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The back screen door opened and closed with a loud groan. I heard the sounds of little footsteps running through my kitchen to the front porch. It was a mild summer evening; the lazy, peaceful days of summer were my favorite since I retired from the library.
“Graaaaandmaaaaaa!” The grandkids were running through the house, dripping their wet bathing suits from their adventures in the pool. As they opened the front screen door and hopped on the seat next to me their sweet callings became more repetitive, “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”
Filled with the joy of their faces I inquired, “What is it darlings?”
“We want to hear the story about the books and the girls and the happy ending!” I laughed with delight; it was my favorite story from working at the Chicago Public Library.
“Well,” I began, “It all started the day before our yearly book sale. I was about to leave to go home for the evening when I nearly bumped and bumbled over a box of books.” The kids giggled.
“Keep going! Keep going!”
““Usually the boxes have the name of the donor and number of books written in sharpie on the side, however there was no writing on this box. I thought this was odd but took the books inside anyway. I set the box down on a table and started to leaf through it. They were mostly teen novels, classics honestly, such as: Catch-22, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Call of the Wild, The Catcher in the Rye, and more. I examined all the books to look for any major rips or tears. Most of them were older with browned pages that were soft to the touch and gave off that unique, wonderful smell that only a librarian would appreciate.
As I began to stack the books on the proper table for the book sale I noticed that two of the books were brand new. Out of probably thirty books only these two were brand new. I opened one and on the inside cover someone had written “even when you are alone know that we are together in that too.” Here is where it got even more peculiar the other new book had the same saying in it! I glanced at the clock and knew I needed to leave now before it got too late. I set the two new books on the table next to others and planned to cross out the sayings the next day.
The next morning was as busy as ever, library helpers running to and fro with signs, labels, or boxes of books. And, everyone needed my help with this display or that bargain. Consequently, by the time we opened our doors for the day I had completely forgotten about the saying in the new books from the night before.
There were all kinds of people at the sale. Young, old, teens, toddlers, they were all there to snag a book. Around mid day I noticed a young girl, around sixteen. Her name was Natalie. She had a skinny frame and was medium in height. Her skin was fair, her eyes brilliant blue like glaciers, and she had light brown hair that fell in her face, hiding it from most angles. Natalie came to the library often and took an adventure book to the back corner to read. I helped her once, she very softly told me she was new and asked where the adventure section was. Besides that time I never saw her talk to anyone. I asked her a few times if she needed help or if she was having a good day but each time she just smiled and either shook her head or nodded. I never saw her come in with anyone or saw anyone ever try to talk to her. Behind the gracious smile I could tell there was something missing that made her sad. There was something that she could not overcome.
The book sale was running smoothly, I thoroughly enjoyed helping people and just overseeing so that everything would go according to plan. A little bit after I noticed Natalie I saw another girl about her age standing next to her, preoccupied in a stack of older books with browned pages.
On a whim I went over and asked if I could help her find anything in particular. The girl was curvy but thin, she had strawberry blonde hair and freckles on the tip of her nose. Her big grey eyes looked at me first then glanced around to see if anyone was watching or listening, “No-oo thank-k-k yo-o-ou.”
“What’s your name?” I asked. The girl looked extremely nervous. I could tell that she was severely self conscious of her speech impediment and I knew I probably should not have asked.
“Hi Natasha, if you need anything at all just let me know.” Natasha smiled and nodded a thank you. I resumed my post of overseer.
The book sale was going as it normally did with nothing out of the ordinary happening. But, it was what happened next that would forever stayed with me. By pure chance both Natalie and Natasha picked up the two new books; the same ones that I had forgotten about the night before and were looking through them. They both turned to the inside cover and I knew they were reading the saying “even when you are alone know that we are together in that too.” Natasha looked up and saw Natalie. She took a deep breath and asked, “D-d-does your-r-r b-b-book by ch-ch-chance h-have that sa-a-aying too?”
Natalie looked up and with a joy that can never be compared softly replied, “yes.” “I’m Natalie, I go to Northbrook High.”
“Hi-i-i, I’m Na-tash-sh-a-a. I g-g-go there as we-well.”
The two girls talked for awhile, purchased their books together, and even walked out together. Never again did I see Natalie alone reading her adventure book. She was always with Natasha and a few months later, sometimes even with a few other new friends. She spoke more often and Natasha seemed less afraid. It was a very happy ending.””
I looked down and all the grandkids were sound asleep, breathing deeply, not a care in the world. I smiled to myself.
“Mom?” I looked up as my daughter had walked onto the porch. She looked down at her children and sighed with wonder. “Mom, why do you tell them that story, they are too young to really understand.”
“I know,” I smiled, “but one day they will understand and it will be a blessing on their lives as well.”