Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CROWD (07/06/17)
TITLE: Library Day
By Leola Ogle
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Such a challenge for an extreme introvert. “Breathe and smile. It’s just people. And crowds. Ugh.” Her pep talk to herself helped. Sort of. Not really. She smoothed her hair and straightened her blouse.
It was her first book signing. After having ten books published, her agent said she couldn’t hide from her readers anymore. So he set this up for her – she would sign books with two other mystery/suspense authors, then be part of the question-and-answer panel.
When the door opened and people rushed in, her heart hammered so hard she thought she would pass out. “Please, God, help me.” The prayer rattled in her mind. Her hands shook so much, she could hardly sign books. Her face ached from the forced smile. She mumbled polite thanks to those who gushed about how her books were loved.
Little did they know that her main character, Audrey, in her books was who she longed to be. Audrey – poised, brave, brilliant, beautiful, aggressive, but kind – was the female detective featured in her book series.
Marlene lived vicariously through Audrey. Life had kicked Marlene down, but Audrey was a warrior for justice, a solver of crimes committed against the helpless and innocent. Audrey would have stood up to Spencer, Marlene’s husband.
After two hours, fans made their way to the center of the store and found seats. Since the floor hadn’t opened up and swallowed her like Marlene hoped, she followed the other two authors to the table and took a seat. The sea of faces sent her into panic mode. Her stomach roiled, her heart raced, her right eye twitched, and her palms sweated.
She could no longer force a smile.
Questions were asked and answers given. She responded to a few. Then a woman asked, “Marlene, when did you develop a love for writing?”
Instantly her mind drifted back to grammar school days. Library day was her favorite day because of her love of reading. She’d find a way to leave the group and curl up in a corner with a book. She was shy even then, but she had lots of friends and attended activities. Lots of people didn’t bother her.
Unlike the way Spencer isolated her from friends and family. Years of attacking her worth as a person caused her to withdraw into a shell. Reading was her escape. Books transported her from her life to places beyond the reach of Spencer.
She invented Audrey. Spencer was no match for Audrey. Audrey would never be afraid to go to the grocery store where people were. Audrey wouldn’t duck her head so she wouldn’t have to say hello to neighbors. Audrey would go to church whenever she wanted because people and crowds didn’t bother her.
Audrey would leave Spencer. Even better, Audrey would never have been suckered in by someone like Spencer in the first place.
It was Audrey who gave Marlene the courage to finally leave Spencer. It was then Marlene discovered Spencer was nothing but a cowardly bully. But leaving Spencer didn’t set her free. She was still a prisoner of her insecurities and worthlessness imposed on her from years with Spencer.
So, she poured her heart into her books, praying that she would embrace the attributes she gave Audrey. And that day in the bookstore, she answered the question about her love for writing with, “As a child I had such a love for books and reading. That love never left me. I wanted to write books that would transport people from their lives into someone else’s.”
As the words left her mouth, she remembered the dreams of that little girl who loved library day. She realized she was like Audrey as she lived every day free from Spencer, as she supported herself through the sale of her books, and because she knew she would never let Spencer or anyone else belittle or intimidate her again.
She smiled then – a genuine smile. It was a small step of victory that made the sea of faces looking at her not quite so intimidating.
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