His gasp brought Charlotte back to her past, decades ago in their sophomore year in college, when a skinny tall boy with too-large ears approached her after their English lit class. They’d been assigned as a team by Professor Rife to write a 10-page thesis paper. (Continuing from last week’s The Bookstore Intruder.)
“Each team must agree upon a book most admired, and then defend it. The goal is to read your paper in class next week and convince the other teams to vote for your book.”
Charlotte shivered in annoyance when the young man found her an hour later in the library.
“Hi, I’m Andrew,” he began.
“The Shooting Gallery,” Charlotte responded, not one to savor a conversation.
Without skipping a beat, her new teammate retorted, “Pride and Prejudice.”
His reply stopped Charlotte cold. She’d have to canoe more carefully on these treacherous waters. Charlotte’s innocent, blue-eyed expression and shapely figure attracted males like nails to a magnet, but normally she could swipe them away like nasty pests.
“In The Shooting Gallery, Yuko Tsushima writes of the existential loneliness that is the heart of humanity,” Charlotte said with a sneer. “Jane Austen simply writes romance.”
Charlotte’s heart leapt into haywire spirals. “Who said that?”
“I did. Just now,” Andrew admitted. “We’ll have a much better chance to win with Jane Austen than with a Japanese short story feminist.”
Sure enough, their collaborative paper won an A and a round of applause from the other students. But no matter, Andrew wooed her with words, not wins. “One day,” he proclaimed, “ ‘my back will sprout a pair of lance-shaped wings….’ ”
“My bookmarked Yuko quote,” Charlotte whispered as they explored each other’s wings, and every other part of their bodies.
But a month later, Charlotte sprouted off, back to the isolated world of Block Island, after her dad’s sudden heart attack and her mother’s losing battle with keeping the family bookstore intact.
Andrew was a dream – another lifetime ago – until now, eons later at the bookstore Charlotte now owned, this lean, bald-headed man’s gasp brought a million questions to the forefront.
“You never came,” Charlotte murmured, her eyes tearing with questions and doubt.
“My wings were clipped,” Andrew tried to explain, the words choking in his throat.
So instead, he walked slowly, gingerly, to the woman he once loved, and held out his hand.
Charlotte took a step backward, into the “A” shelves, and a book fell onto the floor.
Sense and Sensibility.