Once Upon A Flash Drive

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Chapter Sixteen

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”~ Elbert Hubbard


Shafer Lake . . .

When Lara entered the kitchen, Dora looked up from the cup of coffee she was nursing. “Morning, sweet pea.”

“Morning Nana.”

“Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Not as much as I would have liked. I’m trying to get back on a schedule so that the first week of school won’t be such a shock to my system.”

“What would you like for breakfast?”

“Toast and juice, but I can get it.”

“Sit down and let me spoil you, Lara. All of us need a little tender loving care now and then.”

Lara gave Dora a hug. “Thanks, Nana. I’m going to miss you when I go back to Hazelton.”

Dora poured a glass of orange juice and placed it in front of her granddaughter. “Even though the past two and a half months have been an emotionally distressing time, it’s been a treat to have you with us.”

“It’s been a treat for me too, and Mom and I appreciate your willingness for me to stay on in Shafer Lake for the school year. When it was time to make my decision, I realized that I would regret it if I didn’t graduate with my class at Hazelton High.”

“Your grandpa and I would have enjoyed having you here with us, but we felt confident that Hazelton High would win out in the end.”

“In some ways, I dread returning to Hazelton, but the Townsend’s have lived and gone to school at Hazelton High for three generations. Dad looked forward to the day when I would walk across the stage to receive my diploma. I don’t want to be the one to break the family tradition.”

“How do you feel about moving into your Aunt Maddie’s house?”

“I’m not thrilled, but, I know it’s the practical thing to do.”

“Wise decisions aren’t always easy, Lara. The good news is that you have friends in Lake Shafer and Hazelton that have your back.”

Lara nodded. “I know. And, I grateful. I intend to keep up with my Shafer Lake friends on social media, but when it comes right down to it, my family has to come first. One of the difficult things I have learned is that tragedy can strike at any time, and it can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

Dora said, “I realize that the past few months have been a bit scary, Lara, but don’t let your fears paralyze you. If you do, you’ll be blinded to the beauty that is all around you.”

“I didn’t mean to sound pessimistic, Nana. It's just that I’ll feel safer and less apprehensive when McCorkle and his cronies have been rounded up and thrown in jail.”

“We all will. I just hope that he won’t be able to buy his way out of trouble. Your mom says that there haven’t been any news reports about the corruption in over a week. Thankfully, the rumors and gossip about your dad have dried up. That should make going back to Hazelton easier.”

“I have become a pro at ignoring the news, Nana. Now, I’m looking forward to the headline that reads: Local lawyer Van McCorkle faces long prison term.

Dora said, “It will be a day for celebration for the people of Hazelton.”

“One of several occasions to celebrate. Hopefully, I’ll graduate and publish my first book. That’s my goal. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy every day of my senior year.”

Dora nodded. “Normalcy is a blessing to be appreciated.”

Lara shrugged. “I’m not sure that our lives will ever be normal again. Mom, Aunt Maddie and I will settle for ordinary. Ordinary people living ordinary lives. When the concert is behind Mom, and we are assured that our guests won’t be hounded by the media, we will begin socializing again.”

“Didn’t I hear you invite Greta to spend a weekend in Hazelton?”

“You did. She and my Hazelton friends have become Facebook friends. As much as I hate to admit it, Greta has more in common with my friends Sara and Kinsey than I do.”

“That’s because you’ve taken a different road. It’s okay to be different, Lara. You can only make a difference in the world by being different. Not everyone is up to the challenge.”

“I trying to accept that. Fitting in doesn’t seem nearly as important as it did a year ago. I learned one really valuable lesson this summer. Friendship isn’t about age or interests, it’s about the people who stand by you through the tough times.”

“As you girls go out into life, I think that you will find that diversity is the spice of life. It is the uniqueness of individuals that makes life interesting. Even so, childhood friends can be special. I’m glad that you’ve worked through your issues with Sara and Kinsey.”

“Thanks to Brian. When Mom and I arrived in Hazelton, I was a basket case. I was at odds with my friends and mad at the world. Looking back, I can see that my friends tried to be supportive. Because of my grief, I took offense to perceived slights, and they were perceived.

“Brian held up a mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw. I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. Brian said that the choice was mine. I could be happy, or I could be bitter. He encouraged me to find a positive way to vent my anger. He was sympathetic, but not enabling.”

“I didn’t realize that he was counseling you.”

“We bartered. He admired my sketches of St. Paul’s, and I needed a listener who was impartial.”

“I wondered why you were spending so much time at the church, not that I thought it was a bad idea. I’ve always thought that part of Brian’s appeal was his ability to communicate with people. He genuinely cares. We’re lucky to have him here in Shafer Lake. I’m delighted that he helped you.”

“He’s been great.”

“So, what’s on your agenda for today? I hope that you are going to do something fun.”

“I’m going to spend some time with Greta after lunch, but as soon as Backstories opens, I need to stop by the bookstore and talk to Mary. She hasn’t changed her mind about wanting to show my illustrations for A Home for Tina to her friend Bob.”

Dora took a sip of coffee before responding. “She called yesterday. She’s worried about you.”

