The Gates to James Dean – Two
“Harbour? Any connection to Harbours in central?” Drew asks. Cheering roars ring out from behind him in the distance and he glances back over his shoulder perplexed, I figure he is meant to be with them, not here talking to me.
“Aaaah just a little… It belongs to my family. Sounds like you are meant to be back there.” I say, nodding my head towards to the never-ending green lawn.
“Probably should be, we’re having a party. It’s my old man’s birthday… Maybe I should buy him a new book from you. Not much of a book man myself, but pops is, he loves Harbours, you have decent coffee in the café he says.”
“Glad to hear it, about your dad I mean, not the fact that you don’t like books. That seems a shame, but come by – you never know – Harbours might be able to convert you.” I laugh, but he really should come by the store, Harbours is a fairy tale world where you would least expect it. “Thank you, for coming to check if I was okay anyway, even though you scared the living daylights out of me.”
He winches, explaining it wasn’t how he thought it would go. I decide I’ve made him feel bad enough without continuing to stir my stick, so I make a move home.
“If you’re sure you’re alright? Pops will be wondering where I am, so I best get going too. Drop by again sometime, hey, now you know where you are going.” He laughs with a coy smile, sliding his hands into his jean pockets and turning around to head back to the cheering party, but not before telling me the narrow path to the left is a short cut and the rickety old wooden sty at the end will take me back onto the tracks by the river bank.
“Good to meet you Tilly.” He shouts across with a wave in the air. “You too, thanks again.” I wave back as he disappears into the evening and I can’t help but get swept away in the moment and hope he does call into Harbours some time.
I dawdle home, reasoning with myself how I’ve always wanted to be part of Harbours – in an official manor – not just as the owner’s daughter, I’ve always known it. I’ve been involved with it all my life and I love everything about it. I have the best mentors in mum, dad and Victoria, I studied English, business and art at A-level and best of all, I have a smart bedroom, with its own sitting room area, which leads to my bedroom through frosted glass sliding doors. More years studying at university would only have brought another ball and chain to my life, with a key to a dingy dorm room and NO wage… So I ditched the University option, much to the exasperation of my friends who think I’m missing out and taking a risk.
In the silence of moonlight, I sometimes wonder if they are right, then the rising sun rectifies my inner torment… No, they are not. Uni is not ‘right for me’. Yet half an a hour ago I bumped into some of those college friends on their way to a party in Convent Garden and THAT brought up what I would be missing out on; student life, the camaraderie of friends and parties, nights out and hangovers; instead, I chose; hanging out with a French Bulldog and a 50 something manager, who has become an unlikely friend.
All of them are heading to university in September, some in London and some elsewhere, even Erin is going – to Newcastle of all places! That is where Erin wants to go, but Newcastle is miles away, the thought of her leaving makes me feel blue. Maybe I keep trying to find somebody, or confirmation from someone who isn’t at university that my choice is just as noble, so I feel less like the one who slipped on a banana skin when everyone else noticed it and moved around the impending disaster.
I concur, I am in the middle of full body skin shed, my life as I’ve known it for nearly 18 years is slowly dying off and a new one is yet to grow and gleam. It’s uncomfortable, but I do know one thing, it’s going to be a summer to remember, a summer where everything changes.
It is past 9.30pm when I roll in , starving. Had it been earlier I would have trotted into the bookstore’s café and rummaged through the kitchen there, like I did when I was younger. It was so much fun growing up at Harbours… Sneaking about, ‘borrowing’ books and avoiding been chased out the kitchen by a stressed baker with a pastry brush, but Maria, ah Maria was a legend. Maria worked at the front of the café, serving the pastries and cakes and she would always smuggle a few to Ryan and I without anyone knowing. We loved it when Maria was working there, but she retired two years ago and even though we were no longer little kids, she still smuggled goodies to us. Everyone needs a Maria in their life, I reckon.
The store’s first three floors are all locked in alarmed darkness, the fourth floor – our floor – twinkles quietly with life. I remember what Drew said about the coffee and I must check which coffee they use in the café, I’ve no idea, I just drink it, but Peter the café manager will know, I’ll ask him tomorrow. If a stranger like Drew and his family know, then so should I.
Victoria had already gone to bed, I forgot she wakes at unearthly hours like 5am. Victoria constantly preaches… “All successful people rise early Tilly and have a morning routine. Pay attention.” I think it’s nonsense and she’s lonely.
I hang Dotty’s lead back in the cupboard and throw my hat like a frisbee through the door to my room on the way to kitchen. No message from Joules, only one from Erin about going to the party at Ben’s house, tomorrow night to celebrate the end of college…I can’t believe I’ve put Joules off. I’m such an idiot. I’ve liked him for months, probably a year. He was in my business class with a destination of – The City – the nerve center of business in London, with fancy offices where people in suits make lots of money doing things whatever it is people in suits and using computers do. I’ll never find out what that is because, I’m Tilly, who’s always ‘too much of something.’
Vic had left the lights on low in the kitchen with a plate of food on the worktop by the kettle, with a note stuck beside it.
DON’T wake me up.
Heat the food in the microwave for two minutes.
There is a meeting with your parents and I via Zoom 8am.
