iii. shadows & trickery

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"Thanks, Miss Reide," Earl yawned out, lifting his arms above his head as he ambled back towards the front of the store. I smiled at him from behind the till, resting my chin in one hand as I twirled a pen in circles on the glass counter.

"Anytime, Earl." I straightened up, clasping my hands together and stretching my arms out behind me. It had been an eventful Friday evening, with swarms of elderly women storming into the store to haggle over vintage copies of Jane Eyre. I had overheard them talking about some kind of book club and smiled to myself. I hope I still love reading when I'm that old!

I leaned down behind the counter, pressing my hand to the underside of the top drawer. I bit my lip, sliding my hand left and right until I felt the cold metal of the store keys.

"Gotcha!"

I twirled the little metal keyring around my index finger, standing back up. Earl had busied himself with rearranging the front display, so I walked to the door with a shrug. I slid the third key into the lock, turning it with two hands. It was old and fidgety, and only worked when it decided to — tonight was not one of those times.

Grumbling, I twisted the key harder. Earl noticed me struggling and chuckled, ruffling a hand through his hair in embarrassment.

"Perhaps it's time to replace that old lock, it hasn't been friendly for years now."

A laugh escaped me before I could stop myself. "You can say that again!" My thoughts flickered back to the first night I had closed up shop and had nearly ripped the door of its hinges in frustration.

With an amused smile, I slammed my shoulder against the door just as I turned the key. There was a satisfying click as the deadbolt slid into place. I guess it just took three years of practice.

Earl applauded me from the front display, clambering back over the artfully stacked books and only knocking over two. He lunged down to catch them just before they crashed to the ground, sighing theatrically in relief as his hands closed around them.

"Good work, Miss Reide." He said with a grin, replacing the books on the stack and then brushing his hands off on the seat of his pants. "I still think I should have that replaced though, at least before you leave. I'll never get the hang of that shoulder-trick." Earl's grin slid into a pout, and he stalked over to the front counter with a sigh.

I pulled the keys from the lock, hooking the ring around my finger again as I slowly made my way behind the till. It would be so exciting to leave Final Pointe next summer that it was hard to imagine I could miss, well, anything. But, looking around at the familiar towering bookshelves and breathing in the air that practically shimmered with the magic of literature, it was hard to lie to myself and say I wouldn't miss Unearthed Treasures.

"I'm sure you'd get it eventually," I offered, laying the keys on the countertop.

Earl pulled the stool that sat by the front door for waiting customers over to the till. He sat on it, eyes unfocused as he lost himself to thought. Earl was always so funny to watch thinking; you could practically see the gears turning in his head.

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