Love is a Leap
A Tale About Reincarnation and a Promise Made
by Kate Riley
Clara Bennett lives a quiet life as the owner of a modest bookshop in Glastonbury, UK, the empty chapters in her life as yet unwritten—especially every New Year’s Eve. But fate is about to play her hand in the form of an antique blue leather book. From the moment she reads the dedication, her life will change in ways she could have never predicted.
My heart enchanted, has loved you through endless lifetimes before, and will search for you again, for a hundred lifetimes more.
In life after life, in age after age, I will find you and love you, from the past, to the present, through lifetimes evermore.
Michael H. Chamberlain II, 1868
‘Love is a Leap’ is a romantic tale of reincarnation that will take Clara Bennett back in time to 16th Century Scotland, the 1860’s in Florence and WWII, France in a journey of self-discovery, twin-flames and a promise she made lifetimes ago.
Release Date: June 15, 2021
Pink Satin Romance
Clara Irene Bennett was born in the small village of Butleigh, Somerset, to two loving parents who, due to an unfortunate boating accident, promptly died when she was at the tender age of three. This meant that Clara, who was at the time playing with her nanny in her pretty white dress with the little pink roses, was to be raised by her grandfather, Henry Charles Bennett, widower and owner of Bennet’s Bookshop, in High Street, Glastonbury. Henry was a kind and gentle man, a bibliophile (as was to be expected by a bookshop owner) and a tad eccentric. And thus, began a childhood that centred around the acquiring of, the reading of, and the selling of, what is popularly known as “new age” books. That and the solid belief in fairies.
Known locally as “Bennet’s”, the bookshop had been in existence since 1929, when Clara’s great-grandfather, James Alexander, seeing the economic prospects of the town’s mystical leanings towards antiquarianism, took over a haberdashery shop and transformed the store and himself into a purveyor of books. James, a self-described “aficionado of antiquities”, claimed the title with pride and focussed his attention on literary studies. When his son Henry took over the bookshop in 1984, the Glastonbury Festival was already fourteen years old, and with the town’s identity being solidly entwined with the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur - continuing the family tradition of alternative books made good economic sense.
The Grade II listed building dates back to the 1700’s and retains most of its original rustic charms, with well-worn floorboards that creak, low, oak-beamed ceilings and deep recessed windows that let in just enough light to accent the mood and a promise of what secrets one might find inside. The outside of the building is faithfully whitewashed every twenty years with red painted accents around the windows which set off a heavy, black front door. Last, but by no means least, above the lintel, in bold red Times New Roman lettering, and in pride of place, is “Bennett’s Books”. However, everyone knows that inside is where the magic really begins. Upon walking through the front door, customers immediately notice the sweet, musky smell of old books that waft into a book-lover’s nose, which lingers there teasing the brain. In such a state, new patrons typically stop, take in a deep breath and visibly relax as their busy schedules suddenly take a back seat to the promise of finding something special. Clara knew there was a word for this: vellichor – the strange wistfulness of an old bookstore.
The shop is longer in depth than it is in width, with shelves of books, both old and new, lining the walls from top to bottom and front to back. Under the front casement window is a sturdy antique oak table, well-worn with gouges, bumps and scrapes, that currently display her newest books, nestled in a layer of snow-like batting and left-over Christmas decorations of sparkling white snowflakes. Sitting atop a stack of five bestsellers is Clara’s favourite chipped ceramic fairy and a sign announcing her post-Christmas special offers.
Midway through the shop is a spiral staircase which leads to the second floor, with a sign at the bottom of the stairs indicating that it is a staff only area. If someone were to venture up these stairs, they would find a surprisingly large space divided into a small office and a loo. The rest of the space is an open area, where several long wooden tables are used for inventory, along with a small kitchenette with an old-fashioned refrigerator which contains a small container of yogurt, a pack of blueberry muffins and some 2% milk. Next to the fridge stands a sink and cupboard, and beside that a laminated table that holds a hot plate, microwave and kettle. Near the balcony is a mismatched, well-used couch and reading chair.
