The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian,
Short and Sweet (Sorta)
There was something about the library first thing in the morning, with the sunlight streaming through the windows spotty from the lawn sprinkler, the disinfectant smell from the bathrooms hanging in the air, quiet---not as a tomb, that was too depressing, and anyway, that would mean there were people in here, even if they were dead---but quiet…..as a library’s supposed to be, and only was if the doors were locked, and the sign said closed.
Marian turned her key in the lock again so the door would lock behind her after she entered. Sighed. “I always hate to have to let people in,” she said. She knew Henny was there somewhere, the lights were on. She walked behind the checkout counter and stopped short. “What on earth are you doing?”
She assumed it was Henny’s bottom sticking out from under the counter and behind the return book bin. The bottom in question was wearing purple jeans with yellow and green sparklies in big swirls here and there……and bright yellow plastic mesh (small squares of naked flesh showing through those meshes) visible all the way down the leg where the side seam would normally be. Marian blinked.
“Dammit,” echoed from beneath the counter. The bottom wiggled, one sandaled foot, sticking up next to the bottom, attempted to stomp, but only succeeded in banging the big toe on the carpet. “Ouch.”
“What are you doing?”
“The cleaning lady……aaggh……was chasing feral dust bunnies, I guess…..and her vacuum got tangled in the network cables and the other wires, and pulled a bunch of them loose………and I’m trying to figure out by feel what goes where, ‘cause there’s not enough room back here to……you evil, evil thing!!!”
“Ah.” Marian deposited the pile of mail on the work table. “Ok. Does that mean I shouldn’t turn on the computer?”
Marian sighed and spoke loudly and distinctly while reaching for the rocker switch to turn on the system. “I’m going to turn on the computers.”
“NO!! Um…….read the mail, why don’t you? It shouldn’t take me too long here…….”
Marian picked out every piece of mail that looked like a bill, and threw them into the basket containing all the other unopened bills; the magazines she put in a pile for Henny to process; and the junk she threw into the trash can. There was one thing left, a sort of a pamphlet/magazine, with a plain brown cover except for the title on the front.
“Why did we get this?”
“Degradations of the Stars.”
“Did you say Declinations of the Stars??? Like in astronomy? ”
“Oh, right. Get in there, you little….. We got one of those last month, too. It must be a donated subscription. If you’d ever open the mail, you might know about these things before they happen.”
Marian decided the second remark wasn’t directed at her. “I don’t remember seeing that.”
“Well……” Henny backed up just a little, just enough so that she could see Marian through her knees upside down. “I took it home.” Marian thought she was blushing. “To read. And then Mike wanted to read it, too. And then…..something happened to it.”
“I’m not going to ask.”
Henny scooted back to her task in the bowels of the checkout counter.
Marian opened the plain brown cover. “Oh.” She took a deep breath. “Goodness.” She blinked. “I was Russell Crowe’s Sex Slave.”
“Look at that,” Marian said. “Henny…..look at this.”
“I’m busy. Talk louder.”
“I was Russell Crowe’s Sex Slave.”
“Did you say Russell Stowe? That fella that lives across the street from the mayor, over on Brown?”
“NO! RUSSELL CROWE! HE’S AN ACTOR! HE WAS MAXIMUS!”
“Oh. What does it say about him?”
“I WAS RUSSELL CROWE’S SEX SLAVE!”
Bang. Henny’s head and the top of the counter became intimately acquainted. “Dangit! You were? My gosh. How on earth did you meet an actor?”
Marian gave Henny’s bottom a frosty look. “Not me, for heaven’s sake. How would I meet an actor?”
“I asked you first.” Henny crawled out and stuck her head up above the counter to get a look. “Oooo.” The cobwebs gave her green hair an interesting appearance, Marian thought. Like thin foam on a lime soda. “Look at that.”
“Was. Past tense. Does that mean she quit? Can a slave quit? If she can quit, is she actually a slave? Or just a volunteer?”
“Hush. Let me read it.”
They both pored over the spread of text and pictures. “Oh my. She really goes into detail, doesn’t she? I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything quite as….as…..interesting as this in a newspaper before.”
Marian started to turn the page, but Henny caught her hand. "Not yet, I want to read that part there over again……Ok.”
