For a moment or two, I stood in bewilderment near the door. The beam of light struck my eyes till I got accustomed to it. A bell chimed in the distant, maybe it was connected to the main door. The music that drew me in, had stopped, suddenly... why?
I gazed at the interiors of the shop. It left me a little flabbergasted. The small shop was lined with corridors of books, and many lay piled on the floor, forming crazy gravity-defying towers at scattered corners. There were abstract paintings on the walls, covered with cheap wallpaper like the cracked corners of pancake, grinning to bare a few dark holes. The floor had a rich red carpet that covered it like the fur of an animal. One step ahead, and the floor creaked. The sound reverberated throughout the shop. I froze.
“Would you not come in?” said a voice from the depths to the left. Amidst all the books, I noticed a door. A lady stood in the darkness, peeping out from the stairs that lead to the basement. With the grace of a feline, she climbed up the last few steps and was instantly clothed in the light. She had a small pixie face with a not too large a built. Her hair was whipped tightly into a bun, and her shell framed glasses steered dangerously close to the tip of her nose. Slim arms wrapped in front of her, she quickly fixed her glasses, and said, “How may I help you?”
“Uhm.” Well, words came thickly out, phlegm interrupted the flow, strangely. There was something in that moment that was both magical and strange.
“Uh, I just wanted to browse through some books,” I said, after having mustered an iota of courage. I’m not normally like this, girls, but I do not know what happened at this point. The devil must have taken charge of me.
“I see. And what do you prefer to read?” She continued from her corner, as I stayed put to the square inch on my side of the floor. “Edgar Allan Poe, maybe.” The words spilled out of my mouth, but the truth was that I was a little perturbed. There was an something about the little Missy in her prissy skirt and blouse that gave me a feeling of unease. Maybe she can read minds. I better shut up now.
“Sir, that would be two lanes to your right and the second shelf from the top.” Her voice drifted through the leather bound books, and I made my way to the right. Suddenly the room felt a little larger, stretching a bit, but I blamed my avid imagination for that bit of description and crept on.
I fumbled through the many books on Poe. ‘The Gold-Bug’, ‘Morella’ and even the elusive ‘The Masque of the Red Death’. At last, I said to myself. After years of evasion, I finally found it. I quickly brought down the leather bound copy from its lofty pedestal, and thumbed through the pages. Yellowed paper, musty smell, fine leather, it was a perfect collector’s copy. As I flipped through, a postcard came to view, lying soft in the midst of the typed letters. It was a black and white picture. A picture of a young girl, sitting coy on her bed, with the bed sheet draped suggestively around her bosom. Her jet black hair (you can still make this out even if the picture is not coloured) were sitting loose on her slender shoulders. There was a closed window to her left, and the room seemed dismal and grey. She was an object of art in the centre of the setting, posing in a sensual off-handish manner, like she did not realise her own beauty or worth. Her eyes stared straight at the camera, boy, the photographer must have had a hell of a time getting this done. Those eyes, those wonderous large, passionate eyes were like the ocean of life and death at the same time. I stood transfixed at them, gulping at the decadence of the picture, till in a split second moment, her eyes blinked and the bedsheet slipped to reveal her taut nipples for a moment. I was taken aback. What the heck did just happen?
“Is there something wrong Sir?” I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“I said Sir, is there something wrong?” She stood just ten feet away from me. How in the blinking world did she manage to get so close without me realising. The floor boards creaked for Pete’s sake!
“I thought you asked for help Sir,” the little Missy said, as she sashayed towards me. She looked beautiful, now that I could see her up-close. In the midst of a mind-baffling turn of events, I quickly shove the book back in its place and picked a random book from the shelf below.
I did not recognise the title. The leather cover screamed of the words - The Midnight Rendezvous. “I’ll take this one please.” What the heck. I just wanted to slip out of there.
“Very well Sir, please follow me,” she said. As we walked towards the billing machine, I noticed how thin her shirt was. Sheer, I think is what they call it. She had no bra on. That was certain. Oh how I would have enjoyed trailing my tongue between those arched blades, and with this thought drifting in my frazzled brain, I left.