The Bookstore Intruder

bifocals, bookstore, flash fictionWhen Charlotte heard the ring of her bookstore door, she popped her head out of the masterful novel she was perusing.

From behind the book stacks she watched the intruder slink into the aisle.

Well, of course he wasn’t an intruder. Hopefully he was a paying customer. She’d had too few of them during this brutal meandering month of March. But that was part of the program. During the quiet season here on Block Island, Charlotte got used to her own company; she got used to brewing herself a carafe of hot tea and savoring the smell of jasmine and lavender. teat, liquid sunshine

She got used to the quiet.

But now this boisterous man had unsettled her silence. Not that he’d made much noise, but his shoes did squeak on her worn hardwood floors, and he did clear his throat a number of times.

“Can I help you?” Charlotte inquired with a slight rise to her voice as the poor man nearly jumped out of his skin.

His face reddened as he exclaimed, “Oh, I thought maybe I was alone – I didn’t see anyone, and I hoped, of course, that…”

Charlotte interrupted him. “The sign on the door says ‘Open’ and the lights are all on, so of course I’m here.”

chandelier, crystal, flash fictionAt her voice, the diffident man walked closer to Charlotte, who happened to be standing underneath the store’s antique crystal chandelier. She noticed the man peer at her over his bifocals.

Charlotte stepped out of the light.

“Charlotte?” the man asked like a child asks for a second piece of candy.

Charlotte touched her hands to her face, as if checking for sure that yes, indeed, she was Charlotte. She glanced cautiously at the mirror hung on the back wall of the shop, where in wavering layers it told of a 50-something woman wearing flannel-lined jeans and a plaid pink shirt facing a stranger with a mixture of surprise and hope, suspicion and hunger.

“Andrew…?” she whispered.

His gasp told her everything she needed to know.

flash fiction, bookstore, Kauai, Talk Story Bookstore

Flash fiction using the words bookstore, intruder, crystal chandelier, and bifocals.

123 thoughts on “The Bookstore Intruder

  1. Oh Pam, I love it!! If I ever meet the love of my life, I can think of no better place to meet him than in a bookshop. I’m jumping three steps ahead of course, there’s only the slightest hint in what you’ve written so far…but that, my friend, is what you do so well. Say so much with so little, build suspense with humour and detail until your reader doesn’t realise they’re already holding their breath… Blessings, Harula xxx

  2. I like your story and it is a great cliff hanger to allow the reader to create their own ending! If I were to meet a special someone (since who knows about my 10 month guy. . .) I would love it to be on a street corner, in such a bookstore or the cliched class reunion.

    I like Charlotte’s character who is clear in my mind from your deft description! ❤
    The photo is a great inspiration or "story starter," Pam! I used to like using magazine photos of unique settings on old manilla folders in an old one drawer filing cabinet qhwrb I taught sixth graders. 🙂 🙂

    • You and I are romantics, Robin. ❤ After all, "relationships DO reveal our hearts"! I began this story in a bookstore because my task was to include the words bookstore, crystal chandelier, bifocals, and intruder. If I continue this story, I'm asking readers for four other words to use. Would you like to offer a word??
      I have a folder of saved photos in my filing cabinet qhwrb also!!!! 🙂

    • Okay, I’m offering up a chance for my readers to help me write the next sequence to this story. In the first one, I had no idea where it was going, just knowing I had to include the words: bookstore, crystal chandelier, intruder, and bifocals. Would you like to offer a word that I should include in the sequel?

  3. Pam, I sense the same zippy dialogue and element of surprise here as in your novel I’m reading, The Right Wrong Man.

    I like all the comments, especially this one: “you led me up the garden path and tingling at the end.” That nailed it!

    • You’re so right, Patricia. As a reader, I prefer novels to short stories, because in a short story, I just get to know (and partially understand) a character, and too quickly, the story ends. I like savoring my time with the people in a book as they slowly unravel whatever drama/triangles/struggles they’re involved in. But I’ve learned as a writer that sometimes the open questions in a piece of flash fiction are fun for a reader, as she/he tries to fill in the blanks. That said, many readers here are asking me to go on with this story. When I wrote this one, I had no idea where it was going, just knowing I had to include the words: bookstore, crystal chandelier, intruder, and bifocals. Would you like to offer a word that I should include in the sequel?

  4. Almost anyone can write (or film) about things blowing up. It takes a real writer to build a story and true interest on shoes squeaking across hardwood.

    • Be still my heart. Yes, Erik. a small interaction in a tiny remote bookstore is SO much more interesting than a big explosion that blows up but doesn’t delve into the nitty gritty of life. In this story, I had no idea where it was going, just knowing I had to include the words: bookstore, crystal chandelier, intruder, and bifocals. Many readers here have asked me to continue with Charlotte and Andrew — would you like to offer a word that I should include in the sequel?

  5. You actually had me at the title….but like so many other readers, “surprise and hope, suspicion and hunger” totally did it for me!

  6. I worked in a bookstore for several years, Pam, and can well imagine how Charlotte felt. The chime of the door opening can be startling, especially when you’re alone and the first customer of the day enters. “… she got used to brewing herself a carafe of hot tea and savoring the smell of jasmine and lavender.” For me it was a latte! And I met many past friends and acquaintances during my tenure there. I’m sure anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore will appreciate this as much as I have 🙂

  7. Pingback: Haywire in the Bookstore | roughwighting

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