The Midnight Party

Shutterstock / Gvardgraph © Bookshop illustration to go with romantic short story The Midnight Party


Annabel was fulfilling her wildest dream and opening her very own bookshop! Now she had one wish remaining…

Under the cover of darkness, a suspicious trail of deerstalker caps, pirate boot buckles, beaded flapper dresses, and a mad teapot top hat spilled along the road.

Annabel peered through the blinds, her eyes glittering as a wizard’s beard, a woman’s diamonds, a waxed moustache and silver-topped cane, a carpet bag and umbrella, a suave suit, a gruff-looking monster, and a pair of wellington boots glinted in the eerie glow of streetlamps.

At a sudden knock on the door, Annabel’s heart flickered. She’d been planning this for weeks, but what if it turned out to be a total disaster?

Another knock; louder this time.

Snatching another glimpse through the shaded blinds, Annabel hurried downstairs, and slowly creaked open the front door with the same anticipation she felt opening the cover of a new book.

She took a deep breath and welcomed the midnight party in. There was only one way to find out.

Annabel had moved to the market town of Little Meadow two months ago. She’d fallen in love with the flat above an empty shop as soon as she’d seen it. So when the agent dropped into conversation that the shop downstairs was also available to lease it proved too tempting for a bookworm like Annabel who’d spent her whole life dreaming of her own little bookshop.

The reality was, Annabel had no experience running a business. She didn’t know how to do accounts, or how to order stock, any of it really. All she had was a dream but maybe that wasn’t enough, she thought, driving back home to the city.

Annabel glanced up as her city neighbour, James from the flat opposite hers, appeared in the hallway with his folding bike and cycle helmet. She wasn’t going to miss the chaos of living in a big city, but she was definitely going to miss James.

He’d been there with a listening ear since her job redundancy. They had similar tastes in books – which kicked off their friendship, sort of. Annabel smiled at the memory. She’d dropped a book she’d nearly finished reading, when James picked it up for her. So enthused at seeing his favourite crime book, he accidentally gave away who-dunnit!

James tried to dodge her for weeks after that, out of embarrassment, until Annabel left her favourite book outside his door with a note asking if he wanted to book-club it over coffee one weekend.

“How did the viewing go?” he asked.

She met his gaze, sighing. “I loved it. Little Meadow is a world away and the flat is exactly what I’m looking for…”

“Ah, I sense a ‘but’ coming,” grinned James. “I’ve time for a chat…”

That chat swung her decision. It turned out James was a business whizz. He gave her lessons in the basics, in return for book recommendations. Within a couple of months, Annabel bade him a tearful goodbye.

Now here she was, at her very own bookshop launch!

The Midnight Party had been her idea – what better time to open up a world filled with magical and wonderful stories to (hopefully) new friends and customers? Such a shame James hadn’t been allowed time off work to attend.

She’d put up posters all around town, advertised online, and posted cards through letterboxes, but her heart had been full of self-doubt until just minutes ago, when she’d seen the groups of fancy-dressed book characters trailing towards the shop.

“Welcome! Come in! Come in!”

“Wow, what a treasure trove,” cooed a not-very mean looking pirate.

“Cool bookshop!” A group of excited little monsters gave toothy grins as they stepped past Annabel with their gangster-costumed parents.

“Help yourself to a midnight feast of cupcakes and tea!”

“Don’t mind if I do,” smiled the man in a mad teapot-topped hat.

As excited customers shuffled through the bookshop’s door, Annabel wished for just one more thing, and then as if by magic…

I got a tip-off about a party.

“James!” Annabel flung her arms around him, her heart dancing.

His eyes smiled at her. “Plot twist. I told my boss I had somewhere more important I needed to be.”

“But your job?”

James met her gaze, softly taking her hands in his. “So, I thought maybe you might need an assistant?”

Annabel’s heart glowed brighter than the moon. As the stars twinkled like silver pen nibs in an inky black sky, for the first time, she felt like the protagonist of her very own story.

Enjoy these romantic short stories now:

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.