“Darla,” my roommate Mary struts to the living room of our suite where I am sitting, studying for my final that is coming up. She holds up a novel that I had finished a week or two ago. “This was due last week.”
I look straight up at her losing my train of thought. “Last week? I say indigenously. “No way it could be overdue, I remember turning in books…” I let my sentence trail off as I try to remember how many books I turned in.
“Dar- you know what that return policy is like, you have to go. Now.” Mary was right. At our university, the return policy was super strict. If the school found out how late my book was, there would be consequences. They might not even let me take my final, and I needed to complete this class for graduation. I started sweating.
“I have to return this book!” I jumped up and began pacing. “How can I do it with no punishments, Mary? What am I going to do?” I started to put on my shoes and grab my coat.
“Let me think, let me think.” Mary put her index finger to her chin. She knew how important this was to me. Then, her middle finger shot in the air. “Henry! Henry works the late shift and he will totally understand. He would probably help you sneak it back in. But Dar, the library closes at midnight.”
I glance at my watch. It reads 12:55. I have five minutes to run to the other side of campus and return the novel I had borrowed. I grab the book and my keys and start running.
Once outside in the cool crisp air, I inhale until my lungs are completely full. Grateful I wore my sneakers and not some showy sandals, I began to run. To try to make my journey go a little quicker, I take a sharp left turn and run onto the green.
The green is a big open grassy field that is very crowded in the summer. There will be picnics and study sessions for sure. I am halfway through to the other side when the sprinkler system goes off. In no time at all, I am soaked. My book! I wrap it under my coat to keep it safe and dry. With water in my eyes, I can barely see which way to run. I squint and look around until I find some sort of landmark and then begin running to it. Turns out, the landmark was a statue of a school mascot. That means, I am farther from the library than when I started out. I turn around and start sprinting.
I turn a corner and run right into a group of people. Who hangs out in the middle of the night in the cold like this?
“Excuse me, excuse me,” I try to get around them, but they are taking up the entire sidewalk. There are also a lot of them.
“Hey,” I hear one mans voice draw the word out like syrup.
“Yeah?” I have no time for small talk; I have a book to return.”
“Where you headed?” The man steps out from a shadow and I see that this isn’t a man at all. Just a boy with a very manly voice. He is tall, thin, and very handsome.
“Library. I have to return this book, it's an emergency.”
“How could it possibly be an emergency at this hour?”
“Because,” I am beginning to get irritated with this odd group of people. “The book is late.”
I watch something register in the boy's face and he turns to his small crowd. “Make way! Make way! Shorty here has got a late book!”
The group turns to look at me with shocked, but understanding faces. They clear a path that I am able to run right through. I yell thank you to all the people I pass, and in no time I am on my way again.
I can finally see the giant library building sneering at me from afar. Clutching the stitch in my side. I stop to take a quick breather. I haven't run like this since high school track and even then I was not very fast. I look at my watch again. 12:58. I gasp and take off, clutching the book tightly in my hand.
I swipe my key so quickly that it does not work the first time, so I take my time trying again. Inside, I run to the back of the building where the elevators are. It is only three stories up, so it should not take long. I skid to a stop and begin jamming the up button. While I am pressing frantically, I glance up and notice a piece of paper taped to the elevator door.
“Out of order? No!” I cry. I turn on my heel and go to the nearest stairwell as fast as I can. I take the stairs two at a time and I am panting as I reach the top. I burst through the doors and bright light surrounds me. I see a blonde boy packing things into a backpack over at the desk.
“Henry!” I shout.
He looks at me and smiles warmly. “No shouting in the library, Darla.”
I hustle over to him briefly noting that the digital clock behind him reads 12:01. My heart sinks. Am I too late? “Henry, I really need your help.”
I slide my novel (still in perfect condition) across the front desk. Henry takes it in his tanned hands and opens the front cover. His eyes look up at me through his shaggy hair. “Darla…”
I lean in closer and whisper to him, even though we are the only ones in the library. “Henry, please. You know how important it is for me to finish this class. This is the only thing holding me from graduating. I need this. Mary said you could help.”
I knew Henry would be able to help me if he wanted to. He was a computer genius and would have absolutely no problem changing a couple dates in the library system.”
He takes a deep breath. “I can help you…If you go on a date with me.” His cheeks turn rosy and he gives me a sly half smile.
I slap my palm on the desk, a little louder than I intended. “Done.”
He looks at me in what can only be described as disbelief and now it is my turn to blush. Did I say the wrong thing? He tries to say something else and it comes out in stutters.
“Darla- I… I wasn’t serious. I mean you don’t have to! Is all I’m saying. I mean I wouldn’t mind- of course. But you don't have to…”
I steady my breathing to gain my composure. “Henry We’ll go on a date. After my final. And after you return this book for me.” I smile at him reassuringly.
He types for a quick minute and then shows me how the date has been changed. I let out a sigh of relief, and on my walk home, I feel light as air.