After another horrible date, Zain slipped into the dark shadows of the alleyway leading to his appartment. With a sigh he fished his keys out of his pocket, and within seconds he had the heavy gate that separated street from private property unlocked. He thrudged up the metal stairs, about done for the day.
He opened the frontdoor, flicking on the light next to the doorframe, the silence of his home weighting heavy on his heart. Twentyfive and still a virgin, no one to share his life with, no one to love. To be fair, only in the past few months the loneliness had become this overwhelming. Before, school would have eaten up all his free time, redirecting his attention to classes and homework he didn’t really care about that much, but now that he had graduated, the hole in his heart had grown to an almost unbearable size.
Frustrated, he passed by the tall mirror in the hallway. He caught a glimpse of himself, his short, red hair sticking out at all sides and his green eyes looking tired. He wasn’t who he used to be anymore. His fire was gone, sucked dry by boring dudes, juvinile boys and creepy old men. Why did he even try?
Done with the worst day of his life, he dragged his skinny ass to the shower. He stripped out of his clothes, wanting to burn them if he didn’t have limited spending money for such things, and let the warm water caress his skin. After relaxing his body and mind in the shower, letting the troubles of the day being carried away and down the drain, he curled up in his bed. Maybe he would take a break from dating for now, focussing on himself from here on after. Maybe that would get him his fire back.
# # # #
The bookstore was quiet that morning. It was his secret refuge, whenever he needed a break from the real world, he would visit here. The interior hadn’t changed in a hundred years, giving it an extra magical appearance. The owner kept the wooden ceiling, walls and built-in bookcases in pristine condition, and at one point had even hired an artist specializing in crafting furniture to replicate the old velveteen chairs and couches that had eventually been worn out beyond repair.
He went to the section of the old occult books. It was a little guilty pleasure of his: magic. He hadn’t ever come across evidence that magic or any of its related subjects existed, but also neither that it didn’t exist.
It had also been one of the reasons why he had accepted his current appartment. The landlord had desperately tried to get rid of it by lowering the rent significantly, but almost the whole town believed it to be haunted. Nobody had wanted it until Zain showed up. He was only just a little bit disappointed that nothing had happened yet. Maybe one day.
The books here were a bit more dusty, not many people visited this hidden corner of the bookstore. He let his fingers lightly travel over the books’ spines, careful not to accidentally damage anything. These were priceless and he wasn’t that rich.
A newer book on the far left of the shelf caught his eye, it’s spine less discolored and less dusty.
“Hm, must be a new one,” Zain mumbled to himself, curious what it was about.
He pulled out the book, and flipped it over to see what the book was about. Etched into the dark blue hardcover was a silver title, reading Incantations of Love. Nothing else was written on the front, neither the author’s name, nor a secondary title explaining the books contents. It did however feature the image of a heart, with several unfamiliar symbols surounding it.
Despite his curiousity for its contents, he held himself back from opening the book. It was a rule he had imposed on himself to never open a book from the occult section before properly paying for it. He didn’t want any curses to escape and doom this place, whether he did or didn’t believe in them. Better safe than sorry.
With a light skip in his step, he made his way to the register to pay.
“Ah, that one got just in,” the clerk said upon seing the book, “We found it stashed in the archives, wrapped in several layers of paper. It’s a miracle it hadn’t found its way onto the shelves earlier, it’s such a pretty book.”
Zain nodded, agreeing that it was indeed pretty. Almost magically so, if he had to describe it himself.
“How much is it?”
“Hm, it appears it isn’t priced yet,” The man said looking on the back of the book, “I wonder why. Let me check in with the owner, alright?”
Zain waited patiently, his mind wandering to the possible content of the book. With a title like that, it must have to do with love. Maybe there was a spell in there that would make it easier finding a nice date for once. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t notice the clerk’s return.
“You can have it for ten bucks.”
Zain looked up to the man, who positioned himself back behind the counter. “Are you sure?”
“Don’t worry about it,” The other said with a smile, “If the owner says it’s ten, it’s ten, okay?”
Zain gratefully accepted and then paid. He left with the heavy but small book in his hands, eager to get home and start reading.
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