It’s Tough Cookies, that is, Telling a Tale

The Jacket

A man walked into the bookstore wearing a bomber jacket with a soft fur lining on the collar. He wore a cap pulled low enough that no one could see his eyes. He sat down in the back row, far away from the woman standing at the front. She stiffened as he walked through the door, and when he sat, she turned her back. Her shoulders rose as she took a deep breath, steadying herself. She turned back around, her eyes meeting those only in the front row, and proceeded to give a presentation of the book she’d recently written.
The book was about a young woman on a journey of self-discovery. These kinds of books were all the rage, and upon writing it, she found that it was highly marketable. Lots of money flooded in, and the woman found herself in a pickle. Making lots of money drew attention, you see, but she didn’t want that. It was nice to buy the best clothing and have a big condo in the middle of the city, but it wasn’t the motivation for writing. That was internal, a driving force that had to be answered, lest she die.
Now the woman felt silly. What was the big deal? So a strange man was sitting in the back in a bomber jacket. There are a lot of bomber jackets out there. Those were all the rage, too. She decided not to panic, and instead finished her presentation and proceeded to the table that had been set up especially for her. One task at a time. There were two plastic bottles of water on the table, a desk light, and a couple of stacks of books, all with a blonde woman on the cover.
The blonde woman on the cover looked free, with her arms outstretched and a triumphant smile on her face, her eyes almost closed. The wind was blowing her hair, and the title was above her hair, in flowing, happy letters. To the author, the woman was a representation of what she had been searching for the past two years. And what she thought she had found. But no, she couldn’t let her mind wander into doubting herself. She was the strong woman on the cover, the woman on the pages.
The woman sat down, focusing on each autograph, and ignoring the nagging sense of foreboding in her head. She focused on the picture of the happy woman on the cover of each book laid before her. She opened each cover, signed a note to each name written on a small, white piece of paper inside, and handed them back, without looking at the adoring fans in front of her. After a couple of hours, the line diminished, and eventually everyone was content and gone. The woman looked around anxiously, but didn’t see the man wearing the jacket, and so she sighed a breathe of relief and packed up her belongings into a canvas bag.
As the woman walked toward the door, a face across the street caught her eye. Her breath caught in her chest and her hand grabbed her neck. She took one step back, then another, her eyes locked with his. It was the man in the bomber jacket, minus the jacket. For two long seconds, she stared into those eyes, and felt captivated once more. No one else had eyes like these. Her heartbeat resumed as a large dump truck broke her line-of-sight and she quickly turned around. She was heading toward the back door when the bookstore owner stopped her.
“This was left for you, Emily.” He handed her the bomber jacket with the fur lined collar.
Absentmindedly, she replied, “Thanks, Jeff.” She took it and felt the both rough and smooth exterior, the cracks that were a result of years of use. This was the jacket of a man that didn’t care about trends, but wore it instead because it was a part of him. Her hands ran along the inside, feeling the soft fur. She bent, slightly, and rubbed the soft collar on her face, and the smell she found there, for a moment, took her back in time. A million thoughts ran through her head as she tried to make meaning of the gesture. She could go either way, left toward the front door and those eyes, those captivating eyes. Or right, toward the back door, her fancy car, and all she had made for herself. She stood there, contemplating, in the middle of the store, with the jacket in her hand.
And then she took a step forward, leaving the jacket behind.

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