• Inspire Stories #1: The Book Man
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    XXXXShe was not surprised when the man leapt out of her book.
    XXXXIn fact, she was more surprised by her lack of surprise. She knew somewhere in her that this was something that could not logically happen, but she took it in stride, sitting back to give him room and folding her skirts neatly over her legs. She did want to make a good first impression, after all.
    XXXX “Hello,” she said to the Book Man, looking him over. “My name is Royalyn. Who are you?”
    XXXXThe Book Man looked surprised, turning this way and that before finally finding her. “I…I don’t know. Who are you?”
    XXXXShe laughed, tossing back her head. “I already told you, I am Royalyn.”
    XXXXThe Book Man—who was actually a boy, now that she looked at him—finally sat down, still gaping wide-eyed at the room. “No, that’s your name.”
    XXXXShe frowned. What kind of answer was that? She huffed dramatically and smoothed her skirts again. “Fine then. What is your name?”
    XXXXHe continued to look around. “I don’t know.”
    XXXXShe stood up, clearing her throat. “Well, Mr. I-Don’t-Know-Book-Man, it is time for dinner, and I’m afraid to say, you aren’t invited, so—”
    XXXX “Wait!” He jumped up and grabbed her wrist lightly. “Don’t go. You’re the only person I know here. Waiting to come out of that book was awful.”
    XXXXShe raised an eyebrow. “So you do remember something?”
    XXXXHe smiled. It made him handsome, in an odd way. “Oh, I remember lotsa things, Miz Royalyn, just not my name. I haven’t remembered that for years.”
    XXXXThis suddenly struck her as odd, as if nothing else about the encounter was odd. “Exactly how old are you?” she asked.
    XXXXWith another goofy grin, he replied, “A lot longer’n you.”
    XXXX “Oh.” She wasn’t sure what to say to that. She liked him again, because he was interesting, he was new, like a toy for her to play with before once more discarding. Of course, when he began to float, things changed again.
    XXXX “Come on!” said the Book Man, extending his hand.
    XXXXShe only stared.
    XXXX “Come on,” he repeated, softer. “I’m not gonna hurt ’cha. Just want to show you something, as thanks for gettin’ me outta there.”
    XXXXShe looked around. Someone might come to retrieve her for dinner soon. Besides, he was flying. That couldn’t be safe.
    XXXXStill, she looked in his eyes and found that, somewhere amidst the confusion, she trusted him. She gave the door one last glance before she took his hand and sighed.
    XXXX “All right, Mr. Book Man, show me.” Judging by his accent, it couldn’t be much more interesting than a run-down old barn he used to spend time in. It wouldn’t be spectacular, she told herself.
    XXXXThe Book Man then pulled her along, out the suddenly open window, and through the sky. She shrieked and grabbed onto him, and he laughed, a clear, musical sound once unhampered by the confines of the wrinkled yellow pages of his book.
    XXXXShe braved opening her eyes a short few minutes later. The wind grazed over her powdered skin, cold and loud, but slowly, she saw the beauty.
    XXXXThe sky was filled with black and purple and blue like she’d never seen—it felt like she’d never even looked at the sky before, the way she felt now. Little lights winked at her from the curtain, singing sweetly of all the stories they’d witnessed from their balcony seats. Below, she suddenly saw more magnificent lights, twinkling on and off in a fantastic show, seemingly just for her and the Book Man. Her mundane life in her big, prominent house, with her big, prominent dresses and big, prominent family name didn’t exist anymore. There were the lights, the sky, and the Book Man.

    XXXXShe sat up from her bed, expecting more spectacular sights, when she realized that she sat in her plain, white room again, and no one else was with her. She flung the covers off and ran to her pile of books from the library. One lay open on the floor, its pages completely devoid of ink. She dropped to her knees and started flipping through it frantically, searching for something. She didn’t even know what she wanted to find, as long as it was something.

    XXXXOn the last page, there were two words.

    XXXXThank you.

    XXXXShe smiled at the small heart drawn beneath them and sighed, closing her eyes and holding the book to her chest.

    XXXX “No. Thank you, my Book Man.”