Rounding the next aisle, I found London. She was leafing through a book, and from my vantage point, I could see it was yet another writing reference manual. Her eyebrows were scrunched together with a serious expression, as her fingers flicked through the pages.
At her feet sat a stack of dictionaries, thesauruses, and various other ‘how to’ books. She’d amassed quite a fucking lot to buy in the short time since I’d let her out of my car at the entrance and then parked in front of the building.
That was the second time in a week we’d been there. When she’d mentioned going again, I thought she wanted to buy something to read, like the type of things she wrote, not more of that stuff.
Looking at the pile on the floor, considering all the similar items I’d already purchased for her that were lining her shelves at home, I wasn’t sure why she needed more. As I approached, she reached for another one. The cover was yellow and black, with a stick figure on the front.
“You’re not a fucking dummy, London.”
She jumped at my voice, teetering on her heels, and I grabbed her by her arms to keep her from falling.
“What’s going on here?” I asked her, watching her chew her bottom lip in her nervous habit. “What are you doing, baby?”
She released her lip from her teeth and said, “It’s silly, huh?” She gestured to the materials at her feet. “It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, I feel like I’m starting over. Like I don’t know what to do.”
“And these will help?”
Her eyes were downcast, avoiding mine, as she shrugged.
“I don’t know.” She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling the ends around her neck to lie over one shoulder. “I probably won’t even use them. Let’s go home.”
“Fuck, no, London,” I said, grabbing her arm to stop her from walking away. Urging her to my chest, I took her face in my hands and made her look up at me. “Buy all of them, baby. It doesn’t matter whether you use them or not. If having them makes you feel better, fucking buy them.”
“Are you sure?”
Glancing behind her, I spied a rack holding cloth shopping bags.
“Yeah. Hold on. I’ll be right back.”
After grasping one of the bags, I took it to where London was waiting and opened it. She picked all the books up off the floor and placed them inside.
“Thank you, Zane,” she said, pressing her body to mine. “You’re so good to me.”
Considering her reaction, I decided to seal the fucking deal. I picked up another writing reference manual I hadn’t seen either at home or in the items she’d found that night.
Showing her the title in my hand, I asked, “How about this one?”
Into the bag it sailed, and that earned me another smile.
We went down the row, with me plucking them up, her nodding, and then me dropping them into the growing pile.
“It must be nice to have a supportive partner,” a female voice said. We turned to face her. A couple was standing there, and the guy looked like he wanted to be anywhere in the world other than that bookstore. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I couldn’t help but overhear your discussion.”
London wrapped her arm around my waist, leaning against my side.
“Oh, it is!” She beamed up at me. “I have no idea how to repay him for it.”
“Is that a fact?” I arched a brow, as our eyes met and held. “I’d be more than happy to tell you how you can show your fucking gratitude.”
“And I bet you’re looking forward to it, aren’t you?”
“Fuck, yeah, baby!”
“Let’s go, Marjorie.”
The man cleared his throat and prodded her away from the moment that was happening between my wife and me.
As they wandered off to another aisle, Marjorie was muttering about how she should’ve married the guy she dated in high school who really wanted her. Then her husband, who apparently wasn’t even slightly concerned about what she had said, reminded her about his upcoming fishing trip with the boys.
By that time, London and I had reached the end of the row. Glancing behind us, I saw that the other side consisted of another topic entirely.
London hurried over to a mounted screen and keyboard at a kiosk.
I was hoping she wasn’t planning on ordering more reference material online. If she was, our next stop would be to purchase more bookshelves for her office. Her insecurities were rearing up. She didn’t need any of that stuff, but I resolved to stand with her and support her however I could.
“I meant to show you this the last time we were here. Watch!” Her fingers flew, as she typed her pen name into the search box. “My books might not be here physically, but….” She bounced on her feet and waved her hands toward what appeared on the screen. “Ta-da!” she sang.
There on the monitor were her books. London’s face was lit with a smile of pride, as she scrolled down the page through all of her series. Bright and colorful covers with lovers caught in an embrace floated by, as she navigated the side bar.
Then the novel she wrote about The Decrees came into view. It was her top seller, with more accolades and reviews than any of the others, as well as requests for sequels she had no intentions of writing.
Her joyous expression melted away to a more clouded one. Quick as a flash, she clicked out of the program and stepped closer to me with a shudder.
“That’s quite an accomplishment, baby.”
“And you should realize that with all those under your belt, writing another won’t be as difficult as you’re thinking.” I reached around her, pulling her to me, and tipped her chin up. “Look at me, London.” I waited for her to do as I said, and when she did, I went on, trying to build her confidence. “It’s been a while. But you’ll be fine once you get started and find your groove.”
A few moments passed before she nodded.
“I hope you’re right.”
“Fuck, yeah, I am.”
Then at the sound of a machine blowing air and sloshing liquid, her eyes widened.
“Do you smell that?”
“Coffee!” She pulled out of my grasp and wafted her hands in the air towards her nose. “Strong, from the scent of it. Just the way I used to take it.”
A comment about how she took something else was on the tip of my tongue. Before I could say anything, she licked her lips and pivoted towards the direction from which the aroma was coming.
“I’m going to go over there for a bit, while you pay for the books. Okay?”
She kissed my cheek and made her way to the stairs that led to the café.
PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT: ELAINE BARRIS, AUTHOR