“There she is again, I told you, she comes in every day, like clockwork. Just sits there and listens to everybody talking. Is she spying on us?” Betty pointed out the woman in the corner to Mariane.
They both sat there, drinking their tea, and watched her.
She was dressed comfortably, in an old blue plaid shirt worn like a jacket, over a white t-shirt and jeans. The jeans were definitely worn, and not the designer type-high dollar worn, but a “I actually work in these jeans” worn. Her brown hair was in unruly curls, which is probably why she wore it short. She was sitting in the corner, with her back to the wall, drinking a latte and working on her laptop.
She would type a little, then stop and read, then continue typing.
“Do you suppose she’s on one of those discussion boards or something? Is she gossiping about us?” Mariane nudged Betty, “look at her now!”
The woman in question was obviously listening to the couple at the next table, in fact she was actually leaning in closer, like she didn’t want to miss a word. Suddenly her mouth opened in a “Oh!” She quickly began writing, looking up every few seconds, like she was trying not to miss a word of what was being said.
“I’m really not comfortable with this. It’s what she does every time she comes in. I’m afraid she’s just some kind of snoop or something.”
Mariane puckered her brow in consternation. “Could it be some kind of identity theft thing? My son is always warning me about being more careful. He says it’s happening in places you’d never expect. Even in small towns like ours. You can never be too careful, you know.”
The two women continued to spy on the activities in the corner; putting forth theories as quickly as they could come up with them. They finished their tea, but weren’t ready to move on yet, so they got refills, and decided to add muffins to their order. Eventually they ran out of ideas, and muffins. Their point of interest had left, so they decided to move on, as well.
They left the bookstore’s café and began to wander among the aisles. They picked up one book after another, pointing them out to each other, discussing the merits of this author over that one. Slowly they accumulated an armful apiece as they ambled around. Periodically the conversation would go back to the mystery woman in the café. Mostly they were choosing books off the sale tables.
Then Mariane pounced on the latest book by her favorite author. “Look, I totally love her writing, I have all of her books, she’s just so good at getting conversation just right. It’s as if she’s standing there, actually listening in on people as she writes. Her last book was a page-turner, why, I think I read it in one day. I just couldn’t put it down. She gets better with each book. I hadn’t realized another one was coming out so soon. I can’t wait to get a chance to read this one. You ought to try it, too, Betty. You can borrow mine.”
“I think I will, since we have such similar tastes in books, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, too.”
They continued shopping, wandering a little between the sections of the store. Betty looked at her watch, “Oh, where does the time go, I really need to run. Maybe we can do this again next week. The tea and muffins, I mean. I really can’t book shop every week, although I would love to.”
Laughing, they walked to the cashier.
Piling the books on the counter they were both rummaging in their purses, looking for their billfolds, when suddenly Mariane stopped cold. Betty looked at her, wondering what had her attention.
“Betty, the picture on the cover. It’s that woman. I… I can’t believe it, but…”
Betty leaned over to see, and then her face turned as red as a beet. Neither of them said another word, they silently paid for their purchases and left the store. Once on the sidewalk out front, they just stared at each other.
“My favorite author, and she was right there, not six feet from me. I could have gotten her to sign my book.”
“Well, I guess we know now why she does such a good job with the conversations.”
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