Chapter One : Long Lost Souls : Library
- What are you doing ?” Said a loud voice coming from the kitchen.
- Nothing, just going for a walk. I’ll be back before dinner,” A young girl said, tying her shoelaces.
Before her mother could answer anything, she opened the door, grabbed her cream colored tote bag and ran down the stairs of her apartment building.
New York was a pretty city. Summer made every thing look even prettier, but hotter too. The teenager was already sweating through her shorts and tank top before she reached the subway. She got her clear water bottle out of her bag. It was a clear cheap plastic one, but it looked nice, especially since she had put a slice of lemon in it.
She hardly even noticed the white noise of New York anymore. The streets were always in the background. She had grown used to every thing, even starting to despise silence. Her headphones helped her isolate herself to concentrate on the last Harry Styles album, blasting in her ears. She had forgotten to download a new audiobook.
The brunette took the subway, to soon find herself in a nicer part of the city. The skyscrapers that reached for the sky cast large shadows, under which cool breezes flew.
Tourists were crowding on the sidewalks. She headed to central park, where she found a spot in the shadow of a tree and layed down on the soft grass.
Her plastic sunglasses were falling off her nose. Her hair clip wasn’t staying in place. Kids were playing and screaming around . But as soon as she got out her book, she forgot about it all.
She loved reading. Books were her lifeline. Without them, what would her life be like. If she couldn't escape her mom’s disappointment, school, expectation, her life wouldn’t be worth living. She could read for hours, and often did. It transported her.
She realized there only a few pages left, so she tried to slow down, but couldn’t. Agatha Christie’s words were making her soar. She thoroughly concentrated on every word.
When the young girl finished the last page, she closed her eyes.
She could almost see the spark in Miss Marple’s eyes as she found out why the body had been in the library.
She looked at her phone. It was almost five p.m. She still had two hours.
Where was she going to get another book ?
She loved her high school’s library, it provided her with the vast majority of her reading material. But it was closed for the summer. This was the last of the stack of books she had borrowed. She thought she would be more occupied with the gym, a summer job, and her younger siblings, but she still found time to finish books quicker than she could count them. She needed another one to alleviate the long summer days she would spend in her crummy apartment.
She had done some baby-sitting in her neighborhood and had been saving up to buy a new pair of shoes, but books were more important.
I’ll buy a really big one to last me a long time, hopefully the rest of the month. It was hopeless, there were still about twenty days of July and the whole of august. She looked up where the nearest library was on her phone and stood up.
She walked a bit but the smells made her head turn. She took a smaller street to the side to get further away from the agitation.
She was still in the big city, but walked and walked until she didn’t recognize anything. The buildings and streets were foreign to her.
She then noticed a small building, like a box shoved between a retail store and a cinema. It was a peculiar shade of green, that made most people’s eyes slide over it but had caught hers. Among the lurid colors of the city, it looked like a patch of fresh grass. Golden letters read “Long Lost Souls : Library”. Huge shelves were visible through the clear windows. Intrigued, she crossed the street and noticed a sign on the door. Open.
She pushed on the door and heard the soft sound of wind chimes that soon faded away.
This library was like no other. It was completely cut off from the rest of the world, the thick glass was a barrier for sound, smells, colors. No music was playing, but she heard noises. Pages fluttering, laughter, fire burning. They were faded like in an old movie, or a memory. The smells of old and new books mixed in a bittersweet aroma that she quite liked. She hummed the air. It also smelled like trees in the fall, men’s cologne, sea salt and roses. A delightful smell after the street vendors, food, and sweat of outside. The spines of books covered the walls in a never ending line of pictures and words. It wasn't a huge room, no bigger than a small New York Starbucks, but she could see a rickety old spiraling staircase going up, which she guessed led to a second floor.
- Hello ?” realizing she had only whispered, she forced herself to speak louder, “Is anybody here ?”
She took a few steps and heard a deep masculine voice coming from the upped floor,
- Maria, is that you ?”
- No,” she answered shyly, “I’m a customer, I’m here to find a book,”
A shadow came down the golden stairs and a man stepped into the light. The girl was startled. She had expected a college student working a part time job or a rich older man working for the fun of it. But not the tall sophisticated gentleman standing before her. He was forty at most, with golden rimmed glasses and a short beard. His simple white shirt gave him an elegant composure, but not the stiffness of the numerous buisness men of the city.
- Have I seen you before ?” he politely asked.
- No, never, I, hum, I don’t think we’ve met,”
- Oh, well, you remind me of a girl I knew long ago, that’s what it is,” he smiled,
- Really,” she was quite surprised, as this seemed unprofessional, but was pleased by the librarian's ways, and listened on,
- You see, she was in a book I loved.” his eyes drifted away, “And I loved this book because it was dear to someone special I knew.”
