The Bookshop Date
A short story based on a real date.
Lily had read many, many romantic comedies in her life. At the age of twenty, she had never had a first date like they do in the books. She had wished and dreamt of a first date in a bookstore with a handsome tall stranger that she had crossed paths with in the real world. They'd geek out over there favourite books and authors and debate whether the hyped up book was really worth the hype.
However. She was yet to experience such a dream. Her previous dates had been in her bedroom, it wasn't until after those short flings ended did she realise that they were embarrassed to be seen out with her. Lily didn't want to be made a fuss of, she didn't need fancy restaurants or weekends away in London. No, Lily just wanted to be herself on a date, to have someone who liked her for her. To be able to go out to a cafe, or pub or even a bookshop and connect with someone who shared the same interests as her. So far no one had connected to her in that way.
"Is that him?" Jade said peeking through the blinds in the upstairs window. Lily pulled her away from the window as the tall, dark haired man looked up to the house. Lily was sweating, she felt sick and above all she just wanted the floor to swallow her up. She wanted to cancel but she couldn't, she really liked the sound of this one. Plus he was going to take her to a bookstore for there first date. Lily had never been on a date and her hungover brain from last nights drinking had meant she looked rough as hell. Even the makeup couldn't save her so she had wiped it off.
"I can't do this." Lily's eyes widened in fear.
"Yes you can and you're doing it cause he's about to knock-"
The knock on the door was loud and echoed throughout the house. No going back now. Lily pulled herself up and made her way down the stairs.
"Right, I'm off bye!" Lily shouted.
"Wait! Invite him in so I can ask him what his intentions are."
"You can fuck right off!" Lily shouted back. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, Lily opened the door. Her eyes found that of a tall, dark-haired, baby-faced man with a hint of uneven stubble on his jawline. She couldn't help the smile that spread across her lips, finally after two weeks of talking she was meeting Ollie for the first time.
"Hello." He smiled, his accent was beautifully Scottish.
"Hi." She smiled back. Should she kiss him on the cheek? Hug him? Hand shake? Fuck, she didn't know so instead she placed her shaking hands into her jacket pockets and closed the door behind her. "Shall we go?" She asked, and with a nod from Ollie she began to lead the way into the city.
The walk into the city was that of constant chatter. Lily had to keep reminding herself to let him speak. She was a nervous talker and today she was especially nervous. The conversations the two of them had over text message had been some of the best conversations she'd ever had with anyone. They shared the same taste in music and films, not to mention he actually reads! Lily's previous relations didn't even read one book a year, they saw it pointless and boring. Lily had learnt so much from books and they had been there when she needed them the most, through times so tough that an escape into a world of romance, action and laughter was what she needed. They were her comfort and she wanted to share her love for books with someone. To sit on a sofa on a cold, rainy, winter's night with a pot of tea between them and a blanket, reading. That's all she wanted. Could Ollie be the one to share that with her?
"I like your hair by the way." Ollie said shyly, snapping Lily out of her daydream and saw his cheeks redden.
"Thank you, I was bored of my brown hair and wanted a change and I love purple." said Lily.
"Well I think it looks very nice." He smiled, it was a cute smile. "So how many books do you reckon you'll be getting?"
"Hmmmm, my pile is already so high so probably just the one." Lily laughed nervously.
"Just the one book actually." Ollie said in a Somerset accent. Lily laughed understanding the reference he was making to Hot Fuzz, it was a favourite film of hers. One she could watch on repeat, except the line from the film was, "Just the one swan actually".
"So Mr Ollie, how many books are you going to get?" Lily asked, she wanted to see if he could name a book without the help of google or a bookstore. Too many times had guys claimed they liked books and certain authors when in actual fact they were just pretending. Lily was just making sure he wasn't one of them. Not that she had any reason to believe he had been lying to her.
"Well, not many as my Mum will kill me if I bring another book into the house." He replied, his eyes squinting in concentration. "But I'd like to get that new wartime book, the Tattooist of Auschwitz."
