The first hour of my shift is the best. I love the stillness, the dimmed lights glowing above the the shelves of books. I tie my hair back, pull out my cart to begin work, cleaning the library. I don't mind my job, it's a job and it pays the bills, I work hard. Stretching before pulling the vacuum, I am starting with the aisles, humming gospel while I work to distract myself. An hour has passed, one more before I get my break, I will have my tea in the lounge with the security guard, Jamail. Now there's a reason to work here. His beautiful dark eyes intense with longing, his strong muscular arms wanting to hold me. We are lovers. We met immediately took a liking to each other when I started work here. This little library with its old structured building charm, and slowly we became more than friends.
"Hi sweets, so far so good? Nothing going on for me, the usual. I put in for my vacation week coming up next month." He announced, as I sat down with my mug of tea. I opened a pack of crackers. I eyed him narrowly, he hadnt mentioned anything to me before this.
"Oh, I didnt know you were going to be off for a week?" I queried, I didnt want to sound like he owed me anything, but I was disappointed, my voice cracked a little.
"I have to take it or I don't get paid, company policies." He took a deep swig of his coffee. Black with sugar. I tap my tea mug, not sure what to say next without sounding pissed. Then it was time to get back to work. I start dusting the shelves, spraying the rag with cleaner spray stuff, lemon scented. 'So, he's going to be off a week, hmphh, he could have mentioned it to me or asked me to be with him.' My mind racing now with anxiety. Ok, calm down, it's his life, if he doesnt want to be with you that's his choice. I finish dusting the aisles and then it's time for supper. Again we are alone. The library quiet with the sounds of nothing permeating through void. I sullenly go back to the lunch room to have dinner. He came in behind me, so handsome in his uniform, and he plants a kiss on my lips. I smiled, but we still had unfinished things to discuss.
"What are you going to do when your off"? My voice rises to a sarcastic tone. He looks at me with raised eyebrows, surprised at my question.
"You're not thinking anything are you?"
"Like what do you want me to think? You never mentioned you were going to be off for a week and you have not asked me to join you. It's your business anyway." I replied, the tension building between us, he looked nervous now, shifting in his seat at the table.
"It just came up, I havent even filled out the forms yet, but would you be able to join me on a week holiday?" He asked.
"Well, I would hope your not asking me because you think I am upset or anything?" I wouldnt add more to save face. I didnt want to act insecure, but I was. I don't have to spill out the story here, we know where it will end.
"Of course not, you know I adore you, we have been seeing each other for 3 months, I would love it if you joined me, we could relax and do things together like go to the movies, or have a picnic. Would you enjoy a picnic?" He rubbed his chin, elbows on the table, as he leaned towards me as if he wanted to crawl onto the surface to kiss me. My heart melted at the thought, how could I say no.
"I will have to ask my supervisor. I am not sure if I have leave left." I told him in all honesty. And then we had to get back to work to finish the night, in the empty halls, while he sat at the front to guard the doorway.
I remembered the first night we had gone out together. He had taken me to a pizza place, so cozy with candles on the red and white checkered tablecloths. My heart was melting as we ate. We got to know each other. We two peas in a pod, like honey bees to flowers, it was meant to be. He was Jamaican/American, half white. I was Puerto Rican, my family having immigrated here 20 years before, for a better life. There was no money for college, I wasnt really interested in a degree, I chose to work first for awhile and save up. Jamail was taking correspondence courses and working as a security guard, he wanted to join the police force here, he wanted to make the world a better place he'd always said. He had a harder life on the island than I did, but then maybe that is what made us so bonded, we both grew up poor, and on tropical islands.
"You are so beautiful, I want you to be my woman." He announced, after we walked to Central Park, sitting down at a bench under a glowing park lamp. People were strolling, walking their dogs, it was a beautiful star filled night.
"I really really like you too." I toyed with his strong fingers, cuddled next to him comfortably in his broad shoulders. And so, as time went on we got closer, and when we had time off at the same time we were inseparable.
Hopefully this conflict of being able to take time off together would be okay and we would have a wonderful week together. I was already happy thinking about it. I still had to talk to the boss.
Two weeks later
"Yes Joanie, how can I help you?" Leanna had her nose in paperwork, she was staying late that night to finish up her backlog. I had actually arrived early to be able to ask her about the vacation time, I was nervous. She wasn't one of my favorite people at the library to deal with.
"I was wondering, would it be possible to have a week off next month? I am not sure if I have vacation time." I just got right to the point, my voice nervous.
"Oh, um, I will have to check with personell, I can let you know, if you dont have paid time do u want it anyway, and we need a replacement for the week." She said, flipping papers under her long manicured red nails. Nails to scratch your eyes out, I worried.
"I would hope to have a paid week off, but if not I would settle for a week without pay." I replied.
"Your dating that security guard are you not?" Leanne chewed out.
"Um is that asking personal like or is it not allowed?" I asked back. I wondered what she was implying.
"As long as it doesnt interfere with his work or yours, I dont see an issue." Leanne smiled at me. I breathed in relief.
"You're a good worker Maria. I would hate to lose you." And with that, she got up and got ready to go home, the night would be ours, mine and Jemail's. I watched Leanne leave, as she grabbed her briefcase, her presence still around even when she wasnt, she was one of those women that left an aura like a cat left a scent. I would get that holiday, I thought, and I went to begin my night shift at the library....