Chapter 13, The Blonde
After scouring the shelves for other books penned by Lillian Sanders, I came up empty handed. It baffled me that this book was in the antiques section of the store. The copyright date is 1960, clearly not old enough to be considered an antique. And I had no idea my grandmother was a published author. There was a lot to learn about my mother’s family.
I went in search of Todd, ready to get back to the cabin to search the internet. I was going to find out what kind of a writing career Lillian had.
As I exited the antique book room to pay for this find, I noticed the same blonde from my first day in the village, the one that ran when she saw me. I hesitated. Todd was talking to her, she was laughing. They seemed to have a history of some sort, at least they seem to have known each other a while, regardless of context. A part of me wanted to approach them, but my motives weren’t entirely pure. I felt possessiveness over Todd that didn’t feel warranted. We haven’t even known each other for a full week yet. Who was I to lay claim? The other part of me wanted to become invisible, because I was still slightly unsettled from that odd non-encounter with the blonde days earlier.
I feel like I fell into a time warp these past five days, moving in slow motion, yet so much has happened that I have to have been here for much longer. My mind was having trouble comprehending what my heart has done in such a short period of time, trying to make the mathematical equation of time + mind + emotion = something tangible, understandable. Just to make everything makes sense. But, for whatever reason, it can’t.
Brushing hair behind my ear, I turned toward the counter to cash out, when Todd called me over – so much for being invisible. Nervously, I walked over, regretting my casual gear: jeans and a t-shirt. The beautiful blonde was wearing another stunning dress. Vintage must be her go to clothing store.
“Ivy, this is Ava – Ava, Ivy.” The look on Ava’s face sent shivers down my back. She genuinely looked frightened. What in the world…
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you, Ava.” I extended my hand and she just stared. “Um, are you ok?”
Todd kept looking back and forth between us, confusion setting in. Finally, Ava accepted my hand, placing a false smile upon her lips. “Uh, hi…Yeah, sorry…Clearly you don’t remember me…”
Remember her? Why would I remember her? “Uh, no…Do we know each other?” She dropped my hand.
“It’s nothing. How long are you here?” Should seem like an innocent enough of a question, in the spirit of making polite small talk. But there was something in the way she said it. Something flickered in her eyes, and there was a slight shutter to her voice. Did she not want me here? But that’s ridiculous.
“At the moment I am planning on staying another week and a half,” I answered in a semi-question, applying my own civil smile.
Her smile fell so quickly, I looked to the ground to see where it landed.
“Well, I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay,” turning to Todd, she continued speaking, but only after placing her right hand upon his bicep and plastering on a mega-watt smile – Gag me, “It was good running into you. We’ll have to catch up some time.” Then, flipping her hair she stalked out of the store. As I watched her walk away, I recognized that gait of hers. The edges of my vision became stretched, as if light was pouring in the sides, narrowing my center vision.
I fell back, stiff as a plank. Making one full rotation, head over heels, I was standing again, watching two young girls come barreling through the store entry: one brunette, the other blonde. They were laughing, giggling, skipping through to the back of the store. I turned to watch, mesmerized, the brunette very reminiscent of myself in my dreams. The store was different. There weren’t new shelves in the center flanking the aisle. From the door to the counter was open floor space. On the right were tall book shelves, much like what you would find in a library, running parallel to the back counter, but moving from what is currently the aisle to the shelf wall spanning the length of the store.
The two girls nearly fell into the counter, as a woman – Mom? – scolded them in jest. “Ivy, honey, you know you cannot act like that in Grandma’s store. What will the customers think if they can’t look for books in peace?” Then she winked, a smile replacing her stern face. I knew in that moment I was looking at my mother: A beautiful and slender woman with a heart of gold that I missed immensely. In a hushed whisper, as if sharing a secret, Mom knelt down to the girl’s level, “There are cookies in the back, go help yourself. Then you can put the books from that box on the shelves.”
The two girls sauntered off, doing their best to contain their giggles, bursting aloud once they were behind closed doors. The woman behind the counter laughed to herself, clearly enamored with those two girls.
Everything went dark, a shade drawn. Thoughts floated around my mind trying to piece together the new information that was just gathered: Lillian Sanders wrote a book. My mother and I worked at this store. This bookstore was my grandmothers? Did I know Ava as a child?
I heard Todd say my name. In an instant, the present came rushing back in. Shaking my head, all I saw was the store as it was before Ava left.
“How do you know Ava?” I had no control over those words. They just fell out, and if I could, I would scoop them back up. I so do not want to be a jealous woman. But I cannot help it. Ava seemed very interested in Todd.
“I think the better question is how do you know Ava?” Awesome, a let’s-turn-this-around type of question, and I am tired. I realize I am beginning to project my vexation onto Todd, when he has done nothing wrong. In fact, he has been nothing but supportive, but why? We don’t even know each other. And for all I know, he’s known Ava for years. To be honest, it’s none of my business, not to mention I am not sure I have what it takes right now to care about what could be going on between Todd and Ava, if anything. I check myself, trying to control the mess of emotions threatening to explode all over this store.
“I honestly do not know, though I just received a memory of me as a young girl running through this store with a young blonde, who I guess could be Ava…” What happened that caused me to block out an entire village and the people in it??? “Will you please take me back to the cabin?”
“Hello, Ivy! How’s the hunk?” Gotta love Stella, but upon hearing my sniffles, she quickly adjusted her tone. “Ivy, what’s wrong?” That is all it took, and I spilled everything, beginning with the moment we hung up after our last conversation. This time, she bypasses the Todd talk, and gets right to the heart of my creeping family drama.
“Ivy, how would you feel if I came out there and stayed with you for the rest of your visit?” What a delightful idea. I need the support. Stella is the most amazing friend. “Thank you, Stella. I think I need that right now. I feel so alone, and I am confused, and lost–” I break down in sobs out of relief and feeling loved. In a way, Stella offering to come and stay with me is an answered prayer. A prayer I didn’t realize I had in my heart until this moment. The flood gates opened, and Stella stayed on the phone with me as I cried my heart out, purging myself of all of my questions, concerns, and fears, making room for love, hope, and answers.
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