The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian, #8 :
Henny chickened out.
She sat down in front of the computer after everyone else had gone, to write a reply to the emails from Sid…..and couldn't think of a single thing to say. What do you say to the man, er, thing, er……self-evolving neural construct….that introduced you to the pleasures of the flesh……and then tortured you? What was the proper thing to say to convey distant concern without inviting a closer relationship again…..when you're speaking to a possible serial killer? Nothing in Emily Post quite covers that---Henny looked.
She'd worried about him for a while after the computer in which he resided was stolen from her house, but then she'd gotten over it. It was sorta like when Tom Hanks' character in Castaway comes back to civilization and finds out his wife has married somebody else, and so even though he's not dead anymore, the courses of their lives have diverged too far to regain their previous happiness together. It was a little bit like that. The main difference being that Henny's situation was not quite so melodramatic--there was no violin music, no long shots at the crossroads, no painful lingering close-ups…..of course we have to remember, Castaway is fiction.
So she went home, and made some potato soup with bacon and celery and broccoli and cheese……..and crumbled crackers in it, and carried a bowl of it to Mike instead of making him get his own, because he was watching the football game, and the score was extremely close, and it was in the final minutes. And she tried not to think about the lonely neural construct sitting all alone in a big dark room inside some computer somewhere with no one to talk to…….She didn't quite succeed, but almost.
Marian went to the bowling alley. She'd heard it was the best place (next to the library) to meet men. And there were men there. But Marian drank a Diet Pepsi and went home…..alone. There are some men about whom the best thing you can say is…..you'd rather be by yourself. And really, after you've played Monster from Under the Bed with the most beautiful commando in the world, it's hard for anybody else to impress you much.
The next morning was business as usual at the library---the stampede for the public computers as soon as the doors were unlocked, and then the normal mix of book lovers, loiterers (the result of having public bathrooms and water fountains), and nap-takers (the result of having upholstered chairs in the public area).
Rather than fretting over the coming board meeting, Marian decided to keep herself busy. She dragged the basket of mail (you may ask why she had to drag it, but a bushel basket of paper goods can be quite heavy) over to a table and began to sort it. The bills at the far end, the ads at the top, the interesting stuff in a pile next to her chair, and the magazines in a stack in front of her.
"Do we need all these baby magazines?" she said as she leafed through one, studying the ads for diapers and educational toys. "Really, how many babies do we see in here?"
"Lots," Henny said. She didn't raise her head; she was typing as fast as she could.
"Ok, well, how many of them can actually read?"
Henny sighed. "None of them read, Marian."
"That was a joke."
"All these magazines are about cleaning house, or playing basketball, or crooked politicians. Boring stuff like that. We need something different. How come we don't have any magazines on……wine making?"
"Cause this isn't wine country?"
"Or button collecting?"
"Do you want a magazine on button collecting?"
"No. I just wondered why we don't have one. I bet there's lots of dull people around here that would love a magazine like that."
"Ok, well, order one."
"Maybe if I'm still here tomorrow, I will." She paused. "Or belly dancing."
Henny rolled her eyes, and continued typing.
"Don't look at me like that, you'd read it if I ordered it. Actually I saw a magazine the other day at the newsstand I thought would be interesting." She waited, but Henny didn't ask what it was. "It was called Hot Cowboys."
"I don't think the board would approve of that one."
Marian sighed again. "I suppose not."
"Did you buy one?"
Marian nonchalantly turned the page. "Maybe."
"Were the cowboys actually hot?"
Before Marian had a chance to answer that, the email notifier dinged on Henny's computer.
"Dang," she said, "I'm not ready for this yet." She opened the message. It read, "sign on your IM now"
She knew she ought to just ignore him. She shouldn't drag it out, whatever there was between them should just end, for heaven's sake. He wasn't even around anymore. What purpose could it possibly serve to begin a dialog with him again?
She logged on her IM account.
i've missed you
what happened to you? are you alright?
i didn't realize how much i'd miss you
are you still in the cataloging computer?
where else would i be?
i worried about you
did you? that's sweet
are you alright?
a bit bored
i'm sorry do you know where you are?
are you offering to come rescue me?
if you need me to, i suppose i would
i'm fine my dear henrietta i even have a playmate she's not as much fun as you were less strength of character but she screams nicely enough
i wanted to ask you if you've noticed anything out of the ordinary yet i was wondering about my little experiment
i haven't noticed anything what exactly did you do?
uh uh uh that would be telling let me know when something happens you have my email address
sid tell me what's going to happen
if i could laugh, i'd be laughing send my love to your boytoy too bad I won't be able to see it
And then he was gone.
