Charlie was rushing home when he first saw it. If it had been a beautiful sunny day he would have been looking around him, taking in the beauty of the university grounds. Charlie loved the walk through the grounds. From the lecture theatre to his digs took him through the arboretum, around the tennis courts and finally across the end of the lake. Charlie was always amazed by the different types of flora and fauna he experienced on his walk home. So different from Birmingham city centre where he had been brought up. The concrete jungle with the odd tree and small patch of grass put in by overspent councils to try and give it some semblance of nature and break up the grey monotony.
But on this day he had had his head bent down, trying to fight against the driving rain. At first he saw a spot of red out of the corner of his eye. He didn't want to stop, he was getting soaked and needed to keep moving fast but the flash of colour caught his eye and his curiosity. He dog legged across the pavement and stopped. Looking down he had to look twice but there in the gutter was a copy of the I Ching. He picked it up and carried on home.
When he got home he threw the book into the sink and started undressing. A while later after a hot shower and a change of clothes he came back and looked at it. It was wet through and in danger of disintegrating but he picked it up carefully and opened the front page. This book belongs to Billie Yang.
Charlie couldn't believe his luck. Billie Yang was the most beautiful girl he had every seen. She was in his english literature group and he had been trying to pluck up the courage to talk to her for weeks. Now here was the ideal opportunity.
Charlie carefully laid the book out on the hearth mat and turned the gas fire on to low. He wanted to dry the book out so that he had something special to give to her.
The next day Charlie was sat behind Billie. Every time he tried to get her attention one of her friends or the teacher would say something. All day he tried and tried but always something distracted her. In the end Charlie knew he was never going to get her alone and he would never have the courage to talk to her with her friends there. What was he going to do? As he was walking towards the science lab for his last lesson of the day he walked passed the notice board. Of course that was it.
By the time Billie walked passed the same notice board an hour later there was a new notice in the middle of the board for all to see.
If anyone has lost a copy of the I Ching contact Charlie Somersby.
'Thank goodness,' Charlie heard one of Billie's friends say, in the large crowd gathered around the notice board. 'He lives over by the new mini mart you can pick it up on your way home.'
Charlie didn't wait to hear the reply but turned and ran out of the building. Chess club would have to be missed if he was going to get home and look smart enough when Billie got there.
Charlie showered and changed, and changed and changed. He didn't want to look too geeky but he didn't want her to think he wasn't intelligent. Finally he settled on his best checked shirt and his new blue jeans, just in time, he was still lacing his converse trainers when the door bell rang.
He raced down stairs but too late Mrs Jones who lived in the ground floor flat had got there first.
'Oh hi, does Charlie live here?' asked an extremely gruff voice. Charlie couldn't see who was at the door from where he stood but it obviously wasn't Billie.
'Yes,' said Mrs Jones. 'Oh look here he is now.'
Charlie slowly walked down the stairs to see Brian Matthews the school bully and resident idiot standing there.
'Hi Brian,' smiled Charlie, it wasn't wise to upset Brian. 'What can I do for you?'
'Billie said you had my book.'
'I've got a book but it's not yours. It's Billie's'
'No it's mine.'
'I don't know what your game is Brian,' said Charlie sounding a lot braver that he felt, 'but it's Billie's. It's got her name in it.'
'She gave it to me.'
'Course she did. Why would you want a copy of the I Ching?'
'Because I'm interested. So go get me my book.'
Brian grabbed hold of the front of Charlie's shirt and pulled him close. Charlie could still smell the remnants of the shepherd's pie the canteen have served for lunch on Brian's breath.
'It's Billie's book and I am not going to let you have it.'
Brian raised his fist just as Mrs Jones reappeared from her flat. He looked at her, shrugged and pushed Charlie away. Charlie landed in an untidy pile on the floor and Brian turned and headed off up the street.
Before Mrs Jones had chance to ask Charlie what was going on he picked himself up and rushed back up to his room.
Charlie sat in his room flicking through the book. It had Billie's name in the front and there were notes in the margin all in her beautifully delicate handwriting. The book had to be hers but why was Brian trying to get hold of it? Just then the doorbell rang again. On the third ring Charlie realised Mrs Jones must have gone out and he went down stairs to answer it.
Charlie opened the door to find Brian standing there again.
'Look Brian I don't know what you want but I am not giving you the book.'
Brian stepped aside and behind him was Billie.
'Hi Billie,' Charlie blushed.
'I wanted to thank you for standing up to Brian about the book. It couldn't have been easy.'
'Not a problem.'
'But the thing is it really is Brian's book. I gave it to him.'
'Oh. Oh well I best get it for him then.'
Charlie slowly walked up the stairs and fetched the book. He returned and without looking up he handed the book to Brian.
'Thanks.' Brian took the book and started to walk off.
'Look Charlie,' Billie said. Charlie looked up and was happy to see she was smiling. 'I wondered, as you've been so gallant about the book and everything.'
'Yes,' Charlie replied.
'Do you fancy going for a drink sometime? Maybe tomorrow?'
Charlie could only nodded and grin as Billie turned and ran off after Brian.