One of the few joys in Dan’s life is the TV show Junk Shop, a reality show about antiques hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. Then an old music box turns up, and Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and his life changes completely.
When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of a couple from the past. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to figure out what is going on, and they stumble upon a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over and over again over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.
As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.
The name of the shop was Tell Me More, which I thought was cute. It had more security than an airport, which was not so cute.
I had good timing; the show’s Web site had indicated they were about to finish filming a season’s worth of episodes. I’d never had aspirations to be on TV, but I felt like I needed the excuse of trying to get on the show as a reason to go to the store. It seemed like such a good idea until I got on the subway and was on my way downtown. That was when nerves and butterflies colonized my stomach.
Coincidentally, the day after I’d decided to go on the show, Julie found a music box in a crate of tchotchkes someone had put out on the sidewalk. Before I left for the store, I’d wrapped the box up in Bubble Wrap and put it in a cardboard box because I was worried I’d get jostled on the subway and drop it. When I got to Tell Me More, the security guard made me unwrap it, and while he inspected it closely, another guy came over and waved a metal-detecting wand over me and then made me sign a waiver. After that, some producer came over and started quizzing me about the music box. My anxiety rose steadily through the whole ordeal as I kept wondering if I’d even get to meet Malcolm Tell, if I’d be on the show, if I’d choke, if I’d make a fool of myself in front of him, if the music box was actually some crappy made-in-China dealie that someone purchased for five bucks, if nothing would come from this, if everything would come from this.
And then I was in the store. It was smaller inside than it looked on TV. It had a homey vibe, with walls painted a warm gray and dark wood accents everywhere. It was also jam-packed with stuff for sale: furniture, art, knickknacks, toys, jewelry, you name it. The more valuable pieces were in glass display cases near the register, and I recognized that section of the store as being the place where most of the episodes were filmed. The producer told me to wait for his cue and then to walk forward to where an almost invisible bit of black tape was placed on the floor. A man with a camera moved in behind him.
“All right, Mr. Chewy.”
“That’s Cheau,” I said. My last named sounded like show. “It’s French.”
“Whatever. Say your name and why you’re here.”
I’d seen the show enough times that I knew how this part went. I looked right at the camera and said, “I’m Dan. I’m here to get a music box appraised.”
The producer nodded. “That’s fine. Now walk over to the mark near the counter. Malcolm will meet you there.”
I held my breath and looked around.
He appeared at the back of the store. I recognized him, of course, and I saw also that he was even better looking in person, perhaps because he was before me in the flesh instead of an image on a screen. He ran a hand over his messy, curly hair and said something to one of the production assistants. Then he started to walk forward. Toward me. Malcolm Tell was walking toward me. The man of my dreams, the object of my fantasies, that man was walking, and then the producer was nudging me forward and I was going to meet Malcolm Tell.
I put one foot in front of the other, shaking with nerves the whole time. I was aware of everything: of Malcolm, of the cameras, of all the people milling about. But mostly I was aware of Malcolm, who didn’t seem to have noticed me yet, as he was still engaged in conversation with the PA. Then someone—a director maybe—shouted for quiet on the set. Malcolm got to his spot, turned toward the showroom, and grinned. He looked over at me, finally.
Our eyes met.
The world stopped.
I told myself that this was foolish, that the tidal wave of emotion I felt when Malcolm Tell looked into my eyes was nothing more than some crazy manifestation of my long-held crush on this man I’d never actually met before. Looking at him was familiar, but of course it was; I’d watched hours upon hours of his show on TV. And yet this went beyond that. It was like looking at someone I knew well, that kind of easy recognition where you don’t even have to say hello because you can convey what you need to with a glance and a pat on the shoulder. But more than that, my stomach started to churn, and looking at Malcolm made me feel everything: love, pain, longing, hope, fear.
Malcolm frowned. He whispered something that sounded like, “Jesus.”
By some miracle—or perhaps because I was inexorably drawn to him—I made my way forward until I got to the counter, and the two of us looked at each other across it, about two feet of space separating us.
“Do I know you?” he whispered.
“No, we’ve never met.”
“Are you sure?”
“Action!” shouted the director.
Malcolm smiled. “Well, hello. What can I do for you today?”
Somehow, I found the voice to say, “I have a music box I found.” The words tumbled out in a blur of syllables.
He raised an eyebrow at me and leaned forward.
There was just Malcolm. He was all I could see. Everything else—the crew, the assistants, the cameras, even the store—all of it receded to the background of my awareness. What replaced it was Malcolm, his lovely skin—smooth and unblemished—his light brown eyes that looked almost golden under the TV lights, the width of his shoulders, his height, his presence. I was a tall guy, a fraction of an inch over six feet, but he had an inch or two on me. And still he wasn’t a large man as such; he wasn’t especially muscular or imposing. But he just had this presence that filled all the space around me. He was so beautiful I couldn’t stop staring.
He motioned for me to place the music box on the counter. Remembering I had a purpose there beyond staring at Malcolm, I wrapped both hands around the box and placed it on the table. He moved to take it from me before I let go, and then I left my hands there, wondering if he’d touch me, thinking that just the briefest brush of his fingers against mine would be so wonderful.
He placed the tips of his fingers on the box.
Light exploded in front of my eyes. Everything was white, and then I felt suddenly overcome. Pain ripped through my abdomen, maybe the worst pain I’d ever felt. I could hear a woman wailing, and then a man shouting at her, and then there was a crash and everything went silent. Images flashed before me: blonde hair, a blue dress, blood everywhere. Then the pain became overwhelming, and I took a step back and doubled over.
I let go of the music box. The second I did so, I was back in the store.
“What the hell was that?” asked Malcolm.