Idea for the beginning of a story, looking to establish tone and feel. Feedback welcome.
|The cab pulled up in front of the library at noon. I’d never been to Florida in the summer before, and the sun beat down with such brutal intensity that I had to squint behind my sunglasses as I took a moment to look around, adjusting to my surroundings.
Almost everywhere I looked was green – acres of lush lawns, bushes and gardens near every building, and palm trees popping up like bobble-head dolls, their crowns swaying in the breeze. The buildings themselves were nothing to write home about; not that I was going to be writing home at all. From where I was sitting I could see three of them clearly, each built in the same 1970’s block style that had been so popular for some reason I couldn't imagine. According to the blue-painted wooden signs in front of them, one was the administration building while the other housed the campus bookstore and mail room. But neither of those were of immediate concern.
I turned my head to the right to look at the library again. “McCormack Memorial Library,” the sign read. I had no idea who this McCormack was, but he or she was dead, so they were better off than I was. A trickle of people dribbled steadily through the double glass doors, and I had to take a moment to fight down the panic that threatened to overwhelm me. I closed my eyes and took slow, deep, even breaths, in-through-the-nose and out-through-the-mouth, slowly counting to ten like my therapist had taught me. My ex-therapist now, that is, far, far away. What the hell was I doing here?
“Everything all right, sir? We’re here.”
I opened my eyes and turned my head. The cab driver was twisted halfway in his seat, giving me a look that could have been anywhere form annoyance to concern. Or something in between. Not that it mattered. He’d served his purpose, bringing me from the hotel to... this place. The panic threatened to surface again and I snugged my self-control down tight over it.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I wasn’t, but what the fuck, things weren’t going to get any better sitting here. I reached out and grabbed the handle, swinging the door open. Immediately the oppressive heat slammed into me, like it had yesterday when I’d walked out the automatic doors at the airport in Tampa. Then it had been a surprise, a shock, the wall of heat and humidity just outside those glass doors like walking into an oven. I had even stepped backward a moment, seeing this as perhaps another omen of things to come. Now, I simply stepped out of the car and walked toward the rear, where the driver was coming to meet me to retrieve my bags.
Slinging my backpack over one shoulder, I dug my wallet out of my jeans. I paid and tipped the driver, grabbed the handle of my large suitcase, then gave one more look around as the driver squeezed his gut behind the wheel again and slowly pulled away, following the U of the library driveway back toward the front gate and the freedom beyond. I didn’t even consider calling after him, to come back and take me away from here, because, really, I had nowhere else to go.
Head down, hair pretty well covering my face, I trudged up the handicapped ramp with my suitcase rolling behind. Up ahead, the flow of people coming and going through the library doors had slowed to almost nothing. When I reached them the doors whooshed open with a blast of cool air, and it was the promise of being out of the heat and sun that drew me in more than anything else.
“Well, hiya there!”
The voice stopped me cold as soon as I passed through the door. I turned my head to the right, seeing a long folding table with a hand-painted “Information” sign is bright (too bright) colors, surrounded by smiling suns and rainbows. As if that weren’t bad enough, two of the perkiest people I had ever seen stood behind the table, smiling, aggressively, annoyingly cheerful. A boy and a girl, they were all blonde hair, blue eyes, tanned skin, white teeth. I was glad I still had my sunglasses on.
“Here for registration?” the guy asked, dazzling me again with his teeth. What gave it away, the giant suitcase? Instead of answering I just nodded, letting more of my long black hair fall over my face. “Great! It’s right through there,” he said, gesturing in the direction I was headed anyway. We were all in the small library foyer – where else would it be?
“Thanks,” I said, hoping that speaking would get him to leave me alone. My head began to ache.
“If you want, you can leave your bags here so you won’t have to lug them through the lines,” the girl said, pointing to a small pile of luggage stacked in a corner near the table.
Figuring it was likely the only way to get them to leave me alone, I said, “Sure,” and rolled my suitcase their way. I could almost feel the relief as I slid my bag across the floor and dumped all my worldly possessions at their feet. The muscles in my back and jaw sagged as the tension flowed away, tension I had not even known was there. Look at that, I was learning already.