This week’s Friday Flash Fics hit me in a three ways. One: her dress (which made me think of a local comic book convention). Two: her gloves (which made me think of “The Psychometry of Snow”). Three: the bookshelves (which made me think of The Second Page, my fictional bookstore in the Village, which Ian Simon runs). Then I decided to back-date it just a little bit, and got to play with Danya again, reworking something from a story that didn’t make it into Of Echoes Born.
A Touch of Psychometry
“I have a double-sweet coffee for a double-sweet boss,” Ian said.
Danya Marunchak stood behind the counter at The Second Page. The smile that spread across the old man’s face warmed Ian right through to his core.
“It’s your day off. You shouldn’t be here,” Danya said. “But I love you for it.”
The second-hand bookstore was located off the Market, and for Ian, it had become a second home. The first year Ian had been in Ottawa, when it had all hit the fan with his family and he’d been left completely on his own, Mr. Marunchak had hired him to work at the store and he’d worked there ever since. Over the years, he’d become a good friend as well as a boss. Grey-haired and too thin for Ian’s liking, Ian loved the little old man like no one else, and as Danya had introduced him to some of the classics of queer literature, he’d even found the words to describe it.
Danya was part of his logical family. The family that counted. Years later, it was all the more true.
“So, how did your exam go?” Danya asked, taking the cup. He held it between his hands for a few seconds, and Ian noticed the flicker of the man’s aura around his knuckles. His arthritis.
“Well,” Ian said. “Your hands bad today?”
“I don’t know how you do that,” Danya said. “But yes. Old bones.”
“Tell you what, I can finish off the day. You go have a hot bubble bath or something.”
“What did I ever do in my youth to deserve you?”
“According to gossip? Most of the Village.”
Danya laughed, a loud, braying laugh that Ian never got tired of hearing. “That’s not the half of it. I was the Queen of the Lord Organ, thank you very much. At least before I got married.”
Ian raised a hand. “Spare me the tales of your debauchery. You give me an inferiority complex.”
“If I had your looks? I’d still be the Queen of the Lord Organ, with my late Hans’s blessing, I’m sure.”
“I don’t think many gay men go to the Lord Elgin anymore.”
Danya’s smile faded. “Most of those men are gone, dear boy. But I’m sure you have no trouble finding company.”
“Who has time?”
“You do, now your exam is done.”
“Please stop,” Ian said. “I’m begging you.”
Danya left with a wave and the coffee and Ian tried not to focus on the places the man’s aura flickered. Illnesses showed as absences to Ian’s other sight, so he wasn’t worried, just concerned. Danya needed more rest. Hopefully, now Ian was done his final summer class they could move ahead with their plans sooner rather than later.
Ian smiled at the tall shelves completely filled with books. He intended to buy The Second Page.
He also intended to replace the shelves, reorganize things a whole lot more than he’d managed thus far working for Danya in between his classes, and had a least a dozen other plans to work through, too.
Ian turned. A woman in a really striking dress was smiling at him. She rested one knee on one of the stools Danya kept around the shop floor for customers, and had leaned forward, but she was by no means tall, and the shelves went almost to the ceiling. She aimed her gaze a couple of shelves up. “There is no way I can reach,” she said. “Can I borrow your height?”
“Absolutely,” Ian said, coming over. When he got close enough, he realized her dress was made up with a fabric printed with various newspaper headlines and stories, and then had another jolt of realization when he saw the newspapers in question were both fictional and wizardly.
“Oh wow, I love your Harry Potter dress.”
She grinned. “Thank you.”
“Which book were you trying to get?” Ian said.
She nodded at the shelf again. “It’s the pink one. Psychometry.”
“Simon Guishart,” Ian said, reaching easily up to the shelf and pulling the paperback free. He handed it to her, then blinked.
She wore gloves. He’d have noticed, only the dress sort of grabbed all the attention, as did her hair, which was almost raven black and fall in waves and curls. It was a bit too warm for gloves, and though they could be for fashion he supposed, Ian looked.
A swirl of nervous blue-green shimmered in her chest, but behind her eyes, a soft yellow that edged almost on gold glowed, spreading in tiny increments around her face.
Relief warring with hope.
“It’s a great book,” Ian said.
A small line formed between her eyebrows. “You’ve read it?”
“Yes. Don’t judge it by its cover.” Bright pink, an atrocious font, and a random pile of objects made the book look less than professional, to put it mildly. But Ian had read it, and he’d come away thinking he and Simon Guishart had a lot in common, though Simon had had a much harder time of it to begin with. “And give it three or four chapters. It’s a bit of a rough start—it took him a while to get a handle on things.”
She stared at him for a few long seconds. “I’m so glad I came in. I’m only here for a couple of days.” She looked down at the book. “But I had a feeling I should check this place out. I’ve been looking for a copy of this for a while.”
“What brings you to Ottawa?” Ian said.
“Comic-Con,” she said.
“That explains the awesome dress,” he said.
She grinned. “You should see my Tardis ball gown.”
“Wait. You made this?”
She did a little twirl.
“Okay, I’m officially impressed.”
She paid for the book and thanked him again. By the time she left, the yellow and gold had won out over the greens, and Ian let out a deep breath. She’d be okay. Or at least, if he was right about the gloves he hoped Simon Guishart’s book would help her get a little closer to okay.