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Adventure Coming of Age Fiction

Miss Brown stared at the computer, her mind far away, dreaming of the blue ocean, relaxing and sipping margaritas on the sunny beaches of the Mexican Gulf. The cursor on the old Mac blinked impatiently, emitting short beeps, hungry for the next word. She sighed deeply, her heart heavy with grief and disillusion. Her date last night was a huge disappointment. She could not envision a happy, married life with the timid, young man sitting opposite her. She sighed again and returned to the boring job of entering data into the computer.

Stacks of old, musty books were piled up in front of her, like a mini tower of Pisa, threatening to topple over any minute. She forced herself to concentrate on the work at hand, of entering the ISBN of all the books the library owned. She raised her hand to steady the pile and reached for the next book. It was written by Lucy Walker, her favourite author, whose novels she enjoyed reading for they were full of romance and set in the dry, dusty terrains of Australia. The idea of a romantic interlude, in a strange country appealed to her immensely. Miss Brown often resorted to daydreaming, her personal life filled with drudgery and boredom.

She flipped through the pages and a crumpled, pinkish looking paper fell out of it. She kneeled down to pick it up, tried to iron out the wrinkles with her palm, without tearing or destroying the written words. Barely able to decipher the words, she read the message carefully.

Meet me in the library and don’t forget the statue!

Miss Brown’s eyes lit up with excitement.What was all this about? Who wrote this message and for whom? She scanned it again to see if there was a name or a date on it. There was no date but in the bottom right corner, there was an initial KP hardly visible to the naked eye.

Meet me in the library......... the words danced in front of her. Which library, she thought her heart pounding.

She looked around the dimly lit room. It was empty except for an old man with thin, wispy hair, his nose buried in the newspaper. Her work quite forgotten, Miss Brown glued her eyes to the main entrance of the library, expecting a mysterious stranger to walk in with a bundle under his arm.

Just then the clock above her chimed 3pm, the time for the library to close. Except for the old man, the library was deserted. Her Mac beeped angrily, it’s bright, green flashing, beckoning her to focus on the job at hand. Just then she heard the door creak open and a young man in a fedora hat and dark glasses stepped in, surveyed the room and walked briskly towards her. He carried a small bundle under his arm.

Miss Brown lowered her gaze and pretended to work at her computer. She could feel her heart pounding inside her sweater. The young man coughed to draw her attention, removed his glasses and spoke in a soft voice. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. He was tall, dark and handsome, just like in the harlequin romance. He had brown eyes that lingered over her, or she imagined. She wished she had worn the bright blue sweater instead of the dull, grey one. The blue diminished the pallor on her face, a paleness that persisted in spite of the rouge. But it was too late now! Instead she fluttered her long lashes at him.

“ I am looking for Professor Smirnov. Have you see him?”

Miss Brown pointed to the old man sitting by the window. He followed her gaze, thanked her and then walked towards him. She watched him greet the old man with a reverence reserved only for the learned men in our society. He placed the bundle in front of him and pulled up a chair. She saw the old man lift his glasses and stare at it, his mouth wide open.

Miss Brown couldn’t see clearly from her desk, so she picked up a pile of books and walked towards the book shelf, close to where they were seated. They did not notice her. So absorbed were they in the thing before them. They were whispering in low, excited voices. She heard the paper crackle as he uncovered it and revealed the statue. The old man held it against the sunlight, streaming through the window.

It was a Natraj statue, a depiction of the Hindu God Shiva, as the divine dancer. A tenth century bronze sculpture- precious and expensive. Her mind darted to last week’s headlines in The Times. A statue from the temple of Rajasthan had been stolen and smuggled to the United Kingdom. The British authorities had been alerted and the FBI were in hot pursuit of the criminals. Anyone who saw anything suspicious was to call immediately and report to them. There was a hot market for these idols and some unscrupulous people were willing to pay millions for them.

Miss Brown stood there rigid, watching the pair pour over the statute. What should she do? What can she do? It would be too late to call the police. They would be alerted and disappear before they arrived. She had to do something. Then an idea struck her. She walked over, smiled at them and pointed to the clock.

“The library is about close,”she said.

The old man got up to leave. He placed the statue on the table for a moment while he put his coat on. Miss Brown saw her chance. She snatched it and ran to her desk to call the police. The young man chased her, grabbed her shoulders and shook them violently. She held on tightly to the statue, reaching for the phone, but he dug his fingers into her bones and the shaking wouldn’t stop. His gentle voice turned into a shrill cry.

“Wake up! Miss Brown.”

It was Mrs. Pringle, the head librarian, shaking her shoulders.

“You have fallen asleep at the desk again!”

Miss Brown rubbed her eyes and stared at the ominous figure in front of her, hands on her hips, lips pursed and eyes that flashed with anger.

“Miss Brown!” She repeated. “ This won’t do! You can no longer work here. You are fired!” Saying her piece, she strode off to her office.

Miss Brown blinked in disbelief. She had worked for the library for the past five years, diligently, without complaining or taking long breaks, rushing through her lunch hour just to get the work done. She had been loyal to them, quiet and discreet and never argued. Still Mrs.Pringle had fired her, for sleeping on the job.

But she couldn’t have fallen asleep. It was all so real. The young man and the statue. It couldn’t be a dream? She looked around for the statute but instead saw books scattered on the floor. She kneeled down to pick them up and found the pinkish, crumbled paper close to the edge of the desk. The message was still there.

Meet me in the library and don’t forget the statute. KP.

Perhaps it was another library, in a different city, thought Miss Brown as she cleared her desk and packed her belongings in a small box. She was determined to find that stolen statute and claim the reward. It appealed to her, the mysteries behind stolen statues from exotic places, tracking down smugglers lurking in dark alleys, to get to the bottom of it all!

This library, this job was not for her. She felt like a stranger here, a fish out of water, in this place that smelled of old books. She caressed her computer, a final goodbye. Old Mac beeped again, its bright, green cursor winking, wishing her good luck. Miss Brown slipped the pink paper into her overcoat pocket and strolled out of the library into the bright, sunny day.

April 28, 2021 17:09

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2 comments

Kanika G
12:13 May 01, 2021

This was an interesting story and I enjoyed reading it! Well done!

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Prafulla Vyas
01:05 May 06, 2021

Thank you Kanika for taking the time to read my story.

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