If she stared at the empty wall long enough, Mary could pretend she saw an open window, blue light pouring in and dew glinting on the sill. A soft wind would blow the leaves of the maple trees and a blue bird would peck at the seeds scattered on the ground. The foothills of the distant mountains would peak up their silhouettes in the mist, making the image jagged, but not threateningly so.
"Do you have any Danielle Steele novels?" A girl interrupted Mary's daydreaming. Mary focused her stare now on this blond interjection and saw sadness in her. This was a girl who had ended up in a light she hadn't planned on. Perhaps she had once had her whole life figured out. A plan. A goal. What had stopped her? She had the kind of tired fat resting on her hips that suggested she had a child and the kind of apathetic bags under her eyes that proved it. Where as a death had ruined Mary's world, a life had ruined this woman's.
"Of course we have Danielle Steele, love. Come on, I'll show you where they are." Her job in the book store was Mary's saving grace. It didn't pay enough to even make ends meet, but it provided a brief glimpse of normality. All those books reminded her that success can be born from squalor.
"Here you go. Is there a particular book you were looking for?"
"No, thank you. I'll just find it myself." Secretly, Mary had hoped this sad woman would need excessive amounts of help, busying and entertaining her for the next several minutes. Perhaps the meeting would end with a swapping of phone numbers and they would become inseparable friends and the Danielle Steele reading woman would take Mary under her wing, providing Mary with a chance to get out of this rut she considered everyday life.
Mary had stood there too long; the woman kept giving her awkward sideways glances and the chance to build a lasting bond had grown stale with implausibility. As she walked back to her wood paneled register station, she felt like she was walking on a tread mill set on the lowest setting that was steadily sinking into a pit of sand. Just a few more steps.
Is this what I went to private school fore? To be praying for the attention of a stranger?