A jingling of the bell startled me. I turned around and saw it was Carrie coming in a little early. “Book club is today!” she said cheerily, shaking her bouncy blond curls after removing her fedora. “I thought you could use some help with opening so you can relax and enjoy the group when they arrive.” She added her coat to the coat rack and topped it with her hat. I just love her hats. This one was bright red with silver sequins on the band. Not what you would expect for a Monday morning walk to work, but that is what made it even better.
“It looks like we’ll have an early customer, too,” she said as she opened the cash register and dusted off the counter. “There is a man lingering outside the store like he’s waiting for us to open. I wonder what kind of book he is looking for.” She had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes when she said that. We play a game when there aren’t any customers in the store, in which we speculate what off-the-wall books a customer is looking for. A well-dressed businessman wants a collection of erotic poetry, a mom with four kids in tow slips in a guide to S&M while paying for the children’s selections, a party girl still dressed from the night before takes home biographies of past presidents. It’s amusing, and we collapse with laughter when we are actually right!
“He’s early,” I say, starting the game, “so he must be on his way to work. Maybe he is looking for…” and I trail off as I glance out the window and see who it is. “You have to be kidding me! Not him again!”
“What are you talking about, Lizzie?” asked Carrie. “Not who? Who is that man? What’s going on?”
“He’s no one! He’s crazy and I’ve never seen him before this morning!” I told her about what happened this morning, how he came up to me from nowhere and said my mother lied, and my dad was not my real father. “He even knew their names, my name. What is wrong with him? Who does that to someone they don’t know?”
“No way!” Carrie exclaimed. “And you’ve never seen him before? That’s insane! Who did he say your father really is? No – he has to be wrong. You were the light of your dad’s life! Of course he was your father!”
“I didn’t give him a chance to say anything else. I got on the bus and came straight here. He must have followed me. Or who knows, he knew my name and Mom and Dad’s names, maybe he knew about the shop, also.” I was fuming. He shouldn’t be here! I went about the motions of readying the shop for opening, but I was distracted. Carrie, mercifully, didn’t say anything about it, or mention the stranger again while we worked.