Not going to lie. This story is not new. It's maybe less than you deserve but my writing time is being taken up by a bigger project. This was a piece written in college, so you can compare how much or little my writing has changed.
At the end will be a BADLY Word created 'cover'. Back in college, I used to really believe creating covers made my work more legitimate. Unfortunately, I had little skill and fewer tools to make them!
Mora Shelton sat outside the bookstore smoking a cigarette. From her vantage point, she could see the posters advertising the today only book signing of her latest title. It stated that in exactly one hour the famous author and medium would be available to sign the books of every eager fan. There would also be wine and cheese served at a special, and costly, after-party where Mora would read a selection, answer questions, and possibly even try to contact the other side.
She knew how it would happen, the same as every single book signing before. Some would come just to see her and get their book signed. Regular fans of the occult and other-worldly oddities. Others would come in hopes of gaining a session with the famous medium to get in touch with their dearly departed. A few, and these she hated the most, would be on hand to prove her a fraud.
Mora stared at the poster. It showed her smiling as if she held some deep secret to the unknown. It was a face you trusted, one you believed. The graying hair, the long flowing skirts, all carefully done to inspire confidence and a sense of other-worldliness.
Mora laughed at the thought. Her father always said Mora could sell ice to Eskimos. She had been proving that for years. Her only special abilities was her trustworthiness, her talent in telling a good story, whether written or spoken, and her ability to read people better than most. She and her publisher both knew Mora couldn’t speak to the dead anymore than she could sing opera.
The monied public didn’t know that. Her adoring fans, fleeced every time they bought her latest book on her readings, didn’t know that. The grieving parents, spouses and other assorted family members sure didn’t know that when they forked over the immense fee they gladly paid for the vague information Mora gave in her sessions.
“Miss Shelton?” A reedy voice spoke to Mora’s left shoulder. She turned to look at the impossibly young and nerdy looking bookstore manager who was supposed to be in charge of the events today.
Mora turned to look at him, giving the boy a look as if she was returning from far away thoughts.
“Miss Shelton,” He repeated, looking impossibly young and sorry. “I wanted to tell you that the second case of wine never came in. We only have the one.”
Mora smiled at the boy whose name she thought might have been Jeff or Keith. She didn’t bother to look at his nametag mostly because she didn’t care who he was.
“Running out of alcohol at a party is a problem.” She said sweetly. “And we will run out if you only have one case. We’ve already oversold the reading. I trust you can solve this problem before our little gathering tonight.”
Mora waved her hand to dismiss the boy and looked back to study the window poster. From the corner of her eye she could see the boy wavering indecisively, then turn towards the back entrance he had recently come out of. She went back to her internal reverie.
She was too busy wondering how to incorporate the upcoming winter Olympics into a book to see the little boy approach her. It wasn’t until he made a small shuffling sound with his feet that she looked up, or rather, down to his level.
She judged the child to be roughly seven years old, though his small frame could easily have put him a few years younger. His messy blonde hair looked out of place with pin neat church clothes he was wearing. His skin was far too white and made even more so by the dark brown liquid that made up his irises.
Mora looked around for a parent or any adult that the child could belong to, but saw no one nearby. The line outside the bookstore was getting longer by the minute, but no one appeared to be looking in her direction. Mora looked back at the child, who waited patiently. She didn’t like children, never had and she certainly didn’t want to talk to this one who looked at her as if he knew her. They stared at each other for what seemed to Mora like an eternity before she finally broke down and spoke.
“Where’s your mom?” She asked the little boy in a tone that most would have deemed too rough.
The boy sighed, looking relieved and moved closer to Mora. It was then that she saw the tattered red cover of what looked to her like a school textbook.
“You’re the lady who writes the books about talking to ghosts, huh?” The boy spoke so low Mora had to lean in slightly to catch his words.
Mora looked around once more for any person who she thought she could pawn the kid off on. Her corner gave her good access to view the front of the store, but it was secluded enough to hide in. She knew she would have to get rid of the kid herself.
“Yes, I am Mora Shelton, not ‘the lady’.” She said. “Now where’s your mother?”
