The bookstore was located on the edge of London, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the city. That's not to say it was quiet, but it wasn't well known to the public like the large chain bookstores were. It was considered as a hidden gem by who AJ liked to call the 'Wankers' – or the hipsters. It was a wonder that it managed to stay open, it certainly never made enough of a profit to break even.

His grandfather had the store passed down to him from his own grandfather, and so on, so forth. The store was opened in the mid to late 18th century according to his family and every other local expert. It hadn't been updated much, apart from adding electricity and running water. It wasn't completely run down, but AJ had already decided that when his old gaffer finally carks it and he inherits the store, some renovations are in order.

The book store was a bit like a rabbit warren. There were shelves that reached the high arched ceiling that circled in a maze through the store and there were sections on every topic one could think of from gardening to post-modern witchery. The bookshelves were older than his grandfather and made from solid wood. The floors were hardwood that was so scratched and dusty that it was hard to tell the difference from concrete. The stench of mildew hung in the air, too. It would cling onto the pages of the books, and would cling onto AJ's clothes after each shift. Neither the old Gaffer Arthur (AJ's grandfather) or AJ could find the source or clear the stench out. It was stubborn and hung around like an unwanted customer. Or so that's what old Arthur would say.

Speaking of the old Gaffer, he was out for the day and left AJ in charge to sort through and alphabetise the books on the shelves, unpack the new orders, do some vacuuming, dusting, oh and manage the sales.

He was already fifteen minutes late. He would like to say the train was late, but it was really the fact that AJ had a late night and hated getting out of bed.

After unlocking the doors and flicking the lights on, the dusty old arm chair in the centre of the store caught his eye. It had to be as old as the store, he believed. It was soft enough, AJ gauged with his fingers, and was recently restored with its original green velvet upholstery. The back was tall and the arms rose high, and sitting in it made AJ feel small and sunken in. It wasn't as comfortable as it looked. The padding was hard and lumpy.

AJ stood back up and made stride for his grandfather's desk where there was a more comfortable chair to sit on. He jiggled the mouse on the computer and clicked out of the to-do list his grandfather left open for him. Instead he loaded up his Google Drive account. He had his lecture notes to finish writing but he couldn't bring himself to do any work. The lecture wasn't for a few days and he'd already covered most of the topic with his class. It was mostly revision and he was going to let the students do most of the talking.

AJ's eyes glazed over as he clicked on his topic folder with his half finished work and immediately clicked out of it. Instead he clicked onto another folder containing the elements and story for the novel he was writing.

He knew he was procrastinating badly. He had so many chores to do, along with his Uni work. But he had all day and he was in charge, he thought, as he got comfortable and put his feet up on the desk.

Suddenly the bell sounded as the first customer for the day wandered in. AJ internally groaned and sat up straight, removing his feet from the desk. He rolled up the sleeve of his button up and checked his watch that was always glued to his wrist. It wasn't even nine thirty yet.

"Morning." He said unenthusiastically, glancing at the young 20 something year old man who had already begun to browse the shelves.

He was tall. Taller than AJ by a small bit. Blonde. And a total wanker by the looks of him, AJ thought. That was their customer base after all. Wankers and old people. And by wankers, AJ meant Uni students his age or younger who think they're a bit more special than they are. The artsy-fartsy type.

But he was a bit fit, AJ realised on an afterthought. He didn't mind admitting that to himself. A lot of the wankers that came in were after all, but this bloke really caught AJ's eye.

Apart from being tall and blonde, he had a face like a model and lithe body. He was dressed in ripped blue jeans that were rolled up at the cuff and a grey cardigan that hung just before his knees.

AJ snorted darkly to himself. This broke the silence and the man turned to look at him.

"What's so funny?" He said. AJ was nearly caught off guard by the smooth American accent that rolled out of him. It was lovely and warm like good scotch whiskey, which magically made the chill leave the room.

Well fuck me blind and call me Robert. AJ had a thing for foreigners and tourists.

"I was just thinking about how you look like every other person who thinks they're unique."

"You know, most people would take offense to that."

"Most people don't have a sense of humour."

"There's a line." The American replied carefully, studying AJ with suspicion, or was it curiosity?

"There's a line." AJ agreed. "Are you a university student? Or just here for a bit of a visit?"

"Yeah, I study photography actually. I just transferred from NYU." The customer grinned proudly.

