She laid her bag on the front desk before she clicked the lights on. The marble floors reflected the sharp light that was just bestowed upon it. As she made her way to her chair, she clicked her laptop on that remained open from the night before. She had waited for this day for the past seven and a half months, and it was finally here. She did her best to contain her excitement that came with living your life’s dream, but the reality of the price that she paid to do so dampened her mood. It didn’t last for long.
She had always wanted to open a bookstore of her own, and she’d finally done it. Today was her first day open to the public. She had spread the word around the community by stapling neon green flyers to light posts all across the city. This was a strategic move. She had sat on her newly acquired fortune for the entire winter. Of course, she had promoted online like anybody with a budding business would, but felt that flyers would be a waste during the winter season.
It seemed to her that most people had given up on the old fashioned, sure fire way of doing business. Being friendly and outgoing will get you far in life, and it was a philosophy that she subscribed to. The belief that putting positive energy into the world would return it back to you was a foreign concept to her only a year ago. As they say, a lot can happen in a year.
Her name was dragged through the mud hundreds of times over the course of the last two years. The combination of the media and the way the locals had treated her caused her to take drastic measures. She had changed her name and relocated to a upscale suburb in upstate New York. It was a change of pace from what she was used to, but she felt like that she had finally belonged.
Belonging was a weird human thing. She didn’t think that any other species had to deal with fitting in. Whenever she had watched a documentary about wild animals, it seemed like everything just naturally fell into place. Pure freedom, what a concept. It probably wasn’t normal for people to be envious of animals, but she wished that she could have just let things fall where they may. Instead, she forced her fate. In all of the personal growth that she had went through, she was beginning to pick up on things that escaped the common man.
Her raven black curly locks bounced as she slid her desk chair over to her laptop. Her face was flush, obviously still battling that cold from last night. She was hoping that it would have passed by now, but the grumbling in her stomach made her realize that it wasn’t done with her just yet. She reached in her bag and pulled out a bottle of water and a powdered lemonade packet. As she placed it on the white countertop, she noticed a middle aged man and his son standing outside of the door. She would have thought this was weird, had she not just noticed that she never flipped the door sign to read open.
She skipped to the door and opened it, apologizing for any inconvenience.
“Sorry, first day,” she said to the father.
“Ah,” he shot back, with a touch of forgiveness in his tone. She could tell that he was growing restless waiting outside of the shop.
“Please, come in. You guys are my first patrons. Are you looking for anything in particular?”
They stepped inside the doorway and marveled at the architecture that encased the interior of the building. Mahogany railings surrounded the spiral staircase that led to the second floor. She had insisted that didn’t want any elevators in her facility, which she now saw as more trouble than it was worth. She was more than willing to pay any price as long as it meant that she could avoid reliving that night again, but she had changed her mind.
Maybe an elevator would make her feel closer to him again. Maybe she could have a drink in the elevator and talk to him one last time. She knew that it was too late for these maybe’s, however. She extended her hand to the father.
“Well, my name is Melanie and I’d like to welcome you to The Open Book! I hope you don’t regret dropping in today.”
She got a chuckle from the boy that stood about as tall as her knee. Melanie bent down to look the boy in the eye. “What are you looking to read? I have some really cool kids’ books!”
“You didn’t even ask my name yet!” His bowl cut made her laugh on the inside, especially the way that his brown bangs subtly hugged the top of his eyes. She thought it was a funny coincidence that they were both wearing the same peach colored shirt. His was plain and hers had a floral design in the center. A blue jay perched from a branch extending from right side of the design.
“Well, what is your name and what are you looking to read?”
“My name is Danny and I want to read about jellyfish!”
She rose to her feet and instructed both of them to follow her. She walked towards her desk and turned right, walking towards a row of books in a section that was labeled, ‘children.’ She had a vast collection of children’s books, because she had always admired the authors of them. Writing a book for children was a different ball game than writing for adults. Things had to make sense for kids to lend their imagination to them. Adults literature was littered with a rotten, stinky corpse of what prose should be. Too many hacks in it for the money and not the love of the art, which is the exact opposite of the way it should be. She refused to carry any young adult novels inside of these walls.
