How to Smell a Book. And its Controversies.
His fingers fiddled with the buttons of his night colored jacket.
Strands of charcoal hair rebelling against its owner, wanting to block the sight of innocent (those who had nothing to do with this war) lagoon eyes, they were merely looking around for a pair of soothing and companion dark hazel orbs; so – naturally – when Hugo's heart begun moan painfully in protest of having found none of those eyes (or the girl behind them) he averted his gaze to somewhere else. The books.
Now, those were indeed glaring up at him scattered on the ground and down from their shelves with ferocious inked determination, reminding the young man of the countless times, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds girl hands rubbed against the spine of those covers (some which he recognized), how Isabelle's eyes tricked this illusion of getting a shade darker when she spotted a volume that weren't read by her before.
His brain recalled rather clearly of a day, an autumn one, on this same bookstore when the temperature was pleasant enough to nap between some books, his friend voice reading the story of Dorian Gray (quite a tragic one!) and Hugo's lids closing until sleep had its sweet tasted venom claws cluttered around his pale frame when – at the store bell ringing softly – called his attention back to Isabelle, his clouded eyes caught her in a moment of what the young magician could only describe as 'private'.
Her friends eyes were slightly open, her nose dangling teasingly close around those yellow pages of the volume. She had breathed in – a vicious intake of the book's scent – and shivered delightfully, her small mouth curving in a satisfying smile before she resumed the reading of the chapter.
At that moment slumber had left him within less than five seconds and Hugo felt himself blush visibly when she had bitten her lower lip, her thin fingers curving patterns on the book's dark green cover. As if, instead of paper, she was caressing a pup…
A shabby metal button – the third one, near his chest – was puckered from its hole. The boy sighed; he really ought to stop this particular mannerism. More often than not, one or two buttons had to be re-sewed by either Isabelle or her godmother. Hugo started rubbing the fourth button, in order to keep his nervous gearings from falling apart. He had never seen anyone in his life smell a book (not even his father); although Isabelle did it constantly when she thought no one was looking, he never questioned her why; he was too scared she would fell mute and stop doing so. Also, he couldn't muster his courage to simply ask.
Hugo preferred that way; let Isabelle think her secret was only hers. Even though it was selfish, he liked to watch her friend silently; he had done that before – years ago – when he still had to hide himself from people, when being invisible was a matter of survival.
Not anymore, thankfully.
Even if the train inspector would – sometimes – greet Hugo a tad bit grumpy (a Train Inspector Job could be, after all, obscenely tiring), they get along well. Since when the young magician learned how to discount his uncle's – now his – checks there had been no need to steal anymore.
Which reminded the boy, he owned Mama Jeanne a hug after his, er, meeting with Isabelle. Hugo still flushed at thinking of his encounters with his friend as a… Date. Sure, they were old enough for that (the black haired boy was rather content of his height regarding the bookworm's, she was a year older than him, whether he liked it or not), almost hitting adulthood; he was only two years behind; meaning he could travel around the world just as Isabelle had told him they would when they completed eighteen.
"You must be saving a lot of money for that acquirement" As monsieur Labisse had told them, a few months back, when his best customer had enthusiastically locked a strand of gold hair behind her beret and started naming the places where they'd go.
"Just as so as Julio Verne wrote in Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-vingts Jours!" Monsieur Labisse had agreed with a smile, not once doubting of these children capability of going into such adventures.
The library man was right, Hugo had indeed been saving his money onto that adventure, maybe – if he worked hard enough both as magician and horologist – he could, one day, afford a trip throughout the World. It was, they decided, worth a try.
And since Isabelle was working on her own romance novel, she should be very famous one day and help Hugo get the necessary money. Really, who wouldn't buy a story telling of an automaton that could draw! And – as her hazel eyes had sparked with the thought – why wouldn't people be interested in reading a book about a homeless, mysterious horologist boy? Even though the former (pseudo named) Professor Ascofrisbas had a home to return to, a bed inside a room all for himself, the blond had decided to begin this book like other books usually started from.
Speaking of beginnings, Hugo was starting to feel anxious; twisting and mauling the poor piece of cobber, rubbing the jacked button strong enough to feel both his thumb and index finger start throbbing with the necessary blood his small veins needed. Is she ever coming? He dared to muse behind his breathing, sighing exasperatedly when the central station clock (he had just winded it by the morning) acknowledged himself, singing the hours trough the crowded station: three thirty past the lunch siren that echoed religiously near the train inspector's room.
