For some, comfort can only come in the dark...
|Jenny reached for the book on the cart, only to have Mr. Roberts, the austere librarian, slap her hand away. Mr. Roberts’ wrinkled, ebony skin contrasted with his wispy, white hair, which swayed from side to side under the breeze of the ceiling fan.
“Don’t touch, girl! That book is not for you…” Mr. Roberts’ eyes crinkled in contradiction to his unyielding tone.
“Ouch! But look at the cover! It’s so dark, so creepy! Please! You’ve got to let me read that one.”
“No! I can’t let you see that one. It’s off limits. Trust me, Jenny, it’s not good for you!”
Jenny’s lips curled into a pouting frown. She was drawn to the darkness. She always had been. Ever since…
Her thoughts trailed off into murky memory as she ran fingertips along the raised, vertical scars on the insides of both wrists, permanent reminders of that shadowy time.
“How about this book?”
Jenny looked at the book and sneered at the daisies and sunshine on the cover.
“I don’t want that book. I want the other one.”
“But this book is good for you, Jenny! Just read it. It’s a great story. You’ll see. Just give it a chance…”
Jenny flung the book back at him and stormed off. Mr. Roberts watched her go, the mysterious dark book clutched to his chest, shaking his head. A look of concern furrowed his brows over wide, bulbous eyes.
Jenny hid in the bathroom stall, feet positioned carefully on the toilet seat, until she heard the door creak open and the lightswitch flip off with a soft click. She checked her phone. It was 7:37 PM. Just past the library’s 7:30 PM closing time. She gave it another fifteen minutes for good measure, then slowly crept out of the bathroom.
She inspected every row of bookshelves, silently sliding through the darkness until she was certain that no one but her remained.
No longer worried about silence, she strode over to Mr. Roberts’ cart. She ran her fingers over the textured covers but failed to find the volume she wanted. She felt a tear run down her cheek. She was crying? Why was she crying? Why did it mean that much to her?
Her stomach was twisted in knots. She had to have that book. She needed it.
Desperation consumed her, and she began to search the shelves with manic energy, pulling volumes from their wooden perch, their covers flapping like wings as gravity did its work, their short flight ended tersely by the creaky wooden floor.
After emptying the three large shelves nearest her encounter with Mr. Roberts, Jenny paused, breathing heavily from the frantic exertion.
Where would Mr. Roberts have put the book? It would be somewhere that wouldn’t be easy for her to access. He really hadn’t wanted her to uncover its contents. The question was: where would that be?
Jenny wandered the library, index finger tapping her lips, lost in thought. She searched the check out desk. It wasn’t there, only papers, pens, and a set of keys. She continued to wander.
She came to a heavy oaken door. Trying the handle she found it locked. Running to the checkout counter, she grabbed the heavy set of keys with both hands and began trying each in the lock.
Finding the correct key after a dozen tries, she breathed a sigh of relief, her unnatural panic allayed for the moment by the nearing possibility of her quarry’s capture.
A string touched her forehead as she entered the small room. She stepped back and gave it a tug, and the ancient wire bulb slowly, grudgingly sputtered to life like the harvest moon gradually sliding free of a dense dark bank of clouds.
Jenny’s eyes scanned the volumes on the single shelf. When they found the book, a dark smile formed on her lips, her eyes lost in shadow. Her slender fingers trembled as they pulled it from the shelf.
She clutched the book over her heart and ran to the nearest time-worn table. She dropped the book onto the hardwood surface with a definitive thud.
Jenny moistened her lips with a pink tongue as she flipped open the cover and devoured the words with starving eyes.
Mr. Roberts just didn’t understand the mystery that was Jenny. She didn’t truly understand it herself. Happiness couldn’t move her--only sadness could. Something about the shape of her twisty, knotted soul could only be found by the things that went bump in the night.
That dark book let her know that there were others like her, that she wasn’t alone. A smile formed on her lips--one that did not reach her eyes. Her eyes were sad, but oddly content. She could make it through at least one more night now.
She curled up in her chair and dozed off to the tepid reassurance of story-blunted nightmares.