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Fantasy Speculative Fiction

Livvie slipped out of her overly crowded, and exceptionally loud house unnoticed in search of a few hours of peace; timing her stealthy exit perfectly. She would be missed when one of their weekend guests needed clean towels, or desired something from the grocery store that her mother hadn’t already thought to stock, but they would have to fend for themselves now, wouldn’t they? As she hurried out the front door and down the driveway, Livvie imagined the off-key bellowing chorus, singing out her name in unison. She sighed and adjusted her satchel weighing heavy on her left shoulder as she ventured toward Main St. in search of temporary refuge. 

The sidewalks separating the streets from the storefronts were littered with dried leaves and empty benches; well-worn planters housing nothing but decaying twigs, trash barrels and parking meters hooded in red plastic, signaling their decommissioned status. Livvie never minded the commonplace and had little desire to venture too far from the familiarity of her hometown. She was grateful for her job which allowed her to work from home, but today she would have to procure an alternate solution in order to meet her deadline. She considered the library as well as Mrs. Owens front porch; but neither location offered sanctuary from nosey neighbors just waiting to collect information regarding her sister’s wedding for the gossip mill. Maybe the park? It was the beginning of October and there was an evident chill in the air, but sacrifices had to be made. Livvie decided the park was her best option as she proceeded down Main St. past a strip of local small businesses. 

“Free Wi-Fi.” Livvie noticed the handwritten sign haphazardly taped to a storefront window as she passed by. It was a welcoming sight and a far superior option over having to work al fresco from a park bench on this chilly autumn morning. She hadn’t been here before today but something about the chipped verdigris paint and weathered panes invited her in. Livvie pulled on the heavy wooden door triggering the tiny, rusted bells tied together with what she could only surmise as an old shoelace. Their chime was less than melodious but the empty table she spotted in the corner was profoundly welcoming. She smiled at the hostess standing behind the rustic wood and glass display case and gestured to that quiet corner she so desired. The hostess grabbed a single page laminated menu and followed Livvie to the back of the establishment. “Here ya’ go, hun. The Wi-Fi password is printed on the top of the menu. Just give me a wave if you need anything. I’ll check back with you in just a few.” Livvie thanked her and made a mental note of her genuine demeanor. “It must be the plethora of tantalizing aromas that keep her so cheery. She seems to love her job.” Livvie inhaled deeply and savored the sense of comfort evoked from the unexpectedly delightful olfactory experience. She liberated her laptop from her satchel, set it strategically in front of her and opened it. She glanced at the top of her menu for the password that would grant her access to the internet. “Clever.” she mused, as she typed the string of words, “pickmeup”.

Livvie took a moment to survey her surroundings. As with most writers, she instinctively observed details most would easily disregard. There were only a handful of seated patrons randomly dotted throughout the establishment. True, this place was most well-known for catering to pretentious teens who flooded in after school to hang out, use the Wi-Fi and spend entirely too much money on the most popular and trendy offerings for the sole purpose of feeling all grown up. Luckily, it was early in the day and Livvie had hours before the evident invasion occurred. Of the half dozen in attendance, she only recognized one other person, Missy Munro. This was encouraging as she was not likely to be interrupted by curious neighbors wanting to know all about her sister’s upcoming nuptials. It was hard enough being so distracted by the tantalizing aroma filling the room. Missy was perched ever so properly on a barstool paired with a tiny high-top table nearest the register. She hadn’t changed much since their days together in high school. Missy was popular, pretty and athletic; everything Livvie was not. They felt no rivalry, nor friendship for one another. As a matter of fact, Missy hadn’t noticed Livvie at all, giving all her attention to the book she was reading and the beverage she seemed to be enjoying. 

Generally, Livvie avoided imbibing in liquid stimulants after ten a.m., but certainly something so inviting couldn’t possibly pose any threat to her focus as she wrote her article, could it? Her apprehension of the jitters gave way to her impulsive craving as she gave the hostess a quick wave. “What can I bring you, hun?” she asked. Livvie had trouble distinguishing one delicious scent from another and politely asked for a recommendation, citing she wouldn’t be opposed to something seasonal. 

