ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #Extract from What A Girl Wants by Angie Coleman @aria_fiction
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for What A Girl Wants by Angie Coleman. I have an extract to share with you today and would like to thank Vicky Joss from Aria Fiction for the place on the tour.
A heartwarming romance perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Sophie Kinsella.
Gillian Bennett has always dreamed of opening a luxury hat shop, and when she finds the opportunity of a lifetime in the shape of a rent-free shop she thinks her dreams have come true. Her parents are less than thrilled and she has two years to prove to them that this isn’t just a pipe dream, or she’ll be shipped back home and into an office job. But she wasn’t counting on a distraction in the form of sexy but enigmatic Jared, a completely unreadable man that she soon finds herself falling for. Yet, Jared has a secret, and when she finds it out, it shakes Gil to her core. With everything spiralling out of control around her, will Gil ever realise her dreams?
The pouring rain beats insistently on the waterproof fabric of my umbrella. I should have taken Grandma Natalie’s big one when she insisted this morning, but I was really hoping the weather would improve. My usual hopeless optimism.
I move to the side of the sidewalk, up against the wall, hoping a projecting roof overhead will protect me a bit. I don’t feel like going home quite yet. I left with an objective I haven’t been able to accomplish yet. I hate giving up. In two days’ time my fake vacation will be over, and I haven’t figured out how to go about opening my small hand-made hat shop. Grandma’s complicity should have helped me prolong my visit here, but my father wouldn’t hear of it. Wendell Bennett never misses a thing. I think he suspected something when yesterday evening Grandma Natalie asked him for a few more days with her granddaughter. It wouldn’t be odd if Mother’s birthday weren’t coming up. At least I already have a gift for her: a magnificent wool sweater in her favorite color: sky blue. I’m sure she’ll love it.
I ignore the crowd rushing back and forth, their umbrellas much bigger than mine, and I glance around. I’ve never been to this part of South Main Street, at least not in recent years. Grandma Natalie lives a little outside of Fall River, so we rarely get to visit the city when we come to see her. We’re all country folk – open air with grass underfoot – but now I’m alone, I’m on a mission, and I only have another two days, so why not find out what this part of town has to offer? Without thinking, I turn onto Spring Street and take a few steps trying to avoid spray from the cars coming towards me, when a shop window stops me dead in my tracks. A sleek Improved Dolly Varden sewing machine has captured my attention. The base is polished wood with a grey metal support; the rest is nearly all black, with elegant gold decorations that make it all the more beautiful. It is even fitted with a spool of thread: it’s magnificent. For a moment I see the dream of a lifetime coming true: a pretty little shop with at least two windows looking onto a busy street. Rows and rows of assorted, elegant, and colorful hats for all ages and sizes, men’s too, but mostly women’s – the sparkle of metal and precious stone appliques, the lightness of colored feathers and satin, the texture of leather and hide. All unique pieces created by me, the owner, with my Improved Dolly Varden, faithful work companion and source of many a satisfaction!
I look up at the sign, which bears a promise more than a name: ‘Same as it Never Was Antiques.’ Good, a second-hand store. Since my savings don’t amount to much, I couldn’t ask for anything better. I quickly close my umbrella and step inside confidently, enjoying the delicate warmth of the interior. The shop isn’t very large, but the countless objects that clutter the place make it look even smaller. There are all sorts of things – inlaid furniture and padded stools, jewelry and necklaces and fountain pens, clothing perfect for a movie set and leather suitcases dating back to at least the last century. It would be fascinating, if it weren’t for the chaos dominating the scene like a medieval castle over the valley below. I have never seen a more disorderly shop. I try to find a route to reach what seems to be the clerk’s dark wooden counter, though it is barely recognizable, covered as it is in bric-a-brac. I have only one thing in mind: the Dolly Varden!
“Is anyone here?” I say tentatively, trying to spot some kind of lifeform.
The sound of a chair dragging makes me turn towards a door I hadn’t noticed before, hidden as it is by miles of cloth piled randomly on clothes hangers and shelves. In a moment, a man in his forties emerges, tall, with dark hair, a very neat beard and mustache, and a penetrating gaze that his glasses, a bit low on his nose, cannot detract from. He is wearing a cream colored turtleneck sweater and a pair of dark pants.
“Good morning, Miss. What can I do for you?” he welcomes me with a polite smile.
“Good morning. Well, I noticed that Dolly Varden in the window and I was wondering if I could buy it.” I get straight to the point – that’s me.
“I’m sorry, it’s not for sale. It’s an 1874 sewing machine, a period piece to which I’m particularly attached. And besides, I’m sure you couldn’t afford it,” he points out so politely that I’m baffled. I’m not sure if I should be insulted because he called me cheap, or to ignore it because of his impeccable manners. “But if you want an electric sewing machine, I have several of those, much more practical. What do you need it for?” I go for the second option. Too polite to take offense.
“To tell the truth, I would like to open an atelier, a small shop basically, where I would make and sell hand crafted hats. I’m looking for a spot here in Fall River, and while I’m waiting to find one, I was thinking of starting with the sewing machine.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I think I can offer you not only a sewing machine, but also some tools and several forms that a quality hat craftswoman can’t do without,” he offers affably, disappearing for a moment into the cave from which he had emerged a moment ago. He promptly returns holding a pair of magnificent wooden forms, perfect to make wonderful rigid hats.
“These are excellent, made of birch wood. I have several here in the shop – somewhere.”
“Wow, they’re perfect!” I can’t contain my enthusiasm. “How many do you have?”
“I think twenty, more or less. They’re not easy to sell, I have very few clients interested in this kind of item and none of them would take them all, but it’s a full set and I wouldn’t want to separate them,” he explains, setting these wonderful objects on the counter within my reach. I can’t help touching them: one a wide spiral, high and refined, perfect for winter hats that can be decorated with silk or velvet ribbons and a couple of highlights; the other wide brimmed, perfect for straw hats for the spring or summer that could be decorated – why not? – with colored feathers or ribbons. Probably I should stop staring at them, but they are so beguiling that I can’t, until the man standing in front of me rouses me from my reverie with his deep voice.
“Well, Miss, what do you think? Are you interested?”
“Interested? Absolutely! How much for all of them?” I already know the answer: too much. But it would be criminal to let them go, abandoned who knows where in this total mess. I am also fairly sure no one here gives them the attention they require.
“Well, I can’t give you an accurate estimate off the bat, but I would say more or less two thousand, six hundred and fifty dollars, give or take a cent.”
There. I knew it. It’s a fortune. I look at him thoughtfully for a moment, I can’t let go of the idea of having the whole set. There must be a way. I look around in search of an answer to my question, and instantly a thought strikes me, as if by magic.
“Ok, I don’t have all that money, but you and I could reach an agreement,” I offer with what I hope is a fetching smile. He looks at me as if I hadn’t said a word. His expression is neutral, almost indifferent. He’s a hard nut to crack. “What would you say if, to pay for my purchase, I helped you around the store? I could organize the items, register the goods… tidy up a bit.” It seems so obvious to me that the place needs some serious tidying, more than a light spring cleaning.
“Tidy up a bit?” he asks with a tone of scorn that on him still sounds polite. It’s a mystery how he pulls it off.
“Yes, totally for free!” I try to sound enthusiastic. I have to find some way to sway him.
“I don’t know,” he considers as he glances around uncertainly. “Being tidy is so…” he ponders for a moment, “ordinary. And I’ve never been an ordinary man.”
Angie Coleman was born in 1987 in Lanciano, Italy. She graduated from Organization and Social Relations at the University of Chieti. Winner of the 2016 Ilmioesordio prize.