The leaves from the maple tree in the front yard continued their freefall, barely having enough time to touch the ground before a cool autumn breeze had them skittering along the sidewalk to unknown destinations. Julie watched their playful little dance for a few more minutes before pulling on her hooded sweater. She grabbed her keys and pocketbook and walked out the front door, locking it behind her.
Though she had a perfectly nice little car parked in the garage, Julie preferred walking the three blocks to the quaint bookstore cafe she managed when the weather was good. She enjoyed looking at the shops and talking to shop owners she met along the way. A slender young woman with short brown hair was waiting in the doorway of the antiques shop. “Good morning, Carrie. Are you ready for today’s swarm of customers?” Julie said with a laugh.
“Hi, Ms Davis. I wish we would have a swarm of customers. It would make the day pass more quickly”, Carrie replied. Carrie started working at The Reading Corner right out of high school. Even though she had her associates degree from the local community college, Carrie liked the hours and liked working with Julie. Besides, her boyfriend, Jim, would be taking the bar exam soon, and then they would be married.
As Julie unlocked the door to the shop, she said, “I know what you mean about the time. However, at least for today, we have a new shipment to set up for display. That should take a few hours. Maybe we can reset the display window to draw in more customers. Let’s see what we’ve got in the back room.”
While Julie powered up the computers and cash register, Carrie turned the coffeepot on and placed the fresh-baked pastries into the enclosed display cabinet near the register.As the morning progressed, Julie and Carrie worked side-by-side, opening cartons of books and stacking them on a three-shelf cart. Just as they finished filling the cart, Julie said, “I have an idea for the display window. Tell me what you think: Instead of placing current bestsellers in the window, we can place a small round soda-fountain type table and chair in the window. We can use different table covers to blend in with the seasons or a specific holiday. We can add a place setting and a plate with pastry, and one or two current bestsellers.”
“Hey, that sounds cool, Ms Davis”, Carrie replied. “We could even string some tiny lights around the scene to draw people’s attention. I can watch the store while you go shopping. We don’t even need to set up the new shipment until we set up the display. This is going to be fun!”
Julie grabbed her keys and quickly walked home to get her car, and then drove towards the local furniture store. On the way, she spotted a wooden sign that read “Yesteryear’s Treasures” posted in front of an old two-car garage. The garage had a large picture window with an entrance doorway on the side. Lights were on, so Julie decided to go in and look around. What better place would there be to find an old-fashioned soda fountain table, she thought to herself. Sure enough, they had not one but two soda fountain tables with matching chairs. The price was unbelievably low, so she decided to buy both of them. As she was looking around at other pieces of furniture, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a man leaning against the service counter watching her.
She smiled as she held out her hand to shake his, and said “Good morning. I’m Julie Davis. I run The Reading Corner in town. I’m resetting our display window and want to buy both of your soda fountain tables.”
The man shook her hand, saying, “I know who you are, Julie. Don’t you remember me? I know I have been gone a long time, but I haven’t changed that much.”
Julie looked at him with a blank expression. After studying him for several minutes, she replied, “I’m sorry. I really don’t recognize you. Should I know you?”
The man was speechless for a moment. Then he said, “The name’s Pete. Pete Jensen. I’ll ring your sale up for you. Did you drive a truck here or do you need delivery service?” Julie told him she needed delivery service. She completed the sale and gave him the address for the bookstore. He told her someone would deliver the tables and chairs later that day.
After she left the store, Pete went into the stockroom looking for David, his partner and cousin. “Hey, David. We just got our first sale of the day. Woman named Julie Davis. Does that ring a bell with you?”
David looked up from the inventory sheets he had been reading. “Sure, I remember Julie Davis. Why, don’t you remember her? I thought you, of all people, would remember her,” he replied.
Pete looked at him quizzically, and then said, “I do remember Julie. How could I not remember her? We almost got engaged after high school. But, the thing is, David, she doesn’t remember me. At least, she said she didn’t recognize me and even asked if she should know who I am.”
David studied his cousin, his best friend since they were kids. They went to school together, even had some of the same classes; they had played sports together and hung out with the same crowd all through school. While David had stayed in Hunterville, married and had a family, Pete had travelled around the U.S. and Canada. He was supposed to travel for just a year before coming back and enrolling in college. But he did not come back for close to ten years. Finally, he said “Pete, you haven’t been here for so long. You don’t know what happened. How could you? Julie was assaulted – probably about 8 years ago. The beating was so bad; she was in a coma a couple days. When she woke up, she knew who she was, seemed like her old self. But she had memory lapses that showed up later. Like, she couldn’t remember being a cheerleader or going to the prom. But she remembers most of the kids in our old crowd. She remembered that her dad died when she was fourteen, but didn’t remember getting a puppy for her birthday. I don’t know if anyone asked her if she remembered you. She was pretty upset when you left town. No one wanted to upset her all over again.”
Pete couldn’t believe no one had told him what happened to Julie so long ago. There were so many places he wanted to see, things he wanted to learn. He made friends wherever he went, dated when he found someone interesting. He never settled down with one woman, never found anyone like Julie. “Did they find the person who beat Julie?” he asked. David told him one of Julie’s coworkers had been stalking her. The coworker was arrested, but instead of going through a trial, he pled guilty and is serving time.
