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It took quite a while for you to not compare him to every guy that you've met. Without him, everything that's happened felt like a hazy dream. Or was it the other way around? Because life with him felt too happy to be true and as you've woken up from that dream, it was sort of disorienting. But this was reality. This was the truth. And it hurt.

Everything became a passing memory, everyone, a transient ghost. You looked for a home in shallow feelings, in temporary people and now you've long given up partly because nothing comes close to what he made you feel and partly because you don't want someone to be as constant as him.

You still miss him sometimes like when you pass by old bookshops with books piling up wherever there is space just like weeds. And right now, you're headed to one. What better birthday gift can you give to yourself than a good book?

You greeted the owner with an inveterate smile and went straight to getting yourself a new book just when...

"Joan..." you turned around and there he was, brown eyes and crooked smile. You spent your whole life looking for a home when you've just been running away from it from the very start.

"Hey, Alex! How are you? It's been... so long," you said, still in a daze. Were you dreaming? Again?

"Yeah, look at you. I'm great, just checking this bookstore out. You?" he probed. He looks happy... 

"I'm doing good. I'm a regular here actually. They have really good books, you should check them out," you said, he's staring at you and you him, taking each other in. "Seems like some things never change," you teased, pointing out his perennial love for books - the reason why you became friends.

"Some habits are too hard to break, Joan. You would have known that by now," he said while really looking at you and you had to stifle a gasp. Is he still talking about the books?

"I'm just gonna go pay for these babies then head out. It was nice seeing you again, Joan," He added, back was the playfulness in his eyes.

"Me too Alex," you finally said, turning away and clumsily picking up the first book you saw and pretending to read the synopsis.

"And Joan-" you turned around again quicker than is necessary –"happy birthday," he greeted and then went out the bookshop.

Turns out, there was a better birthday gift than a good book. 

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