To start a story in a bookstore is overused and a dreary beginning. But unfortunately that’s where it started to unfold. I was on my late Sunday evening shift, with the sunset streaming through the slightly cracked windows and water running down the panes, at a tiny bookstore called Unnameable Books. It’s a small bookshop, worn and fading at the seams, wrestled amongst the bigger and better buildings of New York City. With an address of 600 Vanderbilt Avenue, it sat next to a dusty old food market that had long ago shut down and across the road stood an equally unfortunate building that remained empty. I sat behind the counter, slouched down so far in the swivel chair that the cash register obscured my view of the front door. Balancing Jane Eyre on my lap, I flipped through the thin and worn pages, reveling in the simple pleasure of silence. The silence was interrupted, however, when the bell above the door clanged, signaling that for some unknown reason, someone had actually entered the dismal little bookshop. A flustered boy walked hurriedly into the store. I thought I recognized him and the emblem stitched into his baseball jacket confirmed my suspicions. His golden hair was startled by the rain and his emerald eyes searched the store quickly.
“Hello?” He called out, standing pathetically in the center of the modest bookshop, “Is anyone here?”
“Can I help you?” I asked, sitting up straighter in my chair, still clutching the paperback in my hands.
“I accidently rammed into the back of the beetle out there…” He said, pointing out the window. My shiny little red Beetle had a big black Ute jammed into the back of it and it looked like repairs would be expensive. Expensive meant a lot of money, money I didn’t have. Startled I jumped upright which made the thick black frames perched on my nose jiggle around.
“Bessy…” I whispered, feeling upset at the massive dent in the boot of my car.
“Bessy, that red Beetle you drove into? That’s my car.” I stared blankly, looking at the bewildered expression on his face.
“I am so sorry. I’ll pay for the damage, I swear,” He said, fishing around in the pocket of his Baseball jacket, “What can I do to make it up to you? I feel terrible! The road’s just really wet and the car slid and I turned to straighten it up because there isn’t usually any cars parked around here and-“
“You can buy a book.” I cut off his rambling, putting down my own book, “We got some really good ones in yesterday.”
“Oh, um… Alright then.” He stuttered, obviously expecting a huge sum of money to be my request and not the purchase of a book, “Well, I have to do an essay on James… What’s his name?”
“Dean,” I finished off, “James Dean?”
His eyes brightened as he remembered, “Yeah! How did you-“
“We’re in the same Film Class. With Mr Grenfell?” I say, leading him over to the biographies. Rummaging through the dust collecting shelves, I pulled out a thick grey book with James Dean on the cover.
“That’s right, you’re the girl who sits right at the front, aren’t you?” He said, taking the book from my hands and flipping it back and forth.
I simply nodded and made my way back to the register. I began talking about the book, my passion for words falling through,
“That one’s by John Howlett. He writes really well in that book and-“
A phone started ringing and the boy fumbled around in his pockets once more before producing a mobile phone and placing it to his ear. I listened intently to his responses as he rambled on about the accident and how he’ll miss the baseball game that his life depended on. I scanned the book and looked up just as he was placing the phone back in his pocket.
“The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.” I say, ignoring the bewildered look as I continue, “That’ll be twenty-six, ninety-five.”
Handing over the correct amount of money, I can feel his steady gaze on me as I place the book in a paper bag. I put the money into the till and hand over the bag. Perhaps quoting James Dean without actually explaining why is something I shouldn’t have done. He takes the bag and starts walking towards the front door. Pausing with his hand on the door he says,
“I’m Ryan by the way. Ryan Harley.”
“Oh I know,” I respond, fiddling with my fishtail braid, “We’ve been in the same class for three years now. You threw a baseball at my head in freshman year, dented my locker in junior year and this year you managed to spill paint all over my senior jacket. And yet you still don’t know who I am.”
Pushing the door open a creak he turned back to me once more,
“Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.” Before I could blink he had disappeared into the dismal rainy day outside.
And that’s how, with one James Dean quote and a dent in the back of my car, I fell for Ryan Harley.
And that was most certainty not part of the plan.
