SNEAK PEEK - Once Upon a Portal: A Loveless Letters Short Story

After years of nearly losing my vision I am excited to say that my surgeries were successful and I can finally use my time in front of printed words for more than just work.

I'm equally excited to share my very first short story in the Loveless Letters series with you!!

Enjoy an excerpt below and grab your copy on Kindle, today!

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Sandra McGinty sat in the same corner of Loveless Letters Bookstore every Friday afternoon, in the break of time she had between school letting out and her mom getting off the late shift. Every Friday she rushed with her overstuffed backpack to the store where she selected a Joanna Winslow fantasy novel from the middle shelf in the back corner. She ducked beneath the old wooden side table that served as an extra bookshelf, stuffed her bag behind her back, fixed the tablecloth to hide her feet, switched on the penlight she kept in her pocket and settled in to read.

No one noticed her as she entered. She had visited the bookstore every Friday for the entire six months since they’d moved to be closer to her mom’s job. She slipped past the checkout, undetected. She selected a book of the week, undetected. She sat and read under the table, undetected. And when her mom texted her that she was waiting outside, Sandra managed to unfold herself, replace the book on the shelf, and slip back out the front door without so much as a glance from anyone around her.

That was just how she lived. Undetected. And if she was honest, she was kind of starting to like it. It was how she got through school days without being bullied. Sure, no one asked her to hang out, but she didn’t mind. She had her imagination to keep her company. It was also how she was able to walk four city blocks from school to the bookstore without anyone commenting on how a tiny, teenage girl shouldn’t be allowed out by herself in the big city.

Although, she wouldn’t have minded so much to be noticed in the bookshop. At least, she wouldn’t mind if Lindsay Loveless noticed her. Lindsay was the shop owner’s daughter and an absolute beacon of light in the otherwise bland world Sandra knew. She was beautiful, ethereal, and seemed to love books almost as much as Sandra did. If only she could speak to her, just once - But, alas, Lindsay didn’t even turn her head whenever Sandra walked through the store.

Every Friday proceeded just like the last. She entered. She grabbed a book. She went unnoticed by Lindsay. She hid to escape free-reading detection. She read. She replaced the book. She left. Rinse and repeat.

Until Friday, October 13, 2023.

On this Friday, everything changed.

On this Friday, Sandra’s invisibility went to an entirely new level.

 

“Hey stop it,” Curtis complained, tugging on his sister’s sleeve. “You know we’re not allowed.”

Sandra heard the siblings bickering from her hiding place and did her best to block them out. It wasn’t unusual for them to interrupt her reading with their petty fights. Normally, she waited for it to pass as they moved through the store or when their father, Larry Loveless, came down on them in a low, stern voice, careful not to alert the patrons. She’d take the opportunity to sneak a peek at Lindsay through a tiny gap in the tablecloth. But this time they were incessant. Standing far too close for her to concentrate, they carried on arguing for more than the usual couple of minutes. Naturally, Sandra was at the very best part of the book. She placed a finger on the last word she read and decided to wait it out.

“I don’t care,” Lindsay snapped back. She tugged her arm out of her brother’s grip and landed with a hard thud. The vibrations echoed up Sandra’s legs.

“You know the rules, Linds. We can’t do it. That’s not how we play the game anymore.”

“Hmmph,” Lindsay shrugged. “I don’t care if that’s not how we play the game anymore,” she mimicked her younger brother’s nasally voice.

Sandra heard a whooshing sound as though someone had opened a window. But she felt no breeze. Suddenly, Lindsay’s voice sounded much further away. “I’m tired of playing like a bunch of normies. I want to have some real fun.”

Another whooshing sound. And now Curtis sounded further away, too.

“The use of portals is hardly normie, Linds.”

Lindsay laughed and began to recite words that Sandra couldn’t quite understand.

Was it Latin? Sandra couldn’t be certain. She’d only read Latin words, never heard them spoken out loud.

“Seriously, Lindsay. Stop it,” Curtis urged.

Lindsay continued.

“I’m gonna tell Dad.”

Lindsay laughed. “No, you’re not. You know Dad’s too busy and doesn’t believe us anyway. Besides, I’m done.”

Sandra switched off her penlight and carefully moved the tablecloth just enough so that she could see through a crack of light into the store. She wasn’t sure what she expected to find but it certainly wasn’t what she saw.

About 30 feet away from her, Lindsay and Curtis stood at the end of an aisle of books. Directly behind them was - what was that? An oval of shimmering green light pulsing in yellow and blue tones. She watched as Lindsay snatched a book off a nearby shelf and taunted it in her brother’s face.

“You coming or what? Catch me if you can!” She stuck out her tongue and leapt toward the green light, disappearing behind its shimmer.

Sandra did her best to stay quiet but a tiny gasp escaped her lips. She watched as Curtis swung his body around to look in her direction. But, like everyone else, he didn’t manage to notice her tucked beneath the table.

He let out a sigh of defeat and let his head sink low. “You know we’re not allowed to use the books,” he muttered as he stepped into the light behind his sister.

Sandra felt something tugging and pulling inside her. Something she’d never experienced before. An urge to be a part of something. She had no idea what was happening but it felt like something straight out of a Joanna Winslow book and she just couldn’t hold herself back. She pushed her way out from underneath the table, abandoning her things and, undoubtedly, her mind. She ran across the shiny wooden floor and jumped into the green light as it began to flicker before her eyes.

In a split second both Sandra and the light had disappeared from the store.

 

Need to know what happens next? 👇

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