Harold despised family gatherings and being around people in general. They were noisy, pushy, and often had adorable children in tow. He grumbled under his breath as he walked around town picking up a bottle of wine, some cheese, and baguettes for his relatives. Why they picked his place this year was beyond him, but he was obligated to participate since they were family.
A book sitting in the window of Madame Hidegarde’s Antique’s caught his eye. It was made of worn, hand-stitched leather and its paper appeared to be strips of parchment rather than traditional paper. He sat his bags on the counter and pointed to the book in the window. “How much you want for that one?”
Madame Hidegarde’s bangles and sequins jangled as she walked over to the window. She cackled as she picked up the book. “I wondered when you would be in, Mr. Franklin.”
Harold was taken aback. He had only passed by her shop; never stepped foot in it until that day. “How do you know my name?”
“I know many things,” she said, slipping the old book next to his bread. “The book is yours.”
“How much do you want for it, first?” Harold reached for the book but Madame Hidegarde grabbed him by the wrist. Her smiling face reminded Harold of the old dried apple faces he used to make as a child.
“It is not mine to sell. Good day.”
Harold stood in stunned silence as Madame Hidegarde snaked her way through the store and disappeared into a back room. “Crazy old bat.”
Later that afternoon, while preparing for the family reunion, Harold picked up the book and opened it. There, on the front page in aged ink, sat his full name and birth date. “What the hell?”
Leaving his preparations in various states of preparation, Harold read of his birth as he walked to the living room and sat on the couch. There was him and Frank flying under the radar of their Kindergarten teacher as they played doctor with Missy. Ah, Missy. He had forgotten about her. She passed away during their junior year in high school. There was the time he stole apples from old man Unger and sold them back to him in pies. Every transgression, every secret, every untold event of his life was there in that book.
Harold trembled as he reached the page of himself sitting on his couch reading the book and trembling. Dare he turn the page? Does he want to know? Should anyone know their future?
“NO!” Harold rose and threw the book into the fireplace and turned on the gas. “I write my future! I do! Harold Garfield Franklin makes his own future!”
From that moment on, Harold changed. He saw his family for who they were and adored them more. His nieces and nephews visited for weeks on end and he learned to laugh again. To enjoy life.
From time to time, he stopped by Madame Hidegarde’s shop and chatted. She never had the heart to tell him the pages were blank.