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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. May's Theme: "Appreciation"
Volume 5 Issue 4 ISSN# 1708-3265
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The Bookshop
Chapter Eight - The Conclusion

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
Chapter Four - Chapter Five - Chapter Six
Chapter Seven

"Jenny? Jenny, are you awake?" Lila whispered into Jenny's ear, touching her lightly on the cheek.

Jenny opened her eyes and allowed them to adjust to the darkness. She could see the shadowed form of Gracie at the foot of the bed and realized at that moment how much she had missed the elegant hound. Longing to wrap her arms around the wiry frame and press her face into the smooth muzzle, Jenny tried to sit up. Pain shot into what felt like every nerve in her body and she was forced to surrender back to the cottony embrace of the pillow and blankets, moaning.

"Shhh, don't try to move. I'm here, love," Lila whispered, stroking Jenny's hair.

Tears welled in Jenny's eyes as she waited for the aching to subside.

"I heard voices, is everything okay?" a familiar voice sounded, from the doorway.

"It's okay, Di. Jenny's awake. I think she needs her rest now, though, maybe you can check back on us in the morning?"

"Sure thing. Glad you're awake, Jenny. See you in the morning, girls."

Jenny opened her mouth to inquire as to why Di was staying at their house and found that her throat was raw and sore. Her voice came out in a hoarse croak.

"She just showed up yesterday," Lila answered, "like she knew something was wrong. You were sick and I was about to take you to the hospital, but she insisted that I wait. She's been here since. If you hadn't woken up by morning, I was going to take you in. I was really scared."

Jenny reached over and squeezed Lila's hand in reassurance, trying not to wince from the hurting in her limbs. Content to finally be home and hoping to feel better by morning, Jenny allowed herself to sink into a restful, dreamless sleep.

The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafted up the stairs and into the bedroom, rousing Jenny from her slumber. Lila snored softly beside her. Gracie had wormed her way up the bed and settled between the two women, and one of the cats was sprawled along Jenny's side. Another of the cats was bathing itself on the window sill, next to the easel holding the painting of the garden. Soft yellow light streamed through the window, causing Jenny to squint. Lying still, she could feel no pain other than a mild throbbing in her head. She was about to attempt sitting up when a soft knock sounded at the door.

"May I come in?"

Lila stirred, rubbing her eyes and rolling onto her back.

Her voice still rough, Jenny beckoned Di to come in. Di opened the door slowly, balancing a breakfast tray precariously on one hand. It toppled as she crossed the threshold, but a quick hand restored it's balance before anything spilled. A grin spread across her face as she presented the tray.

"Good morning, girls! Lila, sorry if I woke you, dear."

"That's okay. What've you got there?"

Di set the tray down on Lila's bedside table and said, "Breakfast is served. I hope you're hungry! Blueberry pancakes, fruit salad and fresh coffee. Roasted it myself, just this mornin'." A wink accompanied the last and Jenny shook her head in amusement, never ceasing to be amazed at Di's playful and upbeat nature.

"Thank you, Di. You didn't need to do all this," Lila said.

"Oh, don't you worry about it, hun, just enjoy it. It was my pleasure. Now I better see to my little 'un, he's probably awake by now."

"But what about you? Don't you want some?" Jenny asked.

"I have a plate waitin' downstairs. Thought I'd give you two some privacy, to talk. I'll check back on you in a while, hun. Enjoy your breakfast!"

Gracie was banished to the floor. Lila set the tray on the bed and served Jenny a plate. Although not nearly as painful as the previous night, Jenny was still sore and required some assistance in propping herself up to eat. Lila piled the pillows behind her with one hand, holding the plate of steaming pancakes with the other.

"Can you eat or do you need me to feed you?" Lila asked, only half-serious.

"I think I can manage."

They ate in silence. Now and then Jenny dropped a morsel of food onto the floor, where Gracie gobbled it up and waited patiently for more.

