Mr. McCrary’s store is the only place Sadie allows herself to feel. Rather than go home to an empty house, blogging and surfing the internet until her mother gets home from nursing school, Sadie prefers to spend some afternoons buried somewhere between the Fantasy and poetry sections.
“Hello, Sadie. How was school?” though there are gaps in his smile, the bookseller grins hard. He cleans his glasses on an old wool coat, looking pensive at the still-smudged glasses.
Sadie shrugs. School is school. There’s nothing really great about it, and Sadie learned long ago that if she shut her mouth, she could avoid the strange looks the other students give her. They come from a very different place than she does. Their lives are a battle between dinner time and the mall. Her life is caught between loneliness and a book.
“School is okay. We’re studying Lord of the Flies.”
“Really? How are you liking it so far?”
“The kids in the book are annoying, but I kind of like Simon. He seems like he’s the only one taking things seriously.”
“Simon. I like Simon. Very quiet boy, though. He needs to speak up a little if people want to take him seriously.” He pushes up his glasses. Sadie lowers her face and smiles. She likes how Mr. McCrary talks about book characters like they’re real people.
Sadie finds herself wearing her smile, even after she retreats behind a bookshelf. She quickly removes it from her face, not wanting to look like some grinning idiot. What if someone saw her standing in the aisles smiling? They’d think she was crazy! They’d probably be right…
Sadie wanders through the shelves, running her eyes and fingers over the curvature of their spines, her neck wilting to one side so she can read the titles. Eventually, one of these sideways letters will cause her eyes and hand to stay for just a moment.
She pauses, intrigued, and dislodges the book from its tight row of friends. The book is called “Jump”. It’s about overcoming social anxiety, but the pages are filled with notes in the margins. “Lies” says the first page. Then on the fifth, a picture of a stick person stabbing another stick person in the face, his head a fountain of inky blood. On page 77, the comment “people die every day” is mirrored by “they’ll never hurt me again” on the other side of the book. The word “HELP” is scrawled all over the pages. Sadie wonders who this book belonged to, whether the owner got the help she needed. If she didn’t, that may be why the book lies in Sadie’s hand today. She walks it to the counter. Mr. McCrary smears his glasses again on his coat.
“I’d like this one,” Sadie says, turning it upside down so he can’t read the title. Her heart leaps as he automatically turns it over to read.
“Taking your first big leap, eh?” She averts her eyes from the old man’s incomplete smile. “Don’t worry. It’s on the house.”
“Thank you.” Sadie, thankful that he didn’t open the private book/journal, swipes it up and marches out the door. She clutches the book close to her breast, making up a story in her head about the person that wrote the messages and how she would take care of her, and love her, and understand.