I was on the subway heading down to 14th Street to The Science Fiction Shop near there when I spotted her. She and the guy she was with had just gotten on the train at the previous stop. They were sitting directly across the aisle from me.
As soon as they sat down, she dipped into her backpack and pulled out a book. It was a hard back with a paper cover that looked a little tattered. Holding the book against her chest, she said to her companion, who was dressed in jeans, a black leather jacket, and motor cycle boots, “I can’t wait to start reading this. I had to work like heck to find a copy, especially since it’s been out of print for almost a year.”
“Well, I’m glad you finally got it,” he replied, though he didn’t exactly sound like he really meant it.
“So am I,” she said, as she turned the book, as if inspecting it, so that I could finally see its cover. That’s when I dipped into my own backpack, and pulled out my copy of the same book—Christmas Spirits.
This was my second time reading it. The first time had been a couple of years back. I still had a couple of chapters to go, which was why I was heading to The Science fiction Shop to pick up my next month’s reading material.
“You’ll like it,” I said to her, holding up my copy.
When she saw my book, her brown eyes lit up. “I know I will,” she said with an enthusiastic smile. “This is my second time reading it. I lost my first copy when I moved into my apartment.”
“This is my second time, too. In fact, I’m almost done.”
“I can’t wait to get started,” she said again.
Just then, the train pulled into the 14th Street station. “Well, this is my stop,” I told her, getting up and stuffing the book back into my backpack. Then with one hand on the edge of the door to prevent it from closing, I turned to her and said, “Enjoy your reading!”
“I will,” she replied with another huge smile.
Then turning, I stepped out of the car and the doors closed behind me. As the train began to lumber noisily away from the station, I watched it until it was out of sight; at which point, I began walking down the platform toward the stairs that would lead me up and out of the station. As I climbed the grime-filled cement steps to the outside, I thought: what were the odds that we both had been reading the same book?
Although I work in a children’s book store, I often go to The Science Fiction Shop, to get books and magazines on science fiction and fantasy I can’t get anywhere near where I live or work. Once I paid for my books and magazines, I took the subway back uptown to the loft I share with my parents. My father is a producer at CBS, while my mother is a buyer for Macy’s. Since they both make lots of money, they don’t charge me that much rent, which makes living in New York City a lot more affordable.
Back in the apartment, I opened up the glass doors to our little balcony, and sat down on a lounge chair in the sun to begin looking over my booty. Even though it was close to Thanksgiving, New York City was experiencing an unusual warm spell, which was why the sun felt so good—so good, in fact, that before long, I dozed off, and found myself in the midst of a dream about the girl from the train.
I guess Christmas Spirits had been pressing heavily upon my consciousness, because in my dream, the girl, who looked to be somewhere in her mid to late twenties, and I are the spirits from the book.
It’s a novella in which a ghost couple befriend a pair of orphans and celebrate Christmas with them. Although the orphans die tragically in the end, all four become a ghost family, and the next year, celebrate Christmas together. The first time I read it, the ending made me cry. But now, in my dream, there are no orphans. It’s just me and the girl wondering how, as ghosts, we’re going to celebrate Christmas?
Thanksgiving went well! Both my parents invited friends from work to celebrate with us. Then the very next day at the shop, the staff and I began to put up our Christmas lights and decorations. To add my own little bit of seasonal frivolity, I brought in my edition of Christmas Spirits and put it in the store window with the rest of the books. And yes, if you’re wondering, I was kind of hoping my friend from the train would somehow see it, and come into the store, but she didn’t.
As Christmas drew nearer, everyone began making plans for how they were going to spend the holiday. Jackson, my fellow store employee, said he was heading to Connecticut to spend the weekend with his sister and her kids. Kathy the owner of the store was going to spend it here in town with her parents. My parents were flying to Aspen to spend it with his boss. As for me? Since I don’t like skiing, or spending a lot of time with corporate big wigs (except, maybe my parents), I lied and told them that my boss at work had invited me to spend the day with her and her parents.
Turned out, it wasn’t a lie after all. When she found out I was going to be alone, Kathy did just that—invited me to spend the day with her and her parents. So on Christmas day, I took the subway over to Kathy’s apartment, which she shared with a roommate who was also out of town celebrating with relatives, and then Kathy and I walked over to her parent’s place.
“Is Jill here yet?” she asked her parents after we walked in.
“Not yet,” replied her mom, as her dad took our coats. Looking at her watch, Kathy’s mom said, “But she should be showing up any minute, now.”
Sure enough, just as she said that, the doorbell rang. Both Kathy and I turned to greet her sister. As soon as Kathy opened the door, and I saw her sister, Jill, my eyes bugged out. “Christmas Spirits!” we both said at the same time and laughed.
Yep, it turned out, Jill was the girl from the train.
Of course, we had to explain to everyone about our love affair with the book. Then after we settled down, and while we were enjoying our eggnogs, I asked Jill, “Where’s your motorcycle riding friend?”
“How did you know he rides motorcycles?”
“First, by the way he was dressed, and second, he didn’t seem all that excited when you talked about the book.”
Nodding, she replied, “You’re right, which is one of the reasons we split up back around Thanksgiving.”
“Good,” I said before I could stop myself. Jill looked at me a little funny-like. “He really didn’t look like the type who was heavily into a lot of sci-fi, or . . . Christmas Spirits.”
“Actually, he wasn’t.” After that, our conversations turned to just about everything except her ex-boyfriend.
By the end of the night, I was sure I was in love with Jill and that she liked me. I was correct. This Christmas, we’re celebrating our one year anniversary together. I just hope there’s a whole lot more to come!