It was a beautiful place, the bookstore.
Some might even call it phenomenal. Inspiring. Life-changing. Hannah wasn’t sure what she expected the first time she saw it. It seemed out of place in the dark alley with just one other shop, an old newsstand that only sold moldy chips and cheap soda. The sun seemed to shine only on the bookstore, lighting up the street with an otherworldly light. Outside the bookshop, a pot of hot chocolate stood bearing the sign “Free. Take Some.” with a pile of paper cups at its side. Books stacked in orderly piles: everything from pocket sized editions of The Odyssey to the latest comics for six and seven-year-olds.
Hannah poured herself a cup of hot chocolate and took a sip. Frothy deliciousness met her tastebuds, an explosion of flavor that made her smile in delight. Hannah walked into the bookshop, still smiling, and breathed in the musty, comforting smell of old and new books. Time seemed to be irrelevant here. Tattered, leather-bound books dating back centuries stood next to the latest novels, crisp and pristine. She headed to the back of the shop where a pile of plush pillows and napping cats lay, and colored light flooded through the stained glass window. Hannah took a few volumes off the shelves and snuggled up with her books and hot chocolate. She felt that everything she loved was in in her hands: adventure, happiness, friends, mystery, animals, battles, daring missions, and magic, all in arm’s reach. Maybe, one day, she would be providing the adventure, happiness, battles, magic and friends for someone else. Maybe, one day, her books would stand on these shelves for a new generation. As she left the shop that day, newly purchased books in tow, she knew she would be back tens, hundreds, thousands of times. It was only a matter of time.
Thirty Years Later
The bell over the top of the door jingled softly, announcing the arrival of a shopper. Hannah had been working at the shop for over 20 years, but she didn’t think she would ever get over the shop’s understated beauty and the wonderful, woody smell of books and their history. A small girl entered the bookstore, startling Hannah and extracting her from her thoughts. The girl’s round, bright blue eyes twinkled merrily at the sight of so many books. A mound of brown curls surrounded her head and neck. She scanned the shelves.
“Do you have any books by Hannah McKinley?”
“Yes, dear. They’re over there on the third shelf to the left.” The girl’s face was etched with determination and excitement. Grinning, she pulled the book off the shelf and flipped through it, entranced. Then, she abruptly stopped. Her jaw dropped.
“No way!” she breathed. “You’re Hannah McKinley!” She looked from the photo of the author to the woman who had helped her find her book.
Hannah smiled. “That’s me.” The little girl looked at Hannah with so much wonder, awe, and bewilderment in her eyes, that Hannah felt her heart melt.
“I love your books. They’re just so… so real. They make me feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth, with the best gifts in the world: adventure, happiness, battles, magic, and friends.”
“I know exactly how that feels,” Hannah said.
“Lilly!!! We have to go now, sweetie!”
“I should go,” said the girl. “But I’ll be back.”
“I know you will,” said Hannah. “It’s only a matter of time.”