I found myself staring at my boring ceiling once again. I had no idea why I even bothered trying to fall asleep on summer nights; it never worked. I sighed as I got up from my bed and changed back into my day clothes. I quietly opened my bedroom door and tiptoed out of the house, careful not leave any trace of leaving. My mom would kill me if she knew I was gone. I didn't like sneaking out of the house, but it was the only cure for the boredom that my insomnia left me with. Once outside, I looked at the time on my cell phone. It was only 11 o'clock.
I followed the sidewalk on the familiar route that I had been taking every night for the past month and a half. It was about a 20 minute walk to my nightly destination, Ferguson's Books, the only bookstore open late at night. In fact, it didn't even open until about 5 o'clock in the evening. The owner, Mr. Jace Ferguson, opened the place for the sole purpose of providing a place to go for insomniacs like me. Mr. Ferguson himself was even an insomniac.
I entered the store, and a bell chimed. The owner looked up from behind his place at the front desk and smiled broadly. Mr. Ferguson was probably in his late thirties, early forties with bright red hair and very pale skin. He always had glasses perched on his nose and he spoke in a very quiet voice.
"Hello there, Nora. Fancy seeing you here." He greeted.
I grinned. "Certainly, Mr. Ferguson. How has your night been so far?"
"Oh, the same as it always is, but I did see a new face today. He arrived here about an hour ago and headed for the science fiction section, but who knows where he's wandered off to by now." He replied.
"Well, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for him. If you need me, I'll be in-" I started.
"In the fiction section, like always." He finished for me.
I nodded and shuffled off to my favorite section. On the way, I passed a few of the familiar faces I saw here every night. There was Eloise, a girl with purple hair that you could always find in the anime section, Thomas, a 25 year old British fellow whose only goal was to read every book in the store, and finally, Mrs. Braswell, a widow who was constantly flipping through cook books. When I got to my section, I decided to read something by Charles Dickens because I had a friend that had loved that particular author. I then went to find the Ds. Surprisingly, I wasn't the only one there. There was a tall lanky boy with brown hair standing in the aisle. He looked to be about my age. He was wearing a white shirt with the periodic table on it and jeans with holes in the knees and he was holding The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He didn't glance up from the book, even as I walked toward him to pick out a Dickens novel. I looked over all the books and finally picked A Tale of Two Cities, my friend's favorite, but all while watching the mysterious boy out of the corner of my eye.
"Which case are you reading?" I asked as casually as possible.
He finally looked up. "What? Oh, it's um…A Scandal in Bohemia."
"That one's my favorite! Have you finished it yet or have you just started?" I wondered.
"I've actually read it before, but I find that with Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you get more out of it by reading it a second time." He replied.
"That's a very good philosophy there…um…" I said, trailing off.
"I'm Bennett, and you are?" He introduced.
"Nora. So, Bennett, what brings you around here tonight?" I questioned.
"I couldn't sleep, and this was the only place open." He responded.
I smiled. "Well then, welcome to Mr. Ferguson's Home for Insomniacs."
"Sounds like I will be coming here more often then." He stated.
"I've been here almost every night since summer started. It's pretty nice actually. I mean, there is a great selection of books, plenty of places to sit and a lot of good company to talk to. For me, it's paradise." I mentioned.
Bennett glanced at the book in my hand. "A Tale of Two Cities, eh? That's a really good book. Are you a Dickens fan?"
"I'm not sure yet. I figured I was very deprived because I hadn't read any of his books, so I just picked this up." I explained.
"Do you think it's good so far?" He wondered.
"I haven't started it yet." I replied.
"Oh, well there's a bookmark in it so I figured you had." He commented.
There was writing on the bookmark, so out of curiosity; I opened the book to the saved page. I decided to read the writing aloud.
"Dear reader," I read. "It seems you have decided to read my favorite book of all time. I suppose it's surprising that I, a stupid emo kid, likes Dickens, isn't it? Well, I applaud you for picking this up. I mean, I would applaud you if I could. You see, I'm putting this letter here as my suicide note. I'm going to jump in front of a train. I know, it's not necessarily a pleasant way to go, but it sure gets the job done quickly. I'm probably going to get blood all over my favorite Green Day shirt, since that's what I'm wearing, but oh well I guess. Anyway, that's enough about me. Reader, whether you be male, female or possibly even both, I have a list of requests for you. My last requests, more specifically. Since you picked up this book, I deem you worthy to complete my tasks. Don't worry; there are only 5, so it shouldn't take you long. My list is as follows:
Buy Mr. Ferguson the only crappy looking copy of The Wizard of Oz. I left a special note for him there that I would like for him to read. When you give it to him, just say "You'll find it on page 153." That'll keep him wondering.
