Chapter 2 - Regular Customer
Harrison continued trying to persuade her. “I know I already told you this, but it’s 600,000 durens! Even if you work your ass off for a couple of years, you’ll never be able to see that kind of money. I’ll be giving you that much money, so why in the world are you refusing?
“Ellie, when you’re in the prime of your youth, do you really want to hole yourself up in this dank bookstore? Moreover, are you planning to follow that old hag Cordell and grow old all by yourself?”
“Don’t you dare speak carelessly about Grandmother. I won’t forgive anyone who dares, even if it’s you, Mr. Harrison.” Ellie had maintained an indifferent expression while listening to him, but as soon as he had mentioned Cordell, she glared and warned him.
Harrison flinched at her stinging look. He hesitated before responding, sounding defensive. “I really liked Madam Cordell too, I really did! I didn’t bring her up with the intention to curse her name.”
“Let’s be honest here. The life she lived wasn’t exactly nice. You know that, right? She was an old woman who ran a bookstore, living all alone. She probably would’ve died alone if it hadn’t been for you. Even then, you took care of her while she was on her deathbed. What a shame…”
Ellie listened to Harrison, her lips tightly pressed together. Cordell died last summer. And it wasn’t like she had passed away due to an illness or anything. Cordell had just gotten old and God had decided it was her time to go. Because of this, the other merchants in the alley didn’t have much of a reaction when she passed. During her funeral, Ellie didn’t find herself crying or grieving much either.
Even though she was the patron who saved Ellie from death many years ago during the winter festival, took her in, and allowed her to stay at the bookstore when she had nowhere else to go, she hadn’t acted very affectionate towards Ellie. And in turn, Cordell didn’t receive much affection from Ellie either.
The only thing the old woman left for Ellie was the bookstore. And to be frank, it was really helpful. With the bookstore, Ellie would assist them if there were customers during the day. If not, she would choose to read. At night, she could rest on a bench in the bookstore to sleep on for the night.
“All of these belong to you now.” Cordell had told Ellie in a raspy voice, pointing to the shelves full of books. She had spoken those words the night before she died.
“I didn’t want to have to carry those musty, smelly books with me to the afterlife. Thank God. I can leave them with you before I go.” Cordell chuckled as she struggled to look at Ellie with clouded eyes.
Ellie had squeezed Cordell’s hand with her own. The older woman’s hand that had once saved her life years ago was like a brittle leaf now. Perhaps she had been on the path toward her death since then, Ellie wondered. She stayed by her side all night, holding those frail, dry hands.
…While regretfully agonizing over the fact that she was unable to protect her parents from death. Ellie took a deep breath before exhaling as if to send out the deep longing that pounded in her chest.
She fixed her expression, trying to look unfazed, before telling Harrison: “I don’t need those incredible 600,000 durens you keep mentioning.”
“Miss! Just why in the world would you not need it? I’ve never met anyone who’s hated money. Moreover, are you even able to make ends meet with this bookstore? With the debt that the old woman left you with, it will be difficult to pay off with what you earn. You barely get customers—if we can even call them that… If we leave out that regular customer of yours who drops in nearly every single day, everyone says that most of your customers are stragglers that end up at the wrong place after wandering into the alley.”
“Who said that?” Ellie asked, her eyes narrowing at Harrison’s remark.
Harrison pointed outside with a wink and replied, “Who else? Marilyn from next door, of course. Gosh! I heard that your regular customer is quite the looker. Supposedly, he fell in love with you, Ellie, and buys books every day despite the fact that he’s never gonna read them. If you get to know him well and he turns out to be a good guy, then I suggest you spruce up the bookstore and marry the guy with some ample dowry…”
“Mister Harrison!” Ellie ended up raising her voice when she heard what Harrison had said. With that, she patted his back and repeated what she had already said. “Get going! I’m never going to sell the bookshop, so leave!”
“Alright, alright, Ellie! Don’t be like this and rethink… Alright, I get it! I’ll be back tomorrow!”
“I’d rather you didn’t!” She chased Harrison out of the bookstore, released a heavy sigh, and hunched over. Her blond hair, a sweet honey color, gently fell. Ellie sighed once more, before standing straight, tying her fallen hair with a string.
“That man, goodness…Sometimes he says the most ridiculous things,” Ellie mumbled to herself, her cheeks flushing as red as a crimson apple. “W-Who the heck fell in love with who…”
Her shoulders dropped as she thought about her regular customer who dropped in almost daily. She forbade any misunderstandings as she was well aware of how much of an avid reader he was.
“When he comes by, the only thing he has eyes for are the books. And even when he speaks to me, it’s only about books,” Ellie retorted as if Harrison, who she had kicked out earlier, was still standing beside her.
She straightened her wrinkled skirt before looking out into the alleyway from within the bookstore.
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