Home > The Bookshop on the Corner(4)

The Bookshop on the Corner(4)
Jenny Colgan

“Yes?”

“Come on. You’re last. You have to say what you want to do. And be honest.”

Very reluctantly, Nina edged toward the table.

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Course you have,” said Mungo. “Everybody has.”

“Well, it’ll sound silly. Especially these days.”

“Nothing sounds silly in here,” he said. “We’ve all been falling backward off tables.”

Nina climbed up onto the table. The rest of the group looked at her expectantly. Her throat went dry and her mind went blank.

“Well,” she said, feeling herself color in that awful way. She swallowed painfully. “Well . . . I mean. Well. I always . . . I always dreamed that one day I might have my own bookshop. Just a very little one.”

There was a silence. And then, around the room, “Me too!” “Oh, yes!” “That sounds LOVELY.”

“Close your eyes,” said Mungo gently.

And with that, she leaned backward, eyes tightly shut, and fell into the waiting arms, which held her, then gently returned her to the floor.

And by the time she opened her eyes again, she wondered . . .

“A SHOP?” Griffin, of course, pooh-poohed it. “A BOOKSHOP? Are you NUTS?”

Nina shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “I could sell your comics in it.”

She was still feeling oddly inspired. Mungo had taken her aside at the break and they’d discussed it. She’d expressed her inability to deal with overheads or stock or staff or all the huge and paralyzing commitments that running a shop would entail that she didn’t feel she could deal with. He’d nodded gently. Finally she’d confessed that she had a whole shop’s worth of stock in her car, and he’d laughed and then held up his hand.

“You know,” he’d said, “there are mobile versions of this kind of thing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, instead of a shop with running costs and so on, you could do something different.”

He showed her a picture on a Web site of a woman who ran a bookshop from a barge. Nina had seen her before and sighed with envy.

“It doesn’t have to be a barge,” he said. Mungo pulled up a few more sites on his computer. “I knew a woman in Cornwall who ran a bakery from a van.”

“A whole bakery?”

“A whole bakery. People used to come for miles.”

Nina blinked. “A van?”

“Why not? Can you drive?”

“Yes.”

“You could fit it out quite nicely, couldn’t you?”

Nina didn’t tell him it had taken her forever to learn how to reverse around corners. Mungo’s bouncy enthusiasm was so all-encompassing, it somehow felt easier just to agree with him.

She showed Griffin an ad in the paper she’d found during the break, helped by an admiring Mungo. “Look at this.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a van.”

“A smelly old food van?”

“A smelly old food van,” agreed Nina reluctantly. “Okay, that one probably won’t work. But look at this one.”

“You think vans are the answer to everything,” grumbled Griffin. “They’ll have bugs.”

“I just said, no food vans!” Nina’s faintly irritated voice caused Griffin to look up from his pint in surprise, as if a mouse had roared. “Be sensible. Look at this.”

“It’s a van,” said Griffin with exaggerated sarcasm. “I don’t know what you expect me to say about it.”

“I expect you to say, wow, Nina, that’s amazing, imagine you taking charge of your life and thinking of something like that.”

“Have you gone soft on that Mungo?”

“No, Griffin, he’s a child. But I like his attitude.”

“I don’t get it,” said Griffin. “A van. I thought you said you wanted to run a bookshop?”

“I do!” said Nina. “But I can’t afford premises, can I?”

“No,” said Griffin. “You’re a terrible risk for a bank to lend money to. You don’t know anything about running a shop.”

“I know,” said Nina. “But I do know about books, don’t I?”

Griffin looked at her. “Yes,” he admitted grudgingly. “You’re pretty good at books.”

“And I’d get unemployment money,” said Nina. “And I could sell the Mini Metro. I mean, I could . . . I could afford a van . . . just about. And I’ve got all the stock from the library. And my life. And everywhere, really. I mean, I could start with that, pretty much fill it and see where I go from there.”

“You do have too many books,” said Griffin. “And I never thought I’d say that about anybody.”

“Well,” said Nina, “if I have the stock . . . and I have a van . . .”

“What?”

“I mean, I don’t see what’s stopping me from just traveling around selling books.”

She was feeling genuinely excited now, something buzzing in her chest. Why not her? Why should everyone else get to have dreams and not her?

“What, in Edgbaston?”

“No,” said Nina. “It will have to be somewhere without parking restrictions.”

“I think that’s, like, nowhere.”

“Somewhere they don’t mind. Somewhere I’m allowed to just sell books.”

“I don’t think it works like that.”

“Well, like a farmers’ market, where they turn up once a week to sell stuff.”

“So you’ll work one day a week and spend the rest of the time tending your book crops?”

“Stop pouring cold water on everything.”

“I’m not, I’m just being realistic. What kind of a friend would I be if I sat here saying, yes, Nina, drop everything in your life before you even know if you have a job or not, toss it all away for a pipe dream when you’re nearly thirty?”

“Mm,” said Nina, feeling flattened.

“I mean,” said Griffin, “you can’t say it’s in your nature to take daredevil risks. You’ve never been late back from a lunch break in the four years I’ve known you; you’ve never made a staff suggestion or complained about anything or stayed out to have an extra cup of coffee during a fire drill—nothing. Little Miss Perfect Corporate Person. Little Miss Ultimate Librarian . . . and now you’re going to buy a van and sell books out in the wild? For a job?”

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