“Ah, I know just the treat, our Autumn Delight, newly added to the menu. Do you prefer tall paper or stouty ceramic?” 

Livvie laughed, “I’ll be staying awhile, stouty ceramic will do just fine.” 

Her current assignment was by definition a “puff piece” that she could have written in her sleep. However, she had been angling for more significant stories and wanted nothing more than to have this one impress the hell out of her editor. Livvie longed for time to work on her own novel, but it would have to wait, for now. Writing for a steady paycheck was a rare luxury and Livvie knew it had to be her priority if she wanted to make a name for herself someday. The hostess returned with what could only be described as comically oversized, unnecessarily overpriced liquid joy. “Oh, thank you so much!” she gushed as she inhaled the perfect bouquet of cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled atop a generous dollop of whipped cream. 

“You are so welcome. I see you’re about to get into your work, so I will leave you to it. I’ll be around if you want a refill or possibly try one of our other signature libations.” she offered with a cheeky wink. 

“Before you go, may I ask about the artwork on the walls? They seem to be of similar style. Are they all painted by the same artist? Possibly someone local?”

“You’re lookin’ at her.” 

“Oh, wow. You’re very talented. Would you mind if I took a few photos for my editor? I write for an online magazine, and we often feature local talent; usually bakers and chefs but I think your art is wonderful and I’d love the opportunity to show it off for you.” 

“Knock yourself out hun. You’re very sweet but I doubt there will be any interest from your boss. But, hey, if you’re gonna make me famous, I’d be thrilled to sit down with ya’ and tell you about my rather uninteresting journey as an artist.” she chided. 

Livvie took a satisfying sip, causing her eyes to roll back, “Oh, this is heaven.” She swooned. “Let me send a few pics and see what comes of it. Don’t sell yourself short; your work is amazing.” Livvie fished her phone from her satchel and stood. 

The hostess extended her hand, “I’m Trish, by the way.” 

“Livvie. Livvie Garrison.” 

“Well, Livvie Garrison, I am needed at the counter. Just think; you can say you knew me when.” 

Livvie walked the perimeter of the mere six hundred square foot establishment, weaving through the scattered tables hugging the back wall, taking photos of the artwork adorning the tacky green paneling. She counted fourteen original pieces of varying sizes and subject matter. She especially admired the paintings of people, taking note of their sincere expressions and humble actions. She wondered if in fact they were renderings of actual beings or colorful products of Trish’s creative imagination? Livvie made yet another mental note to ask when she interviewed her. She knew without a doubt her editor would get behind the idea of a story about this unsung artist, right here in the sleepy town of Pineville. 

Satisfied with her photos, she sent them attached to a quick email to her boss. “Tell me this woman and her art are worth writing about. I want this story.”  Livvie returned to her own secluded spot in the corner and opened her notes, preparing to take on her original task. Before she could type one word, her phone began to play the instrumental version of her favorite song. She noticed the screen; “Incoming…..Brett.” 

“Hey, I just sent you an email.” she began.

Brett Winters preferred text messages over actual calls and rarely spoke to anyone, never mind initiating the conversation. “Liv, where are you?” he asked, almost urgently. 

Confused, Livvie began to babble, “I’m downtown. I had to get out of the house today. My sister is getting married tomorrow, and my entire family has invaded. There are fifteen people staying with us. My mom may as well be running a Bed and Breakfast. So, anyway I…..”

“Liv, stop. I got your email. The photos you sent are paintings by the elusive artist Patricia LaSalle, or a damn good copycat. If they are original LaSalle’s they’re worth a small fortune considering she’s been gone for the past five years. Her paintings were said to have been lost forever; either stolen or destroyed. Now, you’re telling me they’re hanging in your local java joint?” 

“Brett, Patricia isn’t gone; I’m looking right at her. She’s the hostess here and goes by Trish. When I asked about the artwork, she willingly took credit and basically gave me the green light for an interview.”

“Dead people don’t interview well, Liv.”

“I suppose they don’t. So, if I can prove Patricia LaSalle is alive and well in Pineville; will you run my story?” 

“Hell, Liv, I’ll feature it. Good luck.” 

