Umm… like that was going to happen. “No thank you. This is ludicrous. I know who my parents are, and have been for my entire life. You are wrong.” Thank goodness the bus pulled up then. I boarded, took a seat, and settled in for the ride to work. I was so glad my car would be ready tomorrow! The bus stop is the place for crazy folk, it seems. Now, as long as the repair shop doesn’t try to stall again, I’ll be happy.
The last of the other passengers were filing on and filling the remaining seats. I glanced out the bus window, and saw the stranger gazing in my direction. He saw me looking and gave a wave as the bus pulled away. Who was this guy? How did he know my name? How did he know my parents’ names? I wish there was someone I could ask, but both my parents were gone. My dad had suffered a massive heart attack five years previously, and my mother died of cancer just one year ago. I missed them both terribly.
I realized with a start that the bus had arrived at my stop already. The bus had stopped at one end of a large square ringed with shops, restaurants with dining patios, and lovely green areas with benches and fountains. In the center of the square were four large pear trees that were breathtaking in the spring, and also caused tiny white blossoms to invade businesses all around the square. They blew in open doors as shoppers and diners strolled in and out, and we had all but given up sweeping them out the doors again. Nestled in the shade of the trees were chess tables, and even on the crisp, cool morning the chairs were filled with aging gentlemen. Steam rose from their cups of fresh hot coffee from the bakery in the near corner as they battled to the death of their chess pieces. Occasionally a pair of voices would rise above the rest, the daily debate of politics becoming heated until the peacekeeper in the group stepped in and smoothed things over. At the far end of the square was a book store, Fireside Books. It was a light brown stone building with two large bay windows, one on either side of the door. Large pots of flowers flanked the door, welcoming guests inside. It was my store. I opened it ten years ago and never regretted it once.
I crossed the square, returning waves from old men I had known my entire life, by sight if not by name. As I reached my book shop in the far corner, I slowed to examine the window display. Twinkling lights were strung around the display platform, casting eerie shadows on the children’s Halloween books nestled among the fabric. Dolls in costume peeked out from behind books, waving at each other. But Halloween was over the weekend; Thanksgiving was approaching and it was time to change the display to something more current. I could do that after Carrie, my favorite (and only) employee arrived. I unlocked the door and stepped into the dark chill of the store. One hour until opening. I hung my coat on the coat rack by the door, turned on the lights, and raised the temperature on the thermostat to a comfy seventy degrees. I started a fire in the gas fireplace – I preferred wood but couldn’t risk a hot ember floating out and catching my books on fire. I arranged cushions on the overstuffed couches and chairs near the fire. Soon the store would again be cozy and inviting. The women’s book club would be arriving midmorning, so I readied a table of coffee and hot chocolate. Claire from the bakery across the square would be bringing a selection of pastries with her. She was a founding member of the book club. She’s never said it, but I have a suspicion she came up with the idea to help my business take off when I first opened. It worked, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. The shop and the book group helped get me through the deaths of my parents like nothing else could.