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American Contemporary Holiday

The voice was the first thing I noticed about someone. It either drew me in, or it warned me to keep a distance.

I rarely interacted with people I didn’t know. It was mainly because of my reticence to be the center of attention, rather than my disability. I had learned to live in darkness from a young age.

I had a handful of friends who I trusted with my life, and a few other acquaintances who I allowed close to me. Other than that, I stayed away from everyone at all costs.

Holiday times were a brutal freedom from the routine of everyday life.

All my friends spent more time with their families, and I didn’t blame them. After a few years of intruding on their time with their families, I decided to spend the holiday season on my own. It provided an escape from having someone hovering and checking on me, yet it filled me with a feeling of loneliness. It caused me to desire want what my friends had, but I had long ago accepted how difficult it would be for someone like me to find love.

It was a week before Christmas, and I was in my favorite nook at the bookstore near my apartment. The owner was a sweet, old lady who always supplied me with hot tea and cookies, helping me find a cozy book to spend my evening with on the plush couch tucked between the rows of books.

My spot was separated by a long row of books from a seating area where people liked to gather and read or talk about books. I had learned how to tune them out.

That was until I heard the most mesmerizing voice. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was reading from one of my books.

It had taken courage and a lot of convincing from my best friend, Steve, to accept his pleas to write my ideas and turn them into a book. Once the first book was published and became a best-seller, my desire to share all my crazy ideas multiplied.

It was after I had woken him up in the middle of the night with my phone calls, eager to share my thoughts, that he prompted me to record myself. Sometimes, he had hours of my recordings talking about what adventures my beloved characters would embark on or simply me rambling about how nothing fit and how I couldn’t make my words flow nicely.

We worked together in the process of writing the books, and I appreciated him for his initiative to start this project of ours. Steve loved to write, but he didn’t have much of an imagination. He joked about me being his muse. Though, at the end of the day, we both got credited for our joint effort in writing these books. Even the name under which we had published was a combination of our names – Anya Brown.

But to hear my words being read by someone in my favorite bookstore, not even in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this possible.

The alluring voice made me leave my comfortable spot, drawing me close to the person speaking. I stopped walking when I reached the end of the rows of books, leaning against the bookshelf.

The voice was husky, yet soft like cotton and sweet like honey, warming me on the inside like a cozy fire on a winter night.

I stood there for minutes, listening to this stranger reading my imaginative thoughts brought to life. It reminded me of how much I loved my hero in this particular book of mine.

When he wrapped up for the evening, I returned to my seat to gather my things and leave.

~*~

In the following days, it became my favorite activity to listen to this stranger’s voice as he continued reading. Some days, I lingered to hear heated debates between him and the group of women gathered in his reading club of sorts, but I never dared to take part.

With Christmas drawing nearer, I knew I was going to miss the velvety voice narrating my book.

On the eve of Christmas, I ventured to the coffee shop close to the bookstore. I knew my favorite place would be closed for the holidays, but I planned to enjoy a drink sprinkled with cinnamon in front of the bookstore before I would return to my apartment.

While I sat on the bench in front of the bookstore, I regretted not bringing one of my books with me. It was the perfect weather to stay outside and enjoy the nice winter day.

As I ruminated over the holidays, I felt someone sitting next to me, and I tried to calm my sudden nerves. All my senses told me to flee, but something prevented me from doing so.

“Too bad they keep the books locked away for the holidays.”

My heart jumped in my throat at the sound of the voice which had mesmerized me for the past week. The stranger with the alluring voice was sitting right next to me.

Words escaped me, as I was way out of my comfort zone. “Yeah,” I said shyly, feeling like an idiot.

“Why did you never join the reading session? I noticed you were interested, but you kept your distance,” he continued in an intrigued voice.

And this was the moment when anyone who approached me and learned about my disability…fled.

“I didn’t want to interrupt,” I replied, making sure to keep my head down as if I was staring at my fingers.

I had learned people tended to stop asking prying questions when they saw I appeared uninterested.

“You wouldn’t have,” he said softly. “I happen to have the book with me. I was hoping to finish it this evening.”

“The bookstore is closed for the holidays,” I reminded him. “Your usual fan club is probably home with their families.”

“My fan club?” He laughed, and it was the most beautiful sound in the world.

I had never felt so drawn to a voice before. It was a terrifying feeling to desire to be near this stranger and listen to him talk.

I shrugged because I had no idea how else to address the women listening to him read.

“Did it escape your notice that my fan club was comprised of unfortunate girls who didn’t have a chance to learn how to read or that they are unable to do it on their own?”

He didn’t word the question in a mean way, which relaxed me, yet it stirred anxiety inside me. This was why I never spoke with strangers. Trivial things escaped me.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, turning my head to him.

I was about to get up and run to the safety my home provided when I heard his gasp.

“Oh, God. I’m sorry,” he emphasized the pronoun.

My heart erupted in a marathon when his warm hands cupped my cold right hand, closer to him.

“I feel like a tool,” he continued.

