The Sole Copy

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When Meria Benkwel thought of the old bookstore on 7th Street, she thought of the smell of aged paper, the seldom ringing doorbell, and the peace that came with what she had claimed as her own corner of the world.

When she thought of Reiner's Reused, she did not think of her dormmate's ex boyfriend swinging the door open and letting it clang shut against the weathered doorframe.

She had been inside, looking around for a book. It was one of her favorites and the only copy in the store. The staff tried to hide it from her on occasion, lest she stayed in all night rereading it. She never felt like buying the book, because maybe someone else read it too. Besides, a college student such as herself spent all her money on necessities, such as Redbull and concert tickets.

He didn't seem to notice her as she skimmed through rows upon rows of prettily cluttered bookshelves. There were hundreds of donated poetry collections, but the books in the store were sorted only by genre, not by author. It was simply too much effort, it seemed, to organize books in a specific order, when people would just put them back wrong.

Meria preferred it cluttered and disorderly- it was more of a challenge, more of an adventure each time she searched.

"Yeah, I need that book I was looking at last week." He said to the cashier. The cashier looked confused for a moment, then a little sad, but nodded. Meria didn't quite understand it. Maybe the cashier had a favorite book, too. She wouldn't have put it past Derrek to take someone's favorite book.

The cashier walked around the register empty handed. Typically, any books being held would have been stored behind the counter. "I'm sorry, it seems like it's been misplaced..."

Meria looked up, watching the cashier through the space between the books and shelves.

"It's alright... Are there any other places I could get it by today?" Derrek seemed nervous. Meria rocked back and forth on her heels. She wanted him to leave, wanted to be able to continue her search in peace.

"I'm afraid not, the work you requested isn't staple at Barnes and Noble." There was a proud tone to the employee's voice. Meria felt herself lift up slightly as well.

"I knew I shouldn't have trusted this dump to keep a book in place." Derrek muttered.

Meria flexed her palms, glad that Derrek couldn't see her behind the filled shelves. He clearly didn't have any sense of wonder, of appreciation, for just how beautiful and unique this place was.

She walked out from her row, attempting to turn the other cheek to his rudeness and lack of care. Now, slightly red and clearly irritated, she saw that he saw her. Their eye contact was brief, but meaningful in how much disgust that she conveyed.

As she turned away from him, he heard him walking in her direction. She saw what he was walking towards, and her eyes widened.

Howl and Other Poems.

Her book.

She lunged forward, grabbing the spine from the pile on the floor just as he reached for the cover.

She felt his hands over hers, wrestling control from her. She wanted to hold on tightly to the precious hardcover, but the worn face of the book would not survive a tug of war between herself and someone she couldn't stand.

"You can't have that." Meria found herself saying, arms crossed over her chest.

"And who says I can't, 'Dia?" Derrek snapped, holding the book above her head. He was tall, too tall for Meria to simply reach up to grab it from him.

Enraged, she grabbed a well-rooted shelf, hoisted herself up, and jumped, snatching the book from his hands before he could protest.

"This is mine." She insisted, pulling the book close to her chest. The ink called to her, the cover sang a familiar song against her skin. It was hers, in the way a town could belong to someone, or a lover could be someone's. Not in paper or in money, but in heart. Derrek, she knew, would not know the importance. Would not care.

"Look, I know you don't like me, but-" He started, reaching for the book.

"Don't like is an understatement." Meria drew her eyes closer together. "You tried to kiss me- You did kiss me." She amended after a moment of disgruntled hesitation.

"Honestly, will you ever let that go?" Derrek frowned, trying again to reach the book. "I said sorry."

"You were dating my roommate! And you didn't even mean your apology, you sent your buddy to say it for you." Meria could see the cashier watching them from around a corner. She didn't blame him, this was probably the most entertaining thing to happen since Meria last stubbed her toe. She resisted the urge to lower her arm. It was beginning to hurt now, unaccustomed to being held out so long, much less with a book in hand.

"If you were a classic, you'd be a terrible one." Derrek retorted, seeming to pull inspiration for the jab from the aged novels around them.

Meria snorted, rolling her eyes. "That's every classic."

He seemed taken aback by the comment. "You seem like a classic lover. Weird outfits, quirky glasses, the whole nine yards."

"You're fighting me for a piece of counterculture, and you think I read Dickens in my free time." She shot back. Meria did, in fact, read Dickens in her free time, but Derrek didn't know that. And her glasses weren't quirky.

"What's counterculture?" He questioned, but he was smiling. Smiling in the way that made Meria upset and angry, because it reminded her that he wasn't the only one to blame for what had happened; reminded her that she’d returned his affection.

"C'mon, Meria. I need it, I have an assignment due on it." He held his hand out for the book, and Meria found herself lowering her arm, handing it to him, even though he could have found the works online, and probably for free. Her fingers didn't stop gripping the book's worn cover.

"You better return this." She warned, finally letting it go, shoving it towards him. He nodded solemnly, more serious than she thought would have been possible- a switch flipped for but a moment before he grinned again.

"You got it, Benkwel."

Looking over, Meria saw the cashier looking very interested in his display of fundraising chocolate bars below the glass of the checkout table.

"Go before I change my mind, you-"

He interrupted her with a laugh, nodding as he pulled out his wallet to pay. The cashier looked up, and Meria looked away. Red-faced, but not from anger.

When Meria Benkwel thought of the old bookstore on 7th Street, she thought of Derrek's smile as he handed the book back to her, his voice as he quoted things horribly incorrect. She thought about the new coffee rings on some of the pages, how she'd been upset at first. How it took her a while to understand the beauty of it.

When she thought of the bookstore, she thought about how she was no longer the only one in her little corner of the world. She thought about how she didn't mind.

Looking up at Derrek, reading On The Road amidst a pile of literature nearly a month after their reencounter, she couldn't help but smile.

"Screw you, Allen Ginsberg."

The story isn't over yet! Check out chapter two to find out what Meria's next adventure is!

But before you do, check out TheLGBTAwards , an account I run with sarcastics , focused on highlighting LGBT books and character diversity!

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