Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One
Chapter One: Licorice Memories
The smell of anise greeted Lyra as she opened the door to Drake’s bookstore. It took her back to happy childhood memories. Licorice-shoe-string-rewards for following her parents’ requests to stay on the dock while they secured the family’s pleasure boat to its trailer. The aroma brought a fleeting remembrance of times long gone, a treasure now that her folks had recently passed. At ease with the familiar scent, she settled into browsing through rows of antique bookcases.
The shop owner stuck his head around a set of shelves. “Do you like tea?”
“Yes, I do.” Before she could finish speaking, he disappeared. “Is that the wonderful smell?” she called out.
Kitchenware clinked in the back room. Receiving no answer, Lyra followed the noises, scanning collections as she walked. This bookshop appeared established, but surely she would have remembered it from her last visit to the Lake Huron village five years ago. Books were her passion, especially fantasy. She paused in front of that section and studied its titles.
The owner appeared, holding a pewter tray with a teapot, two cups, sugar jar, spoons, and napkins, which he laid on the corner of an old library table. She watched him carefully pour the tea and hand her a cup. He was about her age, mid thirties or a bit older, and handsome. His medium brown hair, peppered with gray at the temples, grazed his shoulders in wavy layers, and his beard was trimmed into a neat goatee. He wore long shorts, a knit golf shirt, and sandals—typical casual attire for this island resort community.
She set down her bag from the drugstore and accepted his offer with a smile. “Thanks. My name’s Lyra.” She blew across the hot surface of the tea to cool it and then inhaled the anise-scented steam. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy the memory. “Ah!”
“Afternoons of boating and licorice with your parents? Right?” he asked.
Her mouth dropped open. How did he know that?
He slurped from his cup. “Go ahead, take a sip. My folks gave me the same reward for taking my kid sister along on bicycle rides.”
Forgetting all about the tea, she asked, “How do you know my childhood memory?”
“Taste it.” His lips curled into a sly grin as he took another gulp.
She cautiously took a tiny sip, just enough to wet her lips and the tip of her tongue. The flavor flooded her mouth, and her mind swam with wonderful memories. The taste transformed into that of gigantic popcorn balls the sheriff’s wife down the street made for Halloween trick-or-treaters, accompanied by images of Lyra’s costume—a red, fringed gypsy skirt borrowed from Mom. Next came a pumpkin flavor and vision of holding a cold piece of “punky-pie” in her five-year-old hand. Another swallow returned her experience back to anise. “What is this? How did you know?”
“Let me introduce myself.” His grin spread into a smile as his eyes met hers. He took a step closer. “I’m Cullen, Cullen Drake, and I know many things. What I don’t know is what sort of books you like to read.”
His keen interest caused heat to rise in her cheeks. “Well, actually I have several favorites, all fantasy and magical realism. You have a number of authors I like in this section.” She turned to refer to the shelves behind her, but found non-fiction hunting guides instead. “This case held classic fantasy a moment ago!”
Cullen put down his cup. “It moved. It’s over here, and I have just what you want.” He slid an old-fashioned library ladder along its track, set the locking device, and climbed straight up to the top shelf.
Lyra followed, walking between four comfortable leather club chairs grouped on a Persian rug. A portrait of a young girl and a man wearing a cloak caught her attention. Something seemed familiar in the child’s smile.
The noise of books sliding on shelves distracted her. She moved to the base of his ladder and glanced up. The ceiling of embossed tin panels decorated with Victorian teardrop chandeliers and paper Chinese dragons made a unique combination, to be sure.
But Lyra was more curious about the strange happenings in the store and its owner. He was certainly odd, although not the bookish, geeky sort who usually ran bookshops she frequented. He had an athletic frame and strong legs.
“Can’t find it!” he exclaimed and quickly descended. His brow furrowed, he dusted off his hands on his shorts. “I’ve got to find that volume for you. If you don’t mind me saying, there’s a sadness about you. The book will make you happier than you’ve been since those days of licorice shoe strings.”
“After magical tea and shifting bookcases, I almost believe you.” She laughed to cover her concerns. Even four months after it was final, she worried that the loneliness she felt after her divorce blazed like a beacon on her forehead. But, Cullen knew so much—it startled her…actually, intrigued her. Her ex didn’t ever see inside her, didn’t want to. This man read her as though he knew her. Did he? He seemed so familiar.
“Once I find that book, I promise, you’ll be pleased.” He stroked his goatee. “Hmm. Where did I last see it?” The twinkle in his gray-blue eyes captivated Lyra. “Will you be here for the week? I can look for it and call you later.”
“I’m staying the rest of the summer with my elderly Aunt Jean. She owns a lovely cottage at the end of Walnut overlooking Lake Huron. I thought I’d keep her company and give her time away from her nurse during my teaching break. While I’m here, I plan to write my novel.”
“Great! You’re a writer? What do you teach?”
“Yes, and I teach American Literature at Southern University in Florida. Seems like you already would’ve known that since you jumped into my childhood memories,” she stammered, attempting some humor. Taking a long draught of the tea, her mind filled with memories of her pet dachshund wiggling next to her, displacing a row of dolls. Another part of her past he knew—impossible! Her forehead beaded with sweat.
“No, only thoughts associated with a lot of emotion, like the happiness of snuggling with your dog.”
“How?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “I don’t understand.” Her mind swam, trying to grasp what happened. She desperately needed some fresh air. With trembling hands she set the cup down.
“I realize it must seem odd, but the book I’m looking for will help explain.” He leaned closer with a smile that somehow reassured her. “This is Saturday. If you can come by next Wednesday morning, I think I should have it for you by then…if you’d like.” He paused and looked into her eyes, waiting for a reply.
“Yes…I’m curious.” In spite of the confusion, she found herself agreeing. “Wednesday will work.”
“Fine. Let me take down your number in case I can’t find it.” He walked to the counter and located a notepad and pen. She dictated her number and full name, which he repeated, “Lyra McCauley, a lovely Celtic name for a pretty lady.”
“I think I need to go now. Thanks for the tea.” With shaking fingers, she collected her shopping bag and headed toward the door.
He escorted her out and offered his hand to shake, the corners of his goatee lifting into an inviting grin. “Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Lyra smiled and looked into his eyes, trying to discern his unusual clairvoyant gift. “You too.” The initial touch, of his palm against hers, sent electrical shivers along her arm. She jerked, yet didn’t let go, fascinated by the strong emotions flashing through her mind—attraction, excitement, and acceptance. After an awkwardly long pause, she dropped his hand, half-stumbled over the threshold into the sunshine, and took a long, deep breath.
She ambled to an outdoor café a couple blocks farther down Tenth Street, while her mind buzzed with questions. How did he know those things about her? She dropped onto a seat at an empty table, shaded by an umbrella. He was fascinating and frightening at the same time…and familiar. Her divorce and loss of her parents left her lonely. He intrigued her.
“May I get you something to drink while you look over the menu?” The waitress interrupted with a bright young voice, a college student working a summer job.
Startled back to reality, Lyra murmured, “Just water, please.” Alone in a crowd of lunch goers, her thoughts returned to the bookstore and many unanswered questions.
The waitress placed a glass of water in front of her.
She almost hated to drink and remove the sweet aftertaste of anise from her tongue.
© Copyright 2012 Marsha A. Moore. All rights reserved.