So far, Oliver Smith had been in my space for three hours. He’d rummaged through my bookshelves, completely disrupted my perfect Dewey decimal, broken my kettle, and then spun on my chair when I was out of the room, which consequently knocked a bookshelf over, which I was now picking up and re-ordering. If looks could kill, Oliver Smith would be so dead that he would never have existed in the first place.
“I don’t see how this is you experiencing the real Devon lifestyle.” I made those little annoying speech marks with my fingers, channelling my inner obnoxious teenager.
“Well, I didn’t think I’d get trapped in a bookstore, did I?”
“Why don’t you leave then?”
“Maybe I should.”
“Maybe you should.”
We stood, glaring at each other. He had his hands on his hips, which looked threatening on him, but I knew from experience would look vaguely drag queeny on me. I folded my arms instead—also not very threatening, as my arms have the circumference of one small leek.
“So I’ll just go then.”
Agree, Edmund. Make him go. MAKE HIM GO. “Or you could stay, and I could just tell you about Devon.” EDMUND I’M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR THIS.
Oliver Smith shifted onto his other foot. “Okay then. You do that.” He pulled a chair up to the other side of my desk and sat, an arrogant smirk on his face—the smirk of someone who’d got what they wanted.
I too sat, trying to feel serious and failing slightly. Oliver Smith had a smear of dust along his cheekbone, which I was now finding strangely distracting. I cleared my throat. “Devon is very nice.”
“Excuse me, don’t interrupt my monologue. As I was saying, Devon is extremely nice, and by that I mean no one has American accents.”
“I beg to differ—necessary and true. Additionally, no one in Devon swears.”
“Hey, buddy, my distant relations came from Devon, 's partly why I'm here—looking for them. Second cousin thirteen times removed, or some such, so, anyway, there's nothing I don't know about Devoners cussing! You all say bloody this and bloody that as though everyone's been stabbed to death.”
I gave him a withering look. “Devonians. And where’s your coffee then? Aren’t all Americans addicted to coffee? Where’s your little American flag that all Americans carry around in their back pockets? Where’s—”
Oliver Smith held up his hands. “Yeah, okay. I get you. Look, just give me a book about Devon and I’ll be a local by the time I have to leave, okay?”
I stood with rather more force in my legs than necessary, which caused me to teeter slightly. I tried to cover this up by walking slightly too animatedly over to the local history shelf. “Of course, these would be easier to find if someone hadn’t destroyed my Dewey decimal system.”
“Sorry, just sounds funny in your accent. Jewy. Say jewy again.”
“No.” I pushed a book titled ‘Devon: The Rural Beauty of our Surrounding Nature and the Lives of its Inhabitants’ into his chest and sat again.
I glared at him, and he retreated to his corner. Glasses are quite a blessing. They make my otherwise unthreatening face appear quite ferocious in a librarian sort of way. I don’t have a particularly intimidating face au natural. I’m just a bookshop owner—brown hair, blessedly curly (meaning brushing is not often necessary), and…blue? I wasn’t sure what colour my eyes were. “What colour are my eyes?”
Without glancing over Oliver Smith replied with no hesitation, “Green.”
So, green eyes then, and I was tall—tall enough to get away with eating much too much shortbread and doing nothing all day except reading, but, nevertheless, not getting fat. Although I was a little squishy, and any strenuous effort (like walking up stairs) was a challenge in itself.
“Hey, look. There’s a chapter on your village.”
“There is? I mean, yeah. There is.”
Oliver Smith wasn’t listening to me. “It says tin used to be mined here…hey, that’d be perfect for our shooting!” He put the book on the floor and glanced at me, eyes shining. “There’s this scene where Detective Jones—that’s me—has to follow Aahil Jafari down into a mine shaft and catch him in the act of murder! This would be perfect!”
So, caught murdering someone? For goodness sake, no one ever really gets murdered. Sheesh—actors and their dramatised scripts. I resisted his enthusiasm. “Filming here would mean things like…film crews. I doubt any of the other people living here would want that.”
“It’d bring in lots of money and increase tourism massively!”
“Yep…I’m still seeing no upside.”
Oliver Smith paused his happiness for a moment. “Why wouldn’t you want more tourists?”
“Because tourists initiate eye contact, tourists steal books and seem to think that leaving currency on my desk makes it a fair exchange, tourists drive around in cars too big to fit through the lane!”
“They’d bring in money.”
“I am perfectly fine.”
Oliver Smith ran his hand along a shelf. It came back covered in dust. “No, you’re not.”
I heaved a sigh. “Okay—I could be sanguine with this idea eventually, but you think the likes of Joan will willingly accept a Hollywood film crew here? She’d know it was down to me, and she’d make my life Hell. I mean, have you seen how she dresses? Imagine how much she’d hate being near people who actually understand fashion. It would make her feel small, and to make herself feel big again she’d grind my bones into talcum powder and…wait, I don’t want to continue that thought.”
Oliver Smith threw his hands in the air and began to pace. “Come on man—she’s like, eighty. She’ll pop her lights soon—she must be as old as my long lost damn cousin.”
Pop her CLOGS, Oliver. Grammar is for life, not just for Christmas. “No she won’t. Joan is immortal. She’s a demon.”
“She can’t be that bad.”
I stood too, knocking over my chair as I did so. “Oh, I’ll think you’ll find it’s Edward, not Edmund. Oh, what’s a book? Why do you have a bookshelf across the door? What are you doing? Give me the details of everything that happens in your life so I can get you in trooouubble.” I spoke in a high-pitched voice that actually did sound strangely like Joan’s.
“Fine. You may be scared of her, but I’m not. I’m going to phone the director, and he’s going to bring the crew here whether she likes it or not. God knows you need it.”
Oliver Smith pulled out his phone and marched to the other side of the shop. I chased after him and pulled at his arm, mouthing desperately. He glared at me and dialled.
“Hey Jackson, it’s me, Oliver. Yeah, I escaped from their evil clutches—yeah, just holed up in a bookstore, trying to experience a bit of the real Devon.” He shook me off his elbow. “Listen, I’ve got a proposition for you—this village, it used to mine tin. There are mine shafts aplenty—yeah, I know! That was my reaction. It’d be perfect! Tomorrow? I’ll be waiting.” He hung up and smiled triumphantly. I realised my mouth was hanging open slightly and shut it with a click.
“You moron!” I slapped his arm with the back of my hand. “Joan is going to murder me, kill my business, and slaughter your little Jackson!”
Oliver Smith put his hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “Joan is not a demon, she is a woman. I don’t know what she holds over you, but Joan is not going to ruin you. I promise. Okay? Oh, and Edmund? Trust me when I say that you really don’t want to think of Jackson as ‘little’.”
Hell, this guy was perceptive. “But…”
“It’ll be fine. I’ll stay here overnight, we’ll come, we’ll go, and tourism here equals boom.”
I relaxed. “Okay. No, fine. Fine. I’ll just go and…”
I left Oliver grinning in the front room and went to jump off a cliff.