As they strolled down the aisle, she stopped dead in the middle and plucked a book from the rack. The cover was a jellyfish floating at the bottom of the sea, and had the title, “Jeffrey the Jellyfish.” She handed it to the boy and watched as his eyes lit up like a match in a dark room. The smile of a child always warmed her heart, because it meant that she was one step closer to reaching her full potential. Children were the future.
“Danny, why don’t you go have a seat at the table and see if you like it. I’ll go grab you a juice box from the back room. That is, unless you want to come with me?” She glanced at his father for permission, who smiled back at her. His beard upkeep was admirable, but his eyes slunk down like worn out travel bags. The grey in his beard matched the specks of it in his hair. Calling it a salt and pepper look would be more of a compliment than he warranted.
“I never caught your name, Danny’s dad?”
“Same as his, I’m senior, he’s junior.”
“Ah, ok. Wonderful. You guys come with me, I keep the snacks right back here.”
The two Daniel’s followed Melanie down the aisle and to a black door that read, ‘STAFF ONLY’ in bold red letters. She pushed the door open and allowed them to follow her in before locking the door behind them. Before Daniel could question her motives, she interjected.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to scare you. Security measure,” she said, digging through a box of fruit snacks and candy bars. The room was dimly lit and there was what looked like a dozen hospital beds lining the outskirts of the room.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
Melanie’s face changed from featuring a happy smile to a lethal scowl. Her eyebrows scrunched up momentarily, but then a slight smirk returned.
“I’m not going to harm your son, I promise you. His safety is more important than yours, right? You’re supposed to be selfless and all that shit, aren’t you?” Her demeanor changed as quickly as a vehicle shifts gears. She stepped towards the elder Daniel, causing him to throw his hands up in a defense manor. Stepping back from her advances, he had fallen quite literally, right into her trap.
His backwards steps gave way to a trap door below the floor that was eight feet deep, leaving him no course for escape. Danny ran towards the door and tried to jig it open, but with no results. The door was locked from the outside as well as the inside. He dropped the half eaten package of fruit snacks and collapsed to the floor. The thud of his son crashing to the hardwood floor made his skin crawl as he howled from the depths of the hole he found himself in.
She knew that he would give up after a while, and it wouldn’t have any effect on her, even if he didn’t. The back room was sound proof, similar to a panic room. There were no windows, but the walls did feature paintings of wilted tulips, roses and daffodils. She scooped Danny’s body from the floor and carried him over to the outer most hospital bed. The sheets looked like they hadn’t been changed in weeks, if not months.
She reached for a bottle of serum on a shelf that stood just beside her. After twisting the top off of the bottle, she then grabbed a needle and filled it with the solution. As soon as she injected him with the needle, he woke up, trembling uncontrollably. Pieces of words slid out of his mouth, proving that he was almost in prime condition for what she needed from him. She dragged her chair towards the boobie trapped hole that his father remained in and lit a cigarette. He was hollering threats towards her that she knew would never come to fruition, so she barely acknowledged him. The closest thing he got to communication was the ashes of the cigarettes she’d flick down there on top of him. She tossed the butt into the pit, which landed and bounced off of his right arm.
“You won’t get away with this, you sick bitch!”
She laughed at his prediction. She’d always gotten with it.
Bringing the chair back to the child, she sat down in it and watched him age years in the matter of minutes. The once nine year old boy was now a man in his mid-twenties. He was still talking gibberish. She injected him once more, and slapped his hand three times.
He looked her in the eyes with a dead stare, almost like there was nothing remaining behind his eyes.
“You gotta stop watering dead plants.”
She stood up from her seat and tossed it inside the pit. The youngest Danny continued to age and was now probably older than his father. He had grey hair and more wrinkles than time itself.
“Thank you guys, truly. Tell your friends,” she said as she shut the door behind her. There was not a soul in the bookstore as she ventured back to the front desk. She sat in her desk chair and opened the Word document that she had saved from yesterday.