The recent journey into John's life and time had left Jenny wondering. Was it merely a fitful dream brought on by the fever that had worried Lila so? Or was it real? Where did the book come from? And what was the point of it? Was it merely some trick played on her by the author of the book, or was there some lesson to be learned? There was a nagging suspicion that Di was somehow involved in it all, but Jenny couldn't imagine how or why. These questions remained at the back of her mind while she consumed her breakfast, along with one final question: what to tell Lila. The truth? Would she think Jenny insane and insist on a psychiatric evaluation? Or would she believe, as Jenny so longed to believe, that it was all very real?

As she mopped up the remaining syrup with one last bite of pancake, Jenny realized that she did not know where the book was. Stuffing the pancake into her mouth, she dropped the fork noisily on her plate and reached behind with one hand, searching through the mess of pillows for the worn binding.

"I'll go help Diane with the dishes. Will you be okay?" Lila asked, oblivious to Jenny's state of panic. Jenny nodded and smiled. Gracie padded alongside Lila as she exited the room, stopping once to fix her chocolate pools of eyes onto Jenny before rounding the corner.

Jenny resumed her search, renewing the pain in her back and arms as she twisted and turned and reached and groped. Finally locating the book wedged between the headboard and mattress, Jenny breathed a sigh of relief. Book in hand, she leaned back and closed her eyes, remembering what it was like to be trapped in John's body, that odd sensation of existing as two individuals at once. Wonderment and a slight sentiment resembling loss mingled together and suddenly Jenny had the urge to cry. Before a single tear could escape her lashes, a voice interrupted her thoughts: "I was sore, too, afterwards."

Di stood in the doorway, the same knowing smile playing across her face that Jenny recalled from when she tried to purchase the book. "The question you have to ask yourself is, was it worth it?"

"You knew?"

Di nodded and strode across the hardwood floor to the end of the bed, perching on the edge next to Jenny's feet. "You know how you always walk into the shop and find the exact book you were looking for, even when you didn't know you were looking for it, or maybe had forgotten that you had wanted it?"

Jenny nodded.

"Well, you're not the only one. When I bought the store from the previous owner, she warned me. She said it was magic.  I didn't believe her. I laughed at her. But when I started shelvin' my paperbacks, I saw that old dusty book in your hands there, in the exact corner where you found it. It spoke to me. Not literally, of course, but words started appearing on the pages, words addressed to me. And then it happened. Suddenly I was transported to another world. A pirate shipwreck, actually.  When I saw the book in your hands the other day, that same old book, disguised as your great-grandfather's novel, I knew."

"So this isn't my grandfather's book?"

"It may have been the story he wrote, but the book itself - I don't know.  I have a feeling we experienced very different stories."

"But - but how?"

"Magic, just like the old owner said."

"Magic." Jenny allowed the word and its meaning to roll around in her mind and attempted to comprehend what Di had told her. "Really? A pirate shipwreck?"

"A pirate shipwreck."

"I'd like to hear more about that."

"And I'd like to hear yours, when you're ready to talk about it." Di patted Jenny's ankle and stood. "But right now you just need to rest. Both your body and mind have been through the wringer. I'll tell the boss that you won't be into work for a few days. He knows better than to argue with me. Meanwhile, I think you need to have a conversation with that lovely woman downstairs. I'm guessing you haven't told her yet."

"No, I haven't."

"You take care, hun. I'll check back in on ya tomorrow. Time to get that kid of mine home, he needs a bath like somethin' awful."



"Do you know why the book chose us, why this happened?"

"I've always thought there's a reason for everything. I can tell you why I think it happened to me, but the reason it happened to you - it's up to you to determine that, dear."

The two women stared at one another in silence for a moment and an understanding passed between them, the kind of understanding that occurs when two persons have shared similar fates. Then Jenny smiled and said, "Thank you, Di. For everything."

"My pleasure. We'll chat soon, after you're rested."

In conversing with Diane, Jenny found answers to some of her questions, but still felt as though she needed more closure. Thoughts racing through a whirling mind, she tried to focus, to examine the experience objectively so as to resolve the matter of why. Convinced there was some lesson to learn, she struggled to unravel the mystery. Conclusion evaded her and by the time Lila returned to the bedroom, Jenny was mentally exhausted.

