Fingon stepped out of the monorail station and looked down at his phone again. Finrod had enthusiastically recommended this newly opened used bookstore in Formenos. While browsing there, Finrod had discovered an obscure book on Esperanto that he needed for his research and had been unfailing in his praise of the store ever since.
It had been years since Fingon had been to Formenos. Life was so busy with college and now grad school. True, Formenos was only a half hour away by train but it seemed more distant than a suburb somehow. He turned left towards the town square. Formenos had changed. He remembered it as a sleepy little bedroom community with a few quaint shops and a nice river walk but not much more.
Now the whole street leading to the square was lined with stores—coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, antique shops, and bistros. On this gloriously sunny, autumn Saturday there were people everywhere. He made his way to the central square, which was buzzing with a large farmers market, and followed a side street down one block. There it was—Beleriand Books.
He shoved his phone in his pocket and went in. He had expected it to be a typical used bookstore—small and cramped. This was completely different. It was laid out more like a conventional bookstore with large bookshelves, wide aisles and cozy chairs and sofas scattered at the ends of the aisles and in the open area in the center of the store.
The smell of good coffee hit him and he made directly for the small counter to his left. Coffee in hand, he wandered about the store, taking it all in, before focusing on the Art and Architecture shelves.
He was disappointed that Safdie's book was not on the shelf but not particularly surprised. It was an out of print, obscure architecture book that one of his professors had mentioned in passing but it had piqued Fingon's interest.
He wandered to the back of the store and was surprised to find this section was all used vinyl albums. Riffling through the racks made him smile as he recognized so many of his parents' old favorites, including some truly execrable 70's albums.
Glancing at his watch, he realized he had spent far more time browsing than he had expected. He headed to the shop doors, tossing his empty coffee cup in a trash bin and was about to exit when he stopped. It wouldn't hurt to ask the clerk at the desk if he had heard of the book. It hadn't been available on Amazon but maybe there was another source for it in the used book world.
The redheaded clerk was seated behind the counter, reading a book himself. He looked up when Fingon approached, leaving his book on the counter. "Can I help you?" he asked in a low, melodious voice. He gave Fingon a smile and stood up.
"I'm looking for an architecture book. It's kind of obscure—there's a store online that has it but not at a price a grad student can afford," Fingon said.
"What's the title and the author's name?" the clerk asked, turning to the computer monitor on the desk near him.
" 'Beyond Habitat' by Moshe Safdie," Fingon replied. "S-a-f-d-i-e. M-o-s-h-e."
The clerk nodded and typed it in. Fingon looked at him, now that he was absorbed in the computer search. He was extraordinarily tall. Fingon was tall himself at six feet but this clerk had to be at least 6"5 by the look of him. He had dark red hair caught in a man-bun. Fingon hated man-buns—they were so pretentious—but he had to admit it looked natural on this guy. He was wearing a comfortable looking gray sweater and jeans. Fingon thought he might be about the same age as himself. Likely an English major or grad student working for extra cash, he thought.
"I don't have it on the shelf. I saw Harrington's has it online but yeah, that's a bit of a steep price." The clerk clicked on the keyboard a few more times then turned to look directly at Fingon.
He had unusual gray eyes, almost silver in color, their intensity not dimmed by the narrow tortoiseshell glasses he wore.
"Pardon me?" Fingon said, belatedly realizing he had missed what the clerk had just said.
"If you give me your number I can ring you up when I track down a copy. I'm sure I can find you a cheaper one but it might take a little while." The clerk repeated the words Fingon had missed.
"Oh yeah. Sure. That would be great." Fingon gave his name and phone number and watched him type it into the computer.
"I might have some info for you later today—is it ok if I call or would you rather I wait until Monday?" he asked Fingon.
"It's fine to call anytime. I don't have any plans," Fingon wondered why he had said that, as if this guy cared if Fingon had plans or not.
The clerk smiled in response. "Yeah, same here. Just working this weekend." He bent down behind the counter and then handed a card to Fingon. "Here's my business card. Thanks for stopping by and sorry I didn't have what you wanted in stock."
Fingon took the card and looked down at it. Beleriand Books, Maedhros Finweon—owner, and then some phone numbers.
"What's your name?" Fingon asked the clerk. "Just so I know who to ask for when I call."
The clerk laughed. "That's me. I'm Maedhros. I own the store."
Fingon could feel his face heating up. "I'm sorry . . . I just . . ."
"You assumed I just worked here. No worries, happens all the time," Maedhros replied, an amused expression on his face.
"You just looked kind of young to own a bookstore—I thought you were my age . . ." Fingon stopped awkwardly, realizing he really wasn't helping with his words.
Maedhros smiled at him. "I like to think I'm still young," he said. "I'm twenty-nine."
"I'm twenty-five," Fingon said, belatedly realizing that Maedhros hadn't asked how old he was.
"Grad school?" Maedhros asked.
"Masters in Architecture at Cuiviénen," Fingon replied.
Maedhros smile grew wider. "I graduated from Cuiviénen too. Classics. Undergrad and PhD."
Fingon just nodded, his mind a blank.
"The usual response is 'so what's a PhD like you doing in a place like this?'" Maedhros said, raising one eyebrow at Fingon.
"Um, you like books?" Fingon answered awkwardly.
"Exactly," Maedhros smiled broadly again, making his whole face light up, especially his eyes, Fingon thought. "Academia was an option but when I unexpectedly came into some money last year I decided to do what I've wanted to do since I was a kid—own a bookstore. So here I am—owning a bookstore."
"It's a great bookstore," Fingon said. "Most used bookstores are cramped and small. This one makes me feel relaxed. I could stay here all day," Fingon inwardly groaned. He sounded so . . . ridiculous he finally decided, although pathetic would probably work just as well. He usually was so much better at conversation than this. He could chat with anyone, anytime, and now he was stumbling over his words and making completely inane comments.
"That's why I chose this space and designed the interior this way!" Maedhros said, placing his elbows on the counter and leaning forward slightly. "I could have had a store on the square—there's lots more traffic and walk-ins there—but the rent is high and the spaces are much smaller. I preferred being a bit off the main trail but with a better space." He looked around the bookstore, a satisfied expression on his face. "I make enough to pay the bills and I love coming to work every day. It's all good," he said, his eyes catching Fingon's again. "Except for not having your book, of course. I hate to disappoint a customer."
"I'm not disappointed," Fingon said, without thinking. He clutched Maedhros' card, flustered again. "I'll call you . . . I mean you'll call me when . . . if you find the book that is." What was with him today? He had basically lost the ability to string words together in a coherent sentence structure somehow.
"I'll call you if I find it. When I find it," Maedhros corrected himself.
"Call me either way," Fingon heard himself say. "Whether you find it or not, just so I know."
"I'll call." Maedhros gave him a lopsided smile and tapped the computer monitor. "I've got your number."
"Thanks again." Fingon stepped back from the counter he had been leaning against, nodded at Maedhros then headed out the shop door to the sidewalk. He carefully put the business card in his wallet, looked at his watch and started walking in the direction of the monorail station. Time to get home and get back to work on his project. He'd need to watch his caffeine intake. Beleriand Books served strong coffee—his heart was still racing from it.
My thanks to Cheekybeak for her beta work on this and to ziggy for encouraging me to post it here.
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