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Holiday

“So, tell me your New Year’s resolutions.”

I glance up at Sam, my coworker, who is, as sometimes happens, not helping me shelve books so much as he is tagging along while I shelve books.

“I didn’t make any,” I say, and point at the book on the cart I need next. “Will you hand me that?”

He raises his eyebrows at me and hands it to me without looking at it. “You didn’t make any?”

“Nope.” I put the book in its place on the shelf and go to the cart he’s sort of just leaning on, ignoring that he looks kind of cute just leaning there. Mostly ignoring. More than kind of cute. I’m totally a hypocrite, I admit it. If I didn’t get along with him I would be extremely judgmental about his sometimes-lacking work ethic. But he’s a super nice guy whose presence some days is the only thing that keeps me from going crazy during my shifts shelving books at the Midfield Public Library, so I usually cut him major slack. He is aware that I do this. He grants me proper respect for it. Usually.

I take the next book from the cart, glance at the Dewey Decimal number on the spine, glance up at the shelf past Sam, and hold the book out to him. “Put this up there, please.” He half turns while still looking at me with an expression of slight disbelief, and starts to put the book in place – the wrong place. “No. Sam. Up there? Read the numbers.”

He looks away from me to pay attention to what he’s doing for a second and I take control of the cart, pushing it farther down the row of shelves.

“Not even one?” he asks, catching up to me in time to stand directly between me and the shelf where I’m about to put a book. “Not one resolution?”

“No,” I say, unable to keep from laughing at how ridiculous his attention span is sometimes. I know he knows how to shelve books. He’s an intelligent guy. But it is almost closing time and the library isn’t very busy late in the evening during the first week of January, and I, too, am counting down the minutes ‘til our shift is over. I just hide it a little better. “Sam, you are literally not helping me right now.”

He gives me an indignant look. “I’m totally helping. Here.” He plucks the book from my hands and turns around, looking at me very pointedly over his shoulder. “This is me helping,” he says, and very deliberately puts the book in its spot, then turns back to me with a flourish, gesturing to the correctly-shelved book like a game show spokesmodel.

It is very hard to keep a convincing scowl on my face. Fighting a smile, I say, “Oh, is that what it looks like?”

He plants his hands on his hips and nods. “Yes.”

“Great. Now multiply that by a whole bunch,” I say, gesturing with a flourish almost as good as his to the cart still half full of books to be put away before the library closes.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, and gives me a snappy little salute, then goes back to leaning on the cart again, though at least he's pushing it forward this time. We move along in companionable silence for a little while, turning into the next row of stacks before he pipes up again.

“So, not one resolution?”

I give a little laugh, a little shake of my head while shifting a handful of books from a shelf that’s too full down to the one below it. “No,” I say. “I don’t make them.”

Ever?”

Okay, now I’m getting a little annoyed. I face him with a sigh. “No. Sam.”

His expression is open and expectant. “Jane,” he says, matching my tone.

“Why are we talking about resolutions?”

He gives a little shrug. “It’s January. That’s what people do in January.”

My sarcasm rises to the surface. “Oh, is that what people do in January?”

He nods sagely. “Yes, it is.”

We look at each other for a long moment, trying to maintain serious expressions, sort of silently daring each other to speak next. He breaks first.

“So, pretend you’re a person who makes resolutions,” he persists, and I groan. “What would your resolution be?”

I give him an unamused look. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“Nope.” He shakes his head slowly side to side and points to himself. “Dog with a bone, right here.”

I can’t keep from smiling a little. “What are your resolutions?”

He shakes his head at my admittedly weak attempt at deflecting. “I asked you first.”

I shrug. “I still don’t have one,” I state, grabbing the next few books from the cart.

“Making resolutions is fun,” he insists, following me with the cart.

I give him an unimpressed look. “And then not keeping them? Is that fun, too? ‘Cause that’s what usually happens, right?” I continue my rant as I shelve the books, while he follows dutifully along after me with the cart. “People resolve to lose weight or give up smoking or, I don’t know, spend more time volunteering or whatever, and then they just slip back into old patterns after a few weeks.”

I turn back to the cart to grab the next book and find him shaking his head at me. “I never knew you were so jaded,” he says.

I give him a cheeky smile. “Yes, you did. It’s one of your favorite things about me.”

He smiles back, that charm of his twinkling right out at me. “True.”

Sufficiently thrown by the blush I feel warming my cheeks, I look at the books remaining on the cart. They’re closer to the end he’s standing at and I suddenly can’t imagine taking a step closer to him. “Hand me that?” I point at the next book to be shelved.

He does, without comment, and I turn to the shelf, taking a moment to find the right spot among a few books with longer numbers on their spines.

“So, if you were going to make a resolution-”

“Oh, my God, Sam!” I say, a little too loudly.

“Oh, my God, Jane!” he replies, matching my tone of exasperation but keeping his volume a little lower. Not that there are any library patrons left this late in the day to bother, but we have been known to get scolded by the head librarian from time to time. “Just make a freaking resolution already!”

I throw my hands up a little and say the first thing that comes to mind. “I resolve to be a better person.”

He gives me an unconvinced look. “No, you don’t.”

I sigh. “You’re right, I don’t.” I give the cheekiness another try, adding a playful shrug and gesturing to myself. “How could I possibly improve upon perfection?”

He smiles with all that charm again. “You can’t.” I can feel my cheeks getting hot again, but I manage to hold his gaze this time, determined to hold my own against him in this battle of flirtation or whatever is going on. His smile hitches to the side a little. “Try again,” he tells me.

He’s still going on about resolutions? Seriously? I give another hands-in-the-air shrug. “I don’t know what to say.”

His smile hitches a little more. “I’ve never heard you say that before. You always know what to say.”

Still flustered, even more so with this onslaught of unexpected compliments, I make a face at him. “Well, usually I’m not being badgered about making ridiculous resolutions.”

He starts pushing the cart forward again and even shelves a couple of books all by himself. I follow along. “Did you know that resolutions used to be serious business? They used to be basically like prayers to the gods, to ask for help with crops and livelihood and stuff like that.”

“And then society progressed,” I add, “and people turned them into empty promises to themselves.”

He turns back to the cart, back to me, and gives a wry sort of smile. “Some of us try to keep ours for real.”

He needs to stop being adorable. “What’s yours?” I ask.

“I,” he hesitates, and my eyebrows go up at the actual note of nervousness coming from him, “will tell you if you make one, too.”

“I just tried to make one. You shot me down.”

He holds up a hand in protest. “I called you out on a half-assed attempt to end this relentless conversation,” he corrects, and then shakes his head and adds, “I will never shoot you down.”

“Oh.” What does that mean? “Okay.” My brain is spinning, trying to catch up with what is being said, and trying to figure out what I should say. This is still about resolutions. Genuinely flummoxed, I say, a little too loudly again, “I don’t know!”

He stands there, unrelenting, not giving me an inch. “I can wait all night.”

I give him a slightly patronizing look. “Our shift is over in twenty minutes.”

He shakes his head a little. “All. Night.”

Another small staring match. I crack first this time. A little exasperated, a little bemused, I say, “Well, maybe if you tell me yours it’ll give me an idea for one.”

“Mm…” His eyes narrow at me, possibly deciding if I’m just deflecting again. I am a little. Just a little. I am curious now what his is, and more willing to play along with the whole making a resolution thing.

My smile quirks to the side a little and I raise my hands toward him in something like supplication. “Teach me your ways, O Master of Resolutions.”

“Mm…” I see him fighting a smile, which is way too cute. I feel my cheeks warming again.

I clear my throat and grab a couple of more books. “No, but seriously, you started this whole line of ridiculousness.” I look up at him again, hugging the books to me like a shield of paper. “Tell me yours or we’re dropping the whole thing.”

He tilts his head. “Jane.”

I hold up a finger to interrupt his protest. “Dropping. The whole. Thing.”

He gives an extra dramatic sigh. “Fine,” he says. “Just don’t judge me. I mean, I know you will, Judgmental Jane, but,” he pauses, hesitates, that note of nervousness cropping up again. He gives a small smile that seems almost shy. “Just be gentle with me, okay?”

He’s serious. This is seriousness happening. He’s actually worried what I’ll think about what he says. “Yeah,” I say, my tone careful. He doesn’t say anything right away. “Sam. What…?”

I see him take in a breath. “I have made one resolution for this year.”

“Okay,” I prod.

Slowly, he says, “My resolution is to be honest.”

My eyebrows go up. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but that wasn’t it. “Honesty’s good,” I offer lamely.

“Completely honest,” he adds.

I nod, going along with whatever he needs to say. “Completely.”

I see him take in another breath. “With you.”

“Wh-?” I suddenly become aware of the books I’m still hugging to my chest. He’s not looking at me. “You,” I fumble with my words, give a dumb little laugh to try to cover, “you been lying to me, Sam?”

His smile hitches again. Is he blushing? Oh, my God, he’s going to kill me with cuteness. “Not exactly,” he says quietly, gives a half-shrug, and almost meets my eyes. “Lying by omission?”

My fingers are going to leave permanent dents in these poor books, but I can’t put them down. “About…?”

He takes in another breath, a big one, and then looks me in the eyes, his chin up in a sort of defiant expression. Then he says, “That I like you, really like you, a lot, and I would love to spend more time with you, outside of work.” His eyebrows go up in a daring sort of expression and he adds, “Deal with it. There.” He gives a nod. “Resolution accomplished. Your turn. Make a resolution.”

Holy freaking…

“Uh…”

My brain has melted. My veins feel heavy.

His smile widens a notch as he takes in whatever my expression is doing. “Deal with it,” he says again.

Deal with it? Well, okay.

“My resolution…”

He tilts his head toward me expectantly. “Yes?”

My eyebrows go up a little. I feel my face going warmer, but he’s just smiling at me like…well, like he likes me a lot.

“My resolution,” I say, feeling inexplicably at ease all of a sudden, and I shrug, “is that I’m going to deal with it.”

His smile widens into a genuine grin, that charm of his positively pouring out at me.

Feeling a little more than a little breathless, I say, “How’s that? Does that meet your standards?”

He gives a nod and says quietly, “That’s a good one.”

I can’t stop my smile from growing to match his, and I give a little laugh as I release my stranglehold on the books. Feeling bold, I put the books down on the cart and lift my chin as I ask him, “So, what are you doing after work?”

He gives a little laugh of his own, and takes a small step toward me. “Helping you with your resolution.”

January 23, 2020 16:00

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