"Do you need anything, love?" Lila asked.

"Uh-uh. Thank you, Lila, for taking such good care of me. I love you. I'm so happy to be home."

Lila settled down next to her, pulled the blankets over their laps and reached up to smooth Jenny's hair. "I'm just glad you're okay. I was so scared. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you."

"I'm fine now, just a little sore and tired. I'm not going anywhere, I promise."

"Are you finished with your book?" Lila asked, gesturing the volume in Jenny's lap.

"Yeah, I'm finished."

"How was it? What was it about?"

"Um, well, that's something I need to talk to you about."

"Talk to me about? That sounds serious. It's just a book, right?"

"Not exactly."

"What do you mean, not exactly?"

"It's a magic book."

"Oh. What kind of magic is it about?"

"No, I mean the book is actually magic. It's enchanted or something like that."

"Jenny, seriously. What are you talking about?" Lila crinkled her eyebrows and a half-smile played on her lips, as if she couldn't decide whether or not this was a joke.

"I found it in the bookshop and when I first opened it, there was a message on the inside. A message to me. It said, 'for Jenny, may you find in this humble story the adventure of a lifetime and a love worth your dreams'. But then the next day, all the words were gone. It wasn't until I opened it again at the book store that they reappeared. But then I wasn't reading the words anymore, I was living them."

"I don't understand."

"Then let me tell you, so I can help you understand. I can only hope that when I'm finished, you'll believe me."

Jenny went on to retell the story of Captain John, just as she had experienced it, taking care to include every detail, every emotion, every sensation, all the while searching Lila's face for evidence of belief. Lila laughed and cried and marveled, her eyes flashing with a mix of awe and skepticism. When Jenny was finished, she told Lila of Di's confession, hoping that it would lend credence to her own claims.

"So, what do you think? Do you believe me?" Jenny asked.

"Jenny, you're my partner, the one I love, the one I trust. If you say it's true, I must believe you, although I have to say it's a little mind-boggling."

"I was afraid you'd send me to a shrink."

"Sweetie, no, I wouldn't do that. If you hadn't told me what Diane said, though, I might've thought you were just delirious from your fever."

"I wondered that too, until I talked with Di. She told me she thinks there's a reason for it, for why it happened to me, but that it's up to me to figure it out. I've tried, but I can't think of it. All I know is that if it's possible, I love you even more now than I did before. What it said, about finding a love worth my dreams - I found you. You and your love traveled with me, you were there. Our love helped to reunite Elsie and John, and once that happened I was reunited with you."

Jenny paused to gaze at her red-haired lover, reaching up to caress her cheek. Lila bent down and lightly pressed her lips to Jenny's.

"I meant it, what I said the other day," Jenny continued. "I want to marry you in that garden, the one in your painting."

"Jenny, it's just a painting, something that came out of my imagination. Our backyard doesn't really look like that."

"I think we should make it look like that, or at least something close to it. It's the garden of our dreams. Di talks about her garden all the time, she can help us. It's spring, the perfect time to start. We can make it happen. I want to marry you, Lila. I know marriage isn't legal for us in this country, but what does that matter? There was no judge presiding over John and Elsie's wedding, no government stamp of approval. They were blessed by friends, by family and by the gods they believed in, and their love was all that mattered. That's all that matters here, in this house, in this bed - our love. We are married, in body and in heart and in soul. And who knows? Maybe the reason for all this was for me to rediscover things I already felt and knew, to reinforce my love for you. Maybe I was simply supposed to have the adventure of a lifetime and find a love worth my dreams."

"Maybe you're right. But if there's a greater reason, I'm sure it will come to you in time."

"What greater thing is there, than love?"

"I can't think of anything greater than love."

"So, will you marry me, then?"

"Is that your idea of a proposal?"

"Well, I'd get down on one knee but I think I'd probably collapse."

