By Janice Bremec Blum

In my hand are a dozen helium balloons clunking me on the head and a peach cobbler is teetering in the crux of my arm. I’m struggling to get the key in the front door of my bookstore, The Book Bin. The balloons will decorate the outside sandwich board announcing today’s book signing event. Barton Wallace, the number one male author in the romance genre will be here to autograph his latest book, My Woman. I’ve been a fan of Barton ever since his first book, Together, We, hit the New York Times best seller list. I’ve read that book a gazillion times and with every read, I fall in love all over again. He speaks to me like he knows me. We haven’t actually met in person but we’ve sure met in my fantasies. I go to bed at night with his book jacket picture under my pillow. His grass green eyes say, I love you, Emma. Well, that’s what I think they say. I’m on top of all his fan sites and so far, it looks like he’s still single even though he’s always surrounded by gorgeous women, the kind that grace the covers of his books. He hasn’t tied the knot with any of them so it makes me think that the door may still be open for me! But I have to face it, plain Jane’s like myself seldom, if ever, get random hoots and hollers from men let alone get asked out by someone of Barton’s stature.

“Yo, yo, yo, Emma!” I hear from behind me. It’s not a random hoot and holler, it’s my employee, Scooter.

“Yo, Em! I’m here on time today!” Scooter is a nice kid with hopes of being the next, great, sci-fi author. He grabs the cobbler. “Yummers! When do we get to dig into this?”

“It’s not for you, Scooter. But if you’re really help me out today, I’ll bake you one. You take the balloons and give me the cobbler.”

“These remind me of an idea I have for a novel about a utopian society that lives on helium. Everyone on the planet’s voice is like ten octaves higher than normal and when they all talk at the same time, they break the sound barrier creating total and massive annihilation. Cool idea, huh?”

“Scooter, you keep cranking out those ideas and sooner or later something’s bound to stick.” I always try to be supportive even though half the time his ideas are sophomoric but, who am I to judge? Me, the dork who sleeps with a book jacket cover.

Now in my little shop, I flip on the lights and have Scooter tie the balloons to the sandwich board and align the chairs for Barton’s reading and book signing. I ordered fresh flowers that should be arriving any moment. I want my shop to look perfect, as perfect as Barton. Every time I say his name to myself I get a shiver up my spine and a smile spreads across my face. I imagine him as the hero in his books and I am the heroine. Timid and shy toward his advances but a willing participant to his ultimate seduction where we make wild, passionate love by a roaring fire. The thought makes me blush. I hide the peach cobbler in my office.

“Delivery!” There’s a shout from the front door and I hear the little bell that I have tied to the handle tinkle as the delivery man enters. I specifically ordered white amaryllis, that’s what the male character in Together, We, gives to his love symbolizing her splendid beauty. I’m hoping it will show Barton what a true fan I am and who knows, maybe it will spark a little “je ne sais quoi” between us. The thought makes me giggle as I sign for the flowers.

“What you laughing at boss lady?” Uh oh, caught by Scooter.

“Just line up those chairs and never mind about me. And when you’re done, make sure there’s an ample stack of My Woman along both sides of the autograph desk as well as Together, We. I want Barton to feel at home, I want Barton to feel welcomed, I want…”

“… Barton!” Scooter snorts while he laughs.

“Ok, ok, knock it off Scooter.” I hand him the vase of flowers, “put these on the autograph desk, please.” I head back to my office.

Scooter’s right. I would LOVE for Barton to be in my pants! Closing the door behind me, I take a deep breath and try to pull myself together and back into reality. Dream all you want to Emma, but Barton is way out of your league. I’ve always been the skinny girl. No boobs, no ass, mousey thin brown hair and glasses. I’m a book nerd and I look it. I’ve tried contact lenses but I blink so much my vision gets limited to just the ends of my eyelashes. I’ve tried eating hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner only to watch the scale slip down another notch. I permed my hair once. That was a disaster. It took me almost a year to grow out the frazzled tresses. I’m a popsicle stick with cornhusk hair. You don’t see much of my kind gracing the covers of a Barton Wallace romance. The phone rings breaking me out of my pity trance.

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