Seven years. Seven years I was in jail, suffering through everything for something I didn't do. I thought and wondered how I could have been blamed; who would have want me to be blamed! But nothing came to mind, so I could only think that maybe this girl had known me a long time ago and I'd offended her in some way. So, when she was raped (if she really was), she blamed me, because she had seen me or something. I don't know.
What I did know was how many days went by and how they slowly merged together into one big blur. When I finally got out, I was twenty-three. I didn't visit my mother, I didn't return to my hometown; I simple moved away. I went to a small town, still in the state, and bought a bookshop. I got an apartment, bought some new clothes, made a few acquaintances, and never thought about prison. Or before.
My bookshop wasn't very big and only had specialty books, really. It had one main room, and a back room. I sat at the front desk, the only desk, and watched the people walk around. My apartment was just down the street, in a small building with maybe twenty other rooms, including the kitchen, front room, and living room. Mine had blue walls and tiled floors, a bedroom and bathroom, and a living room that served also as a kitchen. I had grown taller in prison, and my hair longer. I cut it till it fell to my chin, dressed my over six foot, skinny frame in jeans and t-shirts, and hoped no one I'd known would ever find me.
It was on a bright Tuesday morning, as I was opening my door about to leave for the bookshop, that I first saw him. He had curly brown hair that reached his ears, big brown eyes, and was a few inches shorter than me. He was carrying a suitcase and unlocking the room two doors from mine. When I stepped into the hall, he looked over and smiled. I responded likewise and then turned to go down the stairs.
Once at the bookshop, I looked over some papers, ordered some books that I thought would sell well, and helped the few people that wandered in. At lunch, I walked next door to the café like I always did and ate. As I did, I happened to glance up in time to see the same guy from before walking down the sidewalk. I couldn't help but stare as he passed, wondering where he was going, why he was here, and mostly, who he was.
I tried to forget him as I continued through the day, but he wouldn't leave my mind. I closed the bookshop and walked home in the dark, wondering if he had moved to town. As I fixed dinner and sat down to eat, I wondered what his name was. As I showered, I wondered how old he was; I could guess he was about twenty-one, but couldn't know for sure.
As I walked to the kitchen to get some water, I heard a knock on the door that interrupted my thoughts. Glancing at the clock, I noticed it was only nine and not an unreasonable time for visitors as I had first guessed.
I walked to the door, wondering what they would think of my pajama bottoms and t-shirt. When I pulled open the door, I expected the landlady, her daughter, maybe even the old man from next door. I didn't, however, expect to see the object of my thoughts for the past five hours standing there, smiling a crooked smile, saying, "I just moved here and I wanted to say hello. You're the first person I've seen that looks remotely my age, so I thought I'd stop by…if that's ok…" He grew unsure and I'm sure it was because I was staring at him blankly, trying to put everything together. Finally, I shook my head and said, "I'm Tyler."
He smiled again, his eyes lighting up. "I'm Destry."
"You want to come in?" He glanced behind me and then nodded. He followed me into the living room/kitchen and sat across from me on the couch, as I took the only other chair. "So…how old are you?"
He laughed lightly. "Twenty. I'm going to the college a little ways from here; they didn't have any boarding, but I wanted to go there anyways."
So he was younger than I thought, but only by a year. "You just moved here?" I was confused and he understood. "Yeah, I'm starting in the spring semester; I had things to do before and couldn't go in the fall."
"Oh, I see." We were quiet for a second and it was almost awkward, but then he smiled and asked, "How old are you?"
His forehead scrunched up as he asked, "Do you go to the college?"
"No," I laughed. "I own a bookstore right down the street." He must have wondered why I laughed at the idea of college, but I'd never admit to not having gone to one, or even finishing high school, because I'd been in jail. Not now, at least. To turn his thoughts from it, I asked, "Do you have family here?"
"Oh, no. My parents live in Chicago and my sister moved to Denver a couple of years ago." I nodded as he fidgeted in his seat. I hoped I wasn't boring him, but he had been the one to come over. "What about your family?"
"They don't live around here," I answered shortly, not offering more information. He simply nodded. "Well, it's late..." He caught the hint and stood up. I rose and followed him to the door. "Do you have classes tomorrow?"
"Not till next Monday."
"You should stop by the bookstore."
He grinned and walked into the hall. "Maybe I will. We could get lunch or something."
"Sounds great." As he opened the door down from mine, he lifted a hand in goodbye before stepping inside and shutting it behind him. I shut my own door and turned to walk to my bedroom. Destry…hmm, this was going to be fun.
Wednesday I woke up much happier and it took me a moment to realize just why. It's been over seven years since I'd woken up truly happy, and today, with the clouds covering the sun and an ache in my neck, should have been a horrible day. But it wasn't. I stretched and walked into the bathroom. As I turned on the water and stepped in, I remembered the guy that had moved in. Destry. A smile formed on my face.
I picked out my clothes carefully, wanting to look good, but not over done. I choose jeans and a black shirt, combed my black hair, and walked into the kitchen. I quickly fixed breakfast and ate, then headed out the door and down the street, a bounce to my step.
