When something pops into your life that changes it forever, turns it into a cauldron of chaos, a demoralizing den of dragons (not kidding here), an evil envelope of extreme enigmas (not exaggerating one bit), and you had a chance to erase it all and do a do over, would you do it?
Well, I’m here to advise you to do just that. I didn’t and now I can’t turn back. The world is counting on me. Me. Athena Meree Martin. Artist extraordinaire. Brown straight hair. Big teeth. Unnoticed by most. And very unlucky.
It all started out innocently. One of my best friends, Holly, and I were simply browsing through the art section of the Inky Hollow Bookstore, trying to find something that would help her manga characters look more like humans and less like stick figures.
“Athena, it’s hopeless,” Holly cried, surveying all the stacked books. “If you think I need this much help, I give up!”
“First of all, I’m not suggesting you buy every one. I just want to choose the best ones for you. And second of all, more instruction is always better! Think about how good you’ll be once you’ve read them all.”
She held the newest tome I’d given her and raised her eyebrows. “The Works of Monet? How in the world will Monet help me with drawing cartoons?”
I swiped the book and flipped through the pages. “Manga, Holly. Manga comes from Japan. They aren’t just cartoons. And if you want to be an artist, you’ve gotta learn from everyone before you pick…” But something caught my eye through the store window. A strange flash.
“Did you see that?” I asked, wheeling my chair toward the large window to see if a thunderstorm was brewing. Brindleton Bay rarely had storms. I missed them. Since my family moved here two years ago from San Myshuno, I hadn’t seen one storm. Gobs of rain and humidity, yes. Thunder. No.
I peered at the stores across the street. No rain. Just blue sky and sunshine. But then I saw someone in front of Mr. Freezies.
I gulped. Adam Slack. The cutest guy at Brindleton Bay High. My insides pinged. He smiled at me.
Crashing into someone, I squeaked, “Oops. Sorry!”
“What’s your hurry, Spiderlegs?”
Francisco Romero. One of my very best friends. Only he could get away with calling me that. Last year, frustrated at my pathetic mode of transportation, I threw myself a pity party as he led me on a walk through the woods behind my house. I told him I’d never make it in the underbrush with my “spiderlegs” and wagon wheels. He refused to let me quit. Once I entered the forest, I realized it was filled with redwood trees that dropped pine tendrils which was easy for me to ride over.
He’s called me Spiderlegs ever since. It always helped me to remember that I can do most anything. I just have to try.
I smiled up at him and he winked.
Black, messy hair. Brown eyes. Cute glasses. His mom was Japanese and his dad was Puerto Rican. A nice combination. I wondered why he was at the book store.
He taught karate on Mondays. His parents owned the Tai Kwon Do dojo down the street. “Did you get tired of kicking first graders’ asses today, Francisco?” I asked.
His eyes widened. “Are you kidding? That’s my favorite part of the job.” He flung his hair out of his eyes and smirked. “Um…someone came into our place and was asking about you.”
Holly whisked herself to my side, bright red ponytail swishing. “Oooo,” she crooned. “Secret admirer?”
Francisco laughed. “Yeah. Something like that. Well, if you consider an eight year old little girl with a blonde ponytail an admirer.”
Shaking my head, I asked, “An eight year old girl? I don’t know any. Five and six year olds, yes. Zelda invites a zoo of them over to my house on a daily basis.” My little sister, Zelda, was the queen of our neighborhood. Maybe she had made friends with an older girl. “What did she want?”
“Not much.” Francisco reached into his jacket and pulled out a golden book. He plopped it on my legs.
If I could have felt them, it would have hurt so I said, “Ouch!”
Reflexively, he cringed and said, “Sorry!” But then he realized my joke and rolled his eyes. Pointing at the book, he said, “The girl told me to give this to you right away, and then basically ran out of the dojo before I could ask any questions. My mom made me find you. So, yeah. Here you go.”
I picked it up. Sunlight danced over its sparkling surface. “Strange,” I said. The beautiful golden book seemed to ignite into a dazzling display like fireworks at Simseyland.
“You think that’s strange, look at this.” Francisco pointed to the cover.
My breath caught at the sight of the title.
Athena Meree Martin
“Wow,” Holly cried. “You do have a secret admirer, Athena. That book must have cost a fortune.”
“But where did they get it and who purchased it?” I asked, flipping through the pages. It was all blank and sparkly like it came straight from Fairytale Central.
Francisco shrugged. “This is the only bookstore in town. Maybe they ordered it here?”
“Or they could have ordered it online,” Holly countered.
I figured it was worth checking into anyway while we were at the bookstore, so I whirled my chair around and searched for the owner, Mr. McCreary. He was on a ladder, cleaning the shelves. “Mr. McCreary?” I asked, waving the book at him. “A stranger purchased this for me. Do you know anything about it?”
The silver haired man gazed down at me with a stoic face. He always looked mad, but I knew he wasn’t. Mr. McCreary was as sweet as a bunny eating grass.
His ladder squeaked as he turned toward me.“Hmm…very interesting.” He surveyed it as I wiggled the book back and forth. The sunlight through the windows splashed across its surface. If I didn’t know better, it looked as if the cover was almost alive–as if it had been plugged in just to show off for Mr. McCreary.
He mused for a while, scratching his chin. “It appears, my dear, that someone thinks highly of you. They didn’t buy it in my store, but I can tell it’s an antique and worth quite a bit.”
“But, Mr. McCreary. Would you know where a book like this would come from?” I asked, bewildered.
Before Mr. McCreary could make his ascent, he turned and stared at me.
“In my sixty-two years of life, I’ve learned when I’ve been given a gift. And many times, I was foolish enough not to accept it. This, Athena, is, without a doubt, a gift. To you.” His hazel eyes twinkled in such a way that I knew the gift must have been from him.
“Thank you, Mr. McCreary, for this gift. I don’t know what it’s for, but thank you anyway.”
His face grew serious and his eyes almost seemed to glow. “Ah, but I wasn’t the giver of the gift. No. But sometimes the world brings forth marvelous things. Things we cannot understand or explain. They happen, oh, but once, maybe twice in a lifetime.” He stopped then looked straight at me and said, “You’re a talented young lady. Use your gift wisely.”
My heart hammered, almost flying out of my chest. Mr. McCreary knew something that he wasn’t telling me. I didn’t believe that he had nothing to do with the book, but he left me there, holding the glittery thing and said nothing more.
If I had known better, I would have dropped the book at his feet and wheeled myself far away.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t have a clue.
I’m going to update every Wednesday now.
SO, next update Wednesday, October 10th.