Hi everybody :) This is just a little story I wrote because I was feeling inspired. It was like stress writing to get my mind off of some things. I hope you guys love it just as much as I loved writing it! Enjoy!

The Bookstore

She stepped into the bookstore, sighing in relief at the familiar sound of the bell at the door. Still shivering just slightly, she let the door close, leaving behind the icy white crystals falling from the clouds outside. One ear bud dangled limply from her right ear, while music poured into her mind from the other side, providing her with a bit of distraction. Outside, the other half of her brain had been forced to deal with the conversations of the prejudiced people and the sounds of the chaotic world around her. She could see the contempt and ignorance in their eyes as they pushed past her, walking obliviously and rudely. In the bookstore, though, it was quiet. The murmurs of the customers were strangely comforting. She hugged herself and rubbed her arms, attempting to restore warmth as she moved forward into her haven and away from the harshness of the city. The corners of her chapped lips twitched, leaving behind the faintest hint of a smile.

There was nothing truly special about her. The dull color of her mousy brown hair was nothing at which to gawk, and the features of her pale face were relatively plain. Her strongest features, piercing hazel eyes, were hidden behind large—and currently fogged—glasses. On her head, covering most of her forehead and dipping much too close to her brow, was a colorfully knit cap, and matching gloves embellished her trembling fingers. A black, moderately itchy scarf concealed her neck and lay tucked beneath the zipper of a bushy, olive-colored coat. Her boots, muddy and awkwardly large, ironically matched the color of her wet, matted hair. The only vaguely fashionable item on her person was a shoulder bag, small and perfectly fitting of her timid personality. No, she was not very trendy in her outfit; but she was comfortable.

In the bookstore, she fit in well. Nobody raised their eyebrows in disdain, and nobody was forced to suppress their taunting snickers at the sight of her. It was partly because most of the inhabitants of the bookstore at that moment looked similar to her; it was also partly because everybody's nose was deep into his or her book. Though still cold on the outside, merely this comforting sight made her feel warmer. The people in the bookstore were always different than the people naïve to its existence. Here she felt at home, as if she had arrived from an alien planet and was finally coming back to where she belonged.

"Hot chocolate, please," she said. The man at the counter nodded with a smile, and turned to retrieve her order. As she waited, she began to soak in the familiar surroundings: books laid out perfectly on shelves as far as the eye could see, dramatic and old-fashioned stairwells leading upwards to a cozy loft, sconces emitting dim and welcoming lights on the walls. It was almost enough to make her outwardly giddy.

"There you are, Miss." The cashier handed her a white mug. Her smile grew as she held it in her hands, staring down at the swirling cocoa and aimlessly drifting marshmallows. The soft rising steam felt fantastic on her cold, flustered face. "Perfect for a winter day like this."

"Thank you," she said, almost incoherently.

After leaving her payment on the counter, she brought the mug to her lips and walked away. Calm, soothing music still played from her iPod, and she slowly felt her tense muscles beginning to loosen up. The best part, however, was still to come. Her expression remained placid, and she nodded her head discreetly to the slow and steady beat of her music. Suddenly, as her eyes scanned the shelves and her ears concentrated on the music, she felt a harsh bump on her shoulder and halted abruptly.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she mumbled clumsily to the man into whom she had obliviously run. He was rubbing his temporarily traumatized shoulder, staring at her with narrowed eyes and an irritated scowl as she adjusted her colorful hat habitually. He didn't seem like the kind of man to be prowling through a bookstore. Without a word, he bent down to pick up his fallen book, and she watched him with her continuously phlegmatic expression. Then, grumbling to himself incoherently and agitatedly, he stormed off.

She glared after him in contempt, and then habitually increased the volume on her iPod as she continued moving among the shelves, letting her eyes wander among the various spines of the books adorning them. Each new title, fallen upon by the orange light, stirred a new curiosity inside of her, leaving a note in her brain.

Perhaps I'll end up reading that book. Oh, or maybe that one? She took another sip of the hot chocolate, expertly ignoring the predictable burning sensation on her blue lips and tongue. Instinctively, she lifted one hand, and her colorful fingers gently brushed against the books. Her thoughts were already stirring, and she was only in the 'New Arrivals' section. Even so, in this seemingly normal and plain bookstore, she could imagine herself a princess strolling through the divine library of her ancient castle. There was nobody else around, and she was free to roam her halls and let herself get lost.

