Kate strolled around Waterstones with it’s papery, new book scent and quiet, serious people looking for worlds to escape into. It smelt like holidays to Kate - mum had always brought her and Polly here before a holiday to choose a book to read beside a pool. It was a happy place; made all the more exciting for the quiet. People were quiet around books - perhaps because the books themselves had so much to say.
She ran a finger along the shelves, moving alphabetically with the authors until she came to R. Anne Rice. There it was: Interview with the Vampire. She pulled it out from the shelf and looked at the cover; trying not to judge it but realising what a stupid phrase that was. What else were you supposed to judge a book on when choosing? The length, the weight, the… ooh, the fact that it had a little 3 for 2 sticker up there in the top corner? Yes - that always helped.
Kate held the book in her right hand and then strolled around the tables looking for other covers that caught her eye. Well, in for a penny in for a pound right? She was going to poke that phrase right in the eye with a sharp stick and choose two other books with great covers. A beautiful book lay on the table with a blue, floral cover and the publishers had gone to the effort of making the ends of the pages blue too. Brilliant. Kate didn’t even read the back of the book; it went into her hand. One more… what to get. Nothing with a white cover: that ruled a lot out. Nothing with an illustrated whimsical looking woman who would meet the man of her dreams in a bakery. That ruled out everything on the table nearest the door. A book with a black and gold cover caught her eye and she decided that the spine of that would look excellent on her shelf.
Now, you couldn’t read three books as pretty as these ones without having nice book marks to make your place in could you? It would be a shame to tuck a tatty little receipt in the top and ruin all her careful choosing. Kate wandered over to the spinning carousel of book marks and began to match book marks to books. It took a surprisingly long time and Kate was pleased to look at her watch and see that 20 calm, blissful minutes had passed with no more serious thoughts than what book marks she would spend her money on. That was good. She headed over to the till. The wonderful thing about slipping off campus to shop during the day was that there were very few queues at the tills.
“Would you like them gift wrapped?” The person at the till asked. Kate looked at her and her face must have been a question because the person smiled apologetically and backtracked, “Oh, sorry are they not gifts? They just look like presents.” Kate looked down at her carefully planned markers and books. They did look nice.
“Yes, they are gifts - gift wrapping would be lovely.”
The assistant smiled with relief, “Oh lovely, it’s £2.50 per gift, is that ok?” She was already removing price labels from the book marks. Kate swallowed. £7.50 was a lot. But on the other hand, the wrapping paper was very pretty and why not buy little gifts for herself?
“Yes, that’s lovely.” She decided on a whim, “But, they’re actually all one gift so if you could wrap them all together that would be great.” There, that seemed like a satisfactory compromise. A lovely gift to unwrap later on tonight but she hadn’t gone crazy. Perfect.
Later that evening, after an insanely boring afternoon at the university untangling wires and labelling them, she sat in her living room with a glass of wine poured and the Interview with the Vampire sitting beside her on the sofa waiting to be read. She had read every review she could find, read the entire Wikipedia page for both the book and the film, checked she could find the film online just in case and then run out of things to do.
The thing was, she was quite keen to read it. It sounded really very good and interesting. She just couldn’t seem to make herself pick up the book and get on with it. Every time she thought about opening it she thought about the spine of the book creasing and not looking so shiny and perfect any more. Maybe she should write that thought down to bring up and book club and see if anyone else felt the same way? She looked over at her notepad. No, she didn’t want that to be the first Very Clever Thought ™ that she wrote down or she’d have to look at it every time she wrote anything else. God, starting things was hard.
Her mobile buzzed on the coffee table.
How are you getting on with IWTV? Can you be here for 6:30 tomorrow? Xoxo
Kate sighed and decided not to reply. She had already cancelled her plans with Graeme so that she could babysit for Polly and Ryan’s date. Truth be told, she actually wasn’t that disappointed to have to postpone seeing him, but also, she didn’t want Polly to know that. She decided to text Graeme instead.
Sorry again about tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you Tuesday. I’m just starting to read my book for my new book club. What are you up to? x
She lingered over whether or not to add the x on the end, and then went for it - why not? Wasn’t the point of dating apps to take away all the angst over whether or not the person knew you were interested? She settled her phone back on the sofa and picked up the book again; reading the back cover for the third time.
Why was starting to read this so hard? She glanced over at the shelves in the corner - she probably hadn’t read half the books on that shelf. That would be quite interesting to find out actually, Kate settled herself on the floor by the bookshelf and started pulling books off and placing them in two piles: read, and not read.
Once that was done she split the not read books into two more piles: started and not started. Then she replaced them all back on the shelf; admiring how much better that was now that it was organised. Yawning, she realised it was past midnight and probably too late to start reading now anyway. As she climbed the stairs; still optimistically clutching the book, she realised she was afraid of starting the book. The trouble with reading was, if she let it - it would absorb her and then she would start to like the characters. No matter what happened to them: whether they had a good life or a bad one within those pages, eventually the book would end and she would lose them.
“Oh grow up.” She said out loud to herself, imagining her thoughts with tragic music over them and a nodding therapist in dim lighting saying And do you think this is related to losing your parents at such a tumultuous age?
Of course it was! How could you not lose both your parents suddenly at eighteen and not be a little screwy over it? But she had a job, and a house (OK rented but still - she wasn’t homeless) and her credit card debt was not so unmanageable that a few years of reigning in the spending wouldn’t sort it and hadn’t she done well only getting one wrapping paper today? She was practically in the black again.
She brushed her teeth, wiped a flannel and several expensive creams across her face and then flopped into bed with Interview With The Vampire lying attractively on the bedside table underneath her Tiffany lamp. It looked good there with its perfect spine and retro cover. The colourful glass in the lamp made it look stylish. Really, no need to read it at all.
Does Kate have a room mate?