The boy sat on the bench next to Mora, increasing her discomfort.
“I’m here because of my mother.” The little boy confided in the same whispery voice. “I wanted to surprise her.”
“Let me guess, your mom reads all of my books.” Mora said. “Is she already in line? You should go find her there. I’ll sign her book when I meet her.”
“My name’s Corin.” The boy said, unphased by Mora’s attitude. “My mom’s not in line because she’s out looking for a new job. She likes your books but can’t buy them. She always gets them from the library.”
Mora looked down at the boy’s clothes. She could see they were pressed and new looking. His shoes were shiny and had not one scratch. She knew the clothes were new. If the mother could shell out that much for her kid one outfit, she should be able to buy a single hardback copy. Looking for a new job or not, the mom was still flush enough to be buying expensive clothes.
Mora could read people well, that’s how she did her job. Not hocus pocus, but simply paying attention to minor details. She studied the boy harder now, not thinking of him as an annoyance, but as she would one of her clients. She might just be able to fleece the boy’s mom if he got enough information from the kid.
“Really now?” Mora said. “Why did your mom get fired from her last job?”
“Because I got sick.” Corin swung his legs under the bench and looked down at the ground. “She got fired because she had to spend so much time taking care of me.”
“You look better to me.” Mora said. That was only partially true. The boy’s pale skin was proof he had spent quite a bit of time indoors and the light tracing of veins in that thin skin told her he had been sick.
“I am better now.” The little boy added, still looking at the ground. “But momma still doesn’t have a lot of money. She spent it all on the doctors. She even sold my great grandfather’s cufflinks to get more money.”
Mora lost interest in the boy. If they were that broke, there was no use talking to him.
“You should go back to whoever brought you here.” Mora told the boy, making it a point not to look at him.
“I can’t yet.” Corin told her. His voice was traced with fret. “I need to ask a favor first.”
Mora barely held in the sigh. She knew where this was going. The kid was going to try to hit her up for a free book just because he had gotten sick and his mom got fired.
The boy held out the tattered red textbook.
“My last grade school teacher gave me this.” He explained. “They were going to get new ones the next year so she said I could have it. It’s the only book I own.”
Mora closed her eyes so the boy wouldn’t see her roll them. She hated when people tried to get something free out of her. She also just wanted to get rid of the boy.
She turned her brightest smile on the boy. He smiled back and held the textbook out.
“How about this.” Mora said. “I’ll give you a shiny new book to give your mom if you promise to tell all the adults you know what I did for you, okay?”
The boy’s eyes lit up.
“Oh, thank you!” He hugged his textbook tight while Mora dug in her large bag. She knew she had a spare copy in there that she had planned to use at the reading. She could always get another book to read from, but this might be a chance to up her popularity and get more people to buy her books.
“Now, what’s your mother’s name?” Mora asked when she had the book and a pen ready.
“Rebecca.” Corin was still smiling, eyes shining. He creeped Mora out and she wanted to get rid of him as fast as possible.
Mora scribbled a quick message inside the book and closed it before handing it over to the book. He looked at the book as if she were giving him the greatest thing on earth. She hoped he’d keep that rapture when telling people about her.
“Are you going to take it or not?” She asked, forgetting that she was trying to win over the kid.
The boy looked from the book to Mora. He quickly looked away and reached into the pocket of his black slacks. His hand trembled as he pulled a fist out and slowly moved it in Mora’s direction.
When he finally opened it, she could see a small compass. It looked to her like it was made of etched silver. The needle quivered as the boy’s hand did.
“It’s all I have other than my book.” Corin said. “My dad gave it to me before I got sick.”
“And is he out on a job interview too?” Mora’s attention perked. If the dad was nearby, he wouldn’t like for her to take this obviously expensive family heirloom.
“No.” Corin shook his head sadly. “He left me and my mom. I don’t think he like seeing me so sick all the time.”
Mora smiled and took the compass from the boy’s hand. No dad meant she could take it without fear. She put the book in his lap and the compass in her purse. She still didn’t want to risk another family member seeing her take it.
“Can I sign it too?” Corin asked.
