Home > The Bookshop on the Corner(10)

The Bookshop on the Corner(10)
Jenny Colgan

The man glanced up guiltily. “Oh, sorry, lass,” he said. “I just picked it up to have a look at it and . . . I don’t know. It kind of sucked me in.”

“It’s great,” said Nina, adding, “I’ll leave it for you after I’m done with it, if you like.”

“Oh no, no, lass, don’t be silly, big expensive book like this . . .” His watery eyes looked sad suddenly. “We used to have a library and a bookshop, you know. Both gone now.”

His friend nodded. “Used to be a nice wee trip out, that, if you wanted to go to the big library. Get the bus. Go choose a book. Have a cup of tea.”

The men looked at each other.

“Ah well, you know, things change, Hugh.”

“They do, Edwin. They do.”

The double doors of the old pub creaked open and Wullie stood there, squinting in the darkness of the bar. He glanced over to where Nina was standing, then looked around, just in case there was anyone else there he hadn’t noticed the first time, putting off the moment when he was actually going to have to interact with her. Eventually his eyes came back to settle on her, and his face took on a look of disappointment.

“Hi, Wullie,” said Alasdair, already setting a foaming pint of brown ale on top of the counter. “How’s it going this morning?”

Wullie looked downcast as he headed toward the bar to sit down.

“Aye so . . . ,” he began.

“The young lady’s ready for her test drive!” announced the landlord cheerily. “She’s only a little thing, but . . .”

“Aye so,” Wullie said again. The room fell silent. “Aw,” said Wullie finally, taking off a very battered-looking hat. “Only this time I really thought I’d sold her, I swear to God.”

“Um, hello?” said Nina, stepping forward. “I’m Nina, remember? Here to look at your van?”

“Aye so,” said Wullie. “But it’s a big van, ye ken?”

He took a long sip of his pint.

“I really thought we’d gotten it sold this time,” he repeated. He shook his head. “I don’t understand why nobody wants it.”

“I might want it,” said Nina impatiently.

“It’s not really a wee lassie’s van,” said Wullie.

“Well, I’m not really a wee lassie, whatever that is,” said Nina. “I’m perfectly capable of driving that van, and I’ve come all this way to try it out.”

Edwin and Hugh were snickering now. Nina didn’t think they’d had such a spectacle around the village in years.

“It’s a big van,” said Wullie again.

Nina sighed in exasperation. “Can I have the keys, please? I did e-mail you about this.”

“Yes, but I had no idea you were a lassie.”

“My name is Nina.”

“Yeah, but that’s a foreign name, isn’t it? I mean, it could be—”

“Wullie,” said Alasdair, his normally twinkly face suddenly turning stern, “this lassie’s come a long way to see your van. You’ve put it up for sale. I don’t see what the problem is.”

“I don’t want her crashing it is the problem,” said Wullie. “She dies and I have even more problems than I have now, which is a lot.”

“I’m not going to crash it!” said Nina.

“How many vans have you driven?”

“Well, not many, but—”

“What do you drive now?”

“A Mini Metro—”

Wullie harrumphed.

“Wullie, if you don’t stop being rude to the lady, you’re no’ getting a pint.”

“Oh come on, man, I’ve been up for seven hours.”

The landlord held the beer up threateningly. Wullie scowled and rifled in his pockets, which were deep and many. Finally he took out a large set of keys and threw them on a nearby table.

“I’ll need security,” he scowled.

Nina took out her passport. “Can I leave this with you?”

He frowned. “You don’t actually need one of those to get into Scotland. Yet.”

The men at the bar cackled appreciatively.

Nina was desperate to throw her hands up in surrender—she hated conflict in any form—but she couldn’t, wouldn’t forget how she’d felt this morning. She would be as kick-ass as Katniss Everdeen, as uncompromising as Elizabeth Bennet, as brave as Hero. She told herself she only needed to drive it across the square, then she could leave. Turn around. Go home. Hope for the best at the library. Her bravado had been shaken by this man, but she wasn’t entirely deterred.

She picked up the keys. “I’ll be back shortly,” she said.

She stepped out of the pub and into the square. She felt wobbly inside. She was used to dealing with the occasional rowdy child, or people unhappy that she was charging them for late returns, but those weren’t personal attacks. This was different; it was someone making a very clear point that she was annoying them.

The men had followed her outside the pub and she could feel their eyes on her—where were all the women around these parts? she wondered as she crossed the cobbles and moved over to the side street where the big white behemoth was parked. She paused for a moment and looked at its old-fashioned headlights.

“Listen, Van,” she said, “I don’t really know what I’m doing here. But neither do you, right? You’ve been abandoned on this street for years. You’re lonely. So you help me and I’ll help you, okay?”

She unlocked the door, which was a start, at least.

The next thing was getting into the cab. There were a couple of steps, but even they were high. She pulled her skirt above her knees and hoisted herself up. It wasn’t graceful, but it was effective. She wobbled a little opening the door and thought for a second she was going to fall off the step, but she didn’t, and in a moment she was sitting in a big cracked leather seat patched with duct tape.

The inside of the cab smelled—not unpleasantly—of faded straw and distant grass. Nina turned around. It seemed huge to her, but she reminded herself yet again that it wasn’t a truck. She didn’t need a heavy-vehicle license; anyone could drive this thing. People did it all the time.

It felt a lot like a bus, though. And it was parked in such a very narrow street, the little stone cottages on either side of her almost touching the vehicle.

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