Here's the beginning of a story I've been working on:
Sarah kneeled on the wide-plank floor of the dusty bookstore. In her hands, Wordsworth’s Two-Part Prelude, her fingers sliding down the lines of “Tintern Abbey.”
She wrapped the book in her arms, eyes closed, and mouthed the words she’d memorized when she was twelve: When like a roe, I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides, of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, wherever nature led: more like a man flying from something that he dreads, than one who sought the thing he loved. While hiking yesterday, she’d lost her copy and needed the weight of the printed words in hand.
She stood to pay the clerk and two photos slipped from the pages. Simple photos, one in black and white, both with the same man as the subject. In the color photo he was standing in front of a row of shops. He was eating a sandwich on a crowded lawn in the other. Sarah found it curious that someone had left these photos in the discarded book, as if he, too, had been left behind. The shops, the lawn, the sandwich — they had all been dismissed. Left to fade on glossy paper.
What was it about those shops with their crumbling, painted stone and leaning woodwork that would cause them to be so easily forgotten? Looking more closely, Sarah could make out a sign on one storefront, Elison & Co. A gallery of some sort. Behind the man, a cafe, tucked away between the buildings. It would not be noticed except for the pistachio-green paint on the door.
As for the man himself, he was particularly ordinary. Dressed in a white undershirt that peeked out from a burnt orange and navy striped polo, which was muted by an olive green sweater. He was almost smiling. As if he wanted to conceal his actual happiness at the moment, he had crushed his smile to a thin dented line. But his eyes betrayed him, lighting out of spite.
His eyes were beautiful.
“Do you know this shop?” Sarah asked the clerk.
“Sorry,” the clerk said. “Doesn’t look familiar.”
As she stepped over the trodden threshold into sunshine, she found herself needing to know where the picture had been taken, which was a ridiculous thought. What would she do if she found the shop? The man would certainly be long gone. Yet this photograph purpled her mind.
“Miss,” the clerk called after her, leaning from the doorway. “Your book.”
“Oh.” Sarah folded her fingers around the limp binding.
She padded over spiderwebbed-cement panels of sidewalk, careful not to crush the dandelions and ant hills that sprouted from below. The doughy scent of brioche blew by from the east. Sarah turned toward the baked breeze, still clutching the photographs, ignoring the street-side vendors with their daisies and pears and candied cashews.
The photographs chewed through her thoughts. Not knowing why, Sarah knew she had to find that street.