& ...
Taylor Matousek Graphic Designer Photographer Writer
Leave-Behind Story
Part 1: What She Left Behind She shut the paperback with gentle hands, a peaceful sigh on her lips. She caressed the fading blue cover, traced the cracked, white lines on the spine. She thought to herself that all books should look like this, loved to an overwhelming point. Loved somehow more than the main characters loved one another, and her sigh was wistful this time at the prospect of someone caring for her the way she cared for her favorite book. Her lunch break ticking down to its final minutes, she tucked the book into her oversized bag and stood. The autumn breeze tossed her hair, urging her to go, and she clutched her cardigan more tightly around her frame, walking through the park and kicking up burnt-orange leaves as she went. The gloomy afternoon in her cubicle crawled by, hailing a taxi was a dreadful affair, the ride home was worse yet, and the marinara sauce she’d planned to put on her pasta was expired. When she was finally able to slip on a pair of fuzzy socks and wrap herself in a heated blanket, she reached into her bag only to be horrified at the emptiness she found. Her favorite book was gone. Part 2: How She Found It She dodged the mistletoe hanging above the café’s doorway—now that was a disaster waiting to happen. She shot the ugly little trimming a dirty look and plopped down in her usual seat next to the window. She’d grown bitter toward love and cheerfulness in the weeks since she’d lost her favorite book. Newer copies with shiny covers mocked her from storefronts whenever she walked downtown, and though she ached to read the story again (and again and again), it just wouldn’t be the same. None of those hot-off-the-press copies were her worn-out, loved-to-death tome. With nothing to do after work anymore—she was on something of a hunger strike, but with books—she’d taken to people-watching in the café down the street from her office. It wasn’t as entertaining as reading her book, but it relaxed her in a similar way. Sometimes she even made up her own stories. A barista called out her name; they all knew the way she liked her coffee by now. She gave the young woman a few dollars and raised her drink to take a sip. As she turned to go back to her table, a spot of blue caught her eye, and she froze. Startled drops of hot coffee fell to the floor. A man was reading her book. It had to be her book. It had the six thin cracks on the spine, the worn corners, and—she was willing to bet her paycheck on it—the tear at the top of page forty-two from the very first time she read it and got too excited about what might be on the next page. Something warm and whole settled in her chest. She approached the man slowly, as he seemed to be quite lost in the story. “Excuse me,” she said. The man tore his gaze away from the pages and smiled up at her. “Do… Do you like that book?” she asked. “It is my absolute favorite,” he said sincerely, pressing a hand to his chest. “And how did you come across it?” she asked, heart pounding. He laughed a little and gave the book a secret smile. “Actually, I quite literally found it. And you won’t believe where.”