Author’s Note: So this is was prompted. After seeing this picture, I thought I wanted to share Luna’s point of view on this scene, so… I did.
Tynan’s version of the scene is “Curiosity Saves the Cat.”
Luna was raised on books. Not just the stories within them, but the look and feel and smell of them. Her earliest memories were of the bookstore, her home, and she would always associate the smell of books with the scent of home. She had to hold onto that now.
She leaned over the shelf and closed her eyes, trying not to give in to the emotions rolling around inside of her. The diagnosis could not have been worse, and she was not sure that she could face what that meant, not now. She wanted to believe that the doctor had been wrong. The tests got switched. Someone had made a mistake somewhere.
Only when she heard her mother coughing, she knew that there was no mistake. Not by the doctors, not by whoever made the tests.
Her mother was dying.
Luna shut her eyes. She would not give in to that. She would not let this win. She could survive her mother’s death. She was strong enough for that. She was a grown woman. She had art. She could paint her way out of it.
She snorted, tempted to laugh. Her mother was the one who wanted a bookstore. Her mother was the one who had read to her when she was a child. She was the one who would go through each box of books like they were old friends. She would lift the books out, run her hands over the covers, and open them up to expose the pages to the air.
“Here, Luna, breathe it in. You can smell the adventure, can’t you?”
“The cover is hideous. Who did they pay to make that picture, and why was anyone allowed to put it on a cover? A five year old with finger paints could do better.”
“Only if that five year old was you, sweetheart,” her mother said, cupping her cheek. She smiled, handing Luna the book. “Put that with the others, will you? Oh, look. Green Eggs and Ham. You remember that one?”
“You said that was why I painted my hair the first time.”
“Well, it was green the first time. I don’t remember if it was because of that book or not, but your hair was green.” Her mother stopped, putting a hand on her side. “Not again.”
“Mom, did you even talk to the doctor about—”
“It’s nothing, Luna. Let’s put these books away.”
Luna heard the bell on the door, so she wiped her cheek before turning around to face the customer who’d come in. She couldn’t see them from here, but she knew what she was supposed to do. She’d worked in the store since she was a kid, too. She rounded the other shelf, peaking her head out. “Is there something I can help you find? Something in particular you’re looking for or would you like to browse a bit?”
“I am here to see books. That is all. The sign said books. I came inside.”
“You like books, do you?” She smiled as she walked toward the nearest shelf. She liked people who liked books. “We have a lot, as you can see. I can help you narrow down your selection, though. It can be a bit of a maze in here.”
He studied the room. “There is no maze.”
She laughed. She couldn’t help it. She needed it, and he’d just given her it with that literal mind of his. He didn’t know how funny that could be, especially when someone was desperate for a laugh. She looked at him, wondering what had brought him back into her life. “You are very literal, aren’t you? I should have known. I thought you were familiar. You’re the one that didn’t know anything about art. Do you have no knowledge of books, either?”
“I am… not from around here.”
“I gathered that much the last time. What do you want to know about books? How they’re printed? How they’re written? What they’re like to read? Will there be a moment when someone jumps out and reveals the hidden camera that follows you around as you play this prank on people?”
“I do not think that I have ever played anything. Not a game, not an instrument. Not a prank.”
“I feel sorry for you.”
He shook his head. “Your pity is unnecessary. The less I have done, the better. The stronger the curiosity, the quieter the hunger.”
She frowned, rubbing the side of her head as she did. She didn’t understand what he meant by that. Was he insane? That could be it. She should have known. She always seemed to attract the crazies. “I’m not sure you make much sense.”
“It is a question of balance. Anything can be countered. It requires an opposite of equal or greater force. My hunger is no more powerful than any other sensation I might be aware of, but I find curiosity is one of the better ones as a counterweight. As long as I travel, learning a bit here and a bit there, I can avoid consuming too much.”
She studied him, starting with his feet and going to his head. He didn’t need to lose weight. If he thought he had a hunger problem, then he might need therapy for that, too. “You don’t look like you have a problem with your weight. You really some kind of bottomless pit?”
“Oh.” Maybe he was just nuts. She didn’t care. She wasn’t scared of him or anything. She shrugged, picking up a book from the shelf. “Here. This one will give you a good idea of what makes a book—well, before the digital age, at least. Printed pages, bound together. You still see them, just like this, though not as much as you used to. Take a look.”
She tried to put the book in his hands, and he backed away. She frowned, more confused than before. He was here for books, wasn’t he?
“Excuse me,” she said, dropping the book into his hands as she rushed toward the back of the shop. She didn’t know what her mother needed this time, but she knew that she had to take care of it. She had no choice.
“Luna, your mother needs—”
“Just a second,” she called back to her father, having heard the door’s bell again. Had the weirdo wandered off with her book? She didn’t even remember what she’d handed him. She cursed, running after him. “Where are you going?”
He stopped. That was something, she supposed. She shouldn’t confront shoplifters, she knew that, but this guy was different. Weird, but not scary. She didn’t understand why he’d stolen the book, but if he didn’t have the money, then… Hell, she’d just give it to him. Her mother would approve. She wanted to give books to anyone who wanted to read them, and even after she died, Luna would do her best to honor her mother’s ideals.
“You always run off like that? Should I ask you where you hid my book or did you burn that, too?”
She rolled her eyes. “Come on. There was a hole in my canvas like you’d set the thing on fire or something. I had boyfriend in high school who was a pyromaniac. He used to set my hair on fire everyday. I’ve seen people who had it bad before, but you… you didn’t even use a lighter for that. How do you do it?”
“It… It is difficult to explain and not what you think. I tried not to take your book. I knew that would happen, but you put it in my hands, and now it is gone.”
She blinked. If that was true, then it had to suck. It could even be a lot worse. “That happen to everything you touch?”
“No wonder you know nothing about books, then,” she said. She frowned, not sure if she believed him or not. If it was true, she had to pity him. He couldn’t touch anything. “All right—I won’t call the cops for shoplifting or vandalism if you prove that you really were just trying to learn more, not destroy stuff.”
“What do you mean?”
She thought of her mother, of her childhood, and one of the few things she could do for the woman who’d raised her now. She couldn’t cure her, couldn’t stop the pain, but she could read to her. “Well, if you want to learn about books, why don’t we read one? I’ll hold it. I’ll read it. All you have to do is sit there and listen.”
“You… you would do this for me? I confess, your books make me quite curious.”
She shrugged. She wasn’t sure why she thought this was a good idea. She’d blame her current insanity on her mother’s impending death. Sure. That worked. “And I want to be sure I shouldn’t have you locked up because the pyro I used to date started burning buildings when I broke up with him, so… yeah. Come back tomorrow. I gotta close up the shop now and deal with some… stuff, but tomorrow should be okay. I mean, it won’t be—”
“I should not inconvenience you more than I already have. I have no money to pay you.”
She snorted. “If it was about money, my family wouldn’t run a secondhand book store. I’d have a career where I actually earned something instead of needing to paint lines over my crap all the time. Besides, money can’t cure everything.”
“I would not know.”
She did. She’d learned that the hard way. “Just trust me. I’ll look for you tomorrow.”