If Eloise still goes there, give her the misprinted copy Jane Eyre. You will find it where you would usually, but instead it will be titled Jane Air. I'm not even kidding. The publisher was a dumbass that clearly couldn't spell. Anyway, there's a note for her too, but this time tell her: "The Raven is nevermore, but god, did he love you." After you say that, just walk away, and don't you dare answer any of her questions.
I hid a 100 dollar bill and a 20 dollar bill on the bottom of the chair Thomas always sits in. I assume he still goes there. Last I knew, he was just getting started on the biography section. You see, he always had a goal to read all the books at Ferguson's. Give Thomas the 20 and tell him: "Michael says to go to the coffee shop and ask the barista that you like so much out for ice cream." If he puts up any fuss, just say: "Hey, are you really going to disrespect Michael's wishes? He'll haunt your ass if you do."
You know that homeless woman that's always set up across the street from the bookstore? Her name is Frances. Give her the 100 dollar bill and tell her: "Consider this cheese." She'll know what it means. She's also going to want to give you a hug. Accept the hug, even if hugs make you uncomfortable. Just be prepared for her attempt to crush your bones.
When Frances is done giving you a hug, ask her where Michael's house is. At first, she'll probably tell you she needs more money to give out that information, but you can tell her that the hundred is damn well enough. When you get to my house, reach under the doormat and grab the piece of paper, fold it up, and put it through the mail slot. That's it. That's all you have to do there.
There you have it. Now, if anybody were to pick this up, I would assume it was Nora, am I correct? Oh, I always knew I'd get you to read Dickens. Well, Nora, if it is you, then I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm asking you to do this and also because I left without writing you a proper note. Let me just say, you're like the little sister I never had, but would've loved to have. Thank you for being such a good friend to me the last little bit of my life.
With love and appreciation,
I couldn't believe that I wasn't crying my eyes out. Michael was my next door neighbor as well as one of my best friends, and he was actually the one who introduced me to Ferguson's. We'd always walk over together and we talked about music. I even hung out with him and Eloise a lot. Michael committed suicide about a month ago, and left all of the regulars in mourning. Well, all except Mrs. Braswell, who had only been coming to the bookstore for 2 weeks, and then Bennett who was brand new. I wondered how Michael could've possibly known that I would be the one to find his note. Then again, that boy was always able to read me like a book.
"Bennett, would you like to help me with this?" I asked.
He paused and thought for a moment. "Sure, why the hell not?"
I smiled and immediately went to find the book mentioned in quest #1 with Bennett walking with me. With my awesome book finding skills, I quickly located it and turned to page 153. Sure enough, a note was right there. The book cost 10 dollars, and I had a mere 2 dollars with me.
"Damn." I said.
Bennett reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, as well as a pocket watch. He got out the 8 dollars I needed and handed it to me. "Here."
"You have a pocket watch?" I asked as I took the money.
"Yeah, why?" He wondered.
I pulled my pocket watch out of my jeans pocket. "That's so cool! I have one too, but it doesn't work. It was my great-great uncle's, and it's from about 1926. I carry it with me all the time, just for luck."
"That's awesome." Bennett smiled.
"Oh, and thank you. I'll be sure to pay you back as soon as possible." I mentioned.
"You're welcome." He replied.
We proceeded to the front desk and I handed the book to Mr. Ferguson.
"Nora, are you sure you don't want a better taken care of copy?" He asked.
"I'm positive." I said, handing him the money.
"Well, alright then." He finished checking the book out and put the money in the cash register. He handed me the book. "Enjoy."
I gave it right back to him and smiled. "You'll find it on page 153."
Mr. Ferguson looked at me, bewildered, and then started flipping to the page. I gestured for Bennett to follow me again and we skittered off to locate Jane Air. It took a good 10 minutes to find the misprinted novel, which surprised me because I thought we'd find it immediately. Bennett was the one who ended up finding it. We found Eloise sitting in the anime section with her back against one of the shelves. Ever since Michael died, she'd been shutting everyone out and spent all her time alone. I had tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't ever listen to me.
"Go away, Nora." Eloise said, not even looking up from the manga she was reading.
I set Jane Air down beside her. "The Raven is nevermore, but god, did he love you."
Her head shot up and she looked at me. "What are you talking about? Why would you say something like that?"
I gestured towards the book and turned around and walked away with Bennett following.
"Okay, I'm lost. Who the hell is the Raven?" Bennett asked.
"Michael, the boy who wrote the letter. Eloise was his girlfriend, and since Michael had black hair, she called him the Raven." I explained.
"I see. So, from what I gather, Michael is having us tie up all the loose ends he left behind, is that correct?" He wondered.
"I believe so, yes." I clarified.
"And if I remember correctly, Michael went to my school." He commented.
"You go to Jefferson High?" I asked.
"Yeah. Wait, don't you go there too? I think I've seen you around before." He stated.