“Nana, I hope that you didn’t mention the surveillance? Wesley wants to keep that under wraps.”

“She went out of her way to make the trip to Florida possible for you. For her efforts’ it’s only fair that she be told the truth about your reason for backing out of the trip. Mary knows that Wesley is an FBI agent, and she knows what’s going on in Hazelton, so she wasn’t surprised to learn that the trip cancelation was a question of your safety.”

Lara sighed in relief. “Actually, I’m glad you talked to her. I did an inadequate job of explaining why I wasn’t going with her.”

“If there had been a hint that our family was being targeted by mobsters, she wouldn’t have extended the invitation. Now, if you have no objection, I’ll walk over to shops with you. There’s an outfit at Marsha’s Boutique that I’ve been eyeing.”

“Terrific. Give me ten minutes and I’ll be ready.”

At ten minutes past ten, Lara entered Backstories. Jodi Krenshaw, one of Mary’s teen volunteers, was arranging a book display in the shop’s window. She looked up and waved. “Hi, Lara. How’s it going?”

“Fine and dandy. Love your display of Dr. Zeus books.”

“Thanks. Display is my favorite part of the job. Mary’s in her office sorting the mail. She’s expecting you, so don’t bother to knock.”

Despite Jodi’s assertion that she was expected, Lara chose to knock before entering Mary’s office.

Mary motioned her in. “There you are. I’m in the middle of an email. Give me a sec.” She handed Lara a flyer. “This came yesterday. Kristi Shelbourne has a new book out just in time for the book fair. Tell me what you think.”

Children, age ten to twelve, were the target readers for Kristi’s books. Lara’s stories and illustrations were more appropriate for children seven and under. Kristi wrote about everyday experiences in a child’s life. Lara wrote about the imaginary experiences of animals. As different as their styles were, Lara was a big fan of Kristi’s books.

When Mary closed her laptop, Lara said, “I love it. In my estimation, Kristi ranks right up there with the top authors of children’s books.”

She handed Mary a portfolio containing the illustrations for A Home for Tina. “Thanks for showing my illustrations to your publisher friend, Mary.”

Mary nodded absently, opened the portfolio and paged through the illustrations inside. “Thanks for bringing these by. Your characters bring back some of my fondest childhood memories, Lara. My parents often despaired because I lived in my own imaginary world. Donald Duck, Road Runner, Minnie and Mickey Mouse were as real to me as my best friend Tia Brooks.

“I talked to Minnie on the phone daily, and I invited a whole cast of cartoon characters to my tea parties. If anyone had walked in and heard my conversations with my best buddies, I would have been packed off to a looney bin.

“What impresses me about your work is the way you’ve been able to create personalities for your characters. Your Tina has more personality than Minnie and Mickey combined. And Ralphie is adorable. When he peeks out from behind the door and winks, I want to giggle.”

“Thanks, Mary. I developed Ralphie’s personality around elements of Chris’ personality. Chris can get so wrapped up in his own private world that when his devilishness shines through, I’m always caught by surprise.”

Mary laughed. “Does Chris know that he was your inspiration for Ralphie?”

Lara grinned. “No, but he likes Ralphie. If he asks, I’ll tell him that any similarities are purely coincidental.”

“Lara, I apologize for putting you in an awkward position when I invited you to attend the book fair. I should have realized that the timing was wrong. If I created a situation that caused pain, I’m deeply sorry.”

“It’s my fault, Mary. I should have said no when you asked. I like to pretend that my life is normal, but it’s not. As for the invitation, your confidence in my work has boosted my confidence. Thank you for believing in me.”

“I believe in you and your work, Lara, but I’m aware that the road to becoming a first-time author can be daunting. Charming illustrations and spell-binding stories don’t always get published. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected several times. You can’t take rejection personally. You’ll have to brush it off, and keep on writing. A yes depends on how many new authors have submitted work and what’s selling.

“I am certain that Bob will agree that your work shows promise. But . . . even if you had accompanied me to Florida, I could not have guaranteed an offer to publish.”

“I didn’t expect one. The most I expected was encouragement. A Home for Tina will always be special to me, even if the feedback is negative. The inspiration for the illustrations and story came at a time when I desperately needed something positive to keep my mind off the negatives in my life. I poured my heart and soul into the book. Any positive feedback will be icing on the cake.”

Mary closed the portfolio. “If you really mean that, you’ll be fine. I know that it’s not the same, but I’ll send photos and news briefs about what’s going on at the book fair. I think that you will enjoy having a glimpse of the world of books.

“Your mom’s big day has been on my mind too. Is she ready for the concert?”

“She says she is. She excited about the number of people in Shafer Lake who plan to attend. St. Paul’s purchased a dozen tickets for the teens who attend Teen Night in the square. Brian is going to drive the church van.”

“Does the teen group plan to stay in Hazelton overnight?”

“They will be staying at our house. Wesley and Fran have agreed to be chaperones. Greta and I are staying at Aunt Maddie’s.”

“Can you accommodate that many people?”

“There are enough beds for the adults, but the youth plan to carry sleeping bags. It should be a fun evening, even for the teens who aren’t music lovers.”

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