thank you, but I am on a strict diet for my health.” I had hoped that would get her to leave me alone, but it only caused her to hammer me with a butt load of questions.
I had to explain why I eat only gluten-free. That information spun her into sharing about a friend of a friend with celiac disease. I really did not want to go into all of the pseudoscience and myths that she was spewing at me so I decided to just nod and say, “Yes, I know how tough it can be.” I wanted to call her by the name Mildred the second I saw her. She looked like a Mildred wearing the 1960’s wanna be glasses. As she continued to ramble on about genetically modified food, I was struck with her glasses. I remember I had to clasp my mouth shut and not shout, “Seriously, if you are going to wear glasses like that wear real vintage!”
Mildred had quickly got on my nerves and I was not sure I could stay at the book club. I could not even remember her real name. I stayed quiet out of fear that I would call her Mildred or 1960′s wanna be chic. My anxiety was filling up into my throat. I was concerned about the other people coming that Mildred was babbling on and on about – I think I lost a couple of decades that night. I thought possibly the other woman had potential. I looked over at her, but she was just gray.
Her hair was a blondish sort of gray – it was dull. She was wearing a gray hoodie and blue jeans with gray generic Converse. Her skin had a grayish hue. She was curled up more than I was. I had an excuse; I was ridden with social anxiety. I wondered if she was too. I wondered if her therapist told her to try a book club. I gave myself a mental note, “Watch the gray mystery, possible stalker. She could be a real freak. I’ll call her Gray Crone.”
I was mesmerized by her, I wanted to know how old she was. She dressed as if she was young, but her face had the wrinkles of an older woman. Her body was like a walking stick. I was contemplating whether she smoked or not when I felt her eyes burn into my flesh. She looked directly into my eyes! I think I made an audible sound that was much like, “Eek!” I told myself, “Look down. Make no contact.”
I heard my therapist whispering into my brain at that moment. “Ada, you must speak to others. Take a chance that is the only way to overcome this.” I shook my head and smirked, telling her, “That is easy for a person who does not lose their words!”
I decided to flip through the books that were on the table. I hoped that she would ignore me. I thumbed through some that looked a little interesting, but nothing really stole my interest. “Hey, what’s your name?” Gray Crone coughed out at me.
My heart stopped, I lost my breath, and I started to shake thinking, “Oh, crap! Gray Crone is talking to me. Can I get the words out? Do I want to? Do not look at her eyes. Shit! I looked into her eyes. Oh, they are so cold. They are gray too. I wonder if she has gray blood. I can’t look in the eyes long, I am feeling nauseous.”
I stared into her forehead. “Um, my nnnname is Ada.” My arms were pulling the words from my throat. She watched my limbs dance wildly as I spoke. I was used to that I hardly noticed it when someone else looked at me awkwardly.
“Do you have a stutter?” Gray Crone looked directly at me and asked in a monotone voice. I didn’t think she was being mean. I forced my brain to calm and spoke slowly, “No, I do not have a stutter–I just have a hard time getting my words out sometimes.” I was fiddling with my fingers listening to the sounds they made when they rub against each other. I had my head down facing the floor.
I saw Gray Crone look at me through my peripheral vision. She tilted her head a bit – it seemed awkward. I decided to look at her from the side of my right eye. She gave a shoulder shrug and said, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” She wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I still had my guard up. She reminded me of a Demoiselle Crane with her body movements and long neck.
I went back to staring up at the spiral stairs. There were twenty-two steps. The black paint had chipped off in some places, it was barely noticeable, but I could see the tiny rust spots poking out their flakes. The wavy designs that swirled through each step left a shadow from the yellow hazy light above.
There was a slight flicker from the bulbs that really bothered me. I could also hear the tiny buzz sound when no one was talking, or it seemed too quiet. I looked at each step counting them over and over again. I loved counting–my favorite is counting by two’s.
I counted the steps by two and envisioned myself leaping on each one with both feet. I knew the sound would make a ting after each number echoing into the next number. Two-ting, four-ting, six-ting, eight-ting, and on until 22-end. When I arrived to the number 22 I added them together to equaling the number 4 dancing about in my head. After that, the images in my head manifested into two swans that morphed out of the 22. They multiplied by 4, to create the beautiful number 88.
I sat waiting for the others to arrive feeling panic start to fuse my body. I continued to focus on the numbers to help ease my fears. I thought about how much I love 88. I pondered how beautiful they looked together. They looked like two swimming partners linked for eternity. I gave them the name, Infinity Twins. They gave me joy and comfort in the midst of anxiety. Fred reminded me of the twins. That was what I named him. Fred Doodle. When the thoughts of him invaded my brain I screamed as loud as I could, silently, “Stop it mind!”
Quickly my mind wandered off to my other self-soothing tactics. I thought about the date. It was 8/22. Staring at a spec on the ceiling and speaking slowly in my head, I started to add and thinking of numbers,
“8 + 2 + 2 = 12. Twelve, two remaining, it is the smallest number with precisely six divisors, 6 is a good number. Six is swimming on my sweater. I really like this sweater because the gray is a dark pretty gray that looks marvelous with the deep purple designs mixed throughout. They remind me of hexagons. They seem to blend into sixes that look as if they are appearing and disappearing. 6 + 6 = 12, square 121 has 12 as its aliquot sum. 12 *2 = 24 and 24 separated into 2 + 4 = 6 and 6 *2 = 12 and there are only 11 chairs, which is so wrong.”
I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up rushed up to the woman I named Mildred and asked, “Could we get one more chair to complete the circle, please?”
She turned with a nurturing type of attitude as if she was a mother, but I did not think she was one. Her big blue eyes looked a little confused and she said, “Of course, Ada I didn’t realize that I only had 11 chairs. We are expecting 12 people altogether.”
I felt the blood leave my face and the knot gallop my stomach. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe slowly, “OMG! 12 people! Don’t panic, don’t panic.”
Then, I looked at Mildred’s dancing red spots and white teeth and said, “Excuse me, where is the restroom?” Panting the whole time.
Mildred lady looked concerned, pointed to the stairs and said, “Behind the spiral staircase, are you alright?” I spilled out of my mouth,”Yes, I am fine thank you.” I tripped over my boots as I walked as quickly as possible to the restroom. I caught myself on the back of Gray Crone’s chair, shook my head, barely making it into a stall.
I sat in the restroom, breathing slowly – counting the tiles on the ceiling. The people were not there yet. I didn’t know if any of them had read the book. I didn’t know anyone. I was all alone and scared. Before sitting on the toilet I cleaned it. I sat on the sparkling seat wondering if anyone else had gone online to see what the book was about. Had I started reading too soon? What were we supposed to discuss? How was I going to handle the whole church thing? What if there were Christians in the group? My heart was racing, I could feel the sweat forming on my forehead, and I felt as if someone had locked their strong hands around my neck – squeezing. I finally said to myself in a defeated voice, “I can’t do this, I need to leave.” The thoughts had pulsed adrenaline through my veins. I went to the mirror to try to talk to myself.
As I looked in the mirror I saw a glimpse of my eyes, they looked like a scared bunny that stood still in the grass. You can always tell what they are thinking, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me.” I was thinking the same thing as I decided to walk out of the bathroom. I had planned to head right out the front door being completely invisible. I am not sure how long I was in the restroom, but when I walked out there were five other people sitting, and Mildred – I was stuck.