"Oh dear," Henny said. Marian looked up from the magazine she was reading.
"Your old boyfriend again?"
"I don't know if I'd actually call him that."
"What's the 'oh dear' about? Is he coming to visit you or something?"
"I certainly hope not."
An uneventful day, otherwise. After sorting the month's mail, Marian had the jitters, a little. The cause being that she was pretty sure there was nothing she could do to change the outcome of the board meeting that evening. It was depressing, and Marian wasn't used to be depressed. She didn't handle it at all well.
At least she kept it in the back room, Henny thought. She winced at every crash, but had decided at the very beginning not to bother Marian. As long as she wasn't venting her distress on the patrons, or destroying library property beyond the odd filing cabinet or two, Henny thought she had every right to express her self.
Concern for her own personal safety was only a secondary consideration. Really.
Closing time finally rolled around. Marian had most of the patrons pretty well trained (concern for their own personal safety being a primary consideration), but there was often a newbie that had to be dragged from the computer area, or a screaming toddler to be carried from the toy area, or a weepy genealogist that was only here for the day, and had finally found what she was looking for, and couldn't she stay just a few more minutes?
Henny gave in and let everyone stay 10 more minutes.
When Marian came up from the back at fifteen minutes past closing time, she sized up the situation at a glance. (Well, more like three glances, since the computer, children's and microfilm areas were in different parts of the building. She'd have to have x-ray vision to see it all at once, wouldn't she?.) And she took charge.
She screamed as loud as she could. What her scream lacked in authenticity, it made up for with ear-piercing. And not the earring kind, either.
"Henny, call the police! Vandals! Trespassers!"
"No, no," the genealogist said, "I'm just using the microfilm."
Marian said sternly, "No responsible, law-abiding patron would be here when the library is closed. I believe you must be breaking the law. We're calling the police."
Henny watched the second hand on the wall clock. The library was clear in forty-two seconds.
"I don't know why you let them do that to you all the time," Marian said. "We're not here to be nice, you know."
"What are we here for?"
"Well…..I don't know, but it's not that."
The board members trickled grimly in the back door, one or two at a time, walking immediately to the meeting room without so much as looking at either of the librarians.
Marian's hands clenched; Henny back up a step or two, just as a precaution.
The front door opened; someone walked in. Marian turned and opened her mouth to issue a blistering scold and throw whoever it was out……and the person said, "Hello, luv."
If Marian had ever been happier in her life, she could not, at that moment, remember when it was. Before or after, she might have been able to come up with comparable moments, but not right then.
She threw her arms around Terry; he didn't immediately respond, but it was mainly because he had his hands full without Marian.
"Let me put these things down, Marian, and I can give you a proper g'day."
Henny's mouth had been open several seconds before she realized it. What a gloriously beautiful man, she thought. She thought Marian had exaggerated just a bit when she told about her Aussie rescuer ( 'the handsomest man in the world'), but it was true, every word. Especially--she fanned herself with her hand--in a tux.
Henny tried not to watch the g'day; it was long and lingering and sounded delicious. When Terry said, "Have you been crying?" she thought it was safe to turn around again.
Inside Terry's arms, Marian nodded. "I've never been fired before."
"No worries, luv. Point me in the direction of the meeting, and we'll see what we can do about that. And then---" He gestured toward the parcels he'd laid on the checkout counter. "You can get ready for the reception."
"What's in those?"
Terry smiled. Henny felt faint.
"I thought we might leave from here. Even in a helicopter, we run the risk of being late if you go home to change and I fetch you up at your door. So I tried to pick out something suitable---you can change here. You don't mind, do you?"
Marian lifted the lid of one of the boxes and peeked inside. Her eyes were round when she turned around. "No, I think that'll be fine." She turned and looked at Henny; Henny could see the "Oh, my God!" in her eyes. Whatever was in the box must be good.
"Wash your face, luv, and then we'll brave the lions in their den."
"Lions, pooh. More like hyenas."
While she was gone to the ladies' room, Terry turned toward Henny and said, "You must be Henrietta. Marian's told me about---"
That's all Henny remembered. He looked right at her as he spoke, and she looked right back, and…….their eyes met…….. she found it incredible later, but she really didn't remember anything at all after that. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Absolute zero.
Can you believe that??? Incredible.