Bamie reached for the book before she had time to stop herself. She ran her fingers down the spine and let them linger on the dustless shelf of dark brown. Around her the sounds of feet gently plodding against the tiled floor blended with the smells of coffee and tea and books ready to be taken home in multicolored cloth bags.
“Here it is!” the cheery brunette announced as she pulled a thinner book from the next shelf. “This one will be perfect for an introduction to the genre,” she giggled.
“Thank you,” Bamie took the slim book, waited for the young woman to leave, and then slid it back in place. Her fingers moved back to the thick book with it’s crimson, hard cover.
“Why do you hesitate in front of something you want?” the voice behind her shoulder asked.
She hated herself for yanking the book off the shelf and pressing it to her chest. Done, she knew, because he had made her mad enough to take action. She turned quickly to escape the human interaction she had already had far too much of when his fingers brushed hers.
“It’s better to read a good book that you struggle with.” He left the rest of the sentence to linger between them. “You have good instincts,” he whispered a moment later. “Listen to them.”
She reached for the book the woman had suggested and smashed it against the one she wanted. “I’ll give them both a try,” she announced, louder than she intended. He nodded and walked past her, his shoulder just barely brushing hers.
She browsed shelf after shelf as she eyed his back, until finally he left and she could trust herself to walk to the checkout counter. Her legs steadied as she paid, and her legs straightened back out as she made her way to the park to find her favorite bench. It was chipped and uncomfortable, and she loved it for that because hardly anybody wanted to sit on it.
She settled in sideways, opened her lunch and the thinner book, and began. Then, when nobody had walked down the path in a few minutes, she propped the thicker book onto the other and began that one.
“My name is Grigori.”
Bamie dropped her sandwich. She stared at it, frozen with shock and unable to figure out what to do next. She couldn’t eat it, of course, but it was safer to think about it than to turn her head and interact with the human sitting at the other end of the bench.
“You can have half of mine.”
The bread with a thick layer peanut butter spread across it was in her hand before she could argue.
“What’s your name?”
“Bamie,” she said once she could swallow again.
“It’s good to meet you,” he chuckled. “I’ve startled you, though. I’m sorry. I didn’t plan on meeting you in the first place, and then when I saw you again, I just had to say hi. Sometimes life is like that, you know?”
“Of course it is,” she said a bit severely, but he merely smiled.
“Enjoy the book,” he said before he hurried away.
Bamie waited until he was gone again, then cautiously made her way home where she stuffed both books onto her already packed bookshelves.
“Goodbye, you,” she announced firmly, and then went to watch TV in bed until she fell asleep.