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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. March's Theme: "Pets"
Volume 4 Issue 3 ISSN# 1708-3265
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The Bookshop
Chapter Four

by Jennifer Kusz

Just joined in? Haven't read the entire story? Well, if you missed it, here's a link to Chapter One - Chapter Two - Chapter Three

Bright sunlight and the salty-fresh aroma of Lila's homemade chicken soup roused Jenny from sleep. The digital clock on the bedside table indicated that it was early afternoon. Jenny tried to sit up but a sharp pain shot through her head, forcing her back down. Minutes later, Lila appeared carrying a bed tray topped with a steaming bowl of soup and a package of oyster crackers.

"How's my love?"

"Other than feeling like I've been hit by a truck, just fine. Aren't you supposed to be at work?"

"I stayed home to take care of you. I made you some soup."

"Thank you honey. Now if I could just sit up to eat it. My head is killing me."

"Maybe I should take you to the doctor."

"No, I'll be fine, probably just the flu."

Lila set the tray down and sat by Jenny's side, touching her forehead to check for fever. She kissed Jenny's temple and then helped ease her into a sitting position.

"What would I do without you?" Jenny muttered. The corners of Lila's mouth turned upward in response.

"Let me help you eat."

"I think I can feed myself."

The hot broth, filled with a healthful array of vegetables, herbs and chicken, warmed Jenny's throat and belly. She finished the bowl and then drowsily watched Lila as she set up her easel in front of the window and began painting a scene in the backyard, complete with the garden that they had never gotten around to planting. Patches of wildflowers contrasted the neatly placed rose bushes. A dusty hare had stolen its way into the vegetable garden and munched happily on dark leafy greens. Daisies sprung up unbidden throughout the yard, their happy faces smiling up at the sun. Gracie was in the center of it all, curled up in that regal manner of greyhounds, surveying the scene with sleepy eyes.

"I want to marry you in that garden," Jenny muttered as the light faded and Lila began to pack away her brushes and paints. Lila turned to her and smiled brightly. Her hair had fallen into her face and when she brushed it away, she smudged her cheek with paint. Jenny longed to touch that spot of paint, to bury her hands in Lila's hair, to taste the sweetness of her mouth and become drunk with fervor and delight. Her body still tired and aching, Jenny forced herself to be content with the fantasy. She secretly and silently remembered the way it felt to be in a man's body and wondered what it would be like to make love to Lila in that form, to bury herself deep into the sweet chasm of ecstasy and become lost. She had not told Lila of her experience with the book, fearing that her story would be met with disbelief. She considered telling her now, but as she contemplated how to approach the subject her eyelids drooped and sleep took her once again.

It was three days before Jenny left the confines of her bed. She wondered if Captain John suffered from a similar ailment, if they were perhaps sharing the aches and pains of their recent experiences. She had no fever, no signs of flu or even the common cold. Her body, however, was fatigued, her muscles tender and sore and her temple throbbed where John had hit his head. Lila continued to press Jenny to see a doctor and Jenny continued to refuse, knowing that the doctor would find no explanation for her pain.

Anxious to return to the book but wary of putting more physical strain on herself, Jenny forced herself to wait another week before returning to the bookstore with the book. She went mid-morning on a day that she was not scheduled to work. Lila was having lunch with a friend and would not be home for at least a few hours. Di was behind the counter when Jenny entered.

"Long time no see! Feeling better?"


"I heard you had quite the experience the last time you were here," Di said with a wink.

"Um, yeah," Jenny replied hesitantly, pondering what "experience" Di had referred to. She couldn't possibly know. Could she?

Di stared at her for several long seconds before returning to the Oprah Book Club novel in her hand. Jenny shuffled to the back of the store and sank into her favorite chair, pulling the old book out of her canvas bag. She laid her hand on the cover and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.

"Okay, here goes," she mumbled quietly. She opened the cover, turned the pages, and there they were - the words she had last read, followed by new words.

