Fiction Friday: The Librarian

For this week’s Fiction Friday I’m sharing part of a story I’m working on, a character I’m developing. As always, this is a work in progress and it hasn’t yet been proofed, so there can always be typos or errors in it. Feel free to let me know about typos in the comments.

My first novel is for sale on Amazon Kindle.

Ginny Jefferies unlocked the back door of the library and slipped inside as quickly as she could, slamming the door behind her and standing in the darkened doorway. She hoped no one had seen her enter, thinking that the library was already open. There were hours posted on the front door, but people rarely read them and often tried to open the door no matter the time.

“Can’t I just slip inside and grab that new Jan Karon book?” Mrs. Fraley had said one morning, waving at Ginny as she rushed across the parking lot in the pouring rain.

“I don’t even have the system up to check you out, but we’re open in an hour,” Ginny said, holding her umbrella against a gust of wind.

Mrs. Fraley clasped her bright pink rain hat against her head with both hands.

“Well, it will just take moment and you can write it down that I took it out,” she said, insistent. “I’ve been waiting for months for that book.”

“I’m not even sure if it’s been checked out or not.. .” Ginny started.

“All I need to do is check real quick,” Mrs. Fraley pushed past her.

Ginny shook the umbrella off inside the door, peeling her wet clothes off as Mrs. Fraley rushed across the front of the library in search of the book.

“You open?” Dan Bennett’s head appeared inside the door she’d forgot to lock behind her. He didn’t wait for her to answer. “Good because I need to print an important paper off for my insurance man. Wouldn’t you know it, the printer ran out of ink just last night.”

“I haven’t actually turned the computers on yet –“ Ginny started.

“No problem at all,” Dan said with a wave of his hand, stepping inside. “I’ll get them for you. One less thing for you to do this morning.”

“Ah, okay, but I-“

The door opened again.

“Is it time for storytime yet?” Mary Ellis was holding the hand of two toddlers with a third young child standing behind her, all three of them dripping water on the carpet inside the door.

“Storytime isn’t for another two hours,” Ginny said, hoping to usher them back outside.

“That’s okay,” Mary said pushing past her. “Well, just spend some time in the children’s room. You still have those blocks and toys here right? The kids will love that and it’s better than trying to entertain them at home.”

“I – -oh – dear,” Ginny decided then and there to make her entrance into the library as incognito as possible from then on.

Ginny leaned back against the closed door and sighed. So far so good. No one was pounding on the door and she seemed to have made it in unseen. She looked around the two-story library, lit only by the curved windows above the shelves on one side of the main room, and enjoyed the silence. Sunlight streamed in through a high window on the main floor, pouring light across the Women’s Literature section.

The building was the former Spencer Family mansion, built in 1901 and deeded to the town in 1967 to be used as a community library. Walls had been knocked down, floors removed, to create a large open room for six-foot high bookshelves, ten rows on each floor. The Spencer family patriarch, J.P. Spencer, had left the building to the library association in his will, much to the fury of his remaining family members, a son who already lived in a mansion on the other end of town and a daughter from a previous marriage who had never even lived in the town. J.P.’s family had founded the railroad company in the town in the mid-1800s, making the company the second largest employer in the county at one time, next to farming. These days railroad and farming were dying out, fading away like an actual physical newspaper.

Ginny refrained from turning the main lights on, still hoping to remain in silence at least until her first cup of coffee was finished. She plopped down in the plush chair at the front desk and stared blankly at the row of computers, urging her brain to turn on before she turned them on. The computers were fairly new, especially the ones in the gaming stations in the library basement.

The introduction of computers that ran video games was not something Ginny had been in favor of. The library board had overruled her, insisting they were needed to stay with the times and appeal to the younger generation. For Ginny, the library was a place to read, a place to fill a child’s head with knowledge, not somewhere for them to destroy brain cells playing ridiculous games on a computer.

“Well, who knows, maybe when they are done playing their games they’ll wander up the stairs and find books!” Frank Rouse had said during the meeting, talking with his hands, as usual, long arms flapping around like a chimpanzee on speed as he talked. “We’ve got to move into the future, Ginny or become a relic of the past. It isn’t me driving the demand, it’s society. We need to meet that demand or simply watch libraries be boxed up with the rest of the artifacts.”

