Featuring B. 48
Hollis was tired. Going on a book tour was “Sorry I’m not fun anymore”. She was not going to write that book. There was one more reader, the last in line. She was not holding a book though.
“Did you want me to sign your book?”
“You did a long time ago. I’m Betty Bell.”
Hollis did some quick arithmetic. Of course she remembered Betty Bell. But it was a common enough name.
“Named after the Betty in ‘Year of Goodbyes’ ?”
“No, I was born in 1957.”
“You were ten.”
“I found out later. How did you do it? Why did you do it? The only way you could have was if you hired a snoop. Did you hire a snoop?”
Hollis looked around. The bookstore clerk that had been her escort was starting to close up the store. He was as far away from her as he could get and still be in the store. There was no one else around.
“Yeah you can play like you don’t know what. I was eighteen when some customer told me ‘Hey Betty you’re in a book’. Funny. So I read it. The parts you didn’t get right, you probably put in to throw any of us that knew off.”
“Betty Bell is a character in a book. She’s imaginary.”
“Then how you did know dad… and sister Caroline you called her Charlotte…and the time train hit our dog…and I went to work at the “Glazed Cheer Grille”… so you never been to Mount Victory either?”
“The town was Logansville.”
Hollis had never had to deal with this level of crazy before. The staff at each bookstore was supposed to do that. This was a small bookstore though and Ed? or was it Chris? was now not around. She could yell for him but what if that made it worse?
“…got worse all the things that happened to Betty in the book happened to me after. The Grille burned down just like it did. I thought Bud was different from ‘Fred’ but then he done the same things. Who are you? What are you?”
Because her mind was racing, Hollis’ thoughts went in a strange direction. A lot of material appeared in her awareness in a instant. Although Betty was not a major character Hollis had put a lot of time fleshing her out. Especially because Betty betrayed Nikki, the protagonist at a key point in the plot. Betty, Betty, Betty. Her boyfriend was originally ‘Buddy’ before she changed him to ‘Fred’. She had changed the town’s name from ‘Mount Gilead’ when that sounded too biblical.
Hollis let out a big breath. She’d been holding it. She drew on what she knew of conflict resolution.
“Tell me more.”
It came rushing out. As Betty told more of the concordances between ‘Year of Goodbyes’ and her life she started to be less agitated. Unless she was more mentally ill than anyone Hollis could imagine it was starting to get creepy. There had not been a ‘Nikki’ in BettyTwo’s life but there had been a Vicky. BettyTwo told that she had been betrayed by Vicky. Hollis recalled that BettyOne had thought the same thing in the world of the book. She had left that backstory out to keep the plot moving. She knew better than to say anything about it.
Betty was wearing out. Hollis had no idea what to do next.
“Do you want to get a drink?” Hollis was no longer afraid.
“Six years sober.”
Hollis was really stumped. She started to wonder if she was in some kind of afterlife where she would be confronted by every one of the characters she had written.
“Write me a happy ending. You owe me that.” Betty turned and walked out almost at a run. Hollis knew better than to try and catch her. She had a job to do.
Betty meet Betty. Hollis has her eyes shut because it’s dark, too dark to see.