She started to read:

Three full days passed with little improvement. John drifted in and out of fitful dream-filled sleep. Shivering feverishly, he cried out from the midst of a nightmare, calling the name of his love. His swollen and bruised temple throbbed and his entire body was wracked with pain. Jack tended to him silently, bringing him food and hot ale. The other men maintained a watchful distance, whispering their suspicions as to what ailed him and their fears that he would not recover.

The next line blurred. Jenny saw in her mind's eye the recovery of Captain John. It played before her like a picture on a movie screen. It was a week before the men were able to pack up camp. John and Jack worked side by side, gathering supplies and tying them to the backs of horses. John saddled his own horse, a proud bay steed who stood taller than all the rest. His golden-brown coat was sleek and muscles rippled like water beneath. He stamped his ebon hooves anxiously, jet black tail twitching and starless eyes shifting to the beat, excited to ride after a nearly a fortnight of idleness.

"You take care of my horse?" John asked his brother.

"Walked him every day, gave him the best feed," John replied as he tended to a dappled gray mare with a white muzzle and gentle, liquid eyes. A docile animal, she was the picture of serenity beside the restless beast.

"Good. Let's go, men," John ordered as he swung himself up on the saddle.

Abruptly the picture screen went black. Jenny was pulled forward by an unseen force, sucked into a black hole of nothingness, completely void of space and time. Just as quickly as she was pulled in, she was spit back out, landing on the back of Captain John's horse. They were riding, she and Jack at the head of the small company. Leaning forward, Jenny patted the horse's neck and cooed lovingly. "I missed you, boy," she said, without knowing exactly where the words came from.

"You seem more like yourself today," Jack observed.

Jenny recalled their last conversation and found herself apologizing. "I'm sorry, Jack. I was delirious, man, don't take it personally."

She reached over and clapped Jack on the back. Jack nodded in acknowledgement, but the hurt was still visible on his face. Give him time, he'll come around, she said silently, consoling the man whose body she inhabited.

They rode on the outskirts of the main path, avoiding other travelers. Somehow, Jenny knew where to lead the men, although she was unsure of their ultimate destination. She tried conversing with Jack, but his responses were limited to the fewest words possible. She gave up and rode silently as the sun traversed through the sky, eventually sinking down into the red horizon, barely visible through the trees. She lost herself in thought, pondering the strange amalgamation of herself and Captain John. He speaks through me now. What will happen if he continues to gain control? Will I become lost in his body, in his mind? Will I continue to influence his thoughts, his actions? Will I continue to exist, or will I be forever erased?

"We'll have to make camp tonight. If we leave at daybreak, we should be home by nightfall," John shouted to his men, the words startling Jenny out of her contemplation. She led the men deeper into the woods until they came upon an inconspicuous clearing. As they dismounted, tied the horses and unpacked their bedrolls, Jenny returned to her thoughts. Home. I wonder what awaits us there.

"Elsie." The name was almost inaudible as it escaped her lips, and yet it was a deafening cry in her thoughts.

"Who is Elsie?" she whispered aloud. The answer came to her in silent comprehension. This was the name of the woman who Jack had seen and spoken of, the woman who held hostage the heart of Captain John.

Chapter Five will be published in our July 2007 issue.

Jennifer is happily married to a wonderful woman, Lisa. Theirs is a union of true, deep, respectful love… the kind we all dream about. Of course we mustn't forget… their beautiful little fur-family! Her two cats - Max and Hazel, dogs - Daisy (and Queenie, who is frolicking in puppy-heaven), rats Gloria, Fifi, Charlie, Tobey, Abby and Allie. Her hamster - Poohbear and aquatic-turtles Maximus and S.A.M.

Jennifer is embarking on a new career as a Behavioral Analyst and also works part time at a group home providing care to persons with physical and developmental disabilities.

She is also a writer and poet with a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM.

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