Artifacts and relics. It was all Frank seemed to be able to talk about since he’d hit the age of 65 and Ginny wondered if it was because he felt like he was becoming both. There were days she knew she felt like it and she was 10 years younger than him.

With a deep sigh, Ginny walked back to the office in the back of the building flipped the light switch and walked to the coffee pot she’d brought in herself to keep her and her assistant Sarah awake for the day. As the dark roast brew hit her nostrils she closed her eyes and thought about how she’d bucked the stereotypical trend of being a spinster librarian, but sometimes she wished she hadn’t.

Ginny had been the librarian of the Spencer Valley Memorial Library for 20 years and married to Stan Jeffries, a small-town real estate star, for 30 years. Stan served two counties through Jeffries Real Estate and two years prior had been named Real Estate Agent of the year for this region of Pennsylvania. Stan and Ginny didn’t spend as much time together as they used to, but they had settled into a comfortable routine, especially since their last child had moved out a few years ago, and that was more than some couples had. Still, Ginny had recently begun to wonder if being a spinster would actually be less lonely than her marriage had become.

Sipping hot coffee 15 minutes later, she flicked her fingers across the row of light switches in the main room. Fluorescent highlighted the bookcases and tables, the children’s room, and the doorway of the conference room. The rectangle over the mysteries and thrillers section was still flickering, making her feel slightly off balance. She’d have to ask the volunteer maintenance man, George Farley, who was also the town’s funeral home director, self-proclaimed town historian, and director of the local community theater, to help her change it this week.

She picked up a book from the return pile and did what she always did to start her day – opened the book and inhaled the smell of ink and paper deep into her lungs. She loved the smell of books. She loved the feel of a book. She wasn’t a fan of what others called “ebooks.” She didn’t want to hold some device in her hand, she wanted to touch a book, hold it and lose herself into another world with each turn of the page.

Ginny had been reorganizing the bookshelves in the library for the last few weeks. Becoming more involved in her work meant she didn’t have to focus on how dull and mundane her life had become since the last of her children had moved out of the house the year before.

“If only one of them would give me a grandbaby already,” she said with a sigh as she sat at her desk and turned on the computer to start entering the returned books into the system. The switch from paper filing to computers was another update she had briefly fought against before admitting typing information into a computer was easier than pulling open drawers and flipping through rows of index cards.

The back door squeaked open and Ginny’s assistant Sarah Shultz slipped in quickly and slammed the door behind her, leaning against it as if to hold back some kind of nefarious onslaught.

“I think Ed Pickett just saw me from the diner front window,” she said breathlessly. “He knew I was coming here. He could be here any minute.”

“Oh good grief. It’s way too early and way too Monday for Ed,” Ginny said sipping her coffee and closing her eyes. “I hope he finally reads the hours on the front door.”

Ed, the incessantly question asking Ed.

“Do you think I’d like the new John Grisham book or the new Tom Clancy?”

“Should I try out this new book by this woman author? I don’t usually read women authors. Too much estrogen for me.”

“I’ll just sit over here with these books, read the first chapter of each and decide which one I’ll check out. Okay?”

Then there was that time he had read the same book she was reading.

“Ah, that’s a good one,” he said, leaning one elbow against the front desk. “Too bad he killed the love interest off in the last chapter. I really liked her.”

Sarah lifted the strap of her messenger bag over her head and laid it behind the front desk.

“Rough weekend?” she asked Ginny.

Ginny shrugged. “Boring one.”

“We need to get you a new hobby,” Sarah said.

Ginny bit her tongue.

Sarah was well-meaning but 24, bubbly and clueless about getting old. Ginny adored her but wanted to slide a book about menopause across to her and show her her future.

“I can’t imagine what I’d do,” Ginny smirked. “The library is my life.”

“Or so the library board thinks,” Sarah quipped.

Ginny snorted.

“God forbid I am not here at all times,” she said, walking toward the drop off box.

“Or be thinking about anything other than new programs,” Sarah called after her.

“And keep up the perfect appearance in the community,” Ginny called back, practicing her royal wave.

Ginny gathered the books in her arms and carried them back to the desk and stacked them on top of the returns from the previous day.

“You start entering them in,” Sarah said. “And I’ll start putting them back in their rightful places.”

“Get them done as quick as you can and make sure you get yourself some coffee,” Ginny said. “Ed will be here at the strike of 9, I’m sure.”

4 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: The Librarian

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