“I understand, sweetie. But if there comes a point when you feel as if you need my little book, you just let me know.”
I smiled. “Your book seems so small now. I could’ve sworn it was bigger before.”
Her hand dove into her apron again, and she pulled out two more books. “Don’t be silly. I was just trying to seem ladylike by only displaying one at a time.”
During my break, curiosity got the best of me, and I found myself stepping foot into Mr. Henson’s shop. Within a few seconds, it was easy to tell that Mr. Henson pretty much sold anything and everything magical. Half of the store was a coffee shop while the other half was set up like a closet that was filled with things I’d seen in many supernatural stories.
As I entered, the bell dinged above the door, causing Mr. Henson and Tristan to look at one another with confusion in their eyes. When they turned my way, I tried my best to act normal as I explored the store, even though I could still feel their eyes on me.
I paused for one moment, reaching to the top shelf of one of the bookcases for a book. A book of spells? Okay then. The binding was tied together with string, and it was covered in dust. I picked up another book. Both pieces looked older than dirt, but still somewhat beautiful. Dad had always loved finding old gems like those in vintage shops. He’d had a huge collection of old books in his study that were in different languages or on subjects he hadn’t any idea about, but he just loved how the covers felt and looked.
“How much for these two?” I asked Mr. Henson. He remained silent. I arched an eyebrow. “I’m sorry. Are you closed?” When my stare met Tristan’s, I held the books to my chest and my cheeks blushed over. “Hi.”
Mr. Henson cut into the conversation, which was probably for the best.
“Oh! No, no. We’re open. We just don’t get that many visitors. Especially visitors as easy to look at as you are,” Mr. Henson said, sitting down on the edge of the countertop. “What’s your name, darling?” His comment broke my stare away from Tristan, and I cleared my throat, somewhat pleased by the distraction.
“Elizabeth. And you?”
“I’m Mr. Henson. And if I weren’t four hundred times your senior and very engrossed in the male anatomy, I might think about taking you out dancing at the old barn house.”
“Dancing? What makes you think a girl like me would be interested in dancing?”
Mr. Henson kept the look of pleasure on his face and didn’t answer.
I walked over and sat beside him. “This is your store?”
“It is. Every inch, every square. Unless you want it.” Mr. Henson laughed. “Because if you want it, then it’s yours. Every inch, every square.”
“That’s very tempting. But I have to say, I have read every Stephen King book ever published five times over and the idea of taking on a store called Needful Things is a bit alarming.”
“Between you and me, I thought about calling it Answered Prayers, but I’m not much of a religious guy.”
I snickered. Tristan did too.
I looked over at him, pleased that we were laughing at the same time, so he stopped.
My eyes fell to the books. “Is it okay if I take these off your hands?”
“They’re yours, free of charge.”
“Oh, no… I want to pay.”
Going back and forth, the two of us argued about me taking the books for free, but I wouldn’t let up. Mr. Henson ultimately folded.
“And this is why I stick to my men. Women are too much like me. Come back in another day and I’ll give you a free tarot reading.”
I smiled. “That sounds like fun.”
He stood up and walked toward the storage room. “Tristan, ring her up, will you?” He turned to me and gave a slight nod before he disappeared into the back.
Tristan went to the cash register, and I followed.
I slowly laid the books on the counter. My eyes moved to the tan and black photos of the forest framed against the wall behind me. “Beautiful,” I said, staring at the pictures.
Tristan punched in made-up numbers for the books. “Thanks.”
“You took these?”
“No,” he said, glancing at the pictures. “I carved them out of wood then added the black ink.”
My mouth hung open in disbelief, and I moved closer. The closer I looked, the more I could tell that the ‘photos’ were actually wood carvings.
“Beautiful,” I muttered again. When my eyes locked with his, my stomach twisted with nerves. “Hi,” I repeated, this time with a sigh. “How are you?”
He rang my items up, ignoring my question. “Are you going to fucking pay or what?”
I frowned, but he didn’t seem to care. “I’m sorry. Yes. Here you go,” I said, handing him the money. I thanked him, and before I walked out of the store, I looked at him once more. “You act like such a jerk all the time, and the town only knows you as this callous man, but I saw you in the waiting room when you found out that Zeus was going to be okay. I saw you break down. I know you’re not a monster, Tristan. I just don’t understand why you pretend to be.”
“That’s your biggest mistake.”
“What is?” I asked.
“Pretending for a second that you know any damn thing about me.”
April 2nd, 2014
Five Days Until Goodbye
When the taxi dropped Dad and me off at the hospital, I ran all the way to the emergency room. My eyes darted around the space, searching for something, someone familiar. “Mom,” I shouted, making her look up from the waiting room. I took off my baseball cap and hurried toward her.