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Bookish Encounters

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Fingertips skim the pages of books written with the sole purpose to stand on a bookshelf forever and never be read. Feet chase the sounds of paper fluttering, up and down winding stairs and around and around circular shelves. The scent of paper moulding and coffee brewing breezes up people’s noses until, before they even realize it, that smell becomes home.

The library’s usual visitors were splattered throughout the building as well as a few tourists here and there. Nora sat at her small desk, her name written in block letters on a nameplate in front of her, deeply engrossed in a novel of little importance. Her lips moved silently as she tried to see how her favourite sentences tasted on her tongue. Without moving her eyes from the page for a second she reached out for a pen and scribbled vigorously in the margin. Her movements were that of habit, she knew exactly where everything was on the mess that was her desk.

The click of a camera snapped her out of her reverie and she narrowed her eyes at the boy who was standing in the middle of the library taking pictures of the ceiling, the books, the windows. She coughed pointedly and then gestured to the sign that read ‘No Flash Photography.’ Without a second glance at the tourist she returned to her book. Shivers crawled up her back as the dark literature brought her to another place, where the chiming of the clock signified anything but the time and the pierced screams of sinful experimentations filled the night.

She jumped as the grandfather clock chimed the hour and then smiled a little at her silly fear. For a second she looked up to observe the people, noting how absorbed some were and how preoccupied others seemed. For some the library was an escape, for others it was a distraction. Her hands gripped the binding of the book as she realized that within the next few pages there would be death, but whose life would be lost, she pondered.

Captivated by the writing, it took her a moment to notice that there was someone standing in front of her. She sighed, carefully folding the page and placing the book next to her. Then she tilted her head up, the bored mantra already ready in her mind.

“How may I…” Nora began, but the words died out, “The photographer.” The boy beamed down at her, his camera hanging around his neck leaving a red chafe mark that for some reason bothered Nora immensely.

“I was wondering if you could recommend me a book,” he grinned and then pointed at the nameplate that read ‘Nora Clarke: Book Advisor’ like it was new information to Nora herself.

Plastering a false smile that she’d mastered within her first week of working, she replied, “Yes of course. What are you interested in?” The boy scratched the back of his head as though deep in thought.

“Science fiction mostly,” he told her, “Sometimes a little non-fiction too.” Science fiction was Nora’s least favourite genre; she never could understand why people would make up stories about space and aliens and unknown things. Still, she knew enough from her brother to be able to recommend the best science fiction work to this boy with the camera. Even she couldn’t deny that the writing was good.

“Alright,” she stood her knees creaking a little as she realized she’d been sitting there for hours, “Science fiction is on the second floor.” He followed her like a lost puppy as she walked quickly towards the winding staircase, he appeared to be fascinated by every animate and inanimate object they passed.

“It’s a beautiful building, don’t you think?” he said racing to catch up with her after having stood in front of an odd looking potted plant with purple leaves for much longer then the plant really deserved.

“It’s gorgeous,” she replied dryly watching him out of the corner of her eye as he tried to sneak a picture of the ceiling, which she interrupted sharply saying, “No flash photography in the library.”

“Why not?” he pouted slightly and she couldn’t tell if his expression was real or a joke.

“The books are old,” Nora shrugged. They reached the top of the staircase and she winded her way through the shelves knowing exactly where she was going even though she never spent any time in this section of the library.

“That man is old,” the boy pointed at a man sitting in a leather armchair on her right reading Robert Frost’s poetry, “But I bet you he’ll let me take a picture of him.” She knew full well who this man was; his name was Albert and he came in every Tuesday at twelve o’clock until four o’clock to read. Usually poetry or historical novels. She also knew he was about as compliant as a criminal after being arrested and constantly in a foul mood.

“I’ll take that bet,” she smirked and then watched as the boy went over to Albert. She was too far away to hear what they were saying, but she saw Albert’s frown. Then out of seemingly nowhere the old man started to laugh, which turned into an unhealthy wheeze, but all the same it was a laugh of sorts. She stared in disbelief as Albert allowed the boy to take a picture of him. He even tried to smile a little. The boy walked back a few minutes later with a triumphant expression on his face.

“Can I take photos now?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“No,” Nora said shortly and began to walk away, glancing back at his crestfallen face, “Well are you coming?” He hurried after her, but didn’t say another word until they reached the shelves that housed the science fiction novels.

“My brother would probably recommend you anything by Ian Banks,” she told him as he scanned the shelves carefully, “But personally the only science fiction book I enjoyed other than 1984 was Flowers for Algernon. Then again, I’m not exactly a fan of the stuff.”

“Flowers for Algernon?” he asked sceptically, “Really?”

“I enjoyed it,” Nora replied defensively, “Have you even read it?”

“Yes, I have,” he chuckled and resumed his scan of the shelves, “But there are so many better science fiction books out there. You just have to open your mind a little to the idea that the impossible is possible.”

“Well, the impossible isn’t possible so what’s the point?” Nora argued and he turned to look at her, his eyes, which she noted were an indefinable shade of green, looked amused as he gazed at her.

“And that is where you are being small-minded,” he responded, finally pulling out a book with a satisfied expression.

“Small-minded,” Nora muttered under her breath, “If you knew what book you were getting then why did you ask me here?” She gestured to the book he was holding and crossed her arms in frustration.

“You looked like you needed someone to talk to,” he shrugged.

“I was reading!” Nora exploded, “I did not need ‘someone to talk to.’”