I looked him over. Yes, I had seen him at school before. "Yeah, same goes for you. Well then, I suppose it's a good thing you came here tonight because A) I don't have to do these quests alone and B) so that I could finally get to know you."
"I concur." He said.
We walked over to where Thomas was, and sure enough, he was sitting in his favorite chair.
"Excuse me, Thomas, but would you mind standing up for a second?" I asked.
"What? Why?" He questioned.
"Just trust me for a second." I replied.
He sighed, closed his book and stood up. Bennett helped me overturn the chair and we found $120 sticking to bottom with Scotch tape. I carefully ripped the bills off and then stood up.
"What the bloody hell are you doing, Nora? And who is this bloke?" Thomas asked, gesturing to Bennett.
"Oh, this is Bennett," I said and then gave the 20 dollar bill to him. "Michael says to go to the coffee shop and ask the barista that you like so much out for ice cream."
"Michael? Are you pulling my leg? Besides, the barista probably thinks I'm weird and-" He started.
I smiled. "Hey, are you really going to disrespect Michael's wishes? He'll haunt your ass if you do."
He paused, and then laughed. "Well then, I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow."
I gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder and then put the 100 dollar bill in my pocket. Bennett and I strode to the front of the store, but I stopped at the front desk.
"We'll be back soon, Mr. Ferguson." I said.
He gave a nod of recognition, but he was too busy reading Michael's letter. We walked out the door and across the street to where Frances always was. She had a cardboard sign that said "A poet can survive anything but a misprint." in black, messy handwriting. I pulled the hundred out of my pocket as we got closer to her.
"Hello, Frances," I greeted, handing her the bill. "Consider this cheese."
She immediately burst out laughing, not even glancing at what I had given her and continued for about half a minute. When her laughter finally died down, she spoke. "Oh, dear. That boy was such a sweetheart. Shame he had to go. One night, when he came over to talk to me, he asked me what I was eating. I had no idea, so I just said 'Consider it cheese.' And then he went and bought me a proper meal."
She then looked at the money I gave her, gasped and stood up and opened her arms. I smiled and accepted the hug. Michael was right, it was bone crushing. Frances even offered a hug to Bennett, which he accepted to my own surprise. We said goodbye, not bothering to ask for directions. I mean, I lived next door to Michael, so there was no point. During the 20 minute walk, I decided to find out a little more about Bennett.
"So, you're a Sherlock Holmes, and Dickens fan, you own a pocket watch and you go to my high school. What else do I need to know about you, Bennett?" I asked.
"Well, I like science, but I suck at math, I'm a huge Trekkie, I'm a fencer, I play the bagpipes and I'm completely insane. Now, let's see…you also own a pocket watch, are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and go to my high school, but what should I know about you?" He wondered.
"I like English and suck at both science and math, I'm too uncoordinated to play sports of any sort, I don't play an instrument, I'm also insane, and I like to write in my spare time." I replied.
"You and I will be good friends then." He smiled.
We talked a little about Star Trek and other Sherlock Holmes mysteries until we reached our destination. Bennett seemed really awesome, and I definitely enjoyed his company already. I walked up the sidewalk to Michael's house quietly and lifted up the doormat. I then thought about Michael's mom. She was a really nice woman, and I felt bad for all that had happened to her. First, Michael committed suicide, and then her husband left her and skipped town. Nonetheless, she smiled at me every morning as she left for work, which I thought was amazing. I folded up the note and slipped it through the mail slot.
Bennett and I continued our discussion as we strolled back to Ferguson's, but my thoughts were somewhere else. I wondered why Michael had committed suicide in the first place. His mom was wonderful, he had Eloise, he had friends like me, Thomas, Frances, and Mr. Ferguson, and nobody was ever mean to him at school. What had happened to him that was so bad that he decided to kill himself? We got back to the bookstore to find that everyone was standing at the front desk.
"Hi guys." I greeted.
"Nora…why didn't you tell us about all this earlier?" Mr. Ferguson asked.
I pulled the original note out of my pocket. "I didn't know until I found this in a copy of a Tale of Two Cities. This note told me everything, except for why Michael killed himself."
"Maybe, whatever the reason, he just didn't want us to know. Michael never told us he was upset or anything, and we didn't really know that much about his personal life. God, I love him but he pisses me off sometimes." Eloise said.
We all laughed and then separated into our different sections again. Bennett, Eloise and I ended up chatting the night away in the Fiction section.
I got home at about 4 in the morning, changed and crawled into bed. I was excited for the next visit to Ferguson's because Bennett promised me that he would be returning every night, which was nice. I thought about Michael. He would've liked Bennett, I think. None of us would probably ever find out why Michael had killed himself, but somehow, the list of quests gave us closure. We all would still miss Michael, sure, but now we could move on, and that's exactly what we needed.