Mum had spoken to me earlier in the day, so I know what it’s about. If Vic is involved, then the Paris store must be official, which is exciting, but why did the meeting have to be at 8am, mum? ”See Joules.” I actually say out loud. “See, I am cool and there is cool stuff going on right here, but you stick with your ’hey’ and future glass office, I don’t need it.”
“Suits and the city are so passé anyway.” I say to Dotty, as I wait for the microwave to ping with my meal for one, trying to convince myself.
Later the following morning, I’m still feeling ‘spacey’ from the early meeting, which, as expected, was to announce that Harbours, London and Harbours, Paris is now ‘a thing’ and so Vic is clucking around more than usual.
“Go out for lunch, get out of here for a while.” I tell her as she groans at the paperwork stacked on her desk in the office, then groans again when she thinks of all the extra specifics the Paris store has brought since this morning. “I’ll man the forte here. I want to try something new in one of the windows.” Vic draws her eyebrows together, unsure of either of my suggestions and having to go out in the pouring rain.
Eventually, she agrees to go out for an hour, leaving me with an instruction of ‘nothing too rash and don’t mess with the display in the left hand window.’
I watch her leave through the revolving doorway, which suavely sits between the two tall and wide store windows that are begging for interesting vibes.
I peer through the glass of the revolving door and watch her walk down the main street, then turn off down the side street. I immediately dart around all three floors, to the amusement of the staff who are keen to know all about my secret display, actually, I think they are rather pumped over the whole thing.
Using a theme of classic Hollywood, rather than specific books, or the latest releases, because it’s BORING, I search the store for books, memorabilia and merchandise on the greats like Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis and Robert Redford. I can feel the poetic elegance rippling already as I rope Harriet, one of our part time staff into holding items as I literally sit in the middle of the display devising, with my back against the window, lost somewhere between Casablanca and Mr. Darcy.
“Tilly.” Harriet says, softly holding the stack of books I had removed from the original display. Unable to use her arms, Harriet nods her head towards the window. “I think someone is here to see you.”
“Where?” Assuming its another sale’s rep that has walked in. “Tell them I’m busy and to ring first.”
‘No, you dummy. He’s outside. A little on the short side, but hot non the less.”
Harriet tries to say it slowly and disguised out of the corner of her mouth, while flashing a cheeky look at me.
“Harriet!” I say, through a piece of ribbon I’m gripping in my teeth and flinging a postcard at her. I whip my head around and my heart lurches out of the window, I’m hoping to see Joules, but its Drew Scott instead. My heart lurches back into my body. He’s leaning with his forehead on the window for a closer gander at my handy work. Still donning his black leather jacket, but with a black t-shirt today and ripped jeans. The rain is pummeling down the leather as he taps the window and gives a thumbs up… “Looks awesome.” He mouths. I raise my hand to say ‘hello’ and then wave him round to come in.
I put everything down, get up from the floor and into the store. “Hey, you made it to a book store, I’m impressed.” I say.
“I was in town and thought seeing as I’m here, I’d get a book for pops and try out the coffee here… Didn’t expect to find you actually in the window display though.”
“Amazing, the places you can find me.”
Drew laughs as he gazes in awe at what probably looks more like a mini shopping mall than a bookstore. The glass staircases circling the three open floors and customers browsing the miles of shelves, or looking over the matching glass balconies down at the central mosaic floor that we are standing on, shortly to be joined by Harriet as she beetles over, still holding the stack of books in her arms.
“Man, I don’t even know where to start.” Drew says, wiping his wet hair back from his face, the cuff of his leather jacket is unzipped and slightly covering his hand. “It’s huge and bright, not the dusty moth eaten store I’d imagined.”
“It has a class of its own, wouldn’t you say? What type of book is it you are looking for? I can tell you whereabouts to go.”
“No idea to be honest.” He says looking overwhelmed. “I think I’ll start with some coffee. Would you like to join me? If you are free of course.” He adds casually.
I’m stunned, so is Vic as she marches back in from lunch through the revolving doors. She examines my masterpiece, but she looks as though she is not as happy about it as I hoped, then she quizzically scans Drew.
“I would like that, thank you.” I say, surprised by this unexpected turn of events.
“I’m going for my break now Vic if that’s okay, I’ll talk to you about the window when I come back. DON’T TOUCH IT!” I say firmly as she rubs her forehead with her hand.
I lead Drew to the first set of stairs rather than using the lift, as he would miss the full ambience of Harbours if he didn’t use all the stairs at least once.
“Tilly.” Vic calls, signaling me to come back. I tell Drew I’ll be back in a moment.
“What are you doing with him?” She says, sternly looking across at Drew who is picking up random books and flicking the pages. “Him? His name is Drew Scott and I’m helping him find a book for his dad, what’s the problem?” I was completely taken aback by her comment.
“I know who he is Tilly. Bad boys are nice. Just be careful.”
“Oh, chill out Vic, it’s a book I’m helping him with! And that, was an oxymoron.”
I hear Harriet snort a giggle under her breath.
Vic is now riled. “Oh be quiet Harriet, give me those books and go back to the tills.” She replies, before gliding off to her office, gripping the stack of books.
“I will do Vic. I’ll catch you later on at home.” Vic waves a spare hand in the air without turning round to elicit semi approval.
I return to Drew. “Right follow me.” Drew plops the book in his hand back on the display unit. “On the first floor we have…”