Grimoire

The following is a story written in response to a Twitter prompt for #GrimList2019. Today’s prompt was Grimoire. I had a lot of fun writing this and may use it as a jumping off point for this year’s NaNoWriMo, since I’m still not sure what I want to do. I could take this in a few different directions. Enjoy!

 

The day after I was let go from my job, my best friend took the day off to indulge in some shopping therapy with me. She had a talent for finding unique local shops, and after I’d helped her pick out two pairs of shoes, a scarf, and a set of Halloween mixing bowls, she drove us out to a family-owned winery with a gift shop.

“We went shopping to cheer you up,” Charlotte said, “but I’m the only who’s bought anything.”

“It’s cheering me up to keep my money.”

“I know your weakness. Look at this.” Hands full with a bottle of wine in each, she nodded toward the table of leather-bound books.

I picked one up. Each was about five by eight inches and less than an inch thick. The pages had deckled edges and were sewn to leather covers.

“Those are made entirely by hand.”

I turned in the direction of the voice. The shop owner, a woman with long silver hair and an apron, smiled at me.

“They’re beautiful,” I said.

“My husband tanned the leather for the covers, and I made the paper using pulp from one of our trees that had been struck down by lightning.”

A bell above the door chimed, and she turned away to greet the new customers.

I turned the book over to look at the price. “Forty dollars,” I whispered to Charlotte.

“You pay for the craftsmanship.”

“What would I even draw in this?” I asked, laughing at the absurdity of spending so much on a book when I had so many unused or half-finished sketchbooks at home. “It’s too beautiful for any of my scribbles.”

“Think of it this way,” Charlotte said. “You’re not throwing money away on another sketchbook you don’t need, but investing in a local business.”

“I’m not in a position to be splurging.”

“Take it out of your severance pay and pretend your check is just that much less. Come on. You can’t go home empty handed.”

“Oh, all right. Maybe it’ll serve as inspiration. I’ll flip through these beautiful pages while I’m waiting for hiring managers to call me and dreaming about how I should have followed my heart and majored in something useful like art rather than something unpredictable like business.”

“That’s the attitude.” Before I could change my mind, she led the way to the register.

At my house that night, we made dinner and drank both bottles of wine while watching favorite movies. Rather than drive home, Charlotte spent the night. In the morning, she left me a partial pot of coffee and a note signed with a smiley face.

It was Friday. I decided to start my job hunt bright and early on Monday and allow myself a long weekend to decompress with some art. After breakfast, I took my second cup of coffee to the spare bedroom I’d turned into a studio.

The notebook sat on my drawing table. The handmade paper was thicker than most. Maybe I could fill the book with a decent collection of drawings. The book could have a theme, rather than the mess my sketchbooks usually became, filled with marginalia like song titles and grocery lists.

I opened the cover to count the pages. The first one had writing on it.

It looked like a recipe, written in ornate handwriting by what I guessed to be a fountain pen. The strokes of the letters were uneven, indicating changes in pressure. I recognized few of the ingredients, presuming the rest to be alternate names for herbs. More confusing were the lines of verse written on the bottom of the page. My limited foreign language skills were no help.

As I turned the pages, each had writing in a similar style, unintelligible to me. I could invest in a local business in exchange for a fancy sketchbook, but no way would I spend $40 on something that was useless to me. I got dressed and drove out to the winery either to return the book or exchange it for a clean one.

Although it was the first time I’d ever been to the winery, I drove past it a few times a month whenever I went out of town. While I’d never had the best sense of direction, I wasn’t likely to get lost on such a familiar road.

When I’d driven up and down the stretch of highway for two hours with no sign of it, I knew something was wrong. Turning into the nearest gas station, I tried to use GPS to find directions. No winery showed up on the map and I couldn’t remember the name. Charlotte would probably be going on her lunch break soon, so I texted her to call me.

“What’s the name of that winery we went to yesterday?” I asked when she called. “That notebook I bought has writing in it. I was trying to return it, but I can’t find the place.”

“Uh… what are you talking about? We didn’t go to a winery.”

“What are you talking about? Of course we did. That’s where you bought the wine.”

“No, we bought that at the grocery store. You’re not driving around, are you? You drank more than I did last night. I think you should take it easy today.”

I eyed the book laying in the passenger seat with my purse. “Yeah, okay,” I said absently and hung up after I promised to call her late that night.

Unsure of my own memory or senses, I picked up the book. The leather felt warm in my hands. I wondered what kind of creature it had come from.

A soft breathy sound came from the book. “Open me. Read me. Use me.”

 

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