Sunlight danced through the windows of the small bookstore and landed on a young girl, gilding her strawberry hair with gold. She sat curled up in an overstuffed chair, engrossed in a book.
"Holly, it's 4:30," a voice called from behind a shelf.
"Just 10 more minutes," the girl begged. "I need to finish this chapter."
A petite red head came out from behind the shelf. "You told me that I was to kick you out at 4:30, no matter what," she said with a smile.
Holly closed the book. "Okay, I'm going." She gathered her bag and headed to the door. "Thanks, Abby. See you tomorrow."
The red haired woman grinned as the door slammed shut. They went through the same routine every day. Two months ago, Holly had explained, on her first visit, that her dad worried if she wasn't home on time, so their little ritual had begun. Abigail had grown fond of Holly and looked forward to the girl's visits, but now it was time to get back to work. She settled down at the computer, brought up a spreadsheet and began the thankless task of bookkeeping.
"Dad! I'm home!" Holly shouted as she burst through the front door.
"In here, sweetheart," a deep voice answered. Holly found her dad sitting at his computer. "So where have you been?" He turned and gathered his daughter up in his arms. "At the bookstore, I imagine. Holly, don't you think you should be making friends instead of hiding behind books?" More than anything, he wanted his little girl to have a normal life.
"Don't you think you should be making friends instead of hiding behind your computer?" she replied. "Dad, Abby is my friend. I wish you would come and
meet her. I think you would like her." Holly giggled at her father's groan.
"Please don't start that again." She had extolled the woman's virtues to him too many times. According to Holly, Abby was business woman of the year, a super
model, and deserved a Nobel prize. He didn't know what spell the woman had cast over his daughter, but maybe it was time to confront her. "How 'bout I go
with you tomorrow?"
Holly looked up at her father, hope shining in her eyes. "Really? You'll come with me?" He nodded slowly. "Yay! Now, what's for dinner?"
"Holly, is that you?" Abby called when she heard the bell over the door tinkle merrily.
"Yeah, it's me," the girl replied, "and I have a surprise!"
Abby's head appeared from behind a stack of books. "What," she began, but was brought up short. Standing next to Holly was a very tall, good looking man who
looked slightly irritated. "Hello," she said softly.
He was stunned. This was the woman that Holly had been praising? She looked like an elf-- short, a tad bit overweight, and her red hair didn't seem to want to lay down. His daughter's elbow in his side reminded him of his manners. "Er, hi."
"Dad, meet Abigail Spark. Abby, this is my dad, Stanley."
"It's nice to meet you, Stanley." Her smile faded as Stan ignored her outstretched hand.
"I wish I could say the same," he snarled.
"Dad!" Holly shrieked.
"Holly, go read or something," her father instructed. "I need to have a chat with Ms. Spark."
Abby led him to the desk that served as her office. "Friends call me Abby," she invited.
"Ms. Spark, you have a lot of nerve having my daughter come here every day," Stan began, leaning onto the desk, towering over her. He found himself looking into startled blue eyes and knew he should stop, but he couldn't. "I don't know what kind of hold you have over Holly, but it ends now."
Abby was shocked momentarily by his attack, but quickly recovered. She rose from her chair to meet him eye to eye. "Mr. Jobson, I will not let you come into my place of business and talk to me that way. If you would like to have an adult discussion, then please sit. If not, then you know where the door is."
Stan lowered himself into the chair. "I'm sorry, there was no reason for me to do that. I just worry about Holly having a normal life." He glanced up at the woman seated across from him, "Call me Stanley."
She smiled slightly. "Please call me Abigail then. I know you worry about Holly. She told me." A surprised look crossed Stan's handsome face. "I can assure you, I do not make her come to my shop; she's here of her own volition. And as far as a normal life, she's a bright, well adjusted, young lady. I don't think you need worry. You've done an excellent job."
"Thank you," he grudgingly replied.
"Shall we call a truce then, Stanley? For Holly's sake?" She once again extended her hand. This time, Stan took it.
Over the next week, Abby's and Stan's paths crossed quite often. Neither one realized most of it was Holly's doing. She made sure her dad came with her to
the bookstore a couple of times. Each time he would claim one of the big chairs, read the paper and listen to the conversation around him.
Holly also made sure they bumped into Abby around town- at the grocery store, the post office, even at the gas station. But Holly's biggest achievement was bringing Abby home for dinner one night.
"Dad! I'm home! I brought Abby with me!"
Stan entered the living room. "Holly, you should've called."
"I'm sorry," Abby apologized. "She was pretty insistent. I'll go. I don't want to put you to any trouble."
"No trouble," Stan smiled at her while drying his hands on the dish towel he held. "I'll throw another steak on the grill." He headed back to the kitchen. "Abigail, would you like something to drink?"
Holly was thrilled to see the two most important people in her life actually getting along. It had been a long week, trying to encourage them to get to know each other. Over dinner, the three of them discussed books and movies, but when Holly and Abby started talking fashion, Stan fell quiet, listening with a slight smile on his face.