The page turned. The rustle was loud in the silence. More silence. Marian murmured, “We definitely have to rent that movie.”
A little later, “That was HIM? I saw that. He didn’t look the same as he does in this picture at all…….”
“Well, he doesn’t have any clothes on here.”
Later…..”Is that really possible?” Henny asked in a strangled voice. “Can she actually do that? I mean……if he puts his……um……wouldn’t that…..sorta……sorta…..” Pause. Pause. “Marian? Do you know whether……wouldn’t she have some kind of…..wouldn’t it be too……..Marian?…….Marian?”
“I’m thinking about it……” She closed her eyes for a second. Several seconds. “I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it some more. It’s certainly an intriguing concept.” She fanned herself with the date due stamper. “I know--get Mike to try that tonight, and get back to me.”
Henny blushed. “Be serious.”
“Oh, I am. I’ll be very interested to know how it……comes out.”
More reading. Henny squeaked; covered her mouth with her hand. Marian took a slow deep breath, and let it out slow; her eyes half closed. “Well. We can’t possibly put this out on the shelf,” she said.
“Can I take it home?” Henny asked, somewhat breathlessly. “I…I think Mike might like to read the whole thing. Not just that one bit.” She blushed again.
They looked at each other for a few seconds. “Turn on the copy machine,” Marian said.
Henny jumped up, flipped the switch, and came back to look over Marian’s shoulder as she turned another page. More long silent minutes.
Marian stood abruptly. “I’m sorry, I have to…..go back in my office for a minute.” And she went.
When she came back several minutes later, she was more composed. Henny was sitting in the swivel chair with her eyes closed. Her face was flushed. And she jumped guiltily when Marian cleared her throat.
The magazine lay open to the center, where the staples were. On one side was a picture of a man standing in front of a stucco building wearing some sort of odd brown trousers; he didn’t have a shirt and looked slightly lost. And hot. Both kinds of hot.
And on the other side was a picture that, although he looked very different, Marian had to assume was the same actor, in lovely tight white breeches, holding a telescope, with his mouth open in a shout. MmmmmmmmmWhoeverthiswas……..
She touched the lost general’s chest with her fingertip for a moment, before decisively folding it closed.
“We’re late,” she said. “Time to open up.” She left the magazine where it was, and backed away.
“I suppose we have to.” Henny sighed. She lifted the brown paper, and peeked at the color cover underneath for a second before reaching in her pocket for the keys. “I didn’t get to finish reading that article, you know.”
“You did so, you just want to read it again.”
Henny unlocked the front door and turned the sign to Open; then walked to the back and did the same. Three children ran past her, into the children’s section; and their regular morning internet user shuffled in the front.
“It’s obviously fiction,” Marian said. “The woman goes into such detail describing….everything---obviously enjoying it…..and who wouldn’t?---and then says she called off the relationship because she needed more freedom---isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? He seems like such a nice guy, for one thing. He went with her to her mother’s funeral, and supported her, even though he’s supposed to be the master in the relationship.”
“Well……I suppose if you’re a slave, and you don’t want to be one any more, freedom would be what you’d want.”
“Oh, please.” Marian opened the magazine and pointed to a place in the text. “Read this.”
Henny read it. A couple of times. “That does seem pretty free.”
“Who needs more freedom than that? I should be so free.” A pause. “I’d like to be so free……especially with this guy. And she left him for what?”
“Ummm, the house in Italy he bought her?”
“What kind of a trade is that?”
“I see what you mean.”
“If it’s not fiction……then…...”
“……she has to be a moron.” Henny finished Marian’s thought.
“A money-grubbing, sexless, insensitive clod.”
Pause. “You want me to make more than one copy?” Henny asked.
“Make a couple.”
“I’ll make four.”
The women left the magazine on the counter. They left it there, next to the circulation computer, because they wanted it in plain sight. They didn’t want to take the chance of losing it, or…or….a dog chewing it up (ok, there weren’t any dogs in the library right at that moment……but people didn’t always follow the rules. You could never tell when something absolutely out of the ordinary would happen…..and if somebody DID let their dog in, and it ran behind the counter, it would just be stupid to leave the magazine some other place easily accessible…..to the dog…..if it showed up. That was just common sense.), but both of them were afraid if they touched it, they’d open it; and then they’d read it again, and look at the photos that accompanied the text; and then……there’s no telling what might happen. And they were at work.
