After leaving the market, I stopped by the bookstore for a few hours. I stopped by nearly every day, reading every book on every subject I could get my hands on, trying to learn all the things I missed my chance to learn in school, and then some. As a Cerulean, I was forbidden to own books, but I paid the shopkeeper 300 drika a month to be able to read them in the store. I was lucky about this for two reasons, the first being that I could read before I was forced to leave school, unlike many Ceruleans today, who were forced to work in the mines or fields under horrible conditions with very little pay; the second reason being that the shopkeeper, an elderly Indigo woman, remembers the time when our kinds were civil, agreed to this arrangement. If she were ever found out, she would surely be sent to prison, if not sent to her death. We have a system though, to prevent such things from occurring. I read in the storage room, which is about 3 feet wide and 8 feet long, badly lit, and is full of shelves and boxes. There are only two others who know of this arrangement, her daughter who is in her late twenties, and her son, who just finished college. They both assist her to run the shop, and also manage it for her when she is not there herself, which is rare.
Each week, I meet her son 4 hours before sun break, at the door in the alley behind the shop. He lets me in, and for up to an hour I am able to look around the store, making a list of the books I would like to read for that week. I give the list to Ranolp, her son, and he gives the list to her. I am not certain where she keeps the list, but she never strays from it. At any given time, there are always two books in the stock room, one that I am currently reading and another so that if I finish the first, I can continue without pause. Every night, after the shop is closed, the shopkeeper or her children check the storage room. If a book is left face down on the top shelf, that is to signify that I have finished it and it can be reshelved and replaced with another.
Per my usual routine, I walk directly in front of the store, glancing inside to see if it is crowded. If it is quite crowded I either continue home, or walk to the shore and wait an hour before returning to evaluate the crowd again. If there are only a few people, I continue to the end of the block, where I make a left, walk half a block, then make another left in the alley. I enter through the back door, quickly and quietly so I won’t be seen. I make my way to the stockroom quickly, and when I leave I always do the same save for one important part. On my way out, I always grab a bag of trash that the shopkeeper or her children have left for me. This is to prevent questions on my way out, as one would assume I am merely a trash collector.
Once a Sharmal, which is a prestigious Royal or Indigo assigned with the duty of keeping peace and enforcing laws, stopped me as I made my way out of the shop on his regular patrol. I gave him the planned story, but this particular Sharmal was the type who enjoyed his privilege, and the power he had over others. He ordered me to show him my residence. We walked the four miles to my home, silently. I walked a few steps ahead of him, only aware he was still behind me by the growls he made every few minutes.
Upon approaching where I lived, he became quite alert and studied the surroundings. It was the bad part of neighborhood, and his life was worth more than mine in these parts. He surveyed my building, which at one time had been a motel, now renovated as cheap apartments, of which only the poorest Ceruleans or transient Indigos would ever live in. It was not appealing from the outside, and there was no reason it should be, as it was never kept up by the old Indigo man who ran it. You could see that the original color had been a dark brown, but it had been faded to a very light tan, but of course that was only where paint remained. The gutters and shutters adorned the apartments sporadically, and most of the surface of it had been covered with graffiti-old or new, one could barely tell. Rent was cheap and I was left alone, which is what I desired, so in my eyes the run down building was my sanctuary, if ever there were one.
When the motel was changed to apartments, the rooms were divided into two halves-one that had a window, bathroom, and kitchenette; the other having only a closet. Those who rented the smaller rooms were forced to share an outhouse that sat behind the apartments. A shower was in the “office” of the apartments and one could shower whenever the owner happened to be there, which was every three days, at best. I did not want a window because I wanted to have as much privacy as possible-so I chose the smaller of the two apartments.
We reached my door, and I looked back at the Sharmal. He looked around, as if he expected something to jump out at any moment. He looked back at me and nodded, which I knew was his way of ordering me to open the door. I opened the door and held it open, glancing back at the Sharmal, who did not move. “Turn on the light.” He ordered. I reached towards the lamp, which was nearly out of my reach from the door, and flicked it on. The Sharmal stood in the doorway and looked around. The length of time he spent studying my room was grossly unnecessary as I don’t have much to my name. My room consists of: a mattress, blanket, and pillow; a small table and one chair; a small lamp next to my bed; and a pitcher of water and glass that I kept on the table. Five minutes went by as he glared into my room before he responded. The Sharmal crooked his neck to the side, with his eyes fixed on something in the back left. “Are those…Books?” He asked, and with that he marched forwards towards my closet, where I noticed the door was left open by a few inches. Through the crack you could just barely catch a glimpse of a stack of books piled against the back wall. How could I have been so careless to leave them in plain sight? I breathed deep, knowing that this moment could be death for me