She pushed open the heavy door to the bookshop.
She had missed her train. It was an hour until the next train, so she had decided to have a bit of a wander around the small town to kill time.
The meeting with the society hadn’t gone well, and missing the train added to her frustration.
She had walked a little way up the road when the heavens opened – she wrestled her umbrella out of her handbag and looked for somewhere to shelter. The second-hand bookshop was just over the road and looked like a good place to wait out the rain.
The wind had blown a bit of fresh air in to the shop, but it did nothing to mask the musty, damp smell. It was a comforting smell, though; the promise of history and secrets laid within.
An elderly Labrador laid in the middle of the main aisle. On hearing the bell tinkle as the door opened, he looked up and thumped his tail against the wooden floor in greeting. The old floorboards creaked as she walked in and stooped to fuss the dog.
The shop was dimly-lit, and not seeing or hearing anyone the woman wondered whether anyone was minding it. She then spotted a man in a dark alcove at the back of the shop seemingly engrossed in reading. Dust danced in the light cast by an anglepoise lamp.
The woman thought the grunt she received in response to her greeting was a bit strange, but put it down to him being an old eccentric.
Stepping back over the dog, she started to browse the shelves. Good use had been made of every inch of space. Bookshelves had been crammed in, with little room to manoeuvre between them.
Most of the books looked old – fabric covered hardbacks with the title and author in gold lettering, or hardbacks with dog-eared dust jackets. With so many books to choose from, it was difficult for the woman to know where to start.
She picked out a few volumes at random. They were all decades old. Some of the books were by authors she had never heard of, and others were about things she had little interest in. They were returned to the shelves and she continued browsing for a few more minutes.
Looking up, a book caught her eye. She felt drawn to it, but could not think why. It was just out of reach, but reaching up on tip toes and stretching her arm and fingers as far as she could, she was able to grab it.
It was bound in dark leather that had started to crack with age. The author and title had been embossed on the spine, but age had worn away the colour and they were difficult to read.
Opening the fragile book cautiously – the yellowed and brittle pages had started to come away from the spine – she found the title page.
A chill ran down her spine. Tears pricked her eyes. Feelings of excitement and sorrow rolled in to one.
Flicking carefully through the pages, and reading a few passages, she suddenly knew.
Her head spinning, she took the book over to the back of the shop where the man was sitting. She didn’t understand why, or how much the book cost, but she knew she had to have it.
The man put down the book he had been studying and looked up at the woman. He smiled.
“At last,” he said. “We have been waiting for you for a long time.”
Based on the prompt word ‘Books’