It taunted them, called to them…..if it had had fingers, it would have wiggled them, curled and uncurled them slowly and provocatively as if to say, Come to me, baby……
Of course if it had had fingers, and wiggled them, Marian and/or Henny would probably have screamed and bashed it with the broom to kill it. So actually it was more tantalizing just laying there quietly the way inanimate objects generally do.
It was just after lunch when something absolutely out of the ordinary happened. No, not a dog. A dog would have been more ordinary than this.
A man walked into the library (no, this isn’t the out-of-the-ordinary part yet); a man with chestnut brown hair….Marian thought that’s what color it was--she couldn’t really see it too well, it was covered up with a baseball cap. And a cleft in his chin…….Henny thought she could see the indentation, although he had whiskers, not a long beard, but not just stubble either. And laugh wrinkles around his eyes……
Clear green eyes looked right at Marian, looking at her so intently that she felt later he had seen into her mind, her soul, maybe her heart…….while some other part of him she wasn’t paying any attention to said, “Excuse me.”
Luckily Marian was sitting down, otherwise her weak knees might have betrayed her, and luckily she was sitting right in front of the magazine. She grabbed it quickly, pulled it off the counter and onto her lap. “Yes?” She cursed herself for having said something so absolutely banal, her chance to make some time with a gorgeous man, to say something provocative, or intelligent, or even just interesting, that he might remember…..and she said, “Yes?” Argh. It was that damn magazine. All she could think about was the bit on the second page where the woman who wrote the article said her master took off all her clothes and put her on a---
“I seem to have misplaced my map. I think perhaps I’ve taken a wrong turn, and I was wondering if you have one I could look at?”
“Oh, God, yes.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Marian could see that Henny’s mouth was hanging open. “We….we have one in the vertical file. In the back.” Vertical reminded her of something else from the blasted magazine. She shoved the thing off her lap onto the floor before she stood up. “Why don’t you come with me, Henrietta, and help me find it?” She grabbed Henny’s sweater, and pulled her along, around the storage shelves into the work room.
“Marian.” Henny’s eyes were big. “You know who that is? That’s--
“No, it isn’t,” Marian hissed. “It’s a man who wants to look at a map. A gorgeous man, who wants to look at a map. And don’t talk so loud.”
Henny lowered her voice to a stage whisper. “It is so. That’s--“
“Don’t say it! That’s not who it is. It’s just a guy, didn’t you hear him? He’s doesn’t have an Australian accent. He’s an American, he just happens to look like…..this fellow we’ve been reading a salacious fantasy about.”
The awe left Henny’s face; she got that stubborn look in her eye. Mulish, in fact. “You stop that, Marian, you know darn well that’s Russell Crowe standing right here in our library.”
“Be quiet! You’re just fantasizing. Why on earth would an international movie star be here in our stupid little library in our stupid little town? And you didn’t even get that good a look at him, you’re just…..just…..wishing.”
“You are not, you’re horny. Get in here,” she shoved Henny into her office, “and stay here. Don’t come out until you’re prepared to behave in a professional manner.” She turned the key in the lock.
Marian fluffed her hair a little, tugged at her dress a little, ignored the shouts of the woman in her office, and then walked back to the desk. There were three other people waiting beside the person who was NOT Russell Crowe. Actually, all the people there were NOT Russell Crowe, but Marian didn’t care about any of the others. This was her chance to make up for the “Yes?” before.
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t seem to find the map,” she cooed.
“Oh.” The man seemed momentarily flummoxed. “Well……”
“But I know this town like the back of my hand. I’d be happy to direct you anywhere you’d like to go.”
“I wouldn’t want to take you away from your work--“
“Go ahead and take me. I don’t mind. Henny’s in the back; when she starts pounding on the door, someone will let her out.”
The man looked toward the exit. Marian hurried around the counter; Ephraim Eberhart stood in her path, and said in his squeaky voice, “Miss Marian, you said you’d help me when I got ready to print my resume.”
“You’ll figure it out,” she muttered, and shoved him aside. She took the man’s arm; let her hand drift up to his armpit, and pressed his bicep against her….um..…self.