Suddenly, as the clock voice died down to just a whisper – even at a great distance, Hugo could still imagine the clock's gearings rumbling softly –, he realized his mistake. Isabelle was not late to their (ahem) meeting, he was the one who was early. As he had repaired the clocks surprisingly soon, he came down the store to read a bit, while waiting for his companion, but; never minding which session he looked over; the black haired boy always found his mind drifting to every scene of his blond friend, which more than once…
A whole deal more lot than once, he also realized…
…He had caught her in the process of scenting a book. Her stretched, lazy smile playing tricks within his mind, her dark gleaming eyes, curvy short sand hair hid inside a beret. Even her slight breathless posture – he guessed it had to do with those personal moments (which were not really personal) – haunted him between volumes.
Enough is enough, his brows twitched in deep thought, considering a black covered book in front of him whose title escaped his mind; he merely registered the author's name because (then again) Isabelle had told him about this author before. Edgar Allan Poe. If she does sniff books quite often, they shouldn't be smelly; had they been Isabelle would've stopped smelling them a long time ago.
Hugo had settled his working gearings with a loud and harmonious click! If he couldn't master the courage to ask his friend, he would sniff them himself and take conclusions of that experience.
He brought his nose closer to the open volume (page three hundred and twenty, his brain subconsciously recorded this memory), sparing a few inches just as Isabelle had done. Closed his eyes. Held his breath still for mere seconds. Then. He breathed in. Languidly just so as she had a few days before. At her room. Close to midnight. No, I was not spying her, he somewhat tells himself at the frenzy of memories of her blended with the scent of dry ink and old paper and… And…!
Was… That… Nostalgia what he smelled?
It smelled of his father's shop, of metal spirals and gears, old oil and dust, ink for his sketches and notes, the low quality (but good smelling) paper he bought when trying to fix the automaton. Reality brought him back as he – dazedly – opened his eyes. He had just smelled a book. Weird.
Tentatively, the young man let go of the book and his hands replaced it by a green covered one, with marking patterns of autumn leaves. His energized mind refused to note the number of the page or the chapter, now he unceremoniously pressed his nose to the page. He took in a scent faster than he had imagined, a pleasant one and his eyes rolled closed as Hugo recognized that smell just too well.
It was the smell of belonging. The smell of feeling loved; something Mama Jeanne taught and gave him without asking for nothing in return. He knew that feeling so well he could identify the sweet aroma it exhaled from her; he had felt it at the toy store as well; when Hugo and Isabelle had uncovered everything about Papa Georges's past, precisely after being saved from the Train Inspector clutches.
He belonged there. With that family.
His greedy lungs inhaled the scent once more, before finally substituting it for another one. This volume had a deep wine color, no cover drawings. Just a plain red cover.
His heart thought of lips that possessed this particular coloring, his body tensed at the vision and his nose wandered through a scent it had to belong to no one else's than her.
Hugo found not a glimmer of Isabelle's golden hair. But the – her – smell… It held an unyielding aroma, persisting trough bookshelves, around him, close. So, very, unsettling close. Even though he couldn't distinguish were it was coming from, Hugo knew Isabelle was nearby; there was just no way he had imagined her…
"Botheration" He murmured before setting the book aside and turning to sit at a chair where he had been waiting for his companion to arrive.
Only to find it already was being used.
"I was starting to wonder whenever you would notice me" Isabelle's whisper fell heavily on his ear's, resonating various times – even if he already had grasped their meanings. The boy blamed her smile to be the cause of his distraction.
"Isabelle" His voice tried not to show his embarrassment. His flaming face did. "How… Long, have you…?" He slowly proffered the phrase, he'd most likely stammer if he didn't watched himself.
"Been sitting here? Fifteen minutes." She waved her answer with an unconcerned motion of her wrist "You seemed very" The girl blushed "occupied".
The young magician held enormous interest on the floor, rubbing and mauling his (brave survivor) forth button.
Isabelle noticed it and concerned – it being far from the first time – if his pale fingers were ever given a rest. They seemed to never stop working, whether on a clock, broken toys, magic cards or merely fumbling at his buttons as they were now. Sometimes the girl (and writer wannabe) wondered what else his fingers were capable of doing. Flushing the silly thought away, Isabelle's hazel eyes frowned.
"Where's your third jacket button?" She asked, approaching his friend to poke the empty hole where the cobber-colored object should be.
"Plucked it off" He answered sheepishly, cluttering his hair with one hand.
