tagLesbian SexMary Weaver: The Bookseller Pt. 02

Mary Weaver: The Bookseller Pt. 02

bydevagy©

V.

The morning stretched out hot and dusty and long, so long. So much longer, it seemed, than any other morning in Mary Weaver's life. It seemed as though she had been born, been a child, and grown up just so this morning could drag on and on and on. Myra couldn't find her book; Mina wept over a dampened sketchbook and had to be coaxed to breakfast; Elpseth was sick from the anticipation and had to be dosed with arrowroot. The pension's top floor had no water and in the kitchen the stove had been left to go out. Breakfast was untoasted bread and gritty jam. Hubert explained to the maid, twice, in his unhelpful formal Greek, that a particular shirt needed a warm iron but not a hot one. Weaver felt like shrieking at them all. Ten o' clock approached like an injured tortoise. The steamer from the mainland came in, hooting long and loud in the bay and startling the girls into a last frenzy of packing. The cars would come at one. Weaver would have winched the sun to its zenith by hand if she could have. At last, the overnight cases were packed and the girls – with hats, handkerchiefs and assorted accoutrements – waited, fidgeting, in the front room of the pension. They were early. They picked at their lunch. Mr Hubert suggested a short walk, but no; what if the cars should come, early, and they were not there? And then were left?

"It may be better to wait here," Weaver said, as terrified of the possibility of their being stuck there after all as they were.

"I didn't get the impression they'd arrive much before one," Hubert said, slightly awkward, scratching at his hairline. "They're travelling with children, you know." They were standing in the hallway; they had met on the stairs, coming down. Weaver, dreadfully aware of time passing, dazed from a half-slept night, slick with sweat at the small of her back, stood in the draft.

"How far is it to – where, Gourniliki?"

"I don't know, now that you ask." He signalled the concierge, half-asleep at his desk at the door. "Póso, um, makriá vrísketai i Gournilikí?"

"Ahhh..." The man rubbed his face, waking up. "Dýo óres, í ísos lígo perissótero, kýrie. O drómos eínai trachýs."

"That far?"

The concierge nodded.

"How far?"

"Two hours or more, he says."

"Well, you said last night, the road."

"Yes, but still, good heavens."

"This certainly isn't Surrey, is it, Mr Hubert."

"Indeed it is not," he said, and smiled a little. "We'll be there well in time for a bathe, I think."

"And such glorious weather."

"You truly don't mind being left here?"

"Not at all. I...I am sure I can amuse myself. I believe there's a good bookshop somewhere near the harbour. I may go there."

"Near the harbour?" Hubert touched his chin, thinking. "Ah yes. It's right on the water. I have heard of it. Odd place for a bookshop, you'd think it'd be horribly damp. The proprietor's some...an unusual character. I don't think it can be very reputable."

"I'm desperate," Weaver said, a little sharply. "For a book. I'm – I've resorted to Myra's Austens, just for something to read."

"You aren't fond of Austen?"

"Well, I've read them all a hundred times before – there, I hear a car."

The girls had heard too: they came clattering out of the front room, a babble of high voices and ribbons. Outside, a small boy and a larger girl jumped from the back of a large open car and called to them in excitement.

"I believe we're off," Hubert said, taking a deep breath. He beckoned to the concierge and a servant that was standing in the office doorway. "Eseís! Válte tis aposkevés se aftó to aftokínito. Grígora!"

"Steady on," murmured Weaver, seeing the servant scowl at Hubert's tone. "I'm sure they'll wait long enough for you to get the bags in."

"They might," retorted Hubert, jamming his hat onto his head, "but will the girls?"

Out in the narrow street, the small boy was bowing to the girls. A teenaged boy, seated beside the driver, noticed Weaver and politely tipped his hat. Hubert went out to greet the well-dressed couple that had alighted from the car behind.

Hurry up and go, Weaver screamed mentally. You've miles to go! Miles! Quickly now!

"Mr Chase," Hubert was saying, "Mrs Chase, my colleague Miss Mary Weaver."

"How do you do," said Mrs Chase, extending a long hand with polished nails and a freight of delicate bracelets.

"How do you do," Weaver said, a little taken aback.