Still mildly unsatisfied with the book choices, the princess carried her steaming mug of hot chocolate and loose earphone up the stairwell, up to where even more titles and authors awaited her discovery. There were even less people on this floor; only a couple of readers and customers meandered among the aisles. She wouldn't have had it any other way. In her head, she loved to see herself as the sole inhabitant of this abode. She was the only person strolling through the store, and she could stay as long as she wanted and read as many books as her mind could handle.

With the personalized music as her only companion, she continued her quest for the perfect winter story to warm her up. The sconces on the walls provided the perfect amount of light, keeping the entire bookstore shadowy and strangely beautiful, but still bright enough to be able to thirstily drink in the words on the pages.

"Can I help you with something, ma'am?"

She turned around, reluctantly glancing away from the book she was currently examining. One of the employees, an old man with a hunched back and an everlasting smile, stood as still as a statue before her.

"N-no, I think I'm okay, thanks." She couldn't help but smile back at him, and he gave her a soft nod.

"All right, well, I'm here if you need me." The old man, grinning warmly as he turned around, walked away and into the other aisle. His face, etched with the markings of time, and his silvery hair brought an interesting notion into her mind.

Old literature sounds wonderful right now.

Her legs, familiar with the path they were walking, led her to the shelf in the very corner of the entire loft. An intricate and traditional sign at the top of the case read: Classical Literature. Her heart throbbed in excitement. After taking one more sip from the mug, she set the scalding beverage on the ground beside her feet and began anxiously rummaging through the books on the shelf. The titles, though, were slowly but surely disappointing her. She hadn't even realized how quickly the amount of books on this shelf had been depleting. There weren't nearly as many options as she'd hoped, and the ones that were available were ones that she had already read. Of course, she loved to read; but she was not the kind of girl to read a book more than once or twice. She felt that it ruined the initial effect of a well-woven story.

Come on, give me something... She stood on her tiptoes, peeking over her glasses desperately. Finally, one book on the very top shelf caught her eye, and a goofy grin consumed her features. Biting her lower lip, she hopped up, grabbing the book and hastily bringing it down from its shelf. With eyes glistening in wonder, she blew the dust from the cover, caressing the spine. It was an old blue book, ragged and quite a bit tattered on the edges. But in her hands, she saw it as a golden tome shimmering with the wondrous secrets she was about to unfold.

"Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea," she mumbled. "I've heard so much about you."

Finally at peace with her decision, she leaned her back against the shelf and let the book fall into her lap. Then, she began preparing herself. First, she fit the other earphone beneath her warm cap into her right ear to get the full effect of the music. She could hear nothing but the pounding of the beat. Second, she crossed her legs in a comfortable fashion, fit for hours of mesmerized reading beneath the subtle light of the sconce. Third, she placed her mug of hot chocolate on her right side, since she had the tendency to hold books with her left hand. Everything was perfectly set up there in her special little corner. With a deep, cleansing breath, she opened the book and let herself fall into the author's world. It was finally time for her mind to escape.

She didn't know if it was minutes or hours that passed; her sense of time was misconstrued. At that moment, she was only thinking of time in terms of the story. In her imagination, it was days and weeks that passed as she adventured the ocean with the delightful and memorable characters of the story. When she habitually reached down to take a sip of her hot chocolate, though, it was still wonderfully warm. It was a mechanical movement, for her mind was concentrating solely on the story. She could almost feel herself under the water alongside the explorers, watching the events unfurl. The bookstore disappeared, and she was transported into an entirely different world...

Suddenly, mercilessly ripping her from the arms of her imagination, a tap came on her shoulder. Surprised and slightly perturbed at this unexpected interference, she looked up at the culprit. Almost instantly, the mild anger turned to intimidation. A man stood over her, speaking to her. Her music drowned out his words, so with what seemed to be the speed of a snail, she managed to pluck the buds from her ears. The atmosphere felt almost unnatural without the music.

"Excuse me..." She was finally able to hear his voice, and swallowed nervously. She could only look up at him dumbly, wondering why he was approaching her and adjusting her glasses. "I'm so sorry to interrupt, but may I ask you a question?"

