She’s into this. She hasn’t smiled nearly enough in the last few days I’ve had with her, but now she can’t stop smiling.
“Where are we going now?” she says, clapping her hands together. She still has powdered sugar on the corner of her mouth. I reach across the seat and wipe it off with my thumb.
“We’re going to The French Quarter,” I tell her. “Lots of romantic places there.”
She rolls her eyes, scrolling through her phone. “I wonder what we actually used to do for fun. Besides take selfies.”
“At least they were all good selfies.”
She shoots me a look of pity. “That’s a contradiction. There are no such things as good selfies.”
“I’ve been through your camera roll. I beg to differ.”
She ducks her head and looks out her window, but I can see the pinks of her cheeks grow redder.
After we park, I have absolutely no plan. We filled up on so many beignets for breakfast, I’m not sure she’s quite ready to have lunch yet.
We spend the first part of the afternoon walking up and down every street, stopping in almost every store. It’s as if we’re both so fascinated by the scenery, we forget we have a goal today. I’m supposed to make her swoon. She’s supposed to swoon and fall in love with me. Get back on track, Silas.
We’re on Dauphine Street when we walk past what claims to be a bookstore. Charlie turns around and grabs my hands. “Come on,” she says, pulling me into the store. “I’m pretty sure the way to my heart is in here.”
There are books stacked floor to ceiling, every which way. Sideways, top to bottom, books used as shelves for more books. A man sits behind a cash register to the right, which is covered in even more books. He nods a greeting as we enter. Charlie heads to the back of the store, which isn’t very far away. It’s a small store, but there are more books than a man could read in his entire life. She runs her fingers along the books as she passes them, looking up, down, around. She actually twirls when she gets to the end of the aisle. She’s definitely in her element, whether she remembers or not.
She’s facing a corner, pulling a red book off the shelf. I walk up behind her and give her another Silas Says task.
“Silas says…open the book to a random page and read the first few sentences you see...”
She chuckles. “That’s easy.”
“I wasn’t finished,” I say. “Silas says read the sentences at the top of your lungs.”
She spins around to face me, eyes wide. But then a mischievous grin drags across her mouth. She stands up tall while holding the book out in front of her. “Fine,” she says. “You asked for it.” She clears her throat, and then, as loud as she can, she reads, “IT MADE ME WANT TO MARRY HER! MADE ME WANT TO BUY HER A MAGIC AIRPLANE AND FLY HER AWAY TO A PLACE WHERE NOTHING BAD COULD EVER HAPPEN! MADE ME WANT TO POUR RUBBER CEMENT ALL OVER MY CHEST AND THEN LAY DOWN ON TOP OF HER SO THAT WE’D BE STUCK TOGETHER, AND SO IT WOULD HURT LIKE HELL IF WE EVER TRIED TO TEAR OURSELVES APART!”
Charlie is laughing when she finishes. But when the words she read begin to register, her laughter fades. She runs her fingers over the sentences like they mean something to her. “That was really sweet,” she says. She flips through the pages of the book until she comes to a stop with her finger on a different paragraph. Then, in just barely a whisper, she begins reading again. “Fate is the magnetic pull of our souls toward the people, places, and things we belong with.”
She stares at the book for a moment and then closes it. She places it back on the shelf, but she moves two books out of the way so that this book can be displayed more prominently. “Do you believe that?”
She leans against a wall of books and stares over my shoulder. “That our souls are pulled toward the people we belong with.”
I reach out to her and pull at a lock of her hair. I run my fingers down it and twirl it around my finger. “I don’t know if I normally believe in soul mates,” I tell her. “But for the next twenty-four hours, I’d bet my life for it to be true.”
She rolls her shoulder until her back is pressed against the wall of books, and she’s facing me. I would absolutely bet my life on fate right now. I somehow have more feelings for this girl than will fit inside of me. And I want more than anything for her to feel the same thing. To want the same thing. Which…in this very moment…is for my mouth to be on hers.
“Charlie…” I release her lock of hair and bring my hand to her cheek. I touch her gently…tracing her cheekbone with my fingertips. Her breaths are shallow and quick. “Kiss me.”
She leans into my hand a little and her eyes flutter. For a moment, I think she might actually do it. But then a smile steals her heated expression and she says, “Silas didn’t say.” She darts under my arm and disappears down the next aisle. I don’t follow her. I grab the book she read from and tuck it under my arm as I head for the register.
She knows what I’m doing. The whole time I’m at the register, she’s watching me from down the aisle. After I purchase the book, I walk outside and let the door shut behind me. I wait a few seconds to see if she follows me immediately out, but she doesn’t. Same stubborn Charlie.
I pull the backpack off my shoulder and shove the book inside of it. Then I pull out my camera and turn it on.
She stays inside the bookstore for another half hour. I don’t mind it. I know she knows I’m still out here. I take picture after picture, engrossed in the people who pass by and the way the sun is setting over the buildings, casting shadows on even the smallest of things. I take pictures of all of it. When Charlie finally makes it back outside, my battery is almost dead.
She walks up to me and says, “Where’s my book?”
I hoist the backpack over my shoulder. “I didn’t buy that book for you. I bought it for me.”
She huffs and follows after me as I make my way down the street. “That’s not a good move, Silas. You’re supposed to be thoughtful. Not selfish. I want to fall in love with you, not become irritated with you.”
I laugh. “Why do I feel like love and irritation go hand in hand with you?”
“Well, you have known me longer than I’ve known myself.” She grabs my hand to pull me to a stop. “Look! Crawfish!” She yanks me in the direction of the restaurant. “Do we like crawfish? I’m so hungry!”