Amira was a frequent visitor of the quaint Waldmeer bookshop. She would scan the shelves to see what people were writing and reading and then sit on the old, upholstered chair in the corner with anything that interested her. As she rarely bought any of the books, she tried to think of another way to repay the owner, Teresa, who had recently taken over the shop.
Teresa was originally a local of Waldmeer but she had been living in the city for many years. She left Waldmeer when she married a wealthy businessman. Amira thought that money and Teresa were not an obvious match. Although Teresa had a wardrobe full of what she called her rich-clothes, she preferred to wear the ones she got from the op-shop. And even though she was now forty, she wore her long, brown hair in two plaits tied with strips of leather. The vintage clothes and the long braids made her look like a bohemian which she probably was.
Teresa’s family were farmers and they were in no way remarkable. Everyone was very surprised when she had initially attracted the attention of Arthur, her future husband. Twenty years older than Teresa, he was sophisticated and worldly-wise. If it had not been for Arthur’s mid-life crisis and a conscientious effort at finding a meaningful path neither would have ever come into contact with the other. After professional success and marital failures, Arthur decided that a move to the country would help him find a new direction in life. He bought a house in Waldmeer and ran his business from there with frequent visits to the city and abroad.
A sharp intellect meant that Arthur read every trailblazing book that might help him with his mission. He was a regular customer of the bookshop and their biggest buyer. The bookshop was where Arthur and Teresa first met. Teresa was, initially, intimidated by him but, also, intrigued. She was certainly flattered by his interest in her. Arthur soon realised that Teresa had a good heart and a bright mind. She was young and, unlike Arthur, had little baggage from life. He decided that together they could start from scratch and create the family life he longed for. Thus was the beginning of their fifteen-year journey together.
More or Less
“Do you remember the old bookshop?” said Teresa, one morning, as Amira was browsing the biographies.
“Yes, sure,” said Amira. “This bookshop has been here as long as I can remember. It didn’t look like this, however,” said Amira pointing in complimentary fashion to Teresa’s new decor.
“From about twelve-years-old,” said Teresa, “I would come here on my way home from school. My parents didn’t have money but even if they did, I don’t think they would have seen the value of spending it on books. In all the years I came here as a school girl, I only ever bought one book and that was because of Mr. MacArthur. When he was the new principal at school, he gave me an award. It was a book voucher. I think the bookshop manager told him about my many visits and Mr. MacArthur probably invented the award so he could give it to me. I used to tell myself that one day I would have enough money to buy hundreds of books.”
“Little did you realise,” said Amira, “that it wasn’t that far in your future and you would not only have enough money for any book you wanted but also anything else you wanted.”
“Actually, I was not interested in Arthur’s money. I felt that too much money was alienating,” said Teresa as she watched an elderly couple waiting at the bus stop as if she was enjoying ordinary people. “The relationship wasn’t a passionate love affair,” she continued. “It was more of a love affair with his books.” She hugged some of the books on her counter in mock dramatic fashion. “The first time I visited Arthur’s house and walked into his hallway, I was in awe. Rows and rows of beautiful books lined every wall. They represented a new world to me and whatever that meant in terms of the relationship, I was willing to work with.” Two customers walked in and Teresa turned to serve them. “Before I left Waldmeer,” said Teresa when the shop was empty again, “my aunt said to me, ‘It is generally not first generation rich people who have the problem. They can usually remember where they came from. It is the second generation.’ She did not say what the problem was exactly but spoilt, delusional, and obnoxious sprang to mind.”
Amira smiled. “Well, yes, they can be the problems of poor, little, rich kids but your kids have none of that.”
“The money did bring me experiences which otherwise would have been totally inaccessible,” said Teresa. “And it educated me about many things. Having had it, I now know it is unnecessary to ever feel less than anyone with money or power. And God help me if I ever think anyone is less than me.” Teresa paused. “At the beginning, Arthur was very sincere about his newfound path in life. But it was not maintainable for more than a year or so. It was a rather long, drawn out, and lonely demise. For sure, the marriage gave its blessings but it was more of a blessing when it was over.”
“You have two beautiful daughters,” said Amira warmly. “They are happy here at the school and you have work that you love. You are still young. You will have another relationship.”
“Oh, God no,” said Teresa emphatically. “I only have enough energy for my kids and my work.”
“Perhaps,” said Amira, “but men have something to offer which children and work cannot.”
“I’m not interested in that,” said Teresa.
“I don’t mean ‘that’, particularly. Although, ‘that’ is great if things work out that way,” said Amira as if to entice Teresa back from the land of the renunciate.
“What then?” asked Teresa.
“Connection. Love. It’s a different love to children and work. It will infuriate you, make you cry, make you afraid, and challenge you in every way.”
“You are not doing a very good job of selling it,” laughed Teresa.
‘I don’t need to,” said Amira. “You already know its worth.” Amira walked towards the door saying, “Next time I come, I’d love to hear what has come your way.” She said it as if it would now be so. Teresa was not sure that she wanted it or that it would happen even if she did want it. Yet, something about the whole conversation seemed to have its own life-force.
A few days later, Amira saw Thomas MacArthur in the supermarket. “Have you been into the bookshop since Teresa has taken it over?” Amira asked Thomas.
