There was only one reason I stepped into that bookstore that day: to get a coffee at Starbucks. One of the employees mentioned that the line here was not even an eighth the length of the one at the Starbucks around the street so I decided to give it a try.
It was a cozy little bookstore, filled with the aroma of coffee and...books I guess. It was a comforting smell, and the aura around the store made it seem homey. I had my coffee, black with a vanilla shot, in my hand, and half an hour until my next meeting so I decided to explore. Not because I needed something to read, I had no time for that, the only thing I read were contracts and proposals for buildings.
I was minding my own business, sipping on my coffee and walking around the store when I saw her. She was sitting in between two shelves, her hair tied up at the top of her head in a messy knot. She was literally surrounded by books, she would take one off the bottom shelf, read the back and then smile and add it to one of her piles.
I was completely taken aback by her; she was absolutely gorgeous. Maybe it was the way the light was hitting her or that beautiful smile but I couldn't look away. Her skin was absolutely glowing, and her wide almond shaped eyes were unaware of another pair watching her. I watched amazed as her beautiful plump pink lips moved slightly as she read, it made me smile.
I had never felt like that before, ever. Never had I looked at a woman and not felt like looking away, but my eyes refused to move away from her. I was smitten from day one, and I would have kept staring at her if my stupid phone hadn't rung. She didn't look up though, too engrossed in her books. And I walked away that day, reluctantly.
I only stepped into the bookstore for one reason the next day, not for coffee, but hoping to find her again. But I was disappointed that day, and the next, and the next. It wasn't until a week later, on the same day, that I saw her again. She was curled up on a couch this time, her legs crossed under her as she whipped through a book. Sense and Sensibility was the title, I had never heard of it.
I grabbed a random book off the shelf myself and sat in a quiet corner of the bookstore where she was completely visible to me. I felt like a stalker but I didn't know how to approach her. It wasn't that I was shy, not at all. But I had never needed to approach a girl, they tended to approach me and I gave them no heed because I was way too busy.
I wanted to approach her but I was afraid. I didn't know what I would do if she turned me down, so I admired her from afar. Her hair was down that day, and it was beautiful - long, straight and silky. She was wearing a pair of jeans with little boots and a sweater, completely normal, but she looked so beautiful in them. She left precisely at 3:00pm that day and I instantly missed her presence when she walked out that door.
By the next week I figured out that she only came to the bookstore every Friday, she arrived around noon and stayed until three. And that is how my lunch changed from 12-1 to 12-3 every Friday. It was a horrible business decision on my part, and semi-stalkerish but I couldn't not do it.
I don't think she even noticed me, she walked into the bookstore and went straight to the classics section where she would pick out a book and then find a couch to curl up at. She always looked beautiful, her hair would sometimes be slick straight and sometimes in beautiful curls. I dreamt of touching it and running my fingers through it. Her face was so beautifully angular yet I knew her milky skin would be soft to touch, and I longed to run my fingers across her cheeks and feel that blush that graced her face occasionally.
But I didn't do any of that. I just bought my coffee and found a couch where I could see her. And it was almost as if she kept getting prettier and prettier with every week that went by and I kept falling harder and harder.
I spent twice as long getting ready on Fridays, because I wanted her to notice me like other women seemed to but she didn't. No matter what I wore, I'd tried everything from my three-piece suits to jeans and flannel. I was a bit disappointed in that aspect but there were some things I was quite happy about.
For one, I learnt many things about her from the three hours she spent there. She either got a green tea frappucino or a caramel macchiato from Starbucks, depending on the weather. She was a hard core Jane Austen fan, always smiling as she read her books but her nose would scrunch up in confusion when she read Shakespeare. She would sometimes glance at the magazines and roll her eyes at the covers.
She also adored kids, her eyes would follow little kids running around the store with a smile, she looked almost wistful. And for the first time in my life I thought about having kids, and the scary thing was that they were automatically our kids, I didn't even have to explicitly think of her, my brain automatically connected the two.
And that is when, three months after the first encounter, I realized that I needed to get moving before someone else snatched her up. Which is exactly why I stood in the middle of the classics section the next week, at 11:55 waiting for her. She arrived exactly at noon and came right to the classics section as I expected. I almost groaned because smelled like vanilla and coffee, and it was the most beautiful smell in the world.
She had a slight blush on her face as she walked over to the section where the Austen books were, right where I was standing. Her beautiful fingers drummed across the row of books before she settled on Pride and Prejudice.
