The story of the Spinster house began here, here, and here.
Chapter 3: The Shop
Anna stopped on the sidewalk in front of the line of little brick shops. She breathed in deeply as though inhaling memories of times she had been in the same place before. Each summer she had been lucky enough to spend with her aunts, she had been drawn to the shop despite the sunny weather tempting her to play.
It was all hers now.
Okay, not all hers. She shared ownership with her aunt's best friend, Zoe. That suited Anna fine as she'd grown up with Zoe in the shop. It wouldn't be the same without her. Her vibrancy and off-beat personality made everyone around her that much better. And, for Anna, having Zoe there was like having a piece of her aunt with her.
Anna moved again slowly until she was in front of the store. A small, antique looking sign hung down from the steel rod protruding from the building. It simply read "Books and Ends" in a clean, simple script. Anna glanced into the window noting the display of books intermingled with small knick knacks the store was known for. Beyond the display, Zoe looked up and a smile filled her face.
No backing out now, Anna thought. She's seen me.
Anna pushed open the heavy oak door with a ping as the top scraped by the bell suspended above. Zoe had made her way to the door by that time and flung herself into Anna's arms.
Well, more technically face first into Anna's boobs. Zoe was about 5 feet tall to Anna's own nearly 6 feet. However, despite her small nature, she was strong. Anna's ribs were squeezed tight in testament of that fact.
Zoe danced with joy as Anna returned the embrace.
"It is so good to see you finally! I wondered when you would come scope out the shop." Zoe swirled around, her floor-length, patchwork skirt flaring out around her. "What do you think? It's been awhile since you've visited!"
Zoe darted away to straighten up a shelf and turned to beam at Anna. "Hope would be so pleased you are finally here." Her eyes misted for a moment before her smile returned with a little waver. "It's not been the same the last few months."
Anna gently patted Zoe's shoulder in an effort to comfort the small woman. She didn't know what to say to make it easier. Anna blamed herself for much of what happened. If only she had visited more, she could have helped with the stress of the store and the house. If only she had returned when Hope first asked her, she could have saved herself the heartache she experienced in the last year, and she could have made her Aunt's last year easier.
Anna shook her head clear of the negative thoughts, "I'm sure it hasn't, but you've done a remarkable job with the store. It looks fantastic. You've expanded a bit haven't you?"
Again, Zoe became joyously animated. "We did! We put in a fancy coffee maker and made a couple of seating areas. Even one in the garden out back!" Zoe nearly bounded across the room despite her chunky shoes, her long black hair swinging like a pendulum across her lower back. "This is my favourite spot! It was Hope's favourite armchair. I put it here in the corner for people to curl up on and sit a spell."
Anna slowly wandered to the old wing chair and ran her hand over the faded material. She remembered spending many evenings nestled into pillows on the floor beside this chair while her aunt read aloud or sat quietly and knit. The soft blue had dimmed over time, worn along the arms where her aunt's elbows had rested. It looked inviting, comfortable, and like home. The matching stool sat off to the side ready to be pulled into action as a footstool or coffee table, whatever need arose.
Anna drifted through the store examining shelves of books and bric-a-brac that made up the store's inventory. Zoe and Hope had done a wonderful job of mixing curio with genre. Victorian tea cups accompanied books by Bronté, while exotic figurines decorated the shelves of the travel guides.
The entire store was treated more as a library. It was as though these two remarkable women had opened their homes and invited you to peruse their collections and take what you liked home with you - all for a reasonable price. Nothing was overcrowded or overwhelming. Every aisle and shelf encouraged you to settle in, get comfortable, and find a new passion.
Zoe bustled about the store chatting about the changes she had made to the store in the last few years. Suddenly, she gasp in surprise and exclaimed, "I forgot! Hope left something for you. I will get it right away." She darted off - a blur of skirt and flowing hair - to the back of the store where the small office was located. When she returned, she proudly held in front of her a leather bound tome.
"Hope left you this. It was her journal. She said it would 'Help you find your way.' I promised her I would give it to you if - when - you came home."
Next: Anna's last year
Note: some of the details have changed from the last chapter and will continue to change as the need arises. Try not to be alarmed. Initially Hope was going to be a social worker, but I loved the idea of this bookstore too much not to go with it.
Also, Zoe is loosely based on a dear friend of mine. She is one of the most cheerful, unconventional women I know. One time, on Halloween, she arrived at my house in a broomstick skirt, a pirate shirt, and clunky shoes. It was the greatest ensemble I had seen. I asked if she had dressed up and she looked at me like I was insane. Nope, that was just what she was wearing that day.
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