Back on the main floor, towards the rear and off to the side, is a cozy, old dusky-rose chair with stuffing that has seen better days. Beside it is a small side-table, currently stacked with several guidebooks about Glastonbury and just enough room for a cup of tea. On the opposite side are two Deacons benches that Henry Bennett had salvaged from an old church, standing like soldiers against the wall. The books, for the most part, are neatly stacked side-by-side in their assigned sections. Clara, however, prefers to create a more relaxed atmosphere, so customers feel as though they are walking into a private library with literary treasures to be found around every corner. That is why stacks of books are piled up into towers, beside the Deacon benches, next to the comfy chair and on random shelves everywhere. Labels marking the different sections have been neatly printed out, many of them written in her grandfather’s hand, and taped to the front of the shelves.
It should come as no surprise that books became a steadying influence in Clara’s life. They were always there, never changing. She could read them over and over again and every word remained the same. They didn’t die in boating accidents or due to old age. It didn’t matter if you lost them or loved them to the point of needing a replacement, the story and characters still remained the same…every single word fixed into place where it always had been. They were predictable and organized. Clara liked that in a book, and in her life.
As a child, Clara had some favourites: Barney Blue-eyes, Black Beauty, Nancy Drew and then later, Mists of Avalon and Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” series. Having been practically raised in a bookshop, she spent most of her time being polite to customers, learning how to help out, and of course, reading well beyond the age of any of her peers. She devoured all genres, which gave her information that made her knowledgeable. All of this was lovely, but she lacked the practical experiences of life. Friends were few and far between, and even though she knew a few girls that she could consider her friends, she lacked the time and inclination to enjoy herself outside of the bookstore. By the time Clara was a teenager, her grandfather was in his late seventies and needed her help more than ever. This meant that there was no time for boys, or make-up, or flirting, and she was simply too shy to consider going to dances. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, she had inherited the bookshop. So that seemed to be the end, or it would have been, had it not been for Hamish.
Hamish was everything a woman like Clara could ever want. He was handsome enough, tall enough, fit enough, but not so striking that women who were cleverer or prettier than her would ever take notice. His blue-grey eyes were the colour of the skies at Loch Loman and his Scottish accent matched his reddish hair and beard. He was taller than her and his burly physique made her 5’4 figure feel petite. He also had a big laugh. He was handy—especially with the heavy boxes of books that arrived every month for the store. He quite liked to cook and was satisfied by just staying at home with her watching the telly or a movie on the weekend. As an IT consultant, Hamish made good money and was always happy to spend some of it on her. He was, what she would describe as, wonderfully average, which suited her just fine. He had even inherited a Castle—well, the ruins of a castle (with a ghost)—and most importantly, he loved her fervently. The only problem was that Clara was in love with a man who was a product of her own imagination.
Hamish was the main character in Clara’s book that she had never had the courage to write. However, this did not deter her. As she saw it, he brought a hopeful joy into her life, and even though she had never met him (as yet), there was the promise of him, and that’s what kept her going.
Fast-forward ten years, and Clara was still there, reading romance novels, wondering if every man in his mid-thirties who walked through her shop could be him. The one who would change her life from ordinary to spectacular. From sale bin to bestseller. But so far, this year’s story ending was beginning to look very much like last year, and the year before that; with Clara reading “Pride and Prejudice” on New Year’s Eve, eating Chinese food from cardboard boxes and downing a bottle of prosecco, with her cat Lucy for company. But all of this was about to change. What she didn’t know that fateful New Year’s Eve, was that she was about to embark upon an adventure that no book cover could have hinted at or predicted.
