An excerpt from the novella The Bookshop Hotel, and an introduction to two of Lily Hollow's most treasured residents.
Abigail meticulously lined raspberry tarts and cream cheese Danish rolls in the glass case closest to the window facing Main Street and the cul de sac Aspen Court. Over the last few days Abigail had been watching Jack’s great granddaughter as she worked on restoring the old Hotel. AJ had been making her way around the grounds making notes, bringing in construction workers, and popping in and out of Abigail’s line of vision from the bakery.
Twenty years ago or so, just learning to read and write, AJ had sat down with Jack at his writing desk scribbling down notes for their dream project. Most little girls grow up doodling pictures of their dream house, or of their wedding dress. Instead AJ sat with Jack and planned out a bookshop. Abigail remembered the little girl holding tight to Jack’s pen while he helped her form letters over a sketch he’d made of the building in their shared notebook. She loved that Jack paid no heed to the fact that the little girl was making a mess of the manuscript he’d been working on earlier that morning. For the first time in his life Jack was running late on a deadline for a novel and the publishers were hounding him. It’s just another book, he’d said, this is my family.
That day was so vivid in Abigail’s mind. It wasn’t for any reason in particular that she recalled that day above all others. It was just a day that had stuck with her, a true testament to the man he had been. Jack had always walked a fine line between losing the women in his life and being exceptionally close to them. Fate, it seemed, preferred it that way. Though he’d been a young widower, Jack’s daughter Maude had been his constant companion after she lost her husband to the war. Father and daughter then raised Sidney, Jack’s granddaughter, together. Eventually, they would lose Sidney to a more glamorous life and once again find themselves raising a baby girl – Sydney’s daughter AJ. It was far from typical, but they were a family nevertheless.
It was a pleasant household that Abigail always longed to be a part of. Instead, she went to the bakery most days and then her quiet and very empty house at night. She was alone, and all she had in this world were her visits with Jack and all his offspring. Visiting Jack when Maude was first born, visiting Jack when Maude had Sidney, then visiting Jack while he was raising AJ. Her whole life was made up of moments of Jack and his smile.
There it was: Jack’s smile, that’s what this memory was about. Abigail had lingered in the doorway watching Jack and AJ hard at work. “Maude says lunch is ready,” Abigail had told him.
“But we’re making a bookshop!” the five year old AJ had cried. “See Ms. Abby!”
Jack had turned his face to the door, all wrinkles and smile lines with a twinkle in his eye. That big broad smile was why this memory was important. The whole town adored that man and his smile. Granddaddy Jack, everyone called him. He was known for many things, but above all he was known for being AJ’s great grandfather. To Abigail he would always be her oldest and dearest friend.
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