Hugo watched his friend shook her head and smile knowingly.
"You ought to stop with that mannerism" Just so, he thought, remembering his exact words from eighteen minutes ago.
"Where are we heading to?" The magician asked, changing subjects.
Isabelle took two steps away from him – the closeness was starting to get awkward, although it sent her stomach into pleasant knots – retrieving two tickets from her dress pocket.
Hugo smiled – forgetting momentarily her (pretty) heart shaped mouth – and nodded.
"Off we go then" She spiraled happily, offering her right arm to him. He took it, letting her drag him, asking himself if his beating chest would let him enjoy the cinema.
Apparently not. Hugo breathed exasperatedly through his nose; the fourth button of his jacket had popped out of its hole just a minute ago.
And he already was torturing the second one.
Isabelle, noting this, grab hold of his left arm, drawing invisible spiral patterns at the back of his hand, hoping to sooth him. It only made Hugo's thumb rub the poor button harder.
His protesting chest rumbled hard as well as loud enough to prevent the boy from paying any attention to Chaplin's clumsiness, he was positive he was sweating (as he felt wetness run down his temple to his chin) and Isabelle's soft fingers simply add fuel to the fire. He was feeling flustered, no denial.
Even though Hugo still tried to.
There were a few moments when the young magician felt his heart would explode. Like when – at a certain moment – Isabelle felt content enough to lay her head on his shoulder for a few moments (he stirred just as if he had a broom tied to his back); or when her fingers moved up from his hand to caress his wrist and then arm (even sleeved as they wore, her touch gave him goosebumps); without mentioning the fact his eyes had a mind of his own, Hugo caught himself staring at her twice. The third time, she was the one who noticed it.
It eventually led to a stammered apology, pepper red cheeks and averted eyes.
His clear irises were the only thing of him Isabelle could outline perfectly; they contrasted with the dark room, two dots of ice blue lost in a solid blackness, except for the light of the projector.
The movie was great – Chaplin truly was a genius – but she felt Hugo was not really paying attention, as he was looking (staring really) at her with such intensity she had to bite back a whimper. But Isabelle wouldn't cower away, she stared right back at him; even if the action would morph into an urge of blushing as his eyes started to misplace her glare to her mouth; she didn't flinched. Didn't move. But, Lord, how she wanted to. Look away, she commanded. Look away.
Those eyes were very unsettling, her stomach was burning and in knots. Great. Just spectacular.
Nervous, the blonde (unconsciously) started to intensify the pattern on his skin. His look turned ferocious and Hugo stopped her fingers with a swift motion of his wrist, arresting his hand in hers; he had a strong grasp. Isabelle shivered.
"Cold?" His low whisper, she assumed, was because they were in a cinema room and his hoarse voice could be rationally explained by the fact he didn't used much his vocal chords during their evening. Her body trembled – feeling rebellious – from head to toe.
Releasing her, he took off his black jacket (with two missing copper buttons and one clinging onto two strings of fabric for dear life) and carefully placed it around her shoulders.
Unfortunately, Hugo miscalculated the distance, making his nose bump against her cheek…
And his lips brush her ear.
At first the young magician could do nothing than freeze, abusing still of his friend's personal space, his rapid short breaths fanning the right side of her face.
Isabelle had yet to react, although her cheeks and neck were a shade of red so deep and she was feeling suddenly (extremely) hot all over and she was positive her eyes were a bit glazed; that had to count as a reaction. Right?
"H-Hugo?" At the sound of his stammered name, he backed away from his position, failing to notice the movie was over and the cinema was already being emptied. He noted – however – the tinged deep color of his friend's face.
He was too chocked, entranced, to feel embarrassment. Later that day, Hugo would blush incoherently, at his old bed inside the walls, and his memory would never let go of the precious moment when Isabelle's breath caught in her throat, exhaling the softest purr he had heard in his entire life. And he already had listened to lots of cats purring.
But – for the moment – he had an answer to give.
"Yes?" His confusion was genuine, a side effect for his numbness.
Her brows twitched, had he not noticed what he did? Or he just didn't care?
"I, uh, thank you" For the jacket or the kiss?
His smile was innocent, but it felt languorously stretched, a hint of a joke she hadn't quite understood. The girl tried to not blush any harder.
"You're welcome" Indeed, for the kiss or the jacket?
A/N: A short epilogue will follow in a few days. If any of my readers want one. Feel free to review.
Also, this piece of story was not fully revised, I apologize for any inconsistencies.