Emelia stood in front of Sarah's cottage, anxiety crawling up her spine. She rung the doorbell, trying to ignore the dead flowers which comprised the garden out front. Instead, she tried to focus on anything else -- the muted teal paneling was nice, and the white curtains concealing the windows contrasted nicely with the teal paneling. In fact, if Emelia could ever escape the bookshop, then she'd want to live in a house like that one.
Emelia tried to not think about how magical folk were often discreet.
The heavy robes Emelia wore suffocated her in the summer heat, even standing under the porch's shade. She adjusted her hat, shifted her robe's collar, and tried to not think about how the bookshop was suffocating as well. At least she could control the temperature inside of the bookshop, compared to the outside world where she was left to nature's whims.
There were some spells Emelia didn't know, despite her upbringing in the bookshop. There were some spells that Emelia knew were kept under lock and key, with the key disappearing at Klaxius's death. She envied the other wizards who entered her shop, those who had a proper upbringing and learned to live in an outside environment.
Emelia was just about ready to reach for her wand to calm her thoughts -- maybe calm thoughts would lend itself to a cool body -- but then Sarah opened the door.
Sarah's style couldn't necessarily be described as peak fashion, but she definitely nestled into her own groove. The green pajamas were the same shade as the previous jacket.
"I'm so, so sorry for sleeping in," Sarah said, keeping the door open with one arm and yawning with the other. "Apologies for my PJs too-- oh, never mind. You're still wearing your wizard costume." The startled, apologetic expression on her face changed to a playful sort of tired. "Come inside, come inside!"
Emelia nervously shifted the hat again. It's not really a costume, she thought, brushing aside her insecurities and stepping inside of the cottage.
The first thing that she noticed was the AC, which blew against her face and helped her cool down. The second thing that she noticed was that the floor didn't really seem to exist. Books upon books were scattered all over the place, some stacks were piled high to the ceiling and other stacks were threatened to topple over and add to the visual cacophony.
If any couches or seating arrangements existed, then they had been buried under the stacks of books.
"Oh!" Sarah said, closing the door. "Yeah, sorry about the mess too. I've been tryin' to sort out my book collection." Her laugh teetered on the edge of embarrassment.
Emelia's heart fluttered.
She gingerly walked over to a pile in the corner and overturned the top book. "Collection? Sarah, this room alone looks like it could stock a bookstore." The cover of the book was fairly non-descript, only navy blue with gold lettering on the front which read: A Melody of Suppressed Souls. Given no other indication as to what the book was about, she started to flip through the pages. The premise was interesting enough -- magic, bards, and liches -- but it wasn't enough to tell Emelia if Sarah was magical or not.
"Oh, well, uh, owning a bookstore was a childhood dream of mine."
Emelia bit her lower lip, trying to not think of Klaxius. "If you ever get the chance, then you should try it." She then set the book back onto the stack.
Her heart beat inside of her chest like a caged animal, just wanting to be free. Anxiety raced through her veins like a cold electric current. She could hardly remember why she came to Sarah's house in the first place.
She let her wand slide down her sleeve, and quickly cast an emotional calming spell. The relief replaced the anxiety and suddenly she was able to gather her thoughts in a proper manner. "So, what about the garden do you need help with?"
Sarah's voice switched from her light southern melody to something a bit more put-out. "Oh, right, follow me."
Emelia watched as Sarah stepped over some patches off books, drew back the curtain, and then revealed the patio with the garden.
Whatever hope that rested inside of Emelia's chest died as she got closer. She had assumed that there was some kind of witch's curse, but it was evident that it hadn't been watered and that pests had eaten away at some of the leaves. She hiked up her robes to get closer -- hoping that maybe some of the pests were gold -- but instead found the monotony of non-magical bugs.
Reaching out, she crunched one of the dead leaves in her hand. Definitely not a witch's curse. Emelia tried to stick her hand into the soil, but was only met with weeds and hard dirt. No curse at all existed.
She wiped the dusty dirt across her face and closed her eyes, extending her magical aura out across the quaint property. She found no other conflicting auras trying to override her own, just cold silence. Whatever magic that lived on this property died long ago, and it took whatever curses it may have brought with it.
Not really paying attention to her tone, she turned to the standing Sarah and quickly diagnosed the problems that the garden had. Her voice must have been clipped, because Sarah's face went from expressive to unreadable.
"Now that I have that out of the way, I guess I'll be leaving."
"Mmhmm, I guess so too."
