2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 1 book toward her goal of 285 books.

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

The Freebie (Fiction) – Part The Third

I know, I know – this is turning into a long short story.  And this is not yet the end, so you’ll have to keep staying tuned – I don’t know when/where it will end either, sorry… 😉   For the beginning, start here.)


The Freebie (continued)

Needless to say, Callie was charmed.  He had her, as they say, at hello.  With a huge smile plastered on her face, she wrote back that she would be thrilled to review his book.  She told him that she was honored that he believed in her despite her lack of credentials and experience, that reviewing his book would be her first priority, and that she could not wait to begin reading it.  Callie was just getting ready to hit “send” when she realized she had not provided a mailing address for her review copy of the book.

While many of the book blogger websites she had visited had suggested setting up a post office box as a mailing address, Callie decided against doing so.  Renting a post office box large enough to hold multiple books would run her nearly two hundred dollars a year – money she could not spare.  Besides, she figured, between the phone book, the internet, and directory assistance, anyone could find her mailing address anyway.  Why bother?  And so she diligently added her address to the bottom of the email and sent it off.

“Why bother,” Callie thought as quietly as possible from her hidey-hole behind the old overstuffed reading chair in the corner of her living room.  “Why bother…”

Exactly twenty-four hours later, after a double-shift at the bookstore, Callie found herself back at the computer terminal in the library.  She hastily logged in.  No magical “1” appeared on her email program.  Nick St. James had not responded.

Twenty-four hours later, still nothing.

And so it went, for the rest of the week.  Every day, as soon as she was able, Callie would race to the library, log in, and check her email for a response.  And every day, nothing.  Callie was crushed.  She had finally felt like things were moving in the right direction.  He had seemed so interested in her, so happy to have found her.  She was surprised – and a little hurt – that he wasn’t responding.

After a week, Callie stopped rushing to the library.  She couldn’t take the disappointment anymore.  Determined not to let Nick St. James get her down, she went back into research mode.  Callie identified a slew of new potential contacts, joined a handful of new book review groups and web portals, and sent out a new batch of publisher and author emails requesting review copies of books in every genre and on every topic that she could find.

By the end of the day, Callie had made more than three-dozen outreach attempts, and had given up on Nick St. James.  And so naturally, the next day he responded: “Ms. Callie, please accept my most sincere apologies.  I have been unable to respond to you in the proper timely fashion due to events beyond my control.  I am delighted that you are interested in my little book, and am thrilled to be able to send it to you post-haste.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to know that you will be reading my words soon, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on my story with a great deal of eager anticipation.  You have no idea what it means to me to know that I can count on your help in making this story my greatest success to date.  Thank you again for not giving up on me, despite the unavoidable delays that have befallen me and prevented me from responding to your message with all alacrity.”

The message went on in a similar vein for another three paragraphs, each of which was more gushingly supportive, more enthusiastically eager, more keenly favorable than the one before it.  Nick St. James certainly liked adjectives.  He also, apparently, liked tracking progress.  His email provided Callie with a special delivery tracking number and a website address so that she could monitor the package’s progress.  That was not so unusual, many businesses and individuals tracked packages.  What was slightly less common was his request that she please let him know not only when the book arrived, but also when she started to read it and when she finished each section (there were apparently five altogether).  At the bottom of the email there as a scrawl that Callie assumed was meant to read “Nick St. James” but that in actuality looked more like bird tracks.  And with that, the message ended.  And Callie waited.

Honestly, she thought, I can hardly even believe I fell for it all, hook, line and sinker.  Why on earth would this author, this man that I had never met, be so interested in my review, my thoughts?  I was no one, had no credentials, no credibility.  He didn’t know anything about me and had nothing to gain from what I thought.  If I liked the book or if I didn’t – who would care?  It’s not like I was the New York Times book critic.  I was a simple girl with a simple blog.  And yet here was this man, this author, falling all over himself to thank me for helping him.  How did that not seem weird to me, not catch my attention or raise my eyebrows?  How did I believe he was seriously excited about a review by me?  Momma always told people she “didn’t raise no fools.” Boy was she right – even if she didn’t mean to be.

Nick St. James had not told her where he was located, so she did not know when she might reasonably expect the book to arrive.  She diligently checked the tracking number every day, waiting for some hint as to when the package should be expected.   It was a Thursday night when Callie finally saw the magic words “scheduled delivery date” appear on the screen.  Normally, Callie was thrilled when she had new books on Friday.  Ever since she was a child, she had scheduled library visits for Fridays so that she had an entire, unbroken weekend in front of her for uninterrupted reading.  However, she was working a double-shift on this particular Friday, followed by another double on Saturday and a morning shift on Sunday – and this after working regular shifts the previous Monday through Thursday.  She was exhausted already, but knew that she would end up staying up to read crazy late anyway.  How could she not – Nick St. James needed her.  He had told her so, over and over again.

He needed me all right, Callie thought, nearly snorting out loud in disgust despite the danger inherent in making that much noise at this particular moment.  She kept vacillating between cold rank fear and a deep welling anger, the emotions jockeying for position and throwing the occasional elbow, like kids in the doorway on the last day of school.  Callie suspected it would be best if she could hold on to the anger.  Anger is active; it makes the vision oddly clear.  Fear would lock her up, clench everything tight.  She knew fear was not her friend, but then she heard the noise again.  And just like that the anger slinked off into its own hiding spot, inconveniently located far away from hers.

Finally, Friday came – and with it, the package.

Callie tore open the plain brown wrapping paper, noting the elegant and decidedly old-fashioned copperplate handwriting comprising her name and address.  Handwriting that fit Nick St. James to a tee – at least, her image of him.  She had been picturing him in her head ever since the first email.  She could see him so clearly by now – distinguished silver-gray hair that was slightly too long to be currently fashionable, streaks of black still visible at his temples as a reminder of the young dandy he once was; elegant, gentleman’s hands with long, white, tapered fingers that had never witnessed a callus or blister.  He would be tall, she had decided, with broad shoulders – not physically imposing, merely large enough that his body matched his presence, with neither one overshadowed by the other.  He would always be dressed impeccably: charcoal or black suits, she imagined, to match his formal demeanor and mannerisms.

And he would rarely laugh.  Nick St. James was not a man who would take things lightly, no sir.  No teasing or practical joking, no puns or entendres.  There would not be much laughter in Nick St. James at all, Callie believed.  But when he did laugh, oh my goodness…  Callie could hear it in her head – a rich, rollicking belly laugh.  A laugh so hale and hearty that it would tingle the very tips of your toes just to hear it.  The laugh of a man accustomed to getting what he wants but who is still always pleasantly surprised when he does.  A magic laugh.

Well, Callie thought, I certainly got that part right.  There is definitely magic.  And a sense of delighted self-satisfaction.  And tingles.  He definitely delivered on the laugh.  Even if all of the rest of it was nothing more than smoke and mirrors…


(To be continued – yet again…)


3 comments to The Freebie (Fiction) – Part The Third

  • Sharon Franclemont

    and……….. 🙂

  • teehee – now you have to wait ’til THURSDAY!! 😉

  • “Why bother,” Callie thought as quietly as possible from her hidey-hole… At first I wasn’t sure what to think of this line (seeing as thoughts don’t have “volume”) but as I continued, I thought there might be something to this. Her thoughts somehow played a part in the continuation of “her story,” whether she wanted them to or not. Not sure if that was your intention, but I like it. If it was your intention, you might drop just a little additional clue there for those of us who get caught up in the semantics.

    Otherwise, I like the periodic insertion of the present tense italics. I’ll keep my eyes posted for the continuation.

    Paul D. Dail

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