As soft background music played overhead, Sarah clipped on her employee badge and headed for the front of the bookstore. When she’d clocked in, Brad had informed her of the shambles in the children’s section. He didn’t enjoy diaper duty, as he called it, because of all the baby and toddler toys strewn around the rug.
“I owe you one,” he said, glad she was there to take over.
The employee lounge and the children’s section were in diagonal corners of the store, so she had to thread her way among everything from travel and teens to reference, romance, and religion. Vanilla scented coffee teased her nostrils, reminding her she hadn’t had a caffeine fix since breakfast. Perhaps over her break….
Rounding a corner, she bumped into a worn looking woman loaded down with a stack of books, causing them to fly from the woman’s arms. Surprisingly, the woman sat down in the middle of the mess and started crying. Lowering herself to the floor, Sarah offered to help. The woman didn’t answer.
Maybe she hadn’t heard her.
“Can I help you?” Without waiting for a reply, she gathered up a few of the books. “I’m sorry for bumping into you. Totally my fault.”
The woman’s eyes opened. “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” She plucked a paperback book about grief from Sarah’s hand.
“Are you sure you are alright?”
The woman nodded, avoiding looking directly in Sarah’s eyes. “Not your fault. I wasn’t paying attention.” Quickly picking up the remaining books, she rebalanced her load. “Thank you.”
Sarah heard her name paged over the intercom. But instead of politely leaving the woman alone, she felt something was prompting her not to let her get away. She glanced at the books nestled in her arms. Did this feeling have something to do with the self-help and new age themes? The woman gave her a thin smile and turned to go. Reaching out, Sarah gently touched her shoulder.
“Ma’am, I couldn’t help noticing the titles you selected. If you have a minute, I’d like to recommend one more.” She paused, knowing that if the woman declined, there wasn’t anything she could do.
The woman glanced down at her books and sighed. The thin smile came back, complemented by a look of indecision in her brown eyes. Again, the store manager urgently paged Sarah over the intercom. But Sarah’s eyes didn’t flicker from the tired face before her. Please. Please say yes. The books you carry are worthless. I know where you can find a fountain of living water that will forever quench your thirst. Those books only hold despair.
The woman nodded, allowing Sarah to lead her to the wall lined with Bibles. As the rich scent of chocolate mocha drifted from the café, Sarah helped the woman choose a Bible to replace the books now waiting to be shelved. Diaper duty would just have to wait. Some things were more important.
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