Gravier’s Bookshop (Excerpt)

The Library

The sky had darkened to the extent that at any moment one could expect a downpour. There was only enough time to decide whether or not to indulge the peculiar impulse plaguing him all morning or to simply let it go. So, he did what he always did, following his instincts, he took a deep breath and opened his car door. Slamming it abruptly behind him, he tore up the steps of the Milton Latter Library just as the raindrops began to hit the outside of his sports coat. He pushed the heavy doors aside that felt nearly icy in his hands. He watched the deluge of rain come down just outside. His heart was pumping wildly, and he considered as an afterthought that perhaps it would have been expedient to grab the small compact umbrella he stored beneath his Jeep Cherokee’s passenger seat. But shrugging off that notion, he walked into the cold foyer of the library.

The structure used to be the house, more aptly called the mansion, of a former silent movie star. It was one of the palatial buildings, and there were many along New Orleans’ famous St. Charles Avenue. It had actually been many years since he’d been here, and in many ways, he found it odd that he was here today. But last night had been plagued with dreams of this place, dreams of this place, and a young woman with long chestnut-colored hair. So, he’d closed the bookstore he owned on Magazine Street early this morning—one of the perks of being the owner—and set off on this peculiar quest to unravel the meaning of his dream. For dreams, as his very astute grandmother had once told him, were something not to be ignored.

The inside of the library was largely silent, making his entrance all the more noticeable or would have been if there was anyone around. He paused at the door, his eyes taking in the huge stretch of mildly wearing mosaic floor. This definitely had been a home once—someone’s home, only now a bit unnaturally converted into this public building. The lingering of lives passed here long ago clung profoundly to the place, layers of impressions—the past clearly more powerful and dominant than the present.

He focused deeply, trying to filter out the impressions that were non-essential to him from those he sought. His lightweight canvas tennis shoes hit the highly polished floor but were largely silent, fortunately.

Again, he focused on the dream—the young woman, green-eyed, with long reddish-brown hair. His feelings stretched out. Maximilian, or Max as he preferred, was a closet psychic.

It was inexplicable the wash of despair that had flooded over her this morning, just pure cascades of desolation. Caroline had wandered around her Carrolton Avenue apartment aimlessly, her head nearly splitting open with a migraine incited by what she was experiencing. She’d phoned the law office where she worked as a paralegal to call in sick. It would be impossible to function there under these conditions.

She lit candles. She put out two bowls of water, tried a light meditation, but nothing was helping.

Breathing deeply, she sunk onto the overstuffed moss green love seat that her Aunt Elise had given her when she moved in. She sat cross-legged and attempted to clear her mind in a meditation. But almost in a flood as powerful as the emotions, the images began to pour forth.

She sighed deeply. Of course, the strange quiet girl one apartment and two to the left over hers. There was a darkness all around her. A self-proclaimed Wiccan, she’d been attempting spells to bind the boyfriend to her—the one that lived there on occasion.

Delia, something was her name. They’d introduced themselves once, but she was abominable in remembering last names. “Remember, you have to take extreme precautions when you move out, Caroline,” her mother had said. “You’re not like other people.”

What an extraordinary understatement, but she had to leave, had to leave the safe cocoon of her mother’s lovely, sprawling Queen Anne-style house on Prytania Street. Certainly, it would have been easy enough to bury herself there with her Mom and her younger brother Jared who seemed more than content to set up shop in the great house for another millennium.

But not her. Now that she was twenty-five, Caroline Breslin would strike out on her own and find a way to deal with the pesky problem of being bombarded with other people’s emotions.

Again, she attempted to clear her mind, and the dark mucky energy flooding through Delia, what’s her name’s apartment, seemed to hit its mark right on her forehead, exacerbating her headache. “Damn,” she exploded, rubbing the sensitive spot. This was not going to work, and it wouldn’t due having sick days at her job. Luckily it was Friday, and she had the rest of the weekend to find a solution, short of moving.

She picked up her purse and sunglasses, heading out the front door with no clue where she was going.

The pull led him through the wide, dark wood lobby of the library. To either side were massive ornate reading rooms. One was clearly a dining room from long ago with a high, ornately decorated ceiling and a massive marble fireplace. Across the hall, a similarly fashioned parlor was now filled with tables and racks of newspapers.

But he walked past, past the long desk and in the opposite direction of an imposing, black wood staircase that led up to the second floor.

As he continued to the back of the building, the walls became lighter, the décor less formal, and of course, shelves and shelves of books.