They reached the local book store, the street was bustling with people as the sun was out and more shops were opened up. People sat outside of cafes while others queued outside of the chip shops of there three pound tray of chips and gravy. Lily remembered a time when a tray of chips and gravy was one pound fifty. They put on there masks and entered the store, the soothing music filled the air, the store was a breath of fresh air compared to the bustle outside. They walked around tables of paperbacks, shelves of new hardbacks of fiction and celebrities' autobiographies. Having been to the store multiple times, Lily worked her way to the back where her favourite authors were. She pointed out books that she had read and gone far too in depth with the plot that she ended up giving it away. Spoke about what books she had seen on Twitter lately, and ones that she wanted to read but only because she wanted to see if it was worth the hype. Ollie walked her over to the thriller section where he showed her his favourite authors, John Connolly, Lee Child and how he wanted to read Agatha Christie.
They talked and talked until eventually they had decided on a book to buy. Lily buying just the one book while Ollie bought two. Back out on the street Lily walked Ollie to another bookstore. An independent bookstore that sold old, new and rare books. Three floors of bookish delight.
"Are you ready?" Lily asked outside the green doors of the store, her eyes alight with delight. Ollie nodded, eager to see what this store was really like. Lily took the first step in and turned to see Ollie's reaction. Despite not being able to see his lips she saw his eyes awaken with joy. Room by room of books, his eyes widened. He looked like a kid who had been taken to a sweet store for the first time, like Harry Potter when he had found the right wand. It was magical and Lily felt her heart warm in knowing that she was the one that showed him the hidden gem of the bookstore.
The two of them made there way back to Lily's house, conversation flowing between them. Lily took him through the park and down the floral path where wild flowers blossomed in the summer. She wanted to reach out for his hand but was too nervous, the air was hot and she was sweating. The alcohol from the night before didn't help either, at least it wasn't noticeable, unlike Ollie who's forehead glistened with sweat beads. She felt sorry for him, yet it made her smile as she wasn't the only one suffering in the heat. At one point they came to a cross roads and unsure which path to take, Lily did an awkward run that could only be described as a Hobbit run, as if her feet were too big to run normally. Ollie had just laughed, she wouldn't have blamed him if he had looked at her like she was a weirdo. They had gotten onto the family conversation, something Lily found hard to talk about at the best of times.
"My family is complicated." Lily said, "They're a bit crazy sometimes."
"Well my are mental! You should see them honestly." He shook his head, obviously thinking about a past time experience with his family. "I'm not mental though!" He added quickly, face reddening in embarrassment, worried he'd given Lily a bad impression of himself.
"I'm sure your family isn't as bad as you think." She replied.
"Just you wait till you meet them."
"I'm going to meet them? Why Ollie you think I'll see you again after today?" Lily teased.
"Well I hope we'll see each other a lot more after today." He replied, cheeks blushing red.
"I mean that is if you want to?"
"Hmmmm, we'll see." She said laughing, walking away.
"You're doing nothing for my confidence you know!" He called after her.
Once they reached the house they had a drink of cold water and chatted more in the living room of Lily's house. Only the time had come for Ollie to leave, the time had flown so fast that Lily couldn't believe it. She wanted him to stay longer, for them to talk into the evening and night. She showed him to the door, books in his hand and just like they had greeted each other. Lily didn't know what to do. She wanted to kiss him on the cheek but wasn't sure if that was a thing. A hug seemed too awkward and like she wasn't interested in him.
"So do we hug or what?" Ollie said.
"Urm I mean we can do?" Lily said, unsure of her voice.
"I mean sure yeah a hug sounds good right?"
"Yeah why not?" Lily held out her arms and hugged him, her head resting on his chest. He smelled so good, she didn't want to let go. He moved away and then opened the door and then he was gone. Lily wasn't sure if she would hear from him again or if he was interested in her. Only time would tell.
30 Minutes Later...
"So he gave you a hug?" Jade asked, she shook her head. "That sounds awkward"
"Why didn't I just give him a kiss?" Lily moaned putting her head into her hands, it had been half an hour since Ollie left and she was afraid that it would be the last time she heard from him. Jade had awed and oozed at the details from the date and told Lily off for not reaching out to hold his hand. Lily felt like she hadn't put herself out there enough. Maybe he saw her as a friend. She really liked him, he was cute, funny and made her feel seen and heard. She felt like there could be something amazing between them, if given the chance to blossom.
BING. Lily looked at her phone and opened the message from Ollie instantly.
I am SO sorry about that awkward hug.
P.S. Would you like to go on another date?
I'd very much like to see you again.
Lily smiled brightly.
"I take it's good news?" Jade said smiling back.
"Oh it's very good news."
Lily typed back:
How does Thursday sound?
Written by Phoebe Leech