Book Lovers by Emily Henry



            “Sorry,” she says, almost to herself. “I don’t mean to be Sad, Droopy Mom—I just . . . I really need some sleep.”

            My mind is already spinning, searching for places I could pick up the slack. Brendan and Libby’s evergreen concern is money, but they’ve refused help in that department for years, so I’ve had to find creative ways of supporting them.

            Actually, the phone call she may or may not be peeved about was a Birthday Present Trojan Horse. A “client” “canceled” “a trip” and “the room at the St. Regis” was “nonrefundable” so “it only made sense” to have a midweek slumber party with the girls there.

            “You’re not Sad, Droopy Mom,” I say now, squeezing her arm again. “You’re Supermom. You’re the regulation hottie in the jumpsuit at the Brooklyn Flea, carrying her five hundred beautiful children, a giant bouquet of wildflowers, and a basket full of lumpy tomatoes. It’s okay to get tired, Lib.”

            She squints at me. “When was the last time you counted my kids, Sissy? Because there are two.”

            “Not to make you feel like a terrible parent,” I say, poking her belly, “but I’m eighty percent sure there’s another one in there.”

            “Fine, two and a half.” Her eyes dart toward mine, cautious. “So how are you, really? About the breakup, I mean.”

            “We were only together four months. It wasn’t serious.”

            “Serious is the nature of how you date,” she says. “If someone makes it to a third dinner with you, then he’s already met four hundred and fifty separate criteria. It’s not casual dating if you know the other person’s blood type.”

            “I do not know my dates’ blood types,” I say. “All I need from them is a full credit report, a psych eval, and a blood oath.”

            Libby throws her head back, cackling. As ever, making my sister laugh is a shot of serotonin straight into my heart. Or brain? Probably brain. Serotonin in your heart is probably not a good a thing. The point is, Libby’s laugh makes me feel like the world is under my thumb, like I’m in complete control of The Situation.

            Maybe that makes me a narcissist, or maybe it just makes me a thirty-two-year-old woman who remembers full weeks when she couldn’t coax her grieving sister out of bed.

            “Hey,” Libby says, slowing as she realizes where we are, what we’ve been subconsciously moving toward. “Look.”

            If we got blindfolded and air-dropped into the city, we’d probably still end up here: gazing wistfully at Freeman Books, the West Village shop we used to live over. The tiny apartment where Mom spun us through the kitchen, all three of us singing the Supremes’ “Baby Love” into kitchen utensils. The place where we spent countless nights curled up on a pink-and-cream floral couch watching Katharine Hepburn movies with a smorgasbord of junk food spread across the coffee table she’d found on the street, its busted leg replaced by a stack of hardcovers.

            In books and movies, characters like me always live in cement-floored lofts with bleak modern art and four-foot vases filled with, like, scraggly black twigs, for some inexplicable reason.

            But in real life, I chose my current apartment because it looks so much like this one: old wooden floors and soft wallpaper, a hissing radiator in one corner and built-in bookshelves stuffed to the brim with secondhand paperbacks. Its crown molding has been painted over so many times it’s lost its crisp edges, and time has warped its high, narrow windows.

            This little bookstore and its upstairs apartment are my favorite places on earth.