“No, not yet. I heard it is looking great. I often see her girls at school but I haven’t caught up with Teresa since she has returned to Waldmeer. How is she getting along since her divorce?” asked Thomas.
“She’s going well,” said Amira. “She was telling me about the time you gave her a book voucher as a prize.”
“Was she? I can’t remember because I have probably given ten thousand prizes by now,” said Thomas not wanting to count how many years he had been at Waldmeer Secondary School, let alone how many prizes he had given. “But I am not surprised because Teresa was a thinker with a lot of potential even though I don’t think there was ever any culture in her own home. Not to discredit her family but that’s just how it was.”
“Why don’t you call in and have a look at the shop?” said Amira.
“I will,” said Thomas.
A Little Prayer
Amira didn’t get back to the bookshop for a few weeks. When she did, the shop was crowded with tourists. No one was in the upholstered chair so she sat there with a book. Time must have passed because when she next looked up, the shop was empty and Teresa was looking at her from the counter. Amira jumped up as if to pull herself back from another world.
“Well, what’s been happening?” asked Amira expectantly.
“Mr. MacArthur,” said Teresa, “Err, I mean, Thomas, has been in quite a few times and a few days ago he asked me on a date.”
“Really?” said Amira, “So what did you say?”
“I said ‘yes’ because you can’t say ‘no’ to the Principal,” laughed Teresa. “Seriously though, after he came in a few times, I realised how much I enjoyed talking to him. He’s an attentive listener and he is kind to my kids at school. I probably need a friend.”
As soon as Thomas saw Teresa in the bookshop, he was interested in her. After a few more visits, he was plotting in the harmless sort of way a man like him plots. Normally, Thomas never thought about his ex-students as potential dates or girlfriends. However, in the case of Teresa, he knew that her ex-husband was the same age as him so he thought it might, at least, be a possibility. Teresa was the first woman he had any interest in since Kathleen left.
“That’s terrific then,” said Amira picking up her shopping bags. She felt that it was an answer to her little prayer for Teresa.
“Something else unexpected also happened,” said Teresa.
“What?” said Amira putting her bags down again.
“I, often, go out to see my parents on the farm and as they are now elderly I need to help a bit. My dad has employed the young guy from next door’s farm. His parents are younger than mine but they have been there just as long. I remember the guy from when he was a boy. At the time I left, he was fifteen; awkward, skinny, shy, and, you know, a country boy trying to grow up as best as he could.”
“Yes?” said Amira encouraging Teresa to continue.
“He’s no shy, skinny, awkward boy anymore!” laughed Teresa.
“Oh, I see,” said Amira laughing as well. “And?”
“I have been working with him on the farm jobs whenever I am there and…”
“You like him,” said Amira happy to provide the words.
“Yes,” said Teresa simply. “Do you think that’s a bad idea? I mean, he’s only thirty. I am hardly one to care about age. I think that’s obvious. But do you think I am being silly, setting myself up for something bad to happen?”
“What do you like about him?” asked Amira. “Besides his young, good-looking body.”
“I enjoy working with him. He’s funny. We laugh a lot. I haven’t laughed that much for ages. He’s just glad to be alive. Mostly, it’s that he really seems to like me. That means a lot, doesn’t it? If the person wants us in their life.”
“It’s probably the most important thing,” said Amira. “Or, at least, the first thing. What is his name?”
“Bryan with a y not an i. I remember his mother saying when he was a baby that she wanted him to have a more exotic name than the family name of Brian. So, Bryan it became. That’s about the extent of his exoticness, I think.”
After a pause, Amira reassessed the situation and continued, “Well, that’s a surprise, you have gone from no one to two interested parties. And you like them both.”
“Yes, for different reasons,” said Teresa. “I’m not sure what to do.”
“Be honest to both,” said Amira, “and see where that leads.”
Amira made sure to visit the bookshop when she was in Waldmeer the following weekend. It was as interesting as a good movie. Besides, she felt that she couldn’t now abandon what she had helped to create. Our thoughts and prayers have so much power, thought Amira, If people realised this, they would be much more careful where they let their thoughts drift.
“As you suggested, I decided that honesty was the best approach,” said Teresa. “In essence, Thomas said ‘yes’ and Bryan had a fit and stormed off saying, ‘I don’t share.’”
“Oh, I see,” said Amira. “So, you are left with one man standing.”
“I don’t know,” said Teresa screwing up her nose. “If Thomas agrees so easily to something he probably doesn’t want, what else does he say ‘yes’ to when he really wants to say ‘no’?”
“True,” said Amira.
“And Bryan is only thirty. Men don’t really grow up till they are forty,” said Teresa.
“I wouldn’t go around saying that to your male friends,” laughed Amira, “but young men are not very patient and they tend to be highly jealous.”
“I don’t think Bryan is done yet,” said Teresa. “At least, I hope not. Otherwise, he would have given up very easily.”
Teresa looked bothered and Amira wanted her to know that everything was fine. “Don’t worry, Teresa. Both relationships, whatever form they may take now and in the future, are already in motion. They are already bringing up the right issues. Regardless of their destined outcome, they are working in that good/bad, pleasure/painful way that important relationships do. Keep your own eyes on a straight course of love and trust and it will help to move everything in that direction.”
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