So AJ was right. He was an American college- boy studying arts, and he moved to little old London for the great life changing experience of being abroad, he thought with cynicism.

"Have you met the Queen yet?" He asked, trying to suppress his smirk as College-Boy's eyes lit up.

"Every bloody Brit in London knows her. You can't say you've been to London and haven't met the Queen. It's a rite of passage." It was too hard to mask the sarcasm, but AJ managed to keep his tone even. Although the corner of his mouth betrayed him by curling upwards.

"You're messing with me, aren't you?"

AJ belted out a laugh. "What gave it away?"

"I'm getting used to British humour. I know not to take anything seriously, it's all a load of crap." College-Boy shook his head laughing. "I'm Sam by the way. I've walked past here a few times to get coffee and I've been meaning to check this place out."

"Well College-Boy – I mean Sam, let me know if you're looking for anything in particular. I'm sure I can convince you that I know where the photography books are. It's only me in here today, the old Gaffer is out so I'm the best you have."

"I guess I'd better come back another time, if you're the best I've got." Sam's eyes caught AJ's as he smirked. He had a cheeky glint in his eyes.

"Don't let the door hit you on the way out." AJ turned back to his novel and began to reread the last chapter he wrote, and much like the stench of mildew in the store, Sam didn't leave.

He instead browsed the shelves, noticing that there was a card on each shelf marking the topics and genres. The topics ranged from fiction to the weird stuff. But instead of going much further he found himself browsing the Mills and Boons section, AKA the type of poorly written porn novels that lonely housewives read. He did get a bit of a kick as he flipped through the pages.

Sam knew that the bookshop worker was watching him from the desk. Judging him, or secretly laughing at him for his perversion. Or maybe he just didn't care.

With a thump Sam dropped a stack of Mills and Boons on the desk. AJ slowly peered up, reading each spine of the books before meeting Sam's eyes.

"Have you tried Pornhub? The acting isn't very good but it's a lot more efficient."

"Actually I think there's something classy about reading poorly written porno, rather than watching it."

AJ let out a quiet laugh as he began to scan the books onto the register. "Well, whatever gets the job done." He replied. "Even if it is 'Potato Packing Pirates'" AJ stated, openly reading the title to one of Sam's books.

"I'm excited to read this one," Sam pointed at the book directly underneath the Pirates. The book was titled; "You're stepping on my Pomegranate.".

"Well certainly tell me how it goes after you read it. I'd love to know what happens next."

"So how much do I owe you?"

AJ glanced at the POS. "Ten pounds."

Sam paid him and gathered the books up, glancing through the glass door. The clouds hung low and grey and the smell of rain was thick in the air.

"I'll see you around I guess. Thanks for the British banter." Sam gave AJ a toothy grin.

"Cheerio then. There's plenty more dirty books and pornography to look at here." AJ called out after him as Sam began to leave the store. The sound of the bell and the traffic outside filled the room as he opened the door. An elderly person walking past heard the exchange and shot AJ and Sam a dirty look.

The store returned to empty silence and the smell of mildew. AJ put his feet back up on the desk, contemplating on whether he should do his chores now or later. But then he realised that College-Boy left his wallet on the counter. He still had time to go after him, but he didn't. Part of him hoped that he would come back soon and stay a bit longer. He was pretty fit.

AJ flipped open the wallet to have a stickybeak. His photo looked pretty recent, which allowed him to fully take in his appearance. His hair reminded him of the stereotypical surfer boy; blond, wavy and unkempt. It curled around his well-structured face, bringing out his eyes. His smile showed off his full lips, but it wasn't genuine. License photos were usually awkward and forced, and college-boy couldn't even get away with it despite with his good looks.

"Samuel Johnathan Jones. Lives in 'New Paltz', New York. Hm, Never heard of it." His eyebrows rose as he noticed the amount of pounds in his wallet. "Rich boy. He'll definitely be back soon." He muttered to himself.

AJ closed the wallet and realised to his disgust that it was made from good quality leather. He safely placed it in the top drawer of his desk and immediately felt for his pack of smokes in his front pocket.

He was a smoking vegan, and even AJ couldn't get past the irony.

The day passed slowly and uneventfully. There were a few sales here and there from the University Wankers and a few oldies. He eventually got all of his duties done. Finally, by about four thirty pm, sat down to – what he told himself – do his lecture notes. But instead he continued on with his novel.