Waking up, an unnerving queasiness settled like a bag of pebbles in the bottom of my stomach. The electronic redness of my bedside clock blinked the numbers 7:36. I had awoken surprisingly early for a Saturday morning. Stretching my arms above my head, I rolled casually out from under my blanket and onto my carpeted floor. My nose quivered from being buried in the dust covering the carpet and an involuntary splutter sounded from my nose. Yawning, I rolled over and stared at the ceiling. November the first, the first day of my plan. I would like to say that it was a wicked scheme, devised in a dark and gloomy basement with lightning and thunder flashing and booming overhead. But unfortunately I had come up with the plan (possibly one of the stupidest plans ever thought up) scrolling through the internet and scribbling down ideas on the sky blue pages of an old journal. It was exactly 28 days until I graduated from High School and embarked on my equally terrifying adventure as an adult. Although I was up to standard for the very best of universities, the money that I had was not so much up to standard. I pulled myself up from the floor and subtly skipped to the small Victorian styled kitchen. Seating myself at a stool placed in front of the counter, I watched my brother rummage through the cupboard for Rice Bubbles. For as long as I can remember, Aiden has always favored Rice Bubbles over any other cereal. The box of puffy, tasteless bubbles had a permanent place on the shopping list. Aiden turned around, a blue cereal box in hand, and his face remained stark as he saw me sitting at the counter.
“Morning, Cheesecake.” He said, breaking eye contact to search through the fridge for milk. He continued preparing his cereal as I settled for an apple from the fruit bowl.
“Morning.” I quipped back, slicing my teeth through the apples skin.
Aiden was a person who could survive on little sleep, so it was no surprise to see him up early. He worked three jobs and only got around three or four hours of sleep a night. He was trying to save enough money for an apartment in the city as he found it quite embarrassing to still be living with our parents at twenty years old. Aiden sat down next to me with his cereal, his grocery overalls brushing loosely against my thigh. Finishing my slightly bitter apple, I got up to throw away the core. I began preparing myself some toast with extra margarine when my mum decided to make an appearance. Her black heels clicked their way into the kitchen and her long finger nails pulled her blonde hair up into her standard sleek ponytail. Her black skirt was matched with a puffy white blouse that reminded me of Aiden’s Rice Bubbles.
“I have a busy day today so I’ll be home late. I’ve called up Camilla, her and Mark are coming around soon so just straighten things up alright?” She says, her voice soft yet with a sharp undertone, as she bites into her pear. She daintily wipes away pear juice as it leaks from the corners of her pink stained mouth.
“We hardly need a babysitter, Rose.” Aiden pipes up, dumping his dishes in the sink with a clatter.
“Oh, they’re not babysitting you darling. They’re babysitting the house. Last time I left you both unattended, you broke my petunia plants. Gods knows what you’ll do if I leave you alone again. And don’t call me Rose, Aiden. I am your mother.” She picked up her briefcase and started towards the front door.
“Evelyn, get dressed already, would you?” She threw over her shoulder a wave and left.
Mom often started her day like this, without a simple ‘Good morning.’ As one of the top Lawyers in New York, it wasn’t unusual for us to hardly see her or speak a word to each other.
I finished my oily toast and dumped my plate in the filled sink before bouncing my way back to my room. Opening my wardrobe I peeped inside and frowned. Camilla had become someone that I had to impress. I had to live up to her standards. Everyone had to. She was overly popular all through her school years and when she graduated she got signed as a model. She’s always been in the lime light and if you weren’t up to her standards then you weren’t even worthy of cleaning her shoes. I got dressed and jumped when the doorbell rang. I got to the door just as a half-dressed Aiden opened it up. Camilla stood there in flash clothes with her signature pink tote hanging from the crook of her elbow.
“For goodness sake, Aiden, put a shirt on!” Was her welcoming speech, her pitch of voice in a squeaky high monotone. Mark stood behind her, gazing down at his blackberry and typing feverishly. I shrunk back behind Aiden, trying to hide my plain clothes from view. Aiden rolled his eyes and buckled his black belt around his black suit pants. He began walking back to his room, which unfortunately gave Camilla a clear view of me.
“Evelyn, baby! It’s so good to see you!” She clicked her way into the house and gathered me up into a suffocating squeeze. Keeping her hands on my shoulders she held me away at arm’s length, “What the hell are you wearing though.”
“It’s Saturday, Cami, I don’t need to dress up. I’m only going to the library today.” I replied, shrugging myself away from her grip.
Camilla visibly shuddered at the mention of the library. Mark looked up from his phone, stepping into the house, and flashed me a smile. Mark was Camilla’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. I think at the moment he’s on again. Mark was a successful baseball and soccer player, coach and recently signed college scout. This resulted in him spending half of his time at the gym and the other half on his phone, with dabbles of Camilla here and there.
“Hey, Evelyn. Is your dads study unlocked? I’m having a possible scholarship recipient over to discuss a few things.” He said, shutting the front door behind him. I told him it was unlocked and he proceeded to place a call and disappear into the study. I quickly retreated back to my room, pretending to not hear Camilla calling my name. I seat myself at my desk and open up the pale blue notebook with my writing scribbled on the pages. My plan was simple.
