Dahlia's Bookstore was it's name, a fairly small building with its windows covered with cut out newspaper articles on various subjects. Above the glass door was the store's name in red block letters. Seems like a strange place thought Monty. Despite that thought, he shrugged and walked in to the store. A little bell rang when he open the door.
"Hello!" someone said. Monty looked over and saw a skinny man sitting behind the cash register. "Hi" Monty replied with a weak smile. The man grinned, revealing a row of spaced yellow teeth.
Before Monty reached the bookshelves the man called for him, "Do you want to be a member of Dahlia's book club, we give you a free book every month and plus a discount on everything in the store!"
"It's completely free to be a member" the man interrupted.
"I'd rather not" Monty replied.
The man was slightly saddened, "Well you can't just gawk around, either way you still have to fill out the survey"
What kind of store is this? Monty thought to himself. It was no wonder he was the only person there at the moment. He didn't want to argue with the man and due to his polite nature he didn't want to just walk out the door. The man seemed so sad and pathetic.
"Okay, fine with me" Monty said.
"Good! Now come have a seat over here" The man gestured toward a chair by the register desk. Slightly irritated, Monty did what the man asked.
"My name's Lee Graves, I own this store. Me and my woman always did love books"
"Is she Dahlia?" Monty asked.
"Yes and I need to know your name as well, ya know" Lee stood up, his lanky body moving awkwardly as he began looking through papers. "Well what is it?"
Lee picked up a pen and clipboard and jotted down the name. His eyes were sunken in and tired looking. Monty did not like looking at him. Lee Graves looked more like a homeless man rather than a store owner. His beard was gray and un-kept, as with his long unsightly hair. He wore oversized clothing that hung loosely from his bony body. Monty guessed he didn't make a lot of money from the bookstore.
"Now this survey shouldn't take you long at all"
"Mr. Graves do I really need to-"
"Yes!" Lee cried, impatiently as he handed Monty the pen and clipboard.
With a sigh, he took the items. Under his crudely written name were just three questions. Slightly placated, Monty answered the questions. It took him no more than a minute, they were very simple. "Here you go" Monty said, handing Lee the clipboard. The man took it with great excitement and immediately began looking it over.
"Excellent!" Lee exclaimed. "Your favorite book is William Golding's Lord of the Flies, a great choice! Your hobbies are reading and playing piano, wonderful! And your address is not to far from here" Lee sat down the clipboard and smiled. "You'll be great for the club, we all get together every Friday to discuss books, news, tell stories and so on"
"Mr. Graves I go to school, I'm not sure it will work out"
"Nonsense! The get togethers start in the afternoon"
Monty was regretting coming in to the store at all. Lee Graves was an overbearing personality, the kind he always found irksome. With a sigh, he said: "I'll come if I can"
"Oh! Dahlia would be so happy! I've gotten so many members!"
"Will Dahlia be there?" Monty asked.
The man's eyes fell in to sadness, "N-no my Dahlia is deceased"
"I'm so sorry" Monty said nervously, "I-"
"No need to apologize for something that isn't your fault" Lee interrupted. "She took her own life" Monty didn't know what to say, he was always awkward when it came to deep matters.
"She was depressed because of me" his eyes began to water, "You see Monty back in those days I was a heavy drinker and womanizer, she always kept a straight face but I knew my behavior was hurting her"
For a moment, Monty opened his mouth to speak but could not form words. He did feel sorry for the man, no matter how annoying he was. "There is no need to comfort me, it is what it is" Tears slowly fell from Lee's sunken eyes.
"Mr. Graves, I'm sure Dahlia would forgive you" Monty said.
"Maybe so...Anyhow I've kept you here long enough, we can talk on Friday..."
Strictly out of pity, Monty Sparks did return to Dahlia's Bookstore. He went Friday after school, preparing himself for the awkwardness that awaited.
When he arrived there was a circle of chairs but only one was filled. She was a woman with short black hair and wore dark red lipstick, her eyes were a lime green and so oddly bright. She was wearing a faded blue dress, sitting with her long legs crossed. The woman was pretty but strangely pale, almost ghostly.
"Uhh... Hi" he said. "I'm Monty Sparks"
"Monty, yes the new member, Lee told be all about you" she said cheerfully, standing up from the chair. "The others haven't arrived yet"
"Is Mr. Graves here?" Monty asked.
"Yes, he's in the back room, my name's Dahlia by the way" she smiled warmly. "And yes the store's named after me"
Monty nearly jumped in surprise at the woman's words but he didn't. He hid the surprise he felt and simply nodded. From the back of the store they heard a door open and then close. A man soon stepped behind Dahlia and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Monty! It's great to see you" he said.
Monty had not seen this man before, "Who are you?"
The man laughed, "I'm Lee, have you forgotten me that quickly?"
This was not the Lee Graves Monty had met days before. He was far to young, muscular and well kept, there was absolutely no resemblance. This man was simply not Lee Graves.
"Why don't we talk about Lord of the Flies, it's Monty's favorite book and we've all read it" the man said.
"I don't think this will work out...Mr. Graves" With that Monty turned away and walked out the door. Left behind him were a pair of confused faces. Perhaps they were playing a joke on him but either way he did not want to be involved or even think about it.
Monty never returned to the bookstore again.