Peter Gale looked up as his brother opened the door to the garden area. “Ryan, what’s going on?” he asked, a little timid when Ryan let the door slam behind him.
“You know perfectly well what’s going on!” Ryan yelled at his older brother. “Why’d you sign the company over to me?! I’m 19!”
“Ryan,” Peter put down the cup of tea he’d been sipping, “I think you’d take care of the company better than I ever could.”
“You and I both know that’s not true!”
“Well, you’ll take care of it better than cousin Trevor.”
Ryan blinked back tears. His older brother was the rightful heir to their family’s company, but their cousin had been aiming to take it out from under him for years. At 24, Peter was kind and thought of others before himself. Trevor, on the other hand, just wanted the power that came with the company.
“But…” Ryan tried to think of another argument.
“Ry, dad said that if I didn’t marry before my 24th birthday, the company would go to you.” Peter stood up and walked over to the younger boy. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he added, “It’s all in your hands now.”
“But you are married!” Ryan knew he was beginning to sound like a child, but he couldn’t stop. “Maggie’s been your wife for years!”
Lady Margaret Heath had been an acquaintance of the Gale family since before Ryan could remember. Four years ago, Peter had made her his wife. Now they had a three year old daughter named Elizabeth. Margaret spent most of her time in the country taking care of her father, whose health had taken a turn for the worse in the recent years.
“That’s not the matter at hand.” Peter sighed. “I can’t be with her and Ellie if I’m head of the company. Ryan, I’m moving to be with my future. I’m sure you’ll find yours here someday.”
Holland looked up from the catalogue in front of her when the front doors opened. “Welcome!” she said cheerfully to the man who’d just come in. He nodded and went straight to the magazine rack.
Yawning, Holland looked around the little shop and realized that the sun was setting behind the large windows. She winced as she realized just how long she’d been debating on what books to order. Four hours had gone by since Vicky had brought the catalogue out.
The man came up to the counter with his selection of magazines and, after a second of thought, put them down along with a chocolate from the display. Holland rang them up and he paid, then left without a word.
When she’d first moved to London after her dad died, she’d been a little unsettled by how unsocial people were. But, after a few weeks, she’d gotten used to it and kind of enjoyed how efficient they could be without talking to one another.
Holland closed the catalogue and stretched before walking out from behind the counter to survey the shelves. As per usual, most of the spaces where books had been this morning, but were now in the hands of readers young and old, were in the romance section.
What is it with the English and romance? She thought as she made mental notes about what was selling. I thought France was the country of love. She sighed and reluctantly turned to the mystery section.
Mystery was maybe the one genre that sold better than romance. But that could just be because they had dangerous men who fell for sophisticated women.
Holland heard the door open, but kept her mouth shut. She’d quickly discovered that welcoming customers made them uncomfortable, but it was a hard habit to break.
She heard a chorus of giggles and rolled her eyes. For some reason, the book store had become one of the hot spots for high school students who didn’t go home right after school. The herd of giggling girls moved to the romance section immediately and Holland moved out of their way.
“Where’s Mr. Hope?” She heard one of them ask.
“Hey, yeah, he’s not at the cash.” Commented another.
“Excuse me,” one of them tapped her shoulder. “Where’s your boss?”
Not wanting to ruin their fantasies, Holland simply smiled. “He had to step out for a bit, but I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”
The disappointment in the air was almost tangible. It made her a bit uncomfortable to think that the only reason some girls came to the shop was because they had a crush on Mr. Hope. Unfortunately, no one would understand why she felt that way.
She absentmindedly looked down at her nametag. It read Holland in bold text. She suppressed a smile, thoughts of her other nametag floating through her mind. She had two because her full name couldn’t fit on one. She should have been wearing both tags, but she never remembered both at one time. It didn’t help that the customers thought she was two different people.
As she walked away from the group, Holland heard them start on a new topic of interest. “Did you hear about the Gale Company?” She smiled, glad they’d dropped the previous subject.
Ryan glanced around the street before disappearing into a nearby pub. He took a seat at the bar near the front window, which gave him a clear view of the little shops situated across the road. He noticed that most of the other customers had bags from Hopeful Readings, the local bookstore.
He ordered a beer and leaned back in his chair. Someone entered the pub and he noticed that they, too, had a bag from the bookstore. Must be a good store. He thought as he sipped his drink. He looked out the window again and realized that, directly across the street from where he sat, Hopeful Readings was positioned.
After finishing his beer, Ryan crossed the street and entered the shop. Other than one employee and a group of schoolgirls, the shop was empty. When Ryan walked in, the employee was just disappearing into the back so he didn’t get a good look at them, but the schoolgirls were giggling so loudly he was soon distracted.
After a few minutes of browsing, Ryan realized that the girls had left and the employee had returned to the cash. He grabbed a book that sounded interesting and walked up to him.
As he rang up the purchase, Ryan looked at his nametag. “Oliver.” He mused, nodding. “Like the orphan?”
“Shut up.” He said just loud enough that Ryan could hear. Then, realizing what he’d said, Oliver looked up. “Oh, no, I didn’t mean that. It’s just a sensitive subject.”
“Oh.” Ryan felt a slight blush dust his cheeks, understanding what he meant. He is an orphan. He decided to change the subject. “So, this shop seems pretty popular.”
“Thanks.” He seemed a bit friendlier with the new subject. “I bought the building after I moved, but I had no idea it’d be such a hit.” He handed Ryan a bag. “That’ll be 9 pounds.”
Ryan handed him the money and took the bag, but didn’t leave. “You own the store?”
Oliver sighed. “Yes, I’m the owner and founder of Hopeful Readings.”
Ryan nodded thoughtfully. “Must be nice.” He mused before turning to leave.