The day started as it always did on 31st of December, with Mrs. Shirley Forde coming by to wish Clara a Happy New Year. The Forde’s owned the antique-furniture/psychic reading shop next door, and Mrs. Forde was forever popping by to check on her younger friend. The Forde’s were well into their sixties, Mrs. Forde’s husband, David, or as he liked to be referred to, Dave, ran the antiques business and took on the odd fix-it job, while his wife, Shirley, did psychic readings when customers requested them. And request them they did. She was quite good at it, with many of her customers hearing about her from word-of-mouth, while her website touted satisfied customer reviews. In terms of the Glastonbury tourist industry, Shirley’s psychic readings are considered a “must-experience”. Once, when Shirley had given Clara a reading, she confirmed that there would be a Hamish in her life and that she would meet him one day, but not through normal means. She couldn’t explain any further, so it was left at that, and that was enough for Clara Bennett.
Upon hearing the bell jingle, Clara looked up from page 35 of “Pride and Prejudice” and smiled. Shirley was bustling her ample body through the bookstore, her face a-flush with excitement, wearing her usual colourful uniform of a tweed skirt, sweater set (various exciting colours) and black stockings. Today’s choice was forest green, while her white hair, obviously rinsed with a purple shampoo, gave her a rather festive look. She had in her hand, an old blue leather-bound book.
“Clara! What fun. Come and see what I’ve found. I thought of you immediately so I had to run over here.” Without missing a beat, she continued as she pulled herself a chair. “I finally got around to going through that shipment of estate furniture we received two weeks ago and look what I’ve found.” Handing it to Clara, she pointed out the obvious. “It’s an old book.”
Clara, by this time, had already bookmarked her own page and had placed “Pride and Prejudice” on the table. Intrigued, she examined the faded and worn blue leather cover and murmured, “Hmm, it is an old one isn’t it?”
The title and decorative border on the front were embossed in gold and stated, “A Scientific Inquiry into Metempsychosis” by Professor Michael H. Chamberlain II. However, when she opened the book to what should have been the copywrite page, it was empty. There was no edition, printing information or even a date of publication, although this was sometimes the case with old books, so she wasn’t that surprised. The only identifying detail was “Ankh Press MDCCCLXVIII”, in tiny letters at the bottom of the page. “Hmmm. The leather may be an indication that it was custom bound for a wealthy reader, and if it’s from a wealthy estate that would make sense.” Running her fingers across the page she immediately felt the raised type and the quality of the paper. “It feels like rag-based paper. I’ve never heard of the author, nor the publishing house. Would you like me to see what I can find out and get it evaluated for you?”
“Oh no my dear, you misunderstand. The book is for you. I don’t know why, but I have the strongest feeling like it’s meant to be yours. Just consider it a book returned to its rightful owner,” said Shirley. Then she patted her hand twice on the table as if to confirm her gift and stood up. “I must run back. Are you sure you don’t want to come tonight? You’ll be missing out on a lot of fun you know.”
Clara felt somewhat guilty. Every year she received an invite to share the evening with the Forde’s family and as always, she declined. It was very kind of her, but their parties were loud and boisterous, with a particular uncle who, after a few drinks, was a little too friendly come the magic hour of midnight. For Clara, not being with someone special made midnight on New Year’s Eve the loneliest moment of the year.
She stood up to give Shirley a hug. “Thank you so much for the gift and thinking of me, Shirley, but no, Lucy and I have a full evening planned.”
“Well, if you change your mind, you know where we are. And there’s always plenty of food. I’ll bring back the folding table and punch bowl we borrowed tomorrow...but not till the afternoon.” With a twinkle in her eye, she threw Clara a wink. “It’ll take me that long to come down off the chandelier!” As she leaned in for Clara’s embrace, she suddenly jumped back as if shocked by a spark of static electricity. She stared hard at Clara for a moment. “You’ll be careful tonight, won’t you?” Then looking as if she was lost in thought, she slowly walked to the front door, grasped the old iron handle and began to pull it open when she suddenly stopped, looked back at Clara and said, “Bliadhna Mhath Ùr.”
Clara’s brows knitted in confusion.
Shirley smiled. “It’s a wish, a Scottish Happy New Year’s wish.”
With that she left, leaving Clara standing there, holding on to an old blue leather book wondering whatever had gotten into her friend?