Ruth Elis sat on a squeaky, worn chair located on the top floor of Ollowood Library. She had a plain sheet of paper laid out in front of her, eagerly waiting to be written on. She dipped a quill pen daintily into the ink bowl, wiping off the excess before laying it down on the page. Ruth had just turned eighty-four years young only two days ago. She did not have any family nor did she have friends to keep her company on that special day. Instead, she spent her day with the worn, aged books of Ollowood Library. She was alright with that, though. The books gave her a smile brighter than any human ever could accomplish.
No one in her small town knew that she was capable of smiling. To everyone else, Ruth had a scowl tattooed on her face. Deep frown lines stretching down the length of her cheeks, gray eyes that glowered at any innocent bystander, and hands that stayed plastered on her hips in order to convey the disappointment she had for the youngins these days. Ruth’s husband had died many years ago--it had been just the two of them for as long as she could recall. Ruth was not able to bear any children, though she desperately wanted to. She eventually left their small house and decided to reside in the local abandoned library. The townspeople had long forgotten about their home of many stories, so Ruth took it upon herself to slumber in it and give the books a little company. As expected, this only added to her strange demeanor. Ruth was seen as kooky, dour, and all around odd.
When her eighty-four birthday had come to pass, Ruth made a decision to write a simple letter to the disapproving townspeople. She discussed the plan with her paper backed friends who encouraged her all day long as she prepared to write her letter. Now, as she dipped her quill in the pool of ink, she began to write.
To the good people of Ollowood Town, she began. The books scoffed at the word “good” and Ruth laughed along with them.
My days are getting shorter and the world is stretching longer. My days are numbered, and I need to have the assurance that my belongings will be in the hands of someone responsible. Though that is very few of you, I suppose I have no other choice. Afterall, I am just the lonely, grouchy old woman, correct? Ruth dipped her pen gently back into the ink. Dabbed off excess.
Some of you may think I am crazy for having such a deep love for these books and for deciding to live the rest of my days surrounded by them and them only. But I must ask you one question. Is it not better to live your days with the things you love most, no matter how peculiar it may seem to others? Is it not better to live surrounded by those who treat you like something astonishing? Ruth paused, flicking a quick glance to the rows of bound stories. They stared back at her. This library has been my only companion for over ten years. Ten years of love and friendship. Something you, as my neighbors, have never given me. And here I am ridding away my family to you as if you deserve it. She shook her head, letting out a small gruntled laugh.
Ruth continued writing her will, instructing the townspeople of whom she knew the names of on how to take care of her beloved home and family. The books around her watched with careful eyes, just as nervous as she to think about being handed over to a new home. Ruth instructed them to listen to what the stories tell them—not by reading them, but by actually listening. The volumes of stories were much more acquainted to having conversations with Ruth, so she did not know if they would speak up the minute someone new walked in. But she did know they would try if the townspeople stayed around long enough to pay attention.
Hand scurrying on the page, ink planting itself onto her palms, Ruth finished the last bit of the heartfelt letter. While I never liked you all very much, and I know you felt the same for me, I want someone to experience the joy I have felt over the past ten years. These stories are not just tales of fictional heroes and villains. Or tales of pretend castles and enchanted forests. These books both big and small have a life of their own and are waiting to be seen by someone other than their kooky roommate. The books laughed and Ruth waved them off.
Pay attention, she wrote. And perhaps I will see you all again in the pages of a book.
It was not much of a surprise when a letter from strange, old woman Ruth appeared at Hollis’ doorstep. In fact, he thought it to be a little mellow for the crazy library woman. Only when he tore open the seal, began skimming the note, did he realize the weight of what he had just received. Hollis did not tell his parents where he was headed when he sprinted out the door and straight to the library.
Bursting beams of red light lit up the sky as an ambulance swerved into the library parking lot. Paramedics rushed in and Hollis watched with wide, horrified eyes. Letter still in hand, Hollis pushed past the line of paramedics and tapped the person closest to the entrance. The medic was young, not much older than he, and turned at the sudden touch.
“What’s going on?” Hollis asked. “A woman named Ruth Elis lived here, at the very top of the library. Did something happen?”
The medic set his lips into a tight line. “I am sorry to inform you, but Ruth Elis has suffered from a heart attack. We received not thirty minutes ago and came as soon as we could.”
Hollis did not wait for further explanation before pushing past him and into the worn building. He stopped short as a stretcher rolled past him with someone resting on top. His heart pounded, realizing how terrible he had treated Ruth over the years. He never wanted her to be injured.
As the stretcher rolled past, Ruth wearily opened her eyes, just enough to peer out at Hollis. At the sight of the young man, she grinned. “Go on inside. They’ll be waiting for you,” she whispered, just barely audible.
Hollis scrunched his eyebrows but obeyed her order. Confusion was still clouding his mind but was quickly washed away the moment he stepped into the library. Books upon books lined the walls of the building, much more than he imagined, and they were all…glowing. Some were splayed open, their pages turning frantically, while others remained still and glowed from the inside. They seemed to be whispering something inaudible, but something magical all the same. Hollis’ heart thundered and his eyes bulged from his head as he gazed upon the room. For the first time in ten years, he had a realization about old woman Ruth Elis—perhaps she wasn’t as kooky as everyone led him to believe.