Timeless Spirit Logo The Bookstore

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. September's Theme: "Opening"
Volume 3 Issue 6 ISSN# 1708-3265
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The Bookshop
Chapter One

by Jennifer Monaghan

Snuggled between two shops on a long line of antique stores, biker bars and tiny cafes was an inconspicuous used bookstore, selling mostly paperbacks and softcovers. The shop was run by an eccentric lady and her timid little dog who never failed to growl at new and unfamiliar customers. Once an antique shop, old paintings filled in the bare spots on the walls, ballroom carpet covered the floor, mismatched chairs were scattered throughout for readers who wanted to make themselves comfortable. It was easy to hide or lose oneself in the maze of tall bookshelves filled to the brim and overflowing with books ranging from nearly new and gently used to tattered and worn. Hiding is precisely what Jenny liked to do most and this bookstore was her favorite place to do so.

Jenny had moved to town just six months previous and had already made herself quite comfortable in the quaint and quiet neighborhood. An avid reader and writer, she mostly kept to herself, spending long hours in her makeshift home office typing away on an old laptop. The office was filled with stacks of books of every genre. Cats stood like statues on the windowsill or sprawled out lazy and contented at her feet. A cushy chair in the center of the room served as Jenny's workspace, a wooden tray posed as a desk where Jenny would set her steaming cups of tea or coffee. She wrote mostly freelance for various magazines both paper and online but her dream was to someday finish and publish a great novel that would be remembered and revered long after her death. It was this novel that she spent all those long hours working on, waiting until the last possible moment to tear herself away from her dream to crank out columns and short stories. A procrastinator at heart and in habit, Jenny worked best under time constraints and pressure, still managing to make deadlines. Making it to work on time, however, was something she had more difficulty with. As the summer sun started to make its descent, Jenny would quickly save her work, tie her hair into a messy ponytail, spend several minutes saying goodbye to her cats and fish and then rush out the door. Practically jogging the three blocks to the cafe where she worked the late shift, still she almost never made it on time, consistently bursting through the doors at least five minutes late. Loved by the customers and coworkers due to a friendly and hardworking nature, her boss grew accustomed to her tardiness and waved his hand in dismissal whenever she tried to apologize or make excuses. "Just dedicate your first novel to me and remember me when you're famous," he'd sometimes say.

The bookstore was just two stores down from the cafe. Often times Jenny would spend her dinner break in the bookstore, just before closing time. The owner, her son in tow, kept the store open late for Jenny, allowing her to peruse the shelves as long as she wanted. "You just keep coming back and givin' me your business and I'll stay open as late as you like," she told Jenny once. It was this small town kindliness that drew Jenny to the town originally and it was what inspired Jenny's dream of growing old in her little rundown house three blocks from Main Street. It was indeed this town that was the subject of her "great American novel". Her hope was to write a series of novels set in this town, novels that would immortalize the town if not her own name.

It wasn't immediately that Jenny realized that the bookstore was more than just an ordinary used paperback shop. At first it seemed mere coincidence that every time Jenny desired a book she would find it there, staring blatantly at her from its place in the shelves, no matter how unlikely the book was. Even hardcover books she would find, although the owner advertised that she only bought and sold paperbacks. It wasn't until the day she found a hard-to-get, rare copy of a book written by her great grandfather thrice removed, tucked away in a dusty corner in the back of the store, right behind her favorite chair. It was on the bottom shelf, pulled out just slightly, enough to draw her attention. She had been looking for this book since adolescence and had never managed to get her hands on a copy. Very few were even made. It was not a popular or well-known book but rare book enthusiasts coveted it like madmen. She pulled it out slowly, mystified. It was covered in dust and a cobweb dislodged itself from the binding when she touched it. She stared at it a long while, disbelieving the words on the simple hardbound cover. Slowly, then, she put her forefinger on the top corner and pulled, revealing the first page. It should have been blank, but scrawled in black ink across the yellowed paper was a note: for Jenny, may you find in this humble story the adventure of a lifetime and a love worth your dreams.

"For Jenny," she whispered, tracing the line of his handwriting with her finger. She had been named for her grandmother, she knew, but somehow this message seemed to be for her own eyes, traveling over a century to reach her.

"Jenny, hun, you better get back, your break's done and I have to get this little one home," Diane, the store owner, called from the front, yanking Jenny unwillingly from her thoughts. She hurried to the front of the store, book in hand, almost rushing out the door without paying. She doubled back, fishing in her pocket for a handful of bills she'd received as tip money earlier in her shift.

"Find what you've been searching for today?" Diane inquired almost knowingly.
"Yeah, yeah I think I did," Jenny replied, still in shock, handing the book to Diane.
"Hmm, no price on this one," Diane said, inspecting the book gently. "Take it, it's yours, no charge."
"What? No, Di, I can pay for it, how much do you want?"
"This book belongs to you," she replied with a faint smile and a glimmer in her eye. She took Jenny's wrist and turned it over, placing the book in Jenny's palm. "You better go, you're late," she tapped her watch and pointed to the door. Jenny stood for a moment, frozen and stunned, then shook her head to clear her thoughts and hurried out the door.

She walked home from work in the dark, cradling the book against her body as if to protect it from something unseen. The lights were on in her house and she was greeted at the door. Long red hair, slender yet shapely figure, alabaster skin and piercing eyes, Lila was a perfect image of beauty and grace but for the smudge of orange paint on her cheek. Jenny reached up to wipe the smudge away. "I see you've been working," Jenny observed aloud.

"I missed you, today," Lila confessed bashfully.
"You did?"

Hand still on Lila's cheek, Jenny rose up onto her tiptoes to meet Lila's lips in a kiss. Momentarily forgotten, the book was placed distractedly on a plant stand in the foyer, freeing Jenny's other hand for more immediate purposes. Lila's companion greyhound, Gracie, followed the couple as they retreated to the upstairs bedroom, curling onto the woven rug at the foot of their bed while the two made love and fell asleep in one another's arms.

Dusty light fell across Jenny's face that next morning. She reached over to embrace Lila, finding the fur of her longhaired cat instead of the soft skin of her lover. She stroked the purring form lovingly for a few minutes before rolling out of bed with a groan. The clock read noon already, Jenny had forgotten to set her alarm. Downstairs, she found a note from Lila complete with x's and o's. Her great grandfather's book lay beside the note. "P.s. I found this in the foyer, why didn't you tell me, you finally found a copy!" the note read.

Instead of working on her novel, or, more importantly, the column due by tomorrow that she hadn't even started yet, Jenny sank into her old stuffed chair with a steaming cup of coffee and opened the book. Gracie, home today - she usually accompanied Lila to her daytime job in a pet-friendly city office - settled into a pile of papers beside the chair. She looked up, sleepy-eyed, when Jenny abruptly stood and dropped the book. Holding her coffee in one hand, she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes with the other before bending down and retrieving the book from the floor. She stared at the cover. It looked the same as it had last night, but when she opened it she found that the pages were all blank. Every single page, even the note from her great grandfather was gone. She sat down again, bewildered. She closed the book and opened it again, scanning the pages for any trace of the words that had been there yesterday in the bookshop. She removed her glasses again and squinted at the pages, trying to see something, anything. Slamming the book shut, Jenny shook her head and rubbed her eyes again. "I don't get it," she muttered. "I just don't get it."

Please return next issue for Chapter Two!

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, dog - Daisy (Queenie RIP), four rats Charlie, Tobey, Fifi, Eowyn, and Gloria. 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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