As Emelia kicked the dirt off of her boots and stepped back through the threshold to leave, she couldn't diagnose why her mood had turned south. A dejected sense of longing had sewn itself up inside of her, and she couldn't shake it off with a spell.
Emelia shuffled the papers on her desk, waved her hand so the music would stop playing, and turned her attention back to the phone. “Yes! This is Emelia Oliva working at The Alchemist’s Bookshop! What might you need today?”
“Oh, hello, uh hi. This is Sarah. I just wanted to thank you for your help with the garden.”
Emelia leaned back in her chair and stared up at the ceiling, watching the lights dance above her. A strange sort of giddiness had found home inside of her body and she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
“No problem, miss! I’m always here to help a customer if they need it.” Keep it professional, she told herself. Klaxius always kept it professional.
“No need to call me ‘miss’! You’ve been to my house, Emelia. Feel free to call me Sarah.”
“Yes, uh, Sarah.”
“So, Emelia, I wanted to ask what your favorite book is?”
Emelia caught herself saying Houdini’s Charms and How to Cast Them and realized with horror that the book was an inherently magical one in nature. She quickly combed through the filing cabinets within her mind, trying to find some book that wasn’t written by a magical author. Alchemy and the Search for Gold was definitely out. With her mental cabinets failing her, she switched to scanning the shop for some sort of book to latch on to.
Well, the Gandalf cosplayer browsing in the corner certainly wasn’t of any help. And, truth be told, Emelia hadn’t read Lord of the Rings. Finally, she rest her eyes upon the rotating mini-display of books.
“Oh, uh, Coraline.”
Sarah was silent for a few moments — and in those few moments, Emelia was able to curse herself for taking too long to respond.
“Oh, really? I reread that book just about one thousand times!”
Emelia laughed. “One thousand? That’s impressive.”
The smalltalk continued for a while, Emelia relaxing back into her chair and watching as new patrons entered the store and as old patrons took books up to the reading lounge. She found herself at ease when talking to Sarah, no longer an anxious mess.
“To be honest, I thought you were some sort of gardener until I saw the state of your backyard.”
“Oh! I’m actually a hotel receptionist.” She paused, “I work the night shift, which is whyyy I sort of slept in.”
Emelia tapped the dancing aloe plant to get it to stop. “Oh, I didn’t expect that. How’s the job going for you?”
Sarah groaned. The other end of the line had this flopping sound. Emelia had to assume that Sarah probably flopped onto her bed in frustration. Like an irritated rabbit. “I’d give anythin’ for a different job. Do you realize how many times I get yelled at by people who don’t even make reservations?”
Sarah put on a high-pitched phony voice, “I’m so sorry, sir, that you forgot to make a reservation! Unfortunately, we’re all booked right now! Maybe you’ll want to check the Hilton across the street?” She switched to a deep gravelly voice. “No, no, no. I’m Albert Winerite. I demand to stay in this hotel. I’ve stayed in this hotel every January fourteenth for the past decade. You should be making the reservation for me!” The next thing Emelia heard was a muffle sort of scream. Probably into a pillow.
“Wow, Sarah, that really sounds like it sucks. Although, I work in customer service too. God forbid that I don’t have the right books in stock. Oh, I only have obscure tome of subject A but not subject B? I’m so incredibly sorry for not keeping a five hundred dollar book in stock just for you.”
Emelia dragged her hand down her face, cursing herself internally for letting that slip. “Uh, yeah, I get a bunch of… academics in here.” Internally, she swapped the image of old people in robes to frazzled pre-med students — maybe some philosophy students. “They tend to be stressed.”
She had to conceal a giggle when thinking about a 40something alchemist who had barged into the shop. Everything about the woman was normal, except for the bright pink hair which stood on end and the bright orange skin. Emelia realized, on that day, that her stay in Elmset wouldn’t entirely be uneventful.
“Ha! I can imagine. Say, Emelia, are you hiring?"
The reality of the bookshop set in. Emelia could never stay in one place for long, bouncing across the world yet always chained to the damn shop. It was what Klaxius had granted.
“Oh, I wish.”
Emelia casted calm emotions.
“Oh, Sarah, I know I might have caught you when you were sleeping. Hopefully I don’t wake you up with this voicemail! Anyway, I remembered that you mentioned crocheting in our conversation last night? So, uh, I ordered some books about some lesser known patterns. They should be arriving by next Wednesday. Thanks for the coffee, by the way! I appreciate it.”