AJ was very much into Penny-Dreadfuls' and loved a good Gothic horror. The novel he was writing couldn't quite compare to the classics by a long way, but he was giving it a good old college try, as they say. It was a bit of a spin on the vampire tale with a pinch of Satanism, cults and witchcraft here and there. It was darkly sexy, but he didn't want to take himself too seriously, so he sprinkled a few bits of black humour within.

AJ had just gotten into the groove as he started his next chapter, opening the scene on his protagonist's 'awakening':

The floors were hard as stone and as cold as ice, but he felt warm. The walls around him were as black as coal and felt like they were slowly enclosing around him.

He tilted his head to the side. It was the only movement he could muster. His chest felt heavy, like there was some unknown demon sitting on it. He could imagine its long, gnarled fingers tightening around his throat as his breathes became shorter and harder to find.

He could smell the dampness of the earth and the scent of dust, which sharply pierced his mind. As his eyes began to adjust to the dark, his blood ran cold.

There was a skeleton. Its empty eye sockets stared helplessly back at him with a wide, mocking, grin.

He wanted to scream, but he couldn't open his mouth. He was paralysed. The demon on his chest was squeezing his throat tightly now. He could feel his head spinning as his brain began to lose oxygen.

His eyes could not part from the remains of the face beside him. It began to whisper something to him. Something sharp and brittle. The jaw did not move, and the grin did not fade. but the skeleton was speaking to him.

He strained to hear, but the words suddenly came to him in a rush, as if some unseen force entered his mind.

Mors. Nomen. Tuum.

Death is your name.

Suddenly a loud chiming bell sounded over the echoes and AJ found himself back in the bookstore. AJ grimaced at the thought of another customer, but then his mind fleeted back to College-Boy. But it was only old Arthur that entered through those glass paned doors.

Old Arthur, or as AJ lovingly referred to him as the Gaffer, was a fat man in his early seventies. Despite his age, he was well preserved. This was evidenced by the full head of hair that showed no sign of thinning any time soon, and his full silver beard that he kept well maintained. Despite his fortune, his eye sight played no part in it, or his heart. He'd been diagnosed with heart disease the year prior, yet it didn't seem to slow him down.

Arthur was wearing a long brown pea coat dressed with a red scarf and orange slacks. He had a leather case tucked into his arm pit, which he gently placed down behind his desk as he slipped off his coat. He collapsed into the green chair, lovingly stroking the velvet beneath his fingertips as he so often did.

"How was your doctor's appointment?" AJ asked.

Arthur glanced at him with a confused expression. "What are you talking ab – oh, you mean the date I went on?" He grinned.

"Nanna hasn't even been dead a year, mum won't be too pleased to find out you're already dating."

"I'm old and I'll be dead soon any way. Nanna won't care, she doesn't have feelings anymore." Arthur shrugged. "Your mum doesn't have to know till I'm dead. She can't get mad at me then."

AJ laughed at this. "Everyone has their secrets." He agreed. "Tea?"

"That would be wonderful."

AJ made his way to the staff room kitchenette towards the back of the store. He flicked on the electric kettle and prepared the tea pot. His grandfather liked milk in his tea, but AJ had it black.

He set out a plate with some biscuits (vegan, much to Arthur's dislike) and after letting the tea brew for a few moments brought out the tea cups, pot and the plate of biscuits on a tray. It was their afternoon ritual and honestly it was something AJ enjoyed doing with his grandfather. As much as he teased him, and as much of an oddball as he was, he loved spending time with him.

As he was about to set the tray down on the desk the bell sounded. AJ looked up from the tray he was holding just as Sam came bounding through and immediately slammed into AJ, who was standing by the desk adjacent to the entrance.

The tray tipped over him; spilling the tea, shattering the plate, and sending the tray clattering loudly off onto the other side of the room.

AJ jumped and yet out a loud yelp in pain as the hot tea burned his midsection. Arthur leapt off his chair quicker than anyone could expect from a man of his size and age and went to assist his grandson, shooting a suspicious look at the customer. Sam caught the old man's gaze before locking eyes with AJ.

"I'm so sorry oh my God, are you ok?!"

"No I'm perfectly fine you damp squib." AJ snapped back.

Old Arthur rose his bushy brows and his mouth twisted into a grimace as he considered the American's presence in his store.

The shock of the pain was ceasing, but the burns began to throb. "Here for your wallet, I expect?" His politeness was forced and borderline rude but he'd just had a whole pot of boiling tea knocked on him so he was allowed to be unpleasant.