"How do you do," said Mr Chase, a small and walrus-like man in a suit that somehow seemed to be wearing him, rather than the other way around.

"How do you do."

"Oh Mum let's go! Dad!" called the little girl, who looked to be around Myra's age.

"Yes!" agreed the small boy. "Stop talking and let's go!"

"Well, you see who wields the whip in our household," said Mrs Chase, smiling at nobody in particular. "Miss Gardner, gather the children! Chop-chop!" She turned around, clapping her hands. "Places, everyone!"

Mary Weaver caught the eye of a harassed-looking, grey-faced woman holding a toddler in the second car, whom nobody had bothered to introduce, and shared a look of intense fellow-feeling. This would be the other

"Miss Weaver," said Mr Hubert, executing a small ironic bow as he moved towards his seat in the first car. "Until tomorrow. Wish me luck."

"Until tomorrow," she said.

Then she was alone in the street with hours and hours and hours ahead of her with nothing to do and nobody to see.

VI.

She told the desk, in English, which the concierge spoke fluently and with an unmistakable American enunciation, that she would be out for tea and supper, and might be back late. The concierge nodded, politely uninterested, merely asking if she would like a key to the door, since she would be back late. She asked if she might have some water sent up, for a bath. She could. He would send a maid up with it directly. Hot water?

She prepared carefully. Here, her imagination let her down. She had little idea of what to expect, or how to get ready for it. She braced herself, from the habit of years, for disappointment, for an early return and the sort of clanging hollow feeling she had had before when long-expected treats fell short, or changes didn't bring much difference. But still. In the bath, she washed carefully, bringing out a bar of good soap she'd bought in France. The water was lukewarm, but plentiful. She washed her hair. She fitted a new blade to her safety razor and shaved her armpits and legs. She pared her nails, filed them, cleaned them. Brushed her teeth until her gums tingled. Looked at her face in the dull mirror above the wash-stand and despaired at it.

But all the while a sort of clear, bright excitement crystallised in her, sharp at the edges, hard and glassy, so that she carried herself carefully lest she slip and break it. It gleamed inside her, quite at odds with the nervous sweat that sprang in the small of her back and between her breasts, the salt taste on her lips, the slickness gathering between her legs.

Left. Right. Left, then right. The fourth white house, its little lions lined with moss, it's wide stairs. The iron gate locked, the passage behind it empty but for a black cat that glared at her and sprang away over a wall.

This means nothing, this means nothing, she told herself, unnerved. The street was quiet but for a lazy torrent of Greek from two waiters, desultorily arguing about something in the doorway of a café down the way. The molasses heat of early afternoon. Noise from the docks. She wound her way down Agioy Nicolaos, through the net of smaller streets and dozing boulevards down to the waterfront. Past the teashop, its outside tables empty but for a lone man paging through an old Times, and an ancient woman with lemon tea.

The door of the bookshop was shut. A tin notice hung from an old nail at eye level read Closed / Fermé / Kλειστό.

"Is closed," said the waiter at the tea-shop across the way, coming out into the street.

"When did it close?" Weaver asked, turning to him, swallowing to keep her voice even.

"Ah...twelve o' clock."

"Is it always closed at this time of day?"

"Ah, closed? No. Open. Anoiktó, yes, open."

"But it's closed now?"

He nodded with infinite patience. "Yes." He gestured towards the shop behind him. The man with the newspaper watched idly, his lips moving as though he sang under his breath. The waiter caught her eye. "Perhaps you would like some tea?"

The thought of taking anything in, tea, water, anything, was nauseating. She shook her head, aware that she was being rude, and left them all there. The heat was incredible. It loosened her limbs in their sockets, made her head swim. It had been hot in France, and Spain, and Italy had been hot and had stank, often, but this Greek heat got at her in a way she had never before experienced. The ground seemed to spring and sink under her feet although she walked on cobbles and gravel, dry and firm. She took off her glasses and wiped dry her eyes before putting them back. Without them the world was reduced to a blur of bright light and pale surfaces. She felt her neck beginning to burn below where her hair was put up. Weaver followed her route back through the town, past the strong fountain and the weak one, down a spattered street with pigeon-lofts hanging from the buildings' high eaves, past shouting men gathered around a leaking water tank. Into Agioy Nicolaos with its bickering waiters and silent church and the gate in the wall standing open now.

