Winifred, Winnie to those who know her, does indeed work at the library. But today she walks the aisles of the bookstore. She finds security in owning a book, and not having to return it a week later.
Winifred, though only twenty years old, dyes her hair gray. Today it drapes in a ponytail over her shoulder, where the strap to her gym bag hangs, weighed down by sneakers and sweaty clothes.
Her eyes scan the bindings of the small botany section, as she clicks her tongue softly. A pair of brown eyes make her stop. Across the room, but locked on her and completely unfamiliar.
Ignoring them, she pulls a volume on flowers off the shelf. A photo of daisies smiles up from the cover. After leafing through a few pages she adds it to her French dictionary, a clearance item, and turns to check out.
But the brown eyes are closer now, glancing sideways at her from under a shambles of blonde hair. She steps around him, beelining for the register. Shoving her books on the counter, she starts digging in her bag for her wallet. This provides the man time to appear next to her, purchasing his own books. They take their receipts in unison and head for the exit.
He opens the door for her. She gives him a stiff smile and a nod, and speeds down the sidewalk, clutching the new pages tight to her chest. After fifty yards, she slows to a normal walking speed and attempts to talk herself down from her anxious state.
At the cross walk she presses the button three times. Turning her head to look at the cars, she finds the brown eyes have followed her. She crosses the street, figuring he may have been headed the same way.
But he crosses as well, so she stops next to the brick wall on the corner and pretends to look at her phone. Not even feigning a coy attitude, he stands under the streetlight and stares at her full on. When she meets the stare, he shuffles his feet, opening and closing his mouth a few times before stepping closer.
“You like botany.”
“I saw you in the botany section. You got the book about Bellis perennis.”
“Daisies, sorry, daisies.”
“Yes I did.”
“I like botany too.”
“I see you go to Winds Gym.” He runs his fingers through his hair, gesturing to her bag.
She hesitates. “Yeah.”
“Ok. Well, um. I’ll see you around.” He turns left and disappears into the crowd.
Winifred goes in the opposite direction, towards the smoothie shop. She orders a Mango Passion and sits in a booth with a pen and her weekly planner. She can’t stop tapping the pen on the tabletop. People start to notice. So she grabs a napkin and puts the energy into words:
I was followed today. Out of the bookstore of all places. He didn’t say his name. Just talked about flowers and made a point of asking about my gym. I guess I’ll be sure not to work out at night for awhile.