Mora nearly said no, but she realized she didn’t care one way or another. He would be ruining his mother’s chances of ever making money off the book at resale, but since the mom was getting it for free, she shouldn’t be complaining.
Mora handed him the pen and waited as he opened the book and started signing under her own name.
The boy stood, clutching both books and smiled at Mora.
“Thank you.” He said, tears forming in his eyes. “I…thank you. This will make my mom so happy. She hasn’t been happy in a long time.”
The boy turned before Mora could say anything else. He ran faster than Mora would have thought he was capable of.
She watched the boy run off before cursing and jumping to her feet. She had just noticed the boy ran off with the gold plated pen she had bought herself after her very first book hit the New York Times bestseller list.
Mora grabbed her bag and took off in the direction the boy had gone. The little thief may have gotten a book out of her, but he wasn’t getting her pen, fired mother or not. All at once she wondered if she hadn’t gotten screwed over with a sob story like she’d done to all of her clients and readers.
Mora rounded the corner of the bookstore in time to see the little boy disappear between a missing board in a wooden security fence.
“Kid, wait!” Mora yelled to him. She was glad she was wearing flats, but she had to admit that she hadn’t run in well over twenty years. Nearing her fifties, Mora wasn’t exactly ready to chase down what in her mind was nothing more than an oversized toddler.
Mora squeezed between the boards, finding herself in what looked like an overgrown field. She caught a glimpse of the boy running towards a long tree line.
“Kid…Corbin…whatever the hell your name is…wait!” Mora yelled. The boy didn’t even slow down.
She sighed and took off again. She wasn’t going to let the kid run off with her pen. It held more meaning to her than the customers she might loose from tackling the kid for theft.
Mora ran through the trees, panting hard. Her shin hit an exposed tree root and she went flying, falling hard into the next tree in line. Mora cursed, righted herself and began limping in the direction she last saw the boy.
When she finally broke free of the trees, she had to stop to catch her breath. She looked around and saw she was in yet another field. This one was well manicured with upright tombs decorating the green lawn in even rows. Occasional mausoleums or stone statues broke up the monotony. White gravel paths meandered lazily through various parts of the graveyard.
Mora saw the boy already far ahead of her. He had stopped running and was now walking normally down one of the gravel paths. She took a deep breath and jogged to catch up with him. Her long skirt swished around her ankles and she could feel a small breeze where she was sure she had ripped a part back in the tree line.
The boy walked off the path and headed into the tombstones. He seemed to have a definite destination in mind. Mora thought about calling out to him, but thought the better of it. She didn’t want him to take off running while she was so close.
Mora turned off the path and made a beeline for the boy. He had stopped in front of one headstone. The tomb was between Mora and the boy and she lost sight of him when he knelt down.
“Hey, kid!” Mora was completely out of breath when she finally reached the tombstone.
She walked around the granite block to find the boy already gone. She looked around to see where he could be hiding.
“Kid, I’m not mad, I just want my pen back.” Mora hoped he hadn’t snuck off already and could still hear her.
Mora growled low and stared down at the grass in front of her. To her surprise, she saw her pen resting on the copy of her book.
She squatted down, her knees popping and picked up both the book and the pen. Mora was now face to face with the tomb. The cut letters were still shiny with little dirt accumulation between them.
Mora jumped up and spun around when she heard footfalls behind her. Liquid brown irises shone out from a pale face. Mora dropped the book and ran faster than she thought possible. Her lungs ached and her muscles screamed but she didn’t stop running until she had reached the bench by the bookstore.
Her hands shook as she dug in her purse for her cigarettes. Her hand hit something hard and cold and she pulled it out without thinking.
The silver compass sat in her hand, needle quivering as it had in the boy’s. Mora let the compass hit the ground and squeezed her eyes shut. She heard the glass of the compass face shatter but she didn’t look at it.
Even in the dark behind her eyes Mora could see the otherworldly brown irises and pale face of the boy’s mom staring at her surprised in the graveyard, the very same Corin possessed. Mora knew that she would never forget that name for as long as she lived because she would forever see it shining out in cut letters on a granite tombstone.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!