The ARCs for Phantom and Rook have been sent out and now I’m just twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do with myself. In the meantime, enjoy some art and an excerpt about the magickal bookstore in this urban fantasy that’s releasing on November 2nd. The cover reveal will be mid-October and I’ve secured an audiobook narrator.
“I won’t forget you, I promise.”
“As you can see, everythin’s in working order, buildin’ has been standing longer than I have, but you’ll have that in Old Town. Contracts were just renewed with the kingdom, shipments come once a month and the staff are great, though the mural out front will have to be fixed up. Oh, the latest one I hired, he’ll need some trainin’, but he’s a good one, I promise.”
I follow behind the shopkeeper that doesn’t remember me, but that bothers me not. I’ll visit his mother’s grave tomorrow, not that she would remember me either. Guilt eats away at my insides, I wish I could’ve saw Mrs. Thitwhistle off to the next world. She was the epitome of hospitality, and her son takes after her gentle side. The old man was a down right bastard, but he left when Gleason was just a babe, and it seems the boy turned out more than alright.
I trace along bookshelves, caressing the engraved detailing hidden in the wood. I find no tacky dust there, same as the last time I visited. The town, no, city, has changed infinitely in the last eighty years, but Thitwhistle’s hasn’t changed a bit. Most of Old Town is the same as it’s ever been, but especially here.
“It’s perfect,” I say, smiling down at the katan.
Pride lifts Gleason’s chin high, he re-ties his mousy hair back and we leave the expansive back end of the shop behind, where aisles upon aisles of books sleep, and enter the cafe section.
The barista counters and refrigerated display cases are centered on a raised, half moon plaza that dominates the head of the cafe. The once white tiles of the dias are painted cobalt and spattered with star dust clouded constellations. Vibrant colors of the night flow beneath our feet, extending into a river that swirls around the raised area and spreads out to blanket the rest of the wood floor in starry clouds.
The lapis astronomy theme accented by gold continues throughout the shop, much different from the earthy tones Mrs. Thitwhistle used, but I think it’s a rather nice touch. The lofty ceiling of the entire place is filled with golden galaxies and meteors, milky ways and dying planets. More paint detailing shows up in random places, the artist’s touch reaches every subtle inch of the room.
Lines of planets along the edge of a table, shooting stars over top of a curving window frame, explosive golden bursts of light that make my heart ache.
Curtains drape along each of the unique round windows facing the street, which are quite a few. The heavy, royal blue fabrics are embroidered in simple gold along the edges and match the upholstered lounge chairs and couches nestled by the fireplaces. Dual hearths rest on the east and west sides of the room, accompanied by chess boards, small tables to eat, and the furniture which the college kids are currently taking advantage of. Enormous groups congregate around both roaring fires, laughter rolls through the gossip and small talk thickens the warm atmosphere.
Thitwhistle’s feels like someone’s grand study open to the public rather than a bookstore, complete with coffee beans and scones, and I’ve never felt more at home. The crowd is equal parts magickal beings and humans, young, old and everything in between. There are a few older folks tucked into a corner, eyes crinkling and steam curling around mugs which hide their smiles.
A set of half shifted werewolf pups tug on their mother’s sleeve, begging for the ‘Monster Hot Cocoa’, complete with candy and whip cream on top. She rolls her eyes good naturedly, in humanoid form, then orders three of the drinks and half a dozen donuts for the bus ride to Full Moons Field.
“Scone?” Gleason asks from my side, patiently watching me take in the scene with a sly smile on his slightly creased face. Half-Katan don’t live as long as their magickal parents usually do, but a couple hundred years all the same.
I reach down and take it from him, then bring the pastry to my nose and inhale deeply. Mocha and walnut. I glance down at Gleason with a wicked smile, despite myself. “You do remember me.”
Gleason flushes, then tucks a strand of escaped hair behind his softly pointed ear. “Indeed, but I must admit, I thought ya’ were just a childhood fever dream at first, but seeing you here now, that’s not true, is it?”
That’s how most people describe their memories of me, the blurred edges of a dream that fades the harder they try to remember. It doesn’t hurt when old friends, acquaintances at best really, forget me. I’ve long gotten used to the feeling of perpetually being alone, but my heart aches in an unfamiliar way.
Bells ring when the door paned with colored, patchwork glass opens. The nightlife of the Old Town meets my ears the moment he opens it, but Gleason abruptly stops in the doorway. I halt in time so I don’t step on his heel and his wide eyes catch my attention.
Gleason presses a hand to his chest and takes one small step at a time, staring reverenterly at the front of the store. “That kid,” he whispers breathily, and it’s not until I’ve joined his side again that I find what he’s looking at.
The once crumbling storefront has been restored to beyond its former glory. The faded mural which held a portrait of Mrs. Thitwhistle hauling two armfuls of books over her broad shoulders has been painted over. A mural of the solar system, with the unique bookstore itself as the center of the universe, stretches from one end of the storefront to the other. The family sigil of the Thitwhistle’s hides in the stardust of a galaxy, along with the words, ‘Knowledge is Life.’
Standing tall in the center of the tremendous round, two storey building is the paned door we came through, flanked by the mishmash of round windows on either side. The same gold and blue color palette from inside the bookstore inspires the mural and trim. The paint shimmers underneath the lamplights lining the street, smooth against the cobbed surface. Underneath a window, I notice a decent sized canvas that matches the mural.
I kneel before it and brush a thumb over the artist’s signature done in white, indecipherable, but my heart skips all the same. I take the canvas and offer it to Gleason, but he’s caressing the miniature bookstore floating on a cloud of stardust. His fingers settle on the family sigil, then he clears his throat, glancing sideways at me.
“Shit like this makes me want to stay.” Gleason huffs out a laugh, then gently takes the canvas from me and studies it. “Kid down the street, he’s the one who did all the artwork on the inside over the past few years, and now this. Always when I’m not looking, won’t take any money for it. ‘He’s bored’, he says. Agh, fuck, sorry.” Gleason wipes his wide nose with his flannel sleeve, sniffling.
“Don’t fret, tears bother me none. Good for the soul, I say.” I pat his shoulder and he nods. The streets have begun to thicken, patrons move past us to enter the bookstore, waving to Gleason as they do.
He nods to them, rallying himself once we’re alone again. “I want to see the world. Took me so fuckin’ long to even think about it. ‘What would mama say?’, you know? She always said this place was enough, and it is, but … I want more. I want to go on adventures, Mr. Phantom, that’s why I want to sell. Silly, isn’t it? Leave this behind for some fantasy, at my age.”
I stare directly into his eyes. “Doing what you love isn’t silly. I admire you, Gleason, and I think you should do it. And I’m not just saying that because I want your bookstore, but because I think your mama would want you to. As long as you don’t forget to visit, of course. I can hear her saying it now.”
I gesture dramatically before us and he chuckles, eyes brightening. “You’re a devil, Mr. Phantom. Alright, let’s sign some paperwork.”