Star dodged the ancient blue Pinto hatchback that straddled the crosswalk, ignoring the blast of the horn and the thick, acrid smoke that issued from the rusted tailpipe. Her latté sloshed warningly against the white plastic lid as her ballet-like maneuver threatened the delicate balance between her book-laden arms and her need for her morning jolt of caffeine. I really need to get a bike, she thought yet again. Even an old granny bike with flowers on a white wicker basket and those enormous wheels would be nice. The image made her smile. And a coffee cup holder. That was an absolute necessity.
She wore slim fitting jeans this morning that flared fashionably over her heavy black boots. Her gauzy silver shirt barely brushed the waistband, allowing glimpses of the Celtic star around her belly button. Her platinum hair swung in a heavy braid, the tie bobbing against her hips.
A white sports car, doors throbbing with subwoofer overkill, ran the red light and screeched to a halt, waiting with impatience for her to get out of the way. With a squeal of rubber, it shot past her, missing her by inches as she took the last steps toward the curb and relative safety. Jerk, she thought as she watched the car whip into the right lane, cutting off a minivan full of kids and their frazzled mother.
Star paused to jostle her books back into manageable order before risking the chaos of the sidewalk. The section of concrete between the light pole and the curb offered a sort of oasis from the traffic, both mechanical and pedestrian. At her back, the river of steel and rubber rushed past in a mindless stream. Before her, people wove in and out of an equally mindless river of humanity. At least the cars had rules, she mused, taking a much-needed sip of latté. The sweet heat hit her stomach and spread a welcome wave of energy through her. God bless the saint of all things coffee, Java be his name.
Star eyed the sidewalk before her the way a knight of old had eyed a thrown gauntlet – as a challenge. She took another sip of coffee. With enough sugar and caffeine, she could move mountains. This particular mountain was made up of business suits and denim jeans, woolen overcoats and leather biker jackets, tennis shoes and stiletto heels. One misstep would see her overwhelmed and trampled. Or at least it always felt that way. It was worse on rainy days when people had an excuse to refuse to look where they were going.
The brick walls and glass storefronts formed a jagged barrier on her left. The endless stream of people hurrying toward the end of their lives as fast as humanly possible moved against her and would try with the blanket unconcern of a mob, to force her into the street. Star took one last fortifying sip of coffee and stepped into the rabid flow of life.
An old woman, her shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders and her purse held in a vise grip, barreled past on her left and Star dodged her easily. Two teenage boys in jeans two sizes too large and attitudes the size of Mount Rushmore challenged her right to the sidewalk. Star looked away, not meeting their eyes as she slipped between them. There was a moment of uncertainty, where she thought they might turn back, but the tide of humanity swept them onward and the danger passed. The man with the cell phone pressed tightly to his head gave her no chance to congratulate herself. He rushed past her, his briefcase banging into her hip. He spared her a sharp, irritated look for the inconvenience of her existence.
Star dodged and feinted her way through the massive press of people. At one point she thought she had it made when she managed to make it a hundred feet in the relative security of a group of about six people who were going the same direction as she. It was a short lived victory that left her stranded beside a brick column two doors down from where she wanted to be. A minute and a half, she muttered. There was no help for it.
Closing her eyes, Star blanked out the sounds of the street, the smells of exhaust and frustration. Taking a deep breath, she concentrated. When she opened her eyes again, the scene had changed. People still walked past her on their way through their lives. Horns honked and drivers waved one-finger greetings at one another, mouthing invective. But she was no longer where she had been. With a smug smile, Star turned and opened the door of the bookstore.
The bell jangled as she closed the door behind her. The silence enfolded her and she found she was able to breathe again. She plunked the books on the counter with a sigh and took a deep drink of her latté. It was getting cold but she needed the caffeine. Books lined the wall, floor to ceiling and the heavy oaken counter provided a veritable haven from the masses outside. To Star, it was her little piece of heaven.
“Mr Connors?” she called. “Are you here?”
There was no answer. Star sighed. The old man was probably in the back cataloging the new books. He insisted on personally welcoming every title that came through his store. It was a bit odd but Star thought it was sweet. It was rare in this day and age to find a person who actually enjoyed their occupation.
She felt the tingle before she smelled the heavy floral musk and her day abruptly went from bad to worse. Star turned slowly toward the back office and bit back a groan. “Hello, Astrid,” her mother purred from the doorway. Where Star was slight and fair, her mother was a lioness, tall and vibrantly gold from head to toe. Today she was dressed in a designer suit of vivid blue. Matching shoes with four-inch heels lifted her from statuesque to diva. Star downed the rest of her latté in one gulp. “Luna,” she returned as politely as she could.
Since that was more conversation than she actually wanted with her mother, Star dropped the now empty foam cup in the trashcan and began to open the store. She retrieved the cash from the safe and put it in the register. The books she had brought back with her were shelved and she set out the chairs in the book nook. She even ran the vacuum over the already immaculate rug. The only thing left to do was to raise the shades and flip the sign to open. She was reluctant, however, to inflict her mother on the unsuspecting public.
“You should get a car,” Luna suggested. She hadn’t moved from the office doorway and watched Star with the intensity of a hunting cat.Click here to return to book