He was tall, casting a soft shadow on the girl at his feet. She simply stared up with wide eyes. There was a gentle smile on his thin lips, only adding to the chiseled and handsome features of his face. He had a smooth yet pale complexion, adorned with fiery red hair—perfectly gelled—on his scalp. And, just like her, he wore a pair of glasses in front of his milky blue eyes. They gave him an atmosphere of intellectuality. Unlike her, though, he wore clothes fit for a king. A scarf, indubitably of designer origins, sat beneath a long brown trench coat. When she looked down, she could see her own awed reflection in his black shoes, and she could see the glint of disdain in her eyes. Her mouth was open, but she felt as if the words she meant to say were stuck inside of her throat.

"If you please, where did you find that book you're holding?" he gestured, tilting his head curiously. At his silky, accented voice, her trance was broken.

"Um..." She finally closed her mouth, and her eyes instinctively drifted to the spot where she'd found the book. "R-right up there."

"Ah, I thank you," he smiled, lifting a long arm to where she had pointed. She continued watching him, unable to look away. Slowly, his expression of delight turned to one of dismay, and he sighed heavily before glancing back down at her. The angle of the light made his square glasses shine brightly, and she habitually fixed her own round spectacles.

"It seems as though there are no copies left," he said with a furrowed brow. "It's quite a shame. I really do love that book."

"Th-this one, you mean?" She adjusted her glasses yet again and lifted the book.

"Yes...I've searched everywhere, but it seems as though every god-forsaken bookstore in this country is out," he groaned in aggravation. "Ah well. I suppose I can be satisfied with another book."

"Y-you can have this copy," she offered, before realizing what exactly she was saying. It had taken her only moments to realize that regardless of this man's atmosphere and regardless of the way he dressed, he was uniquely different than the others. The man looked down at her with a slightly shocked expression.

"Oh, no, I couldn't. I would never deprive a fellow reader of her pleasures simply to fulfill my own."

"Really, you can have it," she persisted. At that point, she was speaking independently of her brain. Her heart was doing all of the talking. Something about this man just made her stomach churn...and it was not the usual uncomfortable churning.

"You're not going to buy it?" he asked. She lowered her gaze, longingly stroking the cover of the fantastic novel in her hands.

"Me? No. I never buy any books here," she sighed. "I don't have the money for that. I just like to come in and read."

"Oh. Well, I'm sorry to hear that..." The man twiddled his thumbs, awkwardly staring down at his black leather gloves. "But I couldn't take that book away from you. You should enjoy it while you can. I'm sure it'll be here tomorrow."

"N-no, it's fine. Take it."

The hesitance she had expected was not present as she outstretched her hand, evaluating the mixed emotions on his face. First she could see excitement, and then reluctance, and then longing.

"Thank you so very much," he finally chuckled. "That's very kind of you."

"It's no big deal. There are plenty of books here to read," she reassured. He laughed along, tapping the cover of the book idly.

"Ahem, I apologize, I didn't properly introduce myself," he cleared his throat. "My name is Charles."

Charles... She repeated in her head, smiling at the elegance of the name.

"And yours is...?"

For the first time, she found herself reluctant to divulge her name to this sophisticated man; she had never cared what people thought before, but when she looked into those mesmerizing eyes, she cared more than ever. He was like a prince...and she was like a peasant.

"Devon," she murmured, almost inaudibly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Devon. My name's Devon."

"Devon," he grinned. "I'm pleased to meet you, Devon." Her name sounded so much nicer rolling off of his tongue with his elegant accent. He stuck out his nimble arm, expecting a handshake. She felt indescribably awkward, shaking his hand from the ground as he bent to reach her. Strangely enough, though, the contact did not give her shivers. She failed to find herself eager to let go of his gloved fingers.

"Same here..."

"Well, I'm sure I shall be seeing you here some other time," Charles finally said. "Thank you once more for your generosity, Devon."

"Any time," she chuckled nervously, picking at the soles of her boots.

"Adieu, mademoiselle." With those eloquent words, the prince turned and walked off down the aisle, with the book tucked in the crook of his arm. She lifted her cap slightly as she looked after him, and there were the remains of a smile still etched onto her lips. She had never found herself in such a situation before, and it left her confused and wondering how she should be feeling. Her palace was no longer her own.