Lila laughed and pressed her cheek to Jenny's, murmuring, "Of course I'll marry you. I'll marry you tomorrow if you want."

"How 'bout this summer, in that garden you painted?"

"We'll see." Lila kissed her tenderly, and then asked, "Are you too sore to make love?"

"I think I can manage, but you might have to do all the work," Jenny replied with a smile.

Giggling, Lila trailed a finger down Jenny's abdomen, stopping just below the belly button.

"What's so funny?"

"Did you ever wonder, when you were John, what it'd be like?"

"Wouldn't you?"

As the two made love, the book was knocked to the floor, forgotten. Half-concealed beneath the bed, it remained unnoticed when Jenny got out of bed that afternoon. Later that evening Jenny searched for it, but could not find it and concluded that the book would be found when it was ready.

The following summer, Jenny and Lila were joined beneath the oak that stood in the centre of their backyard, surrounded by family, friends and fully-bloomed flowers. It had taken longer to create the garden of their dreams, and Jenny insisted that they wait to marry until it was complete and in full summer splendor. Both women wore simple summer dresses and flowers in their hair. Gracie donned a ring of daisies round her neck and sat obediently between her human mothers. The priestess officiate bent down and gently petted the animal on the head before beginning the ceremony. Gracie bestowed upon the woman a sloppy kiss. The priestess threw her head back and laughed at the sky, then affectionately kissed the greyhound on the nose, rose to her feet, spread her arms wide and began, welcoming the guests and presenting the brides. The ceremony was simple, the words spoken were genuine and from the heart. The celebration afterward was joyous, full of laughter and well-wishes from friends, family, coworkers and neighbors alike. All were invited to join in the cheer.

When the moon rose and all the guests were gone, Jenny looked to the night sky and whispered her gratitude to Elsie and John. "If I hadn't witnessed your vows to one another, I might not have had this wondrous day. For that, I am forever grateful."

Jenny pressed her palms together before her heart, closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. As she exhaled, she felt a pair of arms encircle her waist. "You have goose bumps. Should we go in, love?" Lila asked, resting her chin on Jenny's shoulder.

"Let's make a wish first, on the stars."

"I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight," Lila whispered.

"What did you wish for?"

"That you'd love me forever."

"You already have that."

"So do you."

The women retreated into the house and up the stairs. Once in the bedroom, Lila turned her back to Jenny and looked over her shoulder with a coy smile. "Unzip?"

The sundress fell to the floor, revealing flawless porcelain skin and a long and sculptured back. Jenny couldn't help but run her fingers along the curve of Lila's waist and hip before turning and allowing her own dress to be unzipped and removed. Lila rained kisses along her shoulders and neck, pressed her naked torso to Jenny's back for a moment, then sensibly picked up and stored away each dress before pulling her lover onto the bed. Gracie followed, an object clenched between her jaws.

"What do you have there?" Jenny asked, reaching for it. Gracie opened her mouth and a book fell into Jenny's hand. It bore no title, yet she knew it was the one. Curious, she opened it and thumbed the yellowed pages. They were all empty, except for the last, which simply read, "The End."

"This is what you were meant to do, love," Lila said, taking the volume and smiling slightly. "The book wanted you to marry me. It may be the end of that story, but our story is just beginning." She tossed the book onto the bedside table. Gracie, as if knowing she was not meant to be part of the next scene, jumped off of the bed and curled up on the rug.  All other thought was banished as Lila painted swirls and ribbons and dreams on Jenny's skin with her fingers and her mouth and her love.

The End

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 Lego, Abby and Allie. Her hamsters - Poohbear and Jack 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.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Timeless Spirit Magazine. All articles are the copyright of the particular writers and cannot be reprinted without their expressed permission. All rights reserved. International copyright laws prohibit reproduction of or distribution of this page by any means whatsoever, electronic or otherwise, without first obtaining the written permission of the copyright holder. We retain legal counsel to protect our copyrights.

Any advice given is for informational purposes only.

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