Embarrass Bethany Angelo beyond compare.
Bethany Angelo was the most popular and possibly the most beautiful person in school. It was like a golden spotlight was on her every second of the day. Contrary to popular stereotypes and beliefs, Bethany was not stupid. In fact she was in the debate team and science club and was in the top ten percent for the results of her year 11 exams. Perhaps her brain power was the reason she executed her tricks so well. A month ago, she played her best trick yet on a girl called Hannah. She had swapped Hannah’s schedule around with one she had made and so when Hannah walked into class she was surprised to find no one there. That was until paint and glitter was flung at her. After that, Hannah looked as if she had had an accident in the preschool craft box. It was the least to say Hannah wasn’t very happy, but that Bethany was over the moon with herself. For years now she had played tricks and pranks on almost everyone in our year level. Everyone apart from me, that is. And so this was the year that Bethany would finally get a taste of her own medicine. My plan was to get her before she could get me, and whilst I was doing it I would get payback for everyone she has ever tricked.
And I have exactly 30 days to do so.
After I gathered my stuff together, I headed out to the library. It was only a short walk from my house and getting there was easy this time of year as most people didn’t brave the cold weather. I entered the library and shrugged off my coat because it was much warmer in here than outside due to the fireplace flickering away. Tabitha sat at a desk in the corner, smacking away quickly at the letters on her keyboard. She looked up as I sat my bag down on a chair and scraped out the one next to her.
“Finally!” She huffed, turning her laptop so I could see the screen, “It appears Bethany is going to be at a party tomorrow evening at six. If we can come up with something by then, then we can finally put this plan in action!”
Tabitha was as enthusiastic, possibly even more, about the plan. Bethany had tricked her only last week, which resulted in her hair displaying a bright purple color rather than its usual blonde. Her long purple hair was in a tight ponytail and it swung wildly as she chatted quickly, opening up different tabs so fast that I hardly had a chance to read any of it. I batted away her hair as it attacked my face.
“And look!” She squealed, pointing a long nail at the screen, “George is going to be there as well! Two birds with one stone, Evelyn! This is going to be great.”
George Riverton, Bethany’s best friend and rumored spring fling. This was probably the most interesting rumor circling school at the moment, seeing as George had a gorgeous ballerina, Francesca Scott, as a girlfriend. It was the combination of Bethany, George, Francesca and Ryan who ruled the school. They were friends with almost everyone on campus but they also liked to keep to their own small group. Tabitha used to be part of their group, but that was before her brother died. Since then she has always viewed them with a disapproving eye. Her brother passed a year ago and no one knows what exactly happened. Not even I do and at first it bothered me because we were each other’s closest friend but since then I have learnt to respect her decision to not tell me. When I told her about my elaborate plan, she jumped on board immediately, coming up with ideas as if she had had them stored in her mind for quite a while now.
We high five and laugh, before the old lady at the reception desk shushes us.
“Okay,” I whisper, “So how are we going to trick her? Bethany isn’t the dumbest sheep of the flock, so we’re going to have to come up with something smart. How about we-“
“Well…” A deep voice drawled behind us, “Isn’t this interesting?”
A strong hand clasped the back of my chair and Tabitha slammed her laptop shut, which earned us another shush from the lady at the reception desk. I tilted my head backwards and was met with an obscure view of Ryan Harley. He looked down at my tilted head and flashed me an award-winning grin.
“Hey there, Bookshop Girl,” He said, leaning down closer, “Fancy seeing you here!”
“Hello Ryan,” I couldn’t help the smile that made its way onto my face as I carefully avoided bumping heads as I brought my head upright again, “This is Tabitha, but uh… You already know that.”
“Hi,” Tabitha said slowly, looking between the two of us, “How exactly do you two know each other?”
“We met at a bookstore she works in.” “He drove into the back of my car” We both said at the same time. A rosy blush appeared on my cheeks and Ryan chuckled from behind me.
“Well, I best be going. See you later Bookshop Girl, you too Tabby.” Ryan grinned, as he turned and sauntered away.
Tabitha reached over and grabbed my arm in a tight grip, her nails pinching and digging into my skin.
“Whatever you do, Eve, do not fall for Ryan. He could compromise our plan.” She hissed before leaning away and packing up her stuff. She said goodbye before flicking her purple hair over her shoulder and strutted out the door, leaving me by myself to eat lunch alone. I sighed and put my face into my hands.
It may already be too late Tabitha. I may have already started falling for Ryan.