"Is that one any good?" I asked her. I heard her gasp quietly and I mentally slapped myself for scaring her. It wasn't the best start.
"It's one of my favourites." She said and I heard my breath hitch in my throat, her voice was so beautiful.
"Austen fan?" I asked knowing the answer was a yes.
"I've never read anything of hers." I said and she gasped. She let out a cute little surprised sound and I just wanted to hug her because I found it endearing.
"That's a crime!" She said.
"I am quite sure there are many guys out there that haven't read Austen." I claimed.
"I suppose so, but I am glad that you're giving it a try."
"Maybe I am not looking for a book for myself?" I said.
"Well there is that." She sighed.
"Since you are such a hardcore Austen fan, what would you suggest as a present for someone who is perhaps a big fan like you." I asked not wanting to stop the conversation.
"Pride and Prejudice is a safe bet." She smiled stunning me again with how beautiful she was.
"So you'd be happy getting a copy."
"I already have two." She laughed her beautiful tinkling laugh and my heart thumped.
"Hmmm, so what would you like to get?"
"The first draft of it." She said almost dreamily.
"The first draft?"
"She wrote it back in 1797 under another title, First Impressions, and then revised it a few years later before publishing it. I've always wondered if her initial story was the exact same." She said, her voice sounding a little lost.
"Literature major?" I asked noticing how passionate she seemed about books, I had noticed it before too, but hearing her words made me realize that reading wasn't just a hobby for her.
"I minored in literature, management was the major." She smiled.
"That's quite impressive."
"From the looks of you, you are definitely a business man of some sort." She said looking me up and down.
"Some things catch my attention." She smiled almost coyly.
"Like?" I asked my heart thumping.
"A certain someone who has taken to coming to this bookstore every Friday suddenly." She said and I swear my heart almost burst in my chest as my cheeks flushed red.
"Is that creepy?"
"If it's creepy that I keep coming back just to see you?" She said and I swear for the first time in my life I actually felt like dancing with happiness.
"I think we can conclude that we aren't creepy."
"I think we have reached a consensus on our lack of creepiness then." She smiled.
"Well then, I was wondering if you'd like to grab a coffee with this not creepy guy."
"I thought you'd never ask." She smiled. "Do you have a name or should I keep referring to you as Dark Blend with a Vanilla shot in my head?" She said, and I almost gasped because she paid enough attention to know what I got every time.
"Maybe if I get your name and you let me buy you a caramel macchiato."
"Asad Ahmed Khan." I smiled. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"Awww, so you stalked each other?" Sanam cooed as her dad told her the story of how they met.
"It wasn't stalking!" Seher giggled. "It was loooveee."
"Wait, ammi, what's your side of the story?"
"I had seen him before the bookstore incident once, I was driving to pick up Zeenat Aapa and he was walking on the sidewalk and I almost ran the light because I was too busy staring at him."
"Awww." Seher cooed.
"And then?" Sanam asked.
"I heard his phone at the bookstore that first day, and I saw him as he walked away. And then he was there the next week, your dad isn't as slick as he thinks he is if he thought that I didn't notice him staring. I did, and I stole glances at him too."
"Months later, I found out that she got all dolled up to come see me." Asad teased poking Zoya's side.
"Yeah, and he kept trying new looks to get my attention." She giggled having noticed the range of outfits.
"And then we finally talked to each other. I was already half way in love with her, and I fell ever more in love with her when I got to know her."
"We were polar opposites but we worked."
"And then you got married!" Sanam said.
"Two years later." Zoya smiled.
"How did dad propose?" Seher asked.
"He got me the original copy of Pride and Prejudice, to this day I don't know how he got his hands on it. I was already crying because I couldn't believe that he remembered something I said to him so long ago. And then he got down on one knee and proposed."
"And you said yes!" Sanam said.
"How could I ever say no to Mr. Black Coffee with a Vanilla Shot." She teased.
"I am clearly irresistible." He teased.
"Haiii, I wish my love story is that cute." Seher sighed and Sanam nodded dreamily.
"You are 13, there better be no love story any time soon." Asad mumbled.
"Daddd!" Sanam and Seher whined and rolled their eyes before turning their attention back to the TV.
"That's still creepy." Asad whispered to Zoya.
"You're creepy." She teased.
"I thought we established that we were not creeps." He teased.