“Alright,” he agreed, but there was a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“I didn’t!” she retorted, finding herself slightly unsure of what point she was trying to get across.

“Alright.”

“Alright,” she nodded uncertainly and then turned to walk away back to her chaotic desk and obscure book. The footsteps behind her indicated what she already suspected; the boy with the camera was following her. She sat back down in her chair, pulled out her book and decidedly ignored him. He stood there, examining everything on her desk with too much interest. It took reading the same sentence over and over again for her to finally address him.

“That desk over there is for checking out books,” she sighed exasperatedly pointing at Mrs Parker who sat at her larger, meticulous desk on the other side of the great room.

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” he asked with mock offense. His hand rested on his camera as though it was a prized position; in her eyes it was just bulky.

“Is it working?”

“Not really,” he smiled revealing a row of almost perfect teeth, “Anyway don’t you have to ask someone’s name before you send them away to another desk?”

“Not since I last checked,” she muttered, but she couldn’t help smiling a little.

“Well, Nora Clarke, Book Advisor,” he persisted, “My name is Killian Morris, the official rebel library photographer.”

“Did you just call yourself a rebel?” Nora snorted, looking him up and down openly. He wore cargo pants cinched too low on his hips with a thick belt matched with a faded t-shirt portraying a band she’d never heard of and a pair of wide glasses tucked into the collar of his shirt. Even his animated green eyes went against his ‘rebel theory.’

“Are you checking me out, Nora Clarke?” he inquired his eyes glinting with amusement.

Nora’s cheeks flamed red, “Do you always have to say my full name after everything you say?” She picked up a pencil and twirled it around and around restlessly.

“Yes, Nora Clarke,” he smiled defiantly, “I’m hardly going to pass up saying such harmonious syllables.”

With a small smile, “You’re kind of a dork.”

“Says the teenage girl working at a library during summer break.” He shot back.

“It pays well,” she mumbled, tapping her fingers distractingly on the wooden desk, which she’d come to love. His hand gently covered hers and the surprise, not the weight of his hand, stopped her from tapping.

“But that’s not why you do it,” he said quietly, his hand still on hers. For a second she dared to look at him, but it all became too much so she pulled away.

Seemingly undeterred, Killian grinned, “Well, I better go check out my book. Goodbye, Nora Clarke, esteemed Book Advisor.” He paused for a moment as if waiting for Nora to say something but she remained silent and just like that he walked away. She dragged her eyes reluctantly away from his figure as he chatted with Mrs Parker like they were old friends; Mrs Parker never gave Nora the time of day. She read the same line in her book over and over again.

She willed her eyes to stay on the page until she could no longer take it and she was involuntarily drawn to where he was standing, but he was gone. She stood up abruptly and picked her way around the tables and the readers deep in thought, to where Mrs Parker sat. She stared at Nora with bored eyes and raised eyebrows.

“Hi,” Nora said timidly, “You didn’t happen to get a number or some way of finding that boy who just checked out a book?” Mrs Parker frowned at Nora and although she sat in her perch a good few feet below Nora, she still appeared to be looking down at her.

With a sigh, Mrs Parker pulled off her glasses and said, “That young man did not check anything out, Miss Clarke.”

Nora’s heart dropped, “Oh.”

“He did leave this book on the desk though,” she added agitatedly, handing Nora a worn book titled ‘The Perils of Gravity’, an archetypal science fiction book, “Don’t know why he couldn’t just return it himself. Anyway, perhaps it means something to you.”

“Why didn’t he check it out?” Nora breathed softly.

“He said something about it not being as good as ‘Flowers For Algernon,” Mrs Parker prattled. Nora clutched the book to her chest as she thanked Mrs Parker and blundered back to her desk. She opened the book carefully and out fell a Polaroid photo of an ugly purple plant. A laugh bubbled on her previously cynical lips as she turned the photo over.

In a messy scrawl were the words, ‘Alright. I needed someone to talk to. I’ll be back for my book soon. –K.’ A secret smile set itself on Nora’s face and stayed for the rest of the day, even when Mrs Parker shouted at her for putting the wrong books on the shelf and eating at her desk. She sat with the photo in-between her thumbs, an hour after she’d met Killian and for once she was not reading.

“Is now too soon?” A voice popped her out of her fantasy and she immediately straightened. Killian stood before her, his hands stuffed in his pockets, eyeing the photo nervously.

“There is no such thing as too soon,” Nora whispered, carefully placing the photo on the desk, “I’m done for the day.”

“Good,” he grinned, “Because it was killing me trying to wait an appropriate length of time to ask you out. Who knew cafés could be so boring.”

“Who knew libraries could be so interesting,” she smiled and stood up brushing crumbs off her jeans, “You know you never actually asked me out, right?”

“Darn, I thought you’d left the sarcasm behind when you decided to say yes.”

“You still haven’t asked.”

“I will.” he laughed, as they both strode out of the library doors, “Eventually.”

“Alright.”

“Alright.”

“Alright!”

“We say alright too much,” Killian remarked and then with a lopsided grin in her direction, “It’s our ‘thing.’

“You talk too much,” Nora replied, “And I think it is a little early to have a ‘thing.’ We’ve barely left the building.” She glanced back at the old structure as they strolled down the busy street. Somehow it felt as if she was moving into a whole new territory.

“Well, I have so much to say and so little time to say it all in, Nora Clarke.”

“You’ve got to stop calling me by my full name.”

“Never, Nora Clarke. Never.”



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