It's been so long since I'd had a reason to be happy, a truly good day, that I didn't know what to do with myself. I walked around my store, I unloaded some books and organized the shelves, I rearranged things. I couldn't sit still for more than two minutes and finally had to close the shop for a second and go get a coffee at the café. It was about nine in the morning and no one ever stopped by the bookshop that early, so I felt safe in leaving it unlocked with just the closed sign on the front.
I went down to the café and stood in the short line for my strong black coffee. Once I had it, I strolled back down the sidewalk to my shop. After opening to the door, I realized someone was sitting at the front desk. Turning so I could see all of them, I was happily surprised to learn it was Destry.
He smiled and stood up. "Hey! The, uh, door was unlocked. I figured you were in the back, or, uh, something," he finished lamely. I chuckled and said, "It's ok."
He sat back down in the chair and I moved to sit across from him behind the counter. "Your store is amazing. I didn't realize how nice it was."
"Yeah," I said wistfully. "But not many people come to it. I might have to close, soon, or move to a cheaper place."
"I'd hate it if you moved." He blushed after he said it and I grinned.
"Well, I wouldn't move apartments or anything. Just stores."
"That's good." We were quiet for a second. I don't usually talk to people, even before I was sent to jail I didn't. It'd been too awkward and tense since then and I usually avoided people in general in hopes of not having to converse with them. The few people I helped in the store were easy because they'd ask about a book, I'd help them find it, and we were done talking to each other. Now, sitting across from someone I wanted to know better but had no clue what to say to, I felt again how uncomfortable it was.
Finally, I managed to get out, "So, uh, what's your degree?"
He glanced at me. "Oh, I'm an art major. I went to an art school in Chicago for a year, but I didn't like it, so I switched to this one, because I heard it was good, plus I got a decent scholarship for it."
"So you're art's good then?"
He looked at his hands, self-conscious. "Well, I wouldn't say good but it's ok. Enough to get into school."
I knew it was better than he said it was, just from the way he acted. But I didn't push it and instead asked, "What do you paint?"
"Mainly people. I've done some scenery, but no animals."
"Why people?" This was definitely going better than I thought it would.
"I like the way everyone's different. How one person is a challenge, and so is the next, because they're not all grass and trees and sky. They have different shapes and colors and personalities that I have to try and convey through my art." He blushed again and looked away, obviously embarrassed that he'd said so much.
"That's a good reason." He muttered something I couldn't understand and I let it go. We were quiet again, but it was just for a second, and it wasn't uncomfortable. "So," he ended up asking, "what do you do?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like, after high school. What made you decide to run a bookstore?"
I was quiet for a second, trying to figure out how to answer the question without giving away secrets. "Well, I left high school—"
"You dropped out?" His eyes grew wide after he realized he'd blurted out the rude question. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean—I just—"
I chuckled softly. "It's ok. Really. Yeah, I dropped out… Anyways, I moved here from Chicago, left my parents. I bought the bookstore because the guy who owned it before me had passed away and his family was selling it cheap, books included. My parents leant me some money to rent my apartment the first month, and I made money after that from the store."
"So you didn't want to own a shop?"
"Truthfully? Before I…dropped out…I wanted to be an architect. But, that won't happen now."
"Why not? I mean, you could always go back to school."
I laughed mirthlessly. "Yeah, I could." Unspoken words of explanation hung in the air and he turned away from me. I glanced at the clock and sipped my coffee that had gotten cold in the past hour. "What're you doing today?" I asked, mainly to change the subject and get him to feel less self-conscious.
"I thought I'd hang out here for awhile, if that's ok. Then I have to go to the shopping center, get a few things for school and the apartment."
"Do you have any roommates?"
"No, I didn't have any friends coming this way, and I didn't want a stranger living with me," he explained.
I nodded. "I understand. I just know the price is sometimes high."
"Yeah, but I'm going to get a job soon." I thought for a second. I wanted to offer him a job here, but I couldn't afford to pay him. So, I sighed and said, "The café down the street is hiring.
"Really? I'll have to apply."
"We can go there for lunch; I know the manager and she's really nice. I can see if she'll hire you."
"Thanks, Tyler, that'd be so great!" He said, a wide grin on his face.
"No problem." His grin was so cute, I couldn't help but smile at it. He was so happy, so carefree. I'd be surprised to learn he ever had a depressed day. He glanced at his watch and said, "Well, it's ten. I'm going to go get what I need and be back, what? Around twelve?"
"I close for an hour at twelve, so anytime around there."
"Ok, great! I'll see you then, Tyler." I got up and walked over to the door with him. "Bye, Destry." He had this cute half smile on his face as he went around the corner and I lost sight of him. Even with him and that smile of his gone, I couldn't wipe the stupid happy grin off my face. Stupid boy, I thought as I sat down with a contented sigh.
A/N: Hopefully this chapter was better than the first one. Please review and tell me what you think! And huge thanks to gummybaby and Failure Played In Stereo for reviewing :)