People drifted along the streets of New York, their faces impassive, phones to their ears or the buds of their headphones snugly tucked into those ears. Ignoring the massive amounts of people around was an art in the city, and one most people perfected quickly out of a sense of self-preservation.
That was what Lillian Mills was thinking as she strolled toward the massive bookstore on Third. That being ignored and ignoring people was some kind of defense system against the utter magnitude of people.
It was no wonder getting a date was so damn hard. Never mind that fifty-five was hardly the optimal time to start dating again. There were just far too many people in the city, how was she ever supposed to find a single man—and not just single as in just one, but single as in unattached and ready to date—in a place so crowded that the only way to make it through the day was to pull on the blinders, keep her mouth shut, and make sure she was too busy with a cell or a…what the hell did they call those things anyway?
Devices. That would do.
Whatever someone could listen to or watch as they walked down the street. A device someone could listen to or watch as they headed down the crowded streets and long stretches of avenues.
Even if she was inclined to try to strike up a conversation how could she? The man in the blue suit walking beside her was her age or maybe just a few years older. His leather briefcase swung by one tailored pant leg and he spoke in a near-shout to whoever was on the other end of the phone. His walk was brisk and his shoulders very square. He had a handsome face, yes, but he also had the air of someone who would flip her the bird or walk faster if she dared to try to break in on his silence with a hello or how are you.
Sighing to herself she turned and then headed upward again. Oh well, at least there were always books.
The shelves out in front and along the sides of the store made Lillian smile. There was always a sale and she knew it but the sight of one never ceased to excite her and make her feet move a little faster. One never knew what one might find on the shelves after all. Sometimes it was a bunch of things she would never read and sometimes it seemed there was a treasure trove of authors just waiting to be discovered or old favorites meant to be revisited sitting there, marked down to a dollar or two through no fault of their own, surely.
Lillian got to one shelf just ahead of a group of bored-looking tourists who were busy exclaiming about the bookstore’s historic value, something she personally cared very little about. Visitors always declared themselves in envy of people who lived in the city but she doubted they had ever had to deal with the crazy bidding wars and high rents or purchase prices, not to mention often hellish commutes, city dwellers had to contend with a on a daily basis.
The tourists were in a small pack. Three older and very bored-looking teens, a younger sibling, and two harried parents toting bags emblazoned with designer names and cameras.
Lillian slid to one side as the backpack one teen was wearing careened into her back. It would do no good to say anything. The young man would just chalk her up as another rude New Yorker. Never mind his rudeness in hitting her with his stupid backpack. Why the hell did so many tourists carry those things anyway? There was nothing they might need that they could not buy right there on the streets for God’s sake and maybe the people who lived in the city would not be so grumpy if they weren’t always getting whacked in the face or back with some heavy backpack.