- Which book was it ?”
- Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Caroll,” the girl frowned in disappointed. That was how he saw her : a simple-minded child, “Have you read it ?” he asked,
- Yes I have, it was one of my favorites when I was little. But I grew up,” She tried to stand taller,
“I’m quite older than Alice. I’m turning seventeen in three month.”
- Yes of course,” he laughed “but you have the same curiosity glowing your eyes. You seem consumed by wanderlust. Like you’ve lived many lives before, many dreams. Like Alice. Would you agree ?”
- Oh,” it was quite sweet and she was thrown off, nobody had ever talked to her like that, “well thank you,”
- You’re welcome. But where are my manners. My name is Eric. I’m one of the librarians of the Long Lost Souls Library. I’m glad to make your acquaintance miss… Miss ?”
- My name is Wendy.”
- Like the Wendy that loved Peter Pan ! My god, you truly are a wonder, so full of literary brilliance,”
- Thank you,” she blushed, “It was my dad’s favorite book, he read it to me when I was a child and he convinced my mother to name me Wendy. One of my brothers is named Peter too.”
- That’s lovely. Your father has great taste. Now, would you like to find what you’re looking for dear. I can help you, I’m sure,”
- Yes, please, but I can look around on my own,”
- Nonsense, there is nobody else in the shop anyway, I’ll chat with you a bit,”
- Thank you mister,”
- Eric, please call me Eric,”
- Well then, thank you Eric,” she wasn’t used to calling adults by their first names but it made her feel quite grown up and she liked it.
- What books do you like, Wendy,”
- I like every thing. But especially pirate stories and faraway lands. I love classics too, and fantasy, but not like the big fantasy titles, I didn’t like Harry Potter,”
- That won’t be enough, we need to find the perfect match. Would you mind to sit down a minute ? Maybe you’re in a hurry,”
- No, I have the time,” she said
- Very well then, let’s sit down Wendy, shall we,”
He pointed to a small round table and two comfortable looking chairs that she hadn’t noticed before.
Once installed, Eric started asking her questions.
- What is the last book you read ?”
- The body in the library, by Agatha Christie, I just finished it minutes ago, I was reading in central park this afternoon,”
- How lovely at this time of year. It truly is a classic, isn’t it. How Mrs. Christie manages to catch the reader in her nets for hours is amazing. And did you enjoy it ?”
- Yes, it was good,”
- Good ? Do you mean marvelous, or good enough ?”
- Good enough. I liked it but it’s far from my favorite,”
- And what would your favorite be, Wendy ?”
She thought a minute, she had different answers and changed her mind often. But one book stuck out.
- Probably The Picture of Dorian Gray. I love a bit a fantasy, like magic,”
- Great pick. One of my favorites actually. Oscar Wilde is too a fantastic author, have you read a lot of his works ?”
- No, I haven’t, but I’d like to,”
- I’ll keep that in mind, we have books signed by him here, I’ll show them to you later if you like,”
- Yes, I’d like that very much,”
- So you like magic ? Did you enjoy J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books ?”
- No, it was too magical for me. I don’t like a soft magic centered world.”
- I see you have the jargon of a librarian already. And literary culture too. That all helps. Do you read a lot ?”
- Yes, that’s why I need a book. I’m staying here all summer, and I don’t have any of my own. I’d love too, but it’s hard on my mother. She’s a single parent with three kids. I’m the oldest,” she weirdly trusted this man she had never seen before, and was telling her things about herself, “money is tight in my household. We can’t buy books,”
- I see Wendy. I understand. I’m sorry, I really am. I can’t help much but I have an offer for you and feel free to decline it, but you seem right for the job : if you come here to work fifteen hours a week as a librarian at anytime of the day or night, you can borrow all of the books you want for however long you please, all summer long.”
Wendy was gobsmacked. This was a dream come true. How could she decline the offer ?
- I’d love to, but my mom will never let me, she wants me to find a summer job to earn some money,”
- I’ll just pay you then. That’s not a problem. Would twenty dollars an hour be fine with you ?”
- Yes, it’s more that what I would have made baby-sitting or working at the market, and I would love too ! Thank you, you don’t know how much this means to me…”
- You’re welcome. You are an intriguing young lady, and I look forward to seing the choices in books you make, I’ll give you a form for your mother to fill out,”
- Ok, thank you Eric,”
- Just know that you can come here anytime you want. We are open all day, every day. If you'd like, come tomorrow. We’re having a meeting at one in the aftenoon.You’ll get to see the team. I’m sure you will love them. There are two young people your âge actually, maybe a year or two older, but you’ll get along great,”
End of chapter one
To be continued…