“The answer to your next question is no – Julie never married. She dates on and off but has never had a serious relationship with anyone besides you”, David offered. Pete told David he would deliver the tables to the bookstore.
While Julie drove back to the bookstore, her thoughts were on the man she had met at Yesteryear’s Treasures. It was odd that he said he knew her and called her Julie, not Ms Davis. He said he had been gone many years. She didn’t recognize his name, his face didn’t remind her of anyone she used to know. However, the way he stood there, leaning against the counter did remind her of someone.
Julie parked the car behind the store and went inside. Carrie had already cleared out the display window and was just finishing up a sale. Julie said “I found this new place called Yesteryear’s Treasure along the main road and bought two soda fountain table and chair sets! I thought we could put the second table near the pastry case. Someone may want to have coffee and dessert while reading a newly purchased book. I’ve been thinking that maybe we should even add a small comfy loveseat and end table across the room for others to relax and read. What do you think of that idea?” Carrie thought it was excellent – one of her favorite words to use when she was excited. They got to work rearranging the store to make space for the table sets and eventually the loveseat.
After they had taken their lunch break, a white van from Yesteryear’s Treasures pulled up to the curb in front of the bookstore. Julie expected a hired hand to show up and was surprised to see Pete Jensen get out of the van and open the rear doors. She held the door to the shop open while he carried both table sets in. “Where would you like these, Julie?” he asked. Julie showed him where to place the tables, then told him she was thinking of getting a loveseat.
Pete said “I guess you didn’t notice we had several loveseats at our store. I can give you a discount since it would be your second purchase in one day.” Pete described each of the loveseats, giving details of the colors and fabrics for each. “Personally, for this bookstore, I’d go with the light brown microfiber loveseat. You could add some chocolate brown throw pillows on each end,” he said.
“That sounds great. It would give this shop a nice cozy feel; don’t you think so, Julie?” Carrie asked. When Pete told her the price, Julie couldn’t pass up the deal. She wrote out a check to Yesteryear’s Treasures and asked how soon they could expect delivery. Pete told them he could deliver the loveseat and pillows the next morning before the bookstore opened for business.
Julie watched through the store window as Pete drove away. Carrie was intrigued because Julie never seemed to be lost in daydreaming as she was now. Carrie was hoping Julie would meet someone and this Pete Jensen might be the one.
The next morning, Julie found Pete already waiting in front of the store. He started to unload the loveseat on a dolly while Julie opened the shop and disarmed the alarm. Carrie arrived in time to hold the door open while Pete wheeled the loveseat inside. “Is there anything else you ladies need help with before I leave?” Pete asked after he placed the loveseat where Julie directed him. Julie told him everything was fine and thanked him for all his help.
Once Pete drove away, they set about arranging the accessories in the display window.Just as they finished their decorating, two new customers entered the shop. “Oh, my, this is so cozy looking. Is this a coffee shop or a bookstore?” the first lady asked. Julie informed her it was a bookstore/café and that they offered customers a place to relax and read if they chose to do so. Both women, in their upper fifties, each bought a book, along with a cup of coffee and croissant. The customers were so impressed with the easy-going, homey atmosphere, they promised to inform all their friends of their new find.
Within days, Julie and Carrie found themselves busier than they could ever imagine they would be. People were not only buying books, coffee and pastry, but they were sitting and standing around the shop not reading, but discussing some of the books and authors they were reading. After a few weeks, Pete found the courage to ask Julie out to lunch. He was surprised when she said yes.
Pete stopped by the shop a few times a week, sometimes just to say hello, sometimes to take Julie out to lunch. On Friday nights, they went out to dinner or to the theater. Saturdays were spent going to auctions or just relaxing before a fire at Julie’s house. On Sundays, they took long walks in the park along Hunter Lake. Pete knew he had found what he had been looking for all those years he travelled. He knew Julie was the reason why he never formed a lasting relationship with anyone else. He didn’t know why it took so long for him to come home. But here he was, living in this small town, waking up every morning looking forward to spending time with Julie.
Julie thought about Pete even on days they didn’t spend time together. She felt safe, happy, content, when she was with Pete. Though she had never done so before, she was pretty sure she was falling in love with him. His arm around her shoulder when they walked through the fall leaves seemed familiar somehow. The way he held her as they kissed gave her a glimpse of some distant memory she couldn’t grasp.
It was on a chilly, windy day just before Thanksgiving when Pete showed up at her house asking her to go for a drive. They drove up to the observatory on Sparrow’s Peak. Pete parked the car and they walked over to the stone ledge that overlooked the valley and Hunter Lake. It was a beautiful site, with trees lining the valley in glorious colors of red, orange, yellow and deep green and skies filled with white and gray billowing clouds interspersed with deep blue sky. Pete held Julie’s hands in his, gazed into her eyes and solemnly asked her to marry him. Julie searched his eyes, said yes and kissed him deeply. With that one kiss, she knew. She knew he was her soul mate, the one she had been waiting for all these years.