Another book...gone.

She scanned the diminishing books on the classic literature shelf and lifted the white mug to her lips. The hot chocolate was now almost as cold as the snow outside.

There's got to be another one here somewhere.

Determination once again instilled inside of her, she stood up and continued her search. However, her fantasies were still entwined with the world under the sea, with the characters and all of the mysteries that the ocean held. She had the feeling inside of her, the feeling of being suddenly woken up during a beautiful dream. Agitated at this disturbance, she put her earphones back in and blasted the music louder than ever.

"Excuse me..." The tap on her shoulder, accompanied by the silky voice, came once again, and she turned around in surprise. Charles stood before her, as graceful and elegant as before. She could practically see the shimmering crown atop his head and the regal, billowing cape at his shoulders. Almost simultaneously, her music stopped.

"Y-yeah?" Glancing down at her iPod inconspicuously, she saw that it was out of charge. She suppressed a groan of frustration and tucked it into her coat pocket.

"I couldn't help but wonder," he began, pushing his glasses higher onto his nose. She gazed at her reflection in the lenses. "Well, it's just, I've never met a woman who enjoys this kind of literature. You've intrigued me, and I truly wanted to ask you about it. Do you read it often?"

"Um, yeah," she tilted her head. "I love those kinds of books."

"As do I," Charles smiled. "Which one is your favorite?"

She blinked. Is he really showing interest in... Me?

"I-I'd have to say Pride and Prejudice is my favorite," she replied. "I always like a good romance."

"Oh, that is certainly a fantastic novel," he breathed dreamily. "I've always wished to be in a classical world such as that."

She was taken by surprise at this comment, and merely stared at him with eyes of interest. Then, in response to his enthusiastic and welcoming expression, she ultimately smiled.

"I've lost count of how many times I've read that book," he said. Here, she raised her eyebrows, but held her tongue. She didn't want to mention that she'd only read the book once.

There was silence for a few moments. His grin was subtle, but it was just enough to make her heart pound. It seemed as though every word that came from his mouth was taken directly from one of those classic novels...as if he truly were a prince.

"Well, I think I better be off now, unfortunately," Charles broke the silence, looking away. Her eyelids fluttered as she tucked her hair behind her ear, leaning back against the shelf. The ridges were uncomfortable against her sensitive back. "I really do hope that I see you again here sometime."

"Y-yeah. I'm here a lot, so..." Her voice trailed off as she shrugged, playing with her zipper anxiously.

"Wonderful! I'm sure we'll meet in the near future." He bowed his head respectfully, making her cheeks turn bright red. "Until next time, milady."

Charles winked as his glasses flashed, and then he turned and walked back for the second time.

"Bye..." She lifted a hand meekly. "Charles." The dim orange lights of the sconces fell on his silhouette perfectly, emphasizing his figure regally until he finally disappeared behind the shelves and descended down the stairwell. She sighed, pulling her rainbow cap further down her forehead and looking down at the ground where her mug of cold hot chocolate sat.

"Oh, Charles!" she suddenly called. Her eyes had fallen on a small book on the floor. It was Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. "Wait, you dropped this! Charles!" She rushed to the staircase, staring down at the first floor of the bookstore. Charles was already gone, and she sighed in exasperation and guilt.

All of that good money, spent on a book that he forgot. She shook her head sadly, and then instinctively flipped through the pages of the book. The corner of the page at which she had stopped reading was still folded. And when the book finally fell to that page, she found an unfamiliar piece of paper hidden in the crease. It had not been there before. With a furrowed brow and an incredulous feeling, she opened the piece of paper. It was the receipt for the book. And at the bottom was a neat, hand-written note.

As I said before, I would never deprive a fellow reader of her pleasures simply to fulfill my own. Please enjoy this wonderful book to the fullest.

Sincerely, Charles

With an engrossing smile and an unsteady heartbeat, she hugged the book closely to her chest and unintentionally crumpled the receipt in her fingers.

At that moment, she was sure that Charles was different. And she promised herself that she would come back to the bookstore every day.

That's it, I really hope you guys liked it! And pretty please leave some reviews for me. I love hearing constructive criticism. Anything I could edit? Any suggestions? Thanks again! :)