I absentmindedly pulled my earbuds out and shoved them into my jeans pockets. I couldn't focus as well with them in, and I wanted to win this thing.
Because it would be incredibly embarrassing to be outsmarted by a girl.
I paced a bit around the table, more of an impatient gesture than anything. I couldn't see anything around that would aid me in my venture, and no one around seemed to notice the good-looking teenager flipping through the fairytale books.
"Can I help you?"
Oh. Never mind.
"Um, no, I'm just looking around." I smiled, trying to be the spitting image of politeness and charm. It was harder than I thought. "But since you're here, I was just wondering: do you happen to know the girl who was in here a few minutes ago?"
The employee, whose nameplate said Cindy, shrugged noncommittally. "Maybe. Why?"
My heart decided to speed up and I tried to disguise my intrigue. "I don't know, I was just wondering. Do you have any copies of Alice in Wonderland?"
Then Cindy laughed and looked more at ease. "Oh, you must be the Searcher."
"Well, you ought to know that giving away clues isn't fair... but I will let you have the clue she decided to throw out because it was too... unlikely, if you get my meaning."
I didn't, but went along with it anyway. "Yeah."
She fished around in her pockets (I thought the pockets in girl pants were renowned for being small...?!?) and came up with a lot of stuff (I will refrain from calling it junk, but I will give you a thorough list: three buttons, a long thread, half a cookie in a plastic bag, a tiny stuffed animal mouse, a brown feather, plastic cheese (?!?), and an odd assortment of crumpled-up notebook pages)... but no clue. She muttered something about how small pant pockets are and told me to wait where I was and she would bring it back with her. While I waited, I picked up the fairytale book again and found a short one to read while she was gone. I had never really enjoyed reading, but maybe that was because the books I read were always factual and nonfictional.
As I was reading, my face grew hot and I was a bit shocked at how dark some of the fairytales were. I had always had a sort of picture in my head of dancing girls in the forest and knights in shining armor... not some of the darker details people decided to leave out of Disney movies.
"I'm back!" Cindy speed-walked the last couple yards, extending her arm with a note cradled in her palm. "Here you go. That's all I can tell you. Oh! And here's the book that goes with that clue." She pulled a book out from under the table. "Good luck!"
"Thanks!" I eagerly unfolded the note.. and let my shoulders slump back again in despair.
Really, who wrote these? And what was she thinking?
I never thought I'd have to delve deep into the story of a red-hooded girl with wolves nipping at her heels.
The Book Girl, Part One
The Book Girl, Part Two