“We’re not just going around the block,” he said. “The scouting we had in mind might take us all afternoon. It may be quite a while before I’d be able to bring you back.”
“I’ve already been around the block, honey.” She hoped she sounded as sexy as she felt. This guy was one guy she really, really didn’t want to get away. Henny wasn’t the only one who was horny. “I wouldn’t mind going someplace else. And as far as I’m concerned, the longer it takes, the better.”
She knew when his gaze shifted down to the generous bosom hidden by her librarian-type sweater, and then lower than that, that he was, shall we say, not immune to her charms? Nah, let’s not say that, that’s too cliché even for Marian, and anyway, even though he was just looking, this guy’s eyes were more aggressive than “not immune”. He was looking at her exactly the way she wanted him to look at her, up and down……she imagined she could see a little green flame flicker far back in his eyes, the flame (she hoped) of love. Or at least a good substitute.
He pulled his phone out of the pocket of his jacket, flipped it open and hit a number with his thumb. While it was up to his ear, he pulled the arm that Marian was holding onto out of her grasp and put it around her shoulders. She enjoyed that, his arm was warm and strong….but she wished he’d hurry up so they could get out of here, Henny was starting to make a lot of noise, and the patrons were getting restless.
He read her mind. Smiled and steered her toward the door while he talked. “Change of plans,” he said into the phone. “Don’t wait for me, go on back to the hotel.” Odd. Now he had an accent of some kind, that he hadn’t had, she was sure of it, when he was talking to her at the checkout counter. Of course she couldn’t tell what the person on the other end said, but the man who was NOT Russell Crowe, smiled again, and said, “No, no problem. Just something……that needs some attention right away. Don’t worry about it, I’ll see you later.” He listened, and then laughed out loud, a hearty deep laugh that made Marian’s insides quiver. “Fuck you. Ok?” he said, and laughed some more.
Another time she might have let herself be offended by such coarse language in front of a lady……but in this case, with this man, it just gave her a few more butterflies. Good butterflies, not the kind that make you think you’re going to lose your lunch, or the kind that make you feel like you need to go…..well, never mind, these were the good kind. The shivery, sparkly, trembly kind.
Ok, the horny kind.
He stopped just before the outer door and peered through the glass as if he was looking for something. His arm tightened around her, he looked up the street and down. “Okey dokey,” he said. “We’re good to go.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Just making sure the coast is clear.”
The parts of Marian that stuck out the most brushed against his jacket when they went through the big door, and reminded her of a particularly lascivious part of the story in the magazine, in which the man (who was also NOT Russell Crowe, because the story was fiction, and Mr. Crowe is NOT a fictional character, no matter what name the author has chosen to give her protagonist) had spent a great deal of time entertaining himself (vivid details supplied by the author) with the similar portions of his slave’s anatomy. She shivered. Couldn’t help it.
“Are you cold?” her escort asked.
She shook her head. “Just thinking.”
“About things to do if we get bored.”
He opened the door to his big black car. His quick smile lit up the interior as he helped her inside……er, sorry, I guess it was actually the overhead light coming on when he opened the door that lit up the interior….sorry……the first way would have been silly. His smile lit something in Marian, though, and that really was better. “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Do you?”
Marian experienced a moment of trepidation, an unusual feeling for a woman who has spent most of her mmphy-mmph years entirely sure of herself and what she wanted…..but getting into a strange vehicle with a man she’d met only moments before wasn’t something she did everyday. Usually she found out a name first, or a shoe size or something.
She’d acquired a little wisdom in those mmphy-mmph years; a little savvy, a little perspicacity…..but on the other hand……those dimples were to die for……and you only live once……and for some reason all the pertinent platitudes she could think of were so serious, talking about living and dying, when all she really wanted was a good……time.
He leaned in the still-open door. “Here, luv,” he said. Her body knew what to do even if her mind was hesitating. She leaned toward him, and when his lips meant hers, that small wise voice telling her to run for it drowned in a sea of heat and……ok, wait a minute, it couldn’t drown unless there’s, like, a swimming pool of liquid, and, you know, wet is good, but that would be a bit much. It was steamed to death instead. Not quite as attractive a mental image, but slightly more descriptive and a lot less silly…..and if you thought of the voice as if it were a lobster, it might be…..no, never mind, forget the lobster part.
