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I run my finger along the edges of the crisp, smooth pages, yet untouched. The unique excitement of opening a new book rushes through my veins, as if I’m embarking on my own adventure instead of reading about someone else’s. The adrenaline rush may also have something to do with the fact that I’ve snuck my novel onto my desk in the middle of science class and, as an innocent eighth-grader, this is as “bad” as I get. I rub my fingers on the raised text on the front cover, the black letters a stark contrast to the bright pink cover art. Looking to make sure the teacher isn’t looking back, I open the book. I shuffle through the first few pages of copyrights, dedications, and excessive title pages. I even sneak a sniff, taking in the one-of-a-kind scent that only exists between the pages of a new book. The tangy glue of the binding mixes with the wooden, musty smell of the pages, along with the faint heaviness of the ink. Finally, I reach page one. I begin reading, words mingling together, one almost inseparable from the next, as I read at my top-speed, taking in every letter, every syllable. I hear them chime in my head, dancing and swirling. Any concept of time is lost, as I get into my reading zone. Pages flap by, and I’m deeply entranced as the tables and chairs and students surrounding me fade away, leaving just me and the story.
“Kailey? Are we a little distracted today?” My teacher’s deep, loud, bellowing voice booms from his spot in front of the chalk board.
“No,” I reply meekly. He turns his head, seemingly satisfied with my answer. After he turns back to the board, I take my pencil from behind my ear and make a tiny dash mark next to the paragraph I left off on. I stick my bookmark between the pages, and turn my head back to the front of the room. The teacher is rambling on about atoms, but all I can think about is getting back to the book. I keep looking back at my desk, the rest of the book’s untouched pages chanting read me, read me, read me.
As soon as I get home that afternoon, I sit down and finish the chapter. I don’t get much further than that until my homework starts nagging at me the same way the book was before. I put the book down and trade it for my science folder, but as soon as I’m finished with my assignment, I pick the book up again, not coming up for air for hours.
A few months later, and I’m cleaning my room. It’s August, nearing September, and the heat outside is dense and sticky. While most of my peers are probably soaking up the last rays of sun before school starts again, I’ve locked myself in my air-conditioned room, with music blasting as I sort through my books. I’m running out of space on my shelf, which has lead me to make the difficult decision of which ones I want to keep and which ones to donate. I pull a familiar pink book off the shelf, run my hand along the raised black text of the title. I remember reading this book, but I figure I’m done with it now and so I chuck it in the donate pile.
Mom and I drop off my load of books a few days later, and the woman behind the counter enthusiastically accepts my bag full of paperbacks. I wave goodbye as I walk through the door, looking back to see Annie herself stamping each book’s cover page with her store’s logo.
“Did you hear Annie’s is closing?” My aunt asks, sitting across the table from me at lunch.
“Like, all of them?” I verify. Annie’s has multiple locations, but I was only familiar with the one closest to me, where I’ve both bought and donated. I haven’t been there in years, but still I know it well.
“I think so, yeah.” she answers. “Annie’s retiring and I guess she didn’t find anyone to take her place.”
“That’s too bad.” I lean back in my seat as the news sinks in.
“They’re going to have a huge sale though,” my Aunt continues. “They’ve been selling books fifty-percent off for like a month, but they’re having one last blow-out sale this weekend. They hand everyone a shopping bag as they walk in, you fill it, the whole thing: one dollar.” She gestures “one” with her finger in the air, then takes a sip of her Pepsi.
“For a whole bag?” I shrill, mouth gaping open. She nods.
“I am SO going!” I exclaim, already making the plans in my head.
Just as I thought, Annie’s is an absolute zoo. The line snakes out the door and around one side of the building. Still, I take a place in line and wait to get in. Once I finally reach the door, a woman reaches across the hoards and shoves a plastic shopping bag in my direction. I take it in stride and duck underneath the person in front of me to make my way to the Young Adult fiction section. I slowly but surely find my way through the mess of shelves and books and bodies way too close together. The small store is crammed to capacity, possibly even beyond that. It’s way too hot in here.
I finally find what I’m looking for, and I start loading up my bag with anything and everything I think I might ever possibly want to read. A peppy pink cover with black lettering catches my eye, and I absentmindedly add it to my stash. I continue on for as long as I can bear, until I start to feel claustrophobic.
I finally make my way to the register, hand the young woman behind it a dollar, and stumble out the door. I take a deep breath of fresh air, relieved to be out of that crowded, sweaty, mess.
Once I’m back at home, I empty my bag from Annie’s and sort through the day’s finds. I find places for everything on my already crowded bookshelf, but still one pink cover catches my eye. I decide that I’ll read that book first, and I take it with me as I jump into bed. As I read, the story starts to sound familiar, but I can’t quite place it. It’s like my second grade teacher’s name, or a movie I saw when I was ten; I knew it at one point, but now it’s vague. I glide my fingers along the book’s spine. This book’s spine has been cracked; it’s been loved by someone else before me. I flip through the dedication page and the numerous title pages, the first bearing an “Annie’s” stamp with the store’s location and phone number. I guess that’s not of much use anymore. I barely get through the first chapter when I notice a small pencil mark; a dash at the end of a paragraph. And suddenly I realize why I was drawn to the book, as my memory transports me back to my eighth grade science class.