Before Sam had time to respond AJ jerked open the top desk drawer and handed it over. Sam didn't bother to check if anything was missing.

"I stole all your money," AJ said. "In case you were wondering."

"Would you believe me if I said I only keep Monopoly money in my wallet?"

"Yes. You seem to be the type to do the unexplainable." AJ spoke flatly, remembering that Sam certainly did not keep Monopoly money in his pocket.

"You stained my shirt and gave me a burn." He realised out loud with a sigh. "I don't think your Monopoly money would cut it to buy me a new one." He spoke a little sharply

"Well, let me make it up to you in some other way." He offered.

AJ opened his mouth to reply but Arthur's voice sounded over his. "Look mate, AJ is fine. He's jus' a bit of a twat when he doesn't get his tea on time. Y'know, a bit like a child or a dog when they don't get what they want. He's not badly hurt." Arthur grabbed AJ's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

AJ sighed defeatedly. "I may be a bit of a twat but I liked this shirt."

Arthur hummed quietly, more to himself than the other two. "I'm going to clean this mess up." He said, eyeing the shattered porcelain by his feet. "Those plates belonged to your Nanna." He shook his head in disappointment.

Old Arthur waddled off to the staff room and when he was out of sight AJ finally spoke, forgetting his annoyance.

"Tell you what, you can make it up to me." He said with a bit of a sly tone, eyeing Sam and taking in his appearance from head to toe.

"You can buy me a tea." He began. "- but it has to be at a café with table service." AJ paused. "With no old people."

"Can do. What time do you finish here?" Sam replied immediately.

AJ blinked. He wasn't expecting such a positive answer to his somewhat weird request. He basically asked him on a date and this American College-Boy just shrugged his shoulders and agreed to take him, no questions asked.

AJ allowed himself to smirk. "Tonight? I knock off in halfa."

"Then I'll be back in half an hour to pick you up."

Sam left the store just as the old Gaffer came out of the staff room with a mop bucket.

It was still raining outside and there was a cold wind. He deeply inhaled the earthy scent of the air, wishing he had brought an umbrella. Sam powerwalked to the café he usually goes to.

It was a Victorian styled building with dark walnut panelling and art nouveau arches. There were cast iron swirls in the shape of flower vines that cascaded across the large, overarching black door. Sam pushed it open and the smell of roasted coffee penetrated him with its warm aroma.

The room was lit with dim Edison styled lamps and decorated with plush furniture. The café bar was dark walnut, matching the outside, and was decorated with elaborately carved flowers and vines. Plant pots were suspended on rope above the bar and out of them grew weird and wonderful flowers.

It was extremely cosy while giving Sam the sensation that he'd stepped through a time machine.

He glanced at the ornaments that were built into the heaving arches and windows The cafe was definitely a statement of the times and he was extremely fascinated with how well looked after it was.

Remembering his task, Sam booked a table for two and pre-ordered a pot of tea without milk and a black coffee for himself. Sam then checked the time on his phone and powerwalked back to the bookstore.

He was ten minutes early, AJ realised as he checked his watch. Sam was waiting outside rubbing his hands together to keep them warm. The last dregs of sunlight were fading out into the evening and the temperature had dropped. The rain showed no sign of stopping.

"Will you be off then?" Said old Arthur from his desk. He was leaning back on his chair with his glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose reading.

"Yeah I have work to do at home. And this guy offered to buy me a cup of tea." AJ replied, slipping on his comfy denim jacket and grabbing his umbrella.

Arthur peered over his glasses and noticed Sam standing outside and hummed to himself. "The American?" He frowned. "You know how I feel about Americans."

"What, that they're loud, crass and obnoxious? I'm two out of those three qualities but for some reason you still deal with me."

"I can trust you, though. Americans… they're shifty. It's in their blood."

AJ rolled his eyes and laughed. "Are you sure it's just heart disease you have? Not paranoia?"

"Maybe a bit of paranoia with a splash of discrimination." Arthur glanced out the doors again. Sam was staring at him from outside, almost as though he could hear every word that came out of his mouth.

Arthur pushed his glasses up with his middle finger and Sam looked away.

AJ didn't see this exchange. "I'm out, see you later you old Gaffer."

After AJ left and the ringing of the doorbell fell silent, Arthur closed the book he was reading and studied the title. His eyes flickered to his briefcase that he'd gently placed under the desk and he frowned.