His reaction was obvious to me. He was the first person to figure out I was blind, without me saying the words or pointing to the fact in other ways.

My cheeks felt too hot for the cold weather outside, but his warm hands filled me with a feeling of contentment I had never experienced before. I squeezed his hand, enjoying the fact that for the first time ever, a virtual stranger accepted me for who I was without any judgment.

“Tell me, how did you become involved with reading to those who can’t read for themselves?” I asked, very interested to know.

“Well, I was in the bookstore one day and saw a young girl sitting on the couch trying to sound out words in a book. The owner said the girl comes in often and was trying to teach herself to read. I suggested that perhaps if there was a need for this type of service, I would be willing to read aloud while others followed along in their books. This way it would help them, yet allow them to learn without judgment from others,” he supplied.

“And has it been successful?” I asked.

“It has. Several ‘students’ have actually learned to read this way, however, I tutor them as well if they need additional help. Do you still want to finish the book?” he asked after a moment.

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I could spoil the ending for you,” I teased, not recognizing this wave of brazenness that possessed me.

“Did you read it already? It’s a new release.” He sounded so shocked, I laughed some more. “Did you listen to it on audio? I know for a fact they haven’t published it in Braille yet.”

I leaned closer to his warm body, feeling oddly detached from the part of me that was scandalized by how I was acting. This wasn’t me. I was shy and I would have never dared to act like this.

Something about this man made me throw caution to the wind.

When our shoulders bumped, I angled my head up hoping I was near his ear. “I’ll let you on a secret.”

“Yeah?” His sweet breath washed over my face, making me smile like an idiot.

“I wrote the book.”

I heard him gasping, then his warmth was gone. It was my turn to feel like a tool. Obviously, I had no idea how to act since this was the first time I was attempting to flirt without any inhibition.

Then his hand grabbed mine for a shake, and I frowned. “It’s been one of my dreams to meet the elusive author who wrote those wonderful books I’ve loved for the past several years. It’s so nice to meet you, Anya Brown.”

“Uh, it’s Anya Winston, actually.”

“Jacob Mars.”

As he dropped my hand, I felt the return of my usual awkward self. I reached for my abandoned coffee, and I didn’t realize he was still in my personal space. My cup bumped into his arm, and I washed both of us in lukewarm liquid.

“Oh, crap.” I wondered if dying of embarrassment was a thing.

“It’s my fault. I’m sorry,” he apologized softly. “Your scarf was about to slip off your shoulder,” he added.

I felt for the shorter end and tugged it better around my neck. “Uh, how badly is the stain?”

He chuckled. “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it.”

“I’m wearing a pink jacket. I hope yours is black,” I said hopefully.

“Mine is beige, but the funny thing is the stains on the sleeves of our coats make a heart shape if keep my arm next to yours.”

“Bullshit.”

“I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” he teased.

I pondered my next move for a moment, before I chose to live on the wild side. “Uh, I live close…I can offer you coffee and some clean clothes?”

I could feel the cold on my thighs which meant our laps were drenched in coffee.

“Is that so?” he chuckled.

“And I could also tell you the mystery behind my penname, because I can tell you’re intrigued,” I added.

“I see how it is,” he joked.

It was way too soon to attempt one of my dry sarcasm jokes about my disability, so I opted for a true fact.

“I like the sound of your voice.”

He helped me up and hooked his arm around my elbow. “Lead the way, Anya.”

My gut told me I wouldn’t regret this spur of the moment decision, besides, I would do anything to keep him close and talking.

Voices were one of the most important tools of perception for me, yet I had never appreciated the sense of sound to its full capacity until I met Jacob. In the future, I was going to learn that his voice was not the only thing I loved about him, but until his senses of touch and taste entrapped me even more under his spell, his voice was the factor that made me fall for him.

December 07, 2022 16:57

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7 comments

Audrey Harmon
01:59 Dec 21, 2022

This was lovely, thank you!

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Wally Schmidt
00:51 Dec 16, 2022

Welcome to Reedsy Rodica! I hope you will find a supportive writing community here. I know I have. I am new here as well. I started submitting stories about a month ago. I had never even written one until then, so it was a bit of a stretch, but I am learning more about the short story craft everyday. I liked your first submission. While I was reading it, I kept wishing you had written it in the present tense. I think that would draw the reader in more, but the story builds well, the mention of the writing duo, the disability, listening to th...

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Rodica D
18:47 Dec 16, 2022

Thank you for the kind words! I’ve been writing for years for fun and I recently discovered reedsy. I’m loving it. I appreciate the feedback.

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Wally Schmidt
19:43 Dec 16, 2022

Looking forward to reading more of your stories. When you get a chance, pop over and check out some of mine. Happy writing!

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Viga Boland
20:38 Dec 10, 2022

Great story! Loved it.

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Rodica D
18:48 Dec 16, 2022

Thank you!

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Viga Boland
17:07 Jan 07, 2023

You’re most welcome. Keep up the good work.

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