Marian had a feeling he meant it to be a short, encouraging, reassuring kiss…..so she grabbed his face with both hands and held on for dear life. After about five minutes, he began to laugh into her mouth. Caught her hands, and peeled them off his head.
“We’re not going anywhere, darlin’, if you don’t let me get in the car.”
Marian blushed. And smiled. And scooted over next to him after he was seated behind the wheel.
“I’m all yours---any particular place you want to recommend?” he asked.
She shook her head. Right then, at that moment, she couldn’t think of anywhere that would be better than where she already was. “Wherever you’re going.”
“How about around the world?”
“Around the world” turned out to be an activity rather than a destination, but it wasn’t any the less exciting because of that………
Two days later, at the library……..
“I hate you,” Henny said through her teeth.
“You’re just jealous.”
“Of course I am, I’d have to be dead not to be jealous. But I still hate you. I was in the office for hours, and the only reason I got out at all was because Mrs. Cruz lost track of little Tommy, and thank God he was tall enough to turn the key.”
“I’m hurt, I really am.”
“You’re hurt! You’re hurt?”
“It seems to me that if you were my friend, you’d be happy for me.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Well, look at it this way--you got paid for whatever time you spent in the office….and when you went home, there was somebody waiting for you there.”
Henny stopped and thought about that. “That’s true.”
“And I’m guessing you took the magazine home with you, and Mike wanted to read it.”
“And then, I expect he decided to try some of the more….shall we say, exotic things dreamed up by the author?”
Henny blushed a little more.
“So tell me…..did he try the one you asked me about?”
Henny turned bright red. “Ummmm…..”
“I thought so. You can tell me all about it later. My point is, I managed to snatch a little happiness out of the depths of my lonely life, for a few hours--“
“---more like 36--“ Henny muttered.
“---a few hours of happiness and abandon in the midst of this depressing--“
“---you said that already--“
“I’m hurt that you would begrudge me that, you who have so much to be grateful for in your everyday life--“
“--a companion to share your home and your bed, and who likes green hair--“
“---while I go home to an empty house every night, and mourn for lost--“
“GIVE IT A REST, I GOT IT!”
Both women were quiet a moment. Then Henny said, “Ummm……so how was it?”
Marian smiled. “Oh. My. God.”
Henny muffled a squeal, both hands clapped to her mouth. “Really?”
“You wouldn’t believe it.”
“Miss Marian?” a chirpy voice from the other side of the counter interrupted. “Can you help me find a book?”
Marian sighed. “Sure. Turn around. 180 degrees. Look straight ahead. See all those things on the shelves? Those are books. Take your pick.”
She turned back to Henny and opened her mouth…..the chirpy voice, belonging to cute and blonde Melissa Messerspritz, said, “You’re funny, Miss Marian. No, I need help finding a book about Bret Harte.”
“Bret Harte. I have to have my research paper done by tomorrow, so if you could find me a bunch of stuff about him, I could get started."
“And when was your paper assigned?”
“Oh, a long time ago, but I forgot about it till last week, and then I couldn’t remember who I was suppose to do……so if you could find me something about Bret Harte….”
“Are you making that name up?”
Henny touched Marian’s shoulder and shook her head serreptitiously.
“You know, Melissa…..we’re busy. Why don’t you start with the encyclopedia?”
“Ooohh! That’s a good idea. Thanks, Miss M. Which one would it be in?”
Henny knew the danger signs; there was nothing guaranteed to make Marian lose it faster than high school research papers. She leaped out of her chair, and said, ”I’ll help you, Melissa.”
She put a hand on Marian’s shoulder (a touch to tell Marian to be calm, that she, Henny, would take care of it); Marian covered that hand with her own. She hadn’t intended to do that, but she supposed afterglow made a woman do uncharacteristic things. This particular case of afterglow was acute, bordering on euphoria; and there weren’t any signs of it fading yet…….
And then Marian squeezed Henny’s hand…..and then Henny squeezed back…….and they smiled at each other…..
Here we leave our heroines till next time, two friends pursuing their search for love, personal growth and their authentic selves…..or sometimes just fun……and stumbling over precious things they didn’t even know they were looking for……not so much because they’re clumsy, but because……
….you just never know what might happen at the library.