Grecian Gambit: Chapter 1, Part 2
I float out of the office on an anxiety-filled cloud of adrenaline and stress. I swear, my fight or flight instinct is screaming at me to hit the front door and never look back. Did Patti really hear Apollo’s voice? Or have I been speaking in a low voice and just thinking it’s my imaginary friend talking to me? Great, even thinking that question makes my brain hurt. A cheer rises up from a large crowd as I walk into the main space of the bookstore. Wow, at least 80 people stand in the store, waiting for me to arrive. My social insecurities decide to show up at that moment, shoving me off of my cloud and almost stumbling into a shelf. “Calm down, Cece,” Patti whispers to me as she grabs my arm to help me right myself. “These people are here to hear you read from your new book. That’s all.” Remembering to breathe, I finish walking to a stool next to a microphone. Patti follows me, and takes the microphone before I have a chance to do more than seat myself. “Attention! Attention, everyone!” Patti calls out over the sound system. People settle down rather quickly. “Thank you for coming here tonight. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Acorn’s very own Cecelia Lewis as she reads from her new book, Apollo’s Gift.” Patti replaces the microphone as everyone claps for me again. I repeat “I can do this” in my head as I squash down all of my worries and insecurities. When the clapping dies down a bit, I move the microphone closer and begin. “Hello, my name is Cecelia Lewis. I want to personally thank everyone for being here and supporting me tonight.” A smattering of applause greets my statement, and someone yells out “No problem, darling”. “As you know, Apollo’s Gift is the fifth book in my…” I pause because the impossible just happened. At the back of the crowd, wearing torn blue jeans and a tight, white T-shirt stands Apollo, or someone who looks exactly like the man on the cover of my book. He’s here. But that’s impossible. I drew the cover of my book; I draw all the pictures for my books. “Cecelia, honey, are you okay?” Patti interjects as she walks back towards me. I start a little bit. “Ummm, sorry, I thought I recognized someone in the crowd.”
I have to say something. Unfortunately, that is exactly the wrong thing to say.
People look around, and it takes less than a second before some young thing yells out, “OMG!! It’s Apollo!!!” "Why, hello, ladies," Apollo says as he flashes a devastating smile. Shrieking tears through the people as all the women try to rush over to where he is standing. I guess that this is good, because it means I’m not seeing things. On the bad side, I imagined this guy! What in tarnation is he doing standing here in real life? A short stampede ensues. A few women get into a hair-pulling contest trying to get to the front of the store. Two older ladies in bright pink pantsuits and pearls whirl around and charge towards Apollo. The lady on the left trips over something, or someone, flails about to catch herself, and manages to tip over one of the freestanding bookshelves. Books tumble on top of women, including a Gothic-looking teenager, who jumps backwards to avoid the books falling on her. But in her haste, the teen hits a small reading table next to the Westerns. The old-fashioned oil lamp breaks, spilling the paraffin lamp oil onto the floor. A collision I missed causes a floor lamp to crash down into the spilled oil. The broken bulb sparks, lighting the oil and causing a small fire to break out in the Westerns. This triggers the automatic sprinkler system and the water from it hits the power strip for the microphone. A large electric spark jumps out and hits my leg as all the lights in the bookstore go out from short circuits caused by the water. Patti screams and I realize I never heard Southern at such a loud volume before. Through the pandemonium, I hear Apollo as he laughs and says, “Ladies, ladies, please. There is enough of me to go around. Trust me.”
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