Thayer looked around the old shop and sighed. The door had been open all day, and still no one had even come inside to look. It was closing time now, but he hated to close when he felt he had barely even opened. Maybe if he stayed open just one more hour…
No. Thayer walked to the door and closed it, locked it, and turned the sign hanging from the top from 'Open, Come on In!' to 'Sorry, We're Closed'. Someone walked by outside as he was turning away from the door, and he half turned back in anticipation, but they didn't even glance his way. Thayer walked back to the counter and took his cane from where he had put it behind a stack of books earlier that day. Leaning heavily upon it, Thayer spent a few moments wandering about the shop, surveying it and the many books it held.
The shop was not a large one, just one small room. It had been the best he could find so many years ago when he had bought it, but the advantage of this particular shop, for him, was that there was a stairway in the back leading to a smaller loft, and the bathroom in the back, complete with a shower-bath. Thayer had long ago decided to move into the loft, to cut down on costs, and it also meant that he could spend all his time at the shop. Of course, that had been during a happier time when he had a good-sized customer base. That was no longer the case.
Nothing in the many large bookcases was out of place, so Thayer sat once more behind the counter, picking up a book he had been thumbing through all day. He tried to pick up reading where he had left off, but he found he could no longer focus on the wonderful world the book contained. Thayer turned off the lights and did one last check of the shop ensuring nothing was out of placed or locked or unlocked when it shouldn't be, as was his custom, though he never had found something he had missed on his first round of the shop.
Slowly, Thayer made his way around the books and up the staircase to his loft.
The small loft was cozy, with a cot in one corner piled high with blankets and the occasional pillow. Beside it was a small round table, with only a candle and an old book on it. Across from his bed, Thayer had placed a desk, though it remained sparse and rarely-used. Beside the desk was a closed trunk containing Thayer's clothes. Throughout the loft, candles were to be found on nearly all surfaces.
The only unusual thing to be found in the shop was Thayer's collection of small plants, chief among them the collection of well-trimmed bonsai trees. The hobby was one Thayer had picked up long ago from an old flame, and one that Thayer had found he appreciated more than expected. The trees mostly took care of themselves nowadays, but Thayer enjoyed watering them nonetheless, and he appreciated the company of living things.
Thayer picked up a strangely modern matchbook and limped around in his nightly ritual of lighting all the candles he had placed around the loft, and then wearily pushed the blankets on his bed to the side, sitting down on the edge with a sigh. The cane Thayer placed lengthwise just under the bed.
The old man stared at the book on the table for quite some time, lost in old memories, before finally picking it up. Though he had memorised every word, from the title page to the acknowledgements, the book was Thayer's favourite. The pages were dog-eared and the binding falling apart for what must be the fifth time, but the memories contained within told Thayer's favourite story of them all.
Long ago, Thayer remembered, there lived a small boy who loved more than anything to play outside. He spent his days running around the grounds of the manor he lived in, climbing trees and laughing when he fell from them. He wore skinned knees like medals, and the stains of grass and dirt on his clothes were his ony friends.
When the little boy grew to an age when he was expected to begin his studies, he studied with the same gusto he had once played outside with. He was a good student, and an obedient child. He grew quickly, it seemed to those around him, but to him it seemed to take longer than it does for a rock to turn to sand. He did his best to enjoy every part of the experience, however.
One day, the little boy's father sent for him. The little boy was told he would be sent to a boarding school, the best there was. Though he felt apprehensive, he went along with his father's wishes.
The boy who was no longer quite so little spent four years at the school. There, he made several good friends, but none quite so good as the boy he met on the first day, Nathaniel. The boy and Nathaniel grew very close, and over the years they became lovers.
Though they promised each other they would spend the rest of their lives together, the boys had to keep their relationship a secret from those around them.
Over time, the boy, who by now had become a man, and Nathaniel grew up and left the school. They stayed close, and opened a shop together. Though they worried what others would think, they moved in together also.
For quite some time, the two men were very happy together. Then, as it is wont to do, disaster struck. Nathaniel grew sick, and soon after, their relationship was discovered.
Their respective families and friends did not take well to the two men being lovers, and soon they were all alone, ostracised by those they loved. It was hard, but they stayed together, as they still loved each other very much.
Shunning the men was not enough for those who had found out, however. For a short time, many bad things were done, and when that time was over, Nathaniel ended up dead. Nathaniel's lover grieved and grieved, but eventually realised that he had to function in the world. He maintained the shop they had opened together, though he left the home they had made with each other, as it was too painful to see every day. He spent all the time he could remembering the good times he had had with Nathaniel, but sometimes it was too much, and grief overcame him once more.
The man never did quite recover, and he never loved anyone else quite the way he loved Nathaniel. And over time, he grew old alone, with only memories for company. But those who had hurt him moved on and left the town, and he lived in relative peace.
Thayer came to once more to realise that he was cold and crying. He looked at the book in his hands, and kissed it softly, praying to be released from this purgatory to be with his love once more.
The candles were put out slowly and painstakingly, as Thayer did not retrieve his cane from under the bed and he was stiff from sitting. But Thayer was careful to put them all out, and when the dark and the silence had descended over his shop, he shifted the blankets and crawled in under them. He fell asleep quickly and thankfully. Dreams did not come to him that night.
Nathaniel had long since died, but as ghosts who are still remembered and loved are wont to do, he tended to spend his time watching Thayer, trying to keep his lover company.