Ah! The smell

"Bye papa", said she valiantly trying to control her tears. "Bye beta. We'll call," said her dad releasing her reluctantly from his hug.

She watched him leave with a sinking feeling. 'Why oh why did I come here!', she wondered trying to find even a sliver of enthusiasm that had carried her all the way from her small sleepy hometown to big bad Mumbai. She had job offers back home but she had wanted to test new waters, to work where her writing would speak for itself. How sure of herself had she been. How arrogant!

And look where she'd landed - in an alien land, alone.

She walked back to her room and sat down by the solitary window that overlooked the road. The hostel was silent with the eerie silence of a place normally bustling with activity. She wished she had come on a weekend when the other girls were around. 

Other girls! What would they be like? Would they accept her? 'Will I ever fit in?...' she wondered, ‘..in this lonely desert full of people?’ The melancholy threatened to overpower her. 'This is what you wanted?' she reminded herself sternly, giving herself a mental shake. Before the melancholy could turn into panic, 'I should unpack,' she thought.

She pulled at one of the cartons with uncharacteristic impatience. It fell apart and her books spilled out in a heap. She remembered how she and her sister had bickered about the ones she should bring with her. 'That one's my favourite.' 'No, you can't take that one either, you gave it to me'.. '..this one's only mine'. How difficult it is to segregate shared possessions. 

Idly she flipped open a book. 'This book belongs to me (and not to my sister)' she'd written on the first page. A smile tugged at her lips as she hugged it, inhaling its scent.

Ah the smell of old books! The smell of home.

She reached out for another one. 'May life never leave you disgruntled. May you always remain gruntled'. This, from a Wodehouse fan. Her smile widened. Ah! The smell of laughter.

Then a third one... 'May the magic never end,' said the Harry Potter and was followed by a list of names that spilled onto the next page. Her entire class had pooled in to get her the set. This one smelt of friendship.

Smiling now, she eagerly reached out for another one and almost laughed. 'Here's your copy now may I have mine back?' it said. She remembered how she'd shamelessly clung to it wanting to read it over and over till her friend had gifted her a copy. 
The smell of shared love.

And then another... 
'To the most fantastic Singleton, from all of us Smug Marrieds'. She remembered this one so well - a gift from her senior colleagues when she'd wrapped up her summer internship. She'd spent the month running a hundred meaningless errands. All the while she'd plied them with her articles hoping, yet never believing they'd even read them, till one day she'd seen her byline. Her first ever! 

Ah the smell of hope and acceptance and love.

Gently, she picked up the books returning them to the carton. No longer was she lonely. She was home with the smell of old books.

Linking to Write Tribe's 'The Best Scent: Wednesday Prompt -  the smell of old books'

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