He’d remembered being here several times before. Once for a meeting of local small business owners and once for a book sale concentrated on the grounds. If he’d wandered this library area before, it hadn’t made an impression. As he drifted into one of the side reading rooms, another doorway compelled him.

Without hesitation, he crossed the threshold, and the light flooded toward him. It was a lovely little nook, a sunroom surrounded by glass walls and filled with wicker chairs, one with a high-rounded back that wouldn’t have been out of place on a tropical island. And not unexpectedly, it was occupied.

It helped just getting out of the apartment. Clearly, Delia Whoever was the problem—what she hated was the fact that she’d become “her” problem. Again, the complaint circled to a familiar theme — “It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else?”

Over the years, she’d thought she’d made peace with this reality. Her mother and aunt’s approach had always been—” You’re gifted for a reason Caroline. Don’t treat it like a curse.” It was the psychic strain that ran throughout their family. Her brother Jared was a remarkable precognitive. Her Aunt Elise, amongst her many psychic gifts, she’d always found to be a walking lie detector—having an uncanny ability of nearly reading thoughts. And, of course, her mother was a healer, a gift she didn’t develop until after their father died nearly a decade ago.

But her gift was a different animal. It was almost as if she had to erect artificial barriers where the natural separation of one human begins, and another ends. Usually, she was moderately successful, but not today. It was the energy thing, a new developing facet of her gift of being so cognizant of energy patterns.

She’d decided to visit her mother’s house on Prytania Street this morning. There was always a calming energy there, and maybe her Aunt Elise, who was a frequent visitor, might just come up with a solution to her particular predicament. This was what she’d decided, but on her way, she took a turn onto St. Charles Avenue on a whim. And on another whim, she impulsively decided to stop at the Milton Latter Library. It was a lovely old building—the house and grounds taking up an entire block on the street. Once the reported mansion of a silent film star in the 1920s, it was one of the few once private sprawling residences on St. Charles that was now open to the public.

She hadn’t been in the place for years, and as she stepped out of her car, the sky rumbled overhead. Best to get inside soon, and besides, the place was beckoning her, feeling particularly welcoming today. Maybe she could clear her mind, perhaps find a solution on her own. How refreshing that would be not to have to turn to her family for help.

The heavy dark interior flooded toward her as she walked into the front foyer. On either side of her were open doors to lush rooms converted into reading centers but still beautiful and opulent as they must have been in the day. She wandered further inside, immediately being greeted by an employee at the front desk asking if she needed assistance.

An excellent question, she thought to herself but politely declined rather aimlessly drifting into one of the reading rooms on the left. But then she began to feel it, the pull to another doorway within the room and unexpectedly a burst of light. It was a lovely sunroom decorated with light wicker furniture, and to her extreme delight, it was unoccupied. She settled into an oversized, white wicker chair facing a wall-size window. Allowing herself to relax, she tried to clear her mind and reach out for guidance.

It was perplexing this particular situation. Max had great control of his gifts, at least at times. There were half a dozen murder cases that the New Orleans police force had consulted him on. All were handled privately, quietly behind the scenes, as well as other cases, missing persons mostly. He didn’t seek notoriety, and truth be told, the police didn’t want the news leaking out that they were consulting a psychic. But he was at times called to use his gifts and sometimes strongly.

And then there were the dreams.

The woman with the long reddish-brown hair and green eyes, he couldn’t pinpoint the first time he’d seen her, maybe a year before, maybe two. It was random at first, a girl in the background, coming into his bookstore but not speaking, looking intently as though she were searching for something. Then in the last few months, things changed. She’d moved closer.

And, of course, this week, every night, the same dream like a mantra.

“What do you need?” he asked somberly.

They were standing out on the lakefront, and the sky was a startling splash of turquoise. He had a habit of dreaming in vivid, often startling colors.

“It’s getting worse,” she murmured. She’d begun speaking to him just the month before. “I can’t keep the walls up. Everything bleeds into my mind now, my skin.”

“Your gifts are expanding. It’s a transition process. Be patient.” He spoke as he felt, although he had no concrete reason for saying so.

“It’s driving me crazy. And there’s something else.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve felt it coming for some time.”

Today the pull had been strong, but he hadn’t understood until just this moment what precisely was pulling him. He stood on the threshold of the sunroom staring with a measure of surprise but also understanding at the woman sitting in front of the plate glass window with her eyes closed. She wasn’t sleeping that much, he knew. She was in a very light meditation. Then slowly, her eyes opened, lovely wide green eyes, and she stared at him with a touch of recognition.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

He smiled, his awareness embracing the recognition. “I’m Max.”

Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert