“Miss your bus?” Suzette’s mom called out from the living room. Suzette returned home a little later from her therapy session than usual which had worried her mother enough for the question but not enough for a text message as that would have been a bit invasive in her mind.
“No, I had to stop by the library on my way home. Did you know there are still libraries?” Suzette said with a bit of snark.
“Funny. I didn’t know you had a library card?”
“I don’t. Well I didn’t. I do now. That’s sort of what took so long, they needed a lot of information for a free card to check out free books. I had to sign up for an online account as well. I got the books I needed though.”
“Oh? Something Cheryl recommended?” Her mother asked, referring to Suzette’s therapist.
“Mhm, you bet.”
“I was going to say, I can’t remember the last time I saw you with your nose in a book.”
“Well, I’ll be in my room if you want to catch a glimpse of this rare sight.” It was no illusion where Suzette got her wit and sense of humor from. She was sort of a gifted child when she was younger, which like many others like her, and for a variety of reasons, had given Suzette no shortage of quirks and mental health issues to work through. The most meddling of which being chronic depression and an overall sense of dread. Suzette was twenty four now but had been seeing counsellors and therapists since she was in her early teens. She knew it helped her in some way from slipping deeper into the void, but none of them had been able to help move her forward. In high school, she skipped class a lot but managed to pass most of them on her intelligence alone. She really was a smart girl and her teachers could see that so none of them felt it would do her any good to hold her back for something like attendance when they knew she understood her studies and was capable of performing the work. Most of her counsellors throughout high school had been free and provided by her school and Suzette had either not taken them seriously or dismissed them entirely. It was only recently that she began really working together with them and taking an interest in her life. This most recent therapist, Cheryl, was the first one she actually liked and had begun to form a bond with. She trusted her, enough even to check out some free books at a library for the first time in her life.
Suzette bounded up the stairs, two at a time, and stormed into her room at the top, crashing onto her bed. She laid there, facedown in the covers for a few moments before getting back up to remove her bag and toss her books onto her bed. She slung her bag over the back of a chair that was currently being used as a dresser for her most recently laundered clothes. The rest of her clothes were either lying dormant in the closet or in a drawer or if she had worn something in the last month or so, could be found piled up around the room on the floor somewhere. Her mom had commented on this in the past but Suzette had assured her it was merely organized chaos and that she knew where everything was using this system. Mom had decided to keep an eye on her mood but to pick her battles and supposed her daughter seemed perfectly content with the mess so she wouldn’t push her. She didn’t have any plates or food bags all over the place like she had had years ago so at the very least it smelled fine.
Suzette grabbed a set of bluetooth headphones from her dresser and laid back down on her bed, putting a playlist she had made on shuffle. Music had always been an important outlet for Suzette and she had signed up for a new application that made it really easy to make playlists for different moods and days she was having. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest this was a lifesaver for her. She rested a pillow against the headboard of the bed, sat back, closed her eyes - as she often did - and drowned out the world. The mix was comprised mostly of songs from a decade ago, when her health was the roughest. For reasons beyond her, but that made perfect sense to Cheryl, even though these songs had some attachment to such a dark time in Suzette’s past, they could still provide her with some comfort. Suzette didn’t argue and regularly went back to them. Time began to slip away with each song, as did her thoughts.
That is until reality came rushing back when the phone began making that awful sound it makes when someone is trying to call you. She looked at her screen with mild annoyance. She didn’t recognize the number and thought long and hard about just how badly she needed to respond to this call. She finally gave in and swiped to answer.
“Hello. Your bank account has been compromised. In order to protect yourself and your assets please…” Suzette hung up the phone before the scam robot on the other end could finish. She put down her phone and looked over at the books she’d brought home. She figured now was as good a time as any to give it a shot. Cheryl had recommended a couple “wellness” books as she had referred to them. Cheryl hated the term “self help” books but that was the section of the library where she had sent Suzette to find them. One of them Cheryl had raved about as essentially perfect for someone of Suzette’s age and personality. Cheryl had a copy but had lent it out to another client and wanted Suzette to start reading it as soon as possible. It was more recently released than some of the others and the author wrote in a very informal manner which catered more to “young folks” as Cheryl had put it. Suzette knew she had to start with that one and began flipping through the pages. Cheryl had been right about the language; it was most certainly written for “young folks”. Suzette hadn’t remembered any self help books with this much swearing before. It was the first book Suzette had picked up in years that kept her interest for more than a few minutes, so she got comfortable and began to get lost in it.
She got through the first chapter and turned the page to begin the second when she noticed something written near the bottom of the page in blue highlighter. A passage was circled and the words, “this!” were written next to it. A previous recipient of the book must have taken notes and forgotten where the book had come from. Suzette paid it no mind; she actually agreed with the statement. “This!” passage also made a lot of sense to her. She continued on reading, flipping through another few pages before she found several more highlighted sections. She read them and was beginning to feel gratitude for whoever had made these notes as everything that was highlighted really seemed to gel with Suzette’s feelings about herself and the world. Suzette began to ignore the author’s words and focus on the cliff notes provided by the editor. She went through chapter after chapter reading everything that was marked. Some were just highlighted, others had additional notes scribbled next to them, and all of them seemed to speak to Suzette. As she flipped the pages, a folded up slip of paper fell out of the book and landed on Suzette’s bed. Suzette picked it up and flipped it open and started reading:
“I’m sorry to whoever is reading this, but I can’t do this anymore. The pain is too much to handle. Mom I’m so sorry, I tried my best. I know you did your best to help me but there was nothing anyone could do, not even you. Please don’t blame yourself. I love you so much. I wish I could h…”
And then the note cut off. Suzette read it over a few times before it really sunk in what she had found. Her hands shook and the note fell onto the bed. Suzette’s eyes began to well up and she covered them with her palms to stop the tears from rushing out. She took a few deep, focused breaths and took another look at the book. Suzette was troubled by what she had just read. As someone who had thought about writing a few of her own, finding this note hit her deeply. The fact that it had an abrupt ending gave Suzette hope that whoever had not gone through with finishing the note had not gone through with her actions as well. She began scanning the book for any clues that might shed some light on the troubling words in that note. She flipped through the pages quickly finding more highlighted sections which she felt was a good sign. It meant they had kept on going.
Suzette reached the end of the book and that was that; no indication of who may have written the note. She thought about asking Cheryl if she had recommended this book to a client recently but was certain she couldn’t give out that kind of information even if she had. Suzette got the idea to return to the library and find out who checked out the book before her. She was quite sure that this was also against the rules, but she had a better shot with the part time girl at the library putting their career in jeopardy than her therapist. She would need a good reason; maybe the previous person had left something in the book, an i.d. Perhaps.
“That wouldn’t work, then I would have her information,” thought Suzette. She decided to sleep on it that night and hopefully a brilliant idea came to her in a dream. Suzette laid back on her bed and continued reading from where she’d left off before.
The next day Suzette woke up and headed straight for the library with the book in hand. They had just opened their doors and it was already quite busy. She got in line behind a few other patrons and waited nervously to approach the counter. With no real plan in mind as to how she would get the information she needed, Suzette paid close attention to each interaction and studied the process that each person went through. She watched as the employee scanned a barcode on each volume and could see information pop up on the screen in front of her but Suzette was too far away to read any of it. There might just be a list of previous owners somewhere on that screen and hopefully she wouldn’t need any passwords or anything to access it.
“Hi there!” Suzette looked up and realized it was her turn. She still hadn’t thought of what to say but it didn’t matter now, she would have to wing it.
“Hello. I was hoping to get some information. Uh,” Suzette stammered trying to bide time.
“Could you tell me how long I have before I need to return this one?”
“Certainly,” said the woman behind the counter as she handed her the book. The teller scanned it and looked puzzled.
“Oh sweetie, it says you signed this out yesterday. You still have a whole month before you have to bring it back.”
“Oh, okay. Umm, are you able to see if I’ve ever checked this out before? Before this time that is?”
“I can, yes, just give me a moment,” the woman said, still puzzled at the request. The screen flipped to a customer detail section and Suzette saw a list of names appear but the teller was too quick to begin scrolling and she couldn’t catch the one before her own. Just then they heard a rustling and then a crash and the teller, along with everyone in line, looked up. A young boy had knocked over an end aisle display of new releases and had begun crying.
“Oh, you can help him if you’d like, I can wait,” Suzette said to the woman suggestively.
The teller looked at her a little annoyed and confused but was now compelled to address the situation. “Hey buddy, you’re alright.” she said as she walked away from the desk. That was all the time Suzette needed, reaching over the counter and scrolling back up to the most recent names.
“Casey Sewell” she clicked on the name and an account info page popped up with a phone number. Suzette grabbed a pen off the counter and jotted the number down in the book.
“Are you supposed to be doing that?” a man behind her in line asked.
“Probably not,” quipped Suzette as she grabbed the book and quickly left the library.
Suzette got outside and jogged a couple blocks away from the library. She hadn’t really done anything wrong but her adrenaline was up and she didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. She sat down at a bus stop and flipped open the book the page she wrote the number down in. She typed the number into her text message app on her phone and took a breath.
“Hi. Is this Casey??” Suzette waited nervously.
“Who is this?”
“Suzette. Is this Casey Sewell’s number? I think I found something that belongs to her.”
“Yea this is Casey. Do I know you? What did you find, how did you get my number?”
Suzette hadn’t felt relief like this in a long time.
“Can I call you? It’s a lot to explain over text.”
The phone started ringing. Suzette answered.
“Hi,” said Casey with hesitation.
“Hey. So I’m not really sure how to bring this up. I borrowed a book from the library and there was something kind of...personal inside. Something I don’t think you would want anyone to see if it’s yours.”
Suzette could hear faint crying coming from the phone but she didn’t know what else to say. After a few moments Casey spoke up.
“I can’t believe...my dad took it back before I could....you haven’t told anyone about this right?”
“No, of course not,” said Suzette trying to calm her, “honestly I’m just really happy you answered the phone.” Now both girls were crying.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to worry anyone, I was in a pretty bad place when I wrote that and it was never supposed to be read. By anyone.”
“No, I totally get it. Honestly I’ve been having a really rough time myself lately and my therapist recommended this book to me and I usually don’t read ever but the notes you made in there and the parts you highlighted all really spoke to me directly. It’s the first book I’ve finished in like a decade.” Both girls chuckled a bit.
“You said your therapist recommended it? Are you with Cheryl?” Casey inquired.
“Oh my god, yes. Did she recommend this to you too?”
“She did!” Casey said with genuine excitement. “Hey look I have to run into class right now but what are you doing this afternoon? Want to meet for a coffee?”
“I would love that. Text me the address and I’ll meet you there.”
“Sounds good. Hey Suzette, thank you for the call, it means the world.”
Suzette hung up the phone, took a breathe, and smiled the most honest smile she had in a very long time.