VII.

The air thickened to water. Sound faded to a faraway murmur. She swung the gate to behind her. Found the arch in the wall, mounted the step, found the door, knocked with hands with no strength in them. Stood with her palms flat against the wood, waiting. Bare feet approached from inside; the bolts slid. Cabot stood in the dark doorway.

"Miss Weaver," she said, in a voice for the neighbours. "How nice! Do come in." She stepped out past Weaver, glanced down the alley to the gate, and stepped back up, pulling the door shut and bolting it behind them as she did. She walked down the hall ahead of Weaver, glancing back.

"Did I miss you, earlier?" she asked. "I realised a minute ago I'd locked the gate when I came in earlier. And then remembered, with a shock," she added.

"I thought you were perhaps at the shock. Shop, I mean."

"I was there this morning but I suspected you'd be – here, this afternoon. Did your cavalcade get away alright?"

"They'll be well on their way by now."

"Unless they came back for something," Cabot said, and grinned.

Weaver stared at her in horror. "Oh, no, you don't think –"

"No, don't." Cabot shook her head, raised a hand to cut her off. "Forget them. They're gone. They're far away and won't be back for ever so long."

They stood in a large room at the end of the hall. Immense thick curtains cut off most of the light, making bright blocks of colour over the windows. The room was dim, cool, carried the same scent of starch and wax and, faintly, oudh that the shop carried. A long table stood at the far end; beyond it, a stone-floored kitchen. The floor nearer to was plain wood. Books were everywhere, arrayed on shelves and stacked along the walls, spilling from trunks. The furniture was old, elegant, threadbare. Behind Cabot a flight of narrow stairs vanished upward. Weaver, now that she was here, shuddered.

"Are you alright?" Cabot asked, touching her elbow. The spot burned. She was wearing a pair of loose trousers, an old shirt that hung heavy over her shoulders, open to the midriff so that Weaver saw a strip of bare skin, smooth and olive. Bare feet, bare hands. She thought Cabot must have been reading when she had heard her knock; a book was face-down on the floor beside an armchair, and next to it a pitcher of water and a glass.

"I'm thirsty, I think," Weaver said, realising it only as she spoke. Cabot went to the pitcher, poured a glass, and brought it to her. The water was sweet, welcome. Cabot watched as she drank the glass empty, then took it from her. Her eyes, on Weaver's face, were grave. She set the glass aside on a shelf and put her hands on Weaver's hips.

"Come upstairs," she said.

"I don't know."

"What is it?"

It was Cabot's voice that did it. She spoke softly, mildly, tenderly, but not gently; Weaver heard no particle of sympathy or pity in it, and that did it. Nobody much, or nobody that she had ever wanted, wanted and not had, had spoken to her like that. Weaver wasn't often spoken to as an equal, and she'd almost never had someone ask her what the problem was without an expectation that she would sort it out herself. Cabot's voice was cool, dark, gemlike. It suggested deep water, the middle of the night, certain poisons where you didn't mind dying.

"It's that – I'm – I have never done this."

"Not once?" Cabot said, quiet.

"No, not – not once. I – there haven't been – many chances."

"Ah."

"I'm – I'm sorry, I'm afraid this will be – I don't know what this will be like."

Cabot stood silent for a moment, her fingers shifting on the cotton over Weaver's hips. Weaver watched the pulse tap lightly and evenly in her throat. She saw the curl of hair at Cabot's ear, the line of down along the tendons at her nape, the beat of her long eyelashes. Under her tan she was freckled along the cheekbones. Her mouth was wide, full, solemn. And that ring of ragtag green around her pupil.

"I think," Cabot said, and her voice was a cool draft against Weaver's skin, "that you could come and find out what it will be like."

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by Anonymous

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by Anonymous04/06/18

Very sweet

A lovely read so far. It's got a great sense of place. Looking forward to more installments.

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by fishingrod4804/05/18

Great read

This is such good writing I love the way you are taking your time it gives it such reality

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