“Challenge accepted.” Livvie thought to herself as she scanned the room, hoping to catch the attention of Patricia LaSalle, but dear sweet Trish was nowhere in sight. Livvie waited rather impatiently, assuming she may be in the restroom or in the back grabbing extra wooden stir sticks or possibly those little pink sugar substitute packets. Ten minutes had passed, and it was getting close to the time she had planned to leave, avoiding the after-school infiltration. Still no sight of her friendly hostess. Livvie sat at the very edge of her chair, craning her neck as her eyes darted from the back to the front, from the counter to the door over and again. 

Missy Munro left her perch and sauntered over to Livvie. “Hey, I know you.” she began. “We went to school together, didn’t we?” 

“Yes.” Livvie admitted. “It’s nice to see you.” 

“May I sit, or are you waiting for someone?” Missy placed her hand on the back of the chair across from Livvie anticipating her response. 

“I’m not waiting for anyone, please join me. It will be great to catch up.” 

Missy had more than catching up in mind as she struggled to find the words to break the ice. She realized Livvie was waiting for her Aunt Trish to return to her table, but that was not likely to happen. Aunt Trish was a fickle little phantasm that came and went on an otherworldly whim, leaving poor Missy to answer questions no one was ever prepared for. However, this time her audience of one quickly became enthralled with the story of Patricia LaSalle.

Missy explained her dream of owning the shop and calling it "Missy's Brew". She saved for years and still fell short of her downpayment on the building. Aunt Trish offered to sell a few paintings and become Missy’s business partner, longing for that wholesome small town life that shop ownership was offering. Before the ink was dry Aunt Trish met with an untimely and accidental demise, leaving everything to Missy. In spite of her best efforts, Missy simply could not convince Aunt Trish that she belonged in the light, rather than in the shop. Others have seen her, even spoke with her but none had ever questioned her appearance nor her absence, until now. “Aunt Trish doesn’t interact with just anyone, she must sense something special about you.” 

Livvie’s eyes were wide with wonder as Missy nonchalantly described the continual presence of her aunt’s spirit. “She’s still my business partner.” Missy humorously stated. Livvie knew her big story was not in the discovery of artist Paricia LaSalle’s secret life in a small town. But with Missy’s blessing, she was inspirited to write a detailed review of the shop and all it had to offer. She’d have to admit to Brett, she was mistaken, and Patricia LaSalle was not working as a hostess, but the entree of baked crow would be worth it when she presented her revision.

The rusted little bells hanging on the door tinkled over and again as the after-school rush commenced. Somehow, the impending chaos mattered not; nor did the pregame pandemonium happening at home. She felt for her mother having to contend with their guests all alone, but when inspiration strikes, it’s best to willingly comply. The words came easily, undeterred by the elevated voices, scraping of chairs across the tiled floor, clinking of cups and the cacophony of cell phone alerts.

She would do her job well, alluding to the spirit of Patricia LaSalle without mocking or detracting from the decadent drinks and home baked indulgences. She used descriptive words and phrases such as "heavenly", "spirited" and "to die for", ingeniously describing the artwork rather than the artist herself. She wanted nothing more than to make Patricia LaSalle’s work famous, bringing much deserved notoriety to Missy’s shop, now appropriately named, "The Art of Life and Brew". Proud of her prose, Livvie creatively and effectively described the magic and charm of the hidden gem in downtown Pineville and confidently sent it in. She could only hope that Brett would agree to feature her vision.  

September 19, 2023 21:36

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5 comments

Helen A Smith
16:50 Mar 07, 2024

I immediately entered into this world and felt part of the scene. I wanted to visit this place and take in the atmosphere. Mostly, I wanted to see the pictures to see if they were same as the images in my head. Lovely feel to this story.

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09:56 Sep 24, 2023

Clever indeed. Pickmeup does the trick! Another lovely read Myranda

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Myranda Marie
16:27 Sep 24, 2023

Thanks. This one navigated itself. I was going somewhere else with the twist and my GPS must have malfunctioned. haha

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Mary Bendickson
02:09 Sep 20, 2023

Cozy, delicious and spiked with spirit. A welcome retreat.☕ Means a lot to me that you like reading my stuff. Especially my novel folks.

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Myranda Marie
15:53 Sep 20, 2023

Thank you so much !

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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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