The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is "What does a woman want?"
Day Two of Summer Reading continued with little problems. Zookeeper Bob was supposed to come back today with a bunch of furry critters, but after yesterday’s fun with the scaly ones I let him out of it to come up with some way of finding Victor. As word has gotten out about our guest, our numbers have dropped considerably despite story time being held outside under the overcast clouds. Then, this happened.
“Story time go okay?” I said, pushing a cart into the children’s section.
Ava looked up and her lip curled at the sight of the full cart. I am not sure, but I think she dislikes having to shelve the children’s books that are piling up as she learns to do her job. I tried to explain how we all shelve and how important it is and she said something about not understanding the Dewey system or numbers. I was not listening.
“Story time went fine, although it did start to rain near the end. I think we should buy umbrellas if that is how we are going to keep at it.”
“Maybe that could be tomorrow’s craft project,” I said picking up a stack of books from the cart.
She laughed, a good-natured, full laugh that surprised me. Then she stood and walked over to me holding her hands out for the books.
“Don’t worry,” she said,“I can shelve those.”
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I saw something in nothing. Maybe all the excitement lately was getting to me, but I swear she was up to something. She kept constant eye contact with me, a smile dancing on the edge of her lips as if I was her favorite comedian. I handed the books back to her.
“I was also wondering if you had heard from Bob today,” I said.
She frowned, “Me? No, I thought he talked to you last.”
“Yeah, last night, but you were his contact here. Seemed pretty close, too.”
She laughed again, quiet and restrained but with a wide smile.
“Mr. Banned, I am close to lots of people,” she the books back on the cart and took a step closer, “And I think we got off on the wrong foot. I know I wasn’t your first choice for this position, but I think I have been doing a good job here. Truce?”
She held out her hand to me, palm facing down. I reached out and took it, our grip sideways as if she expected me to kiss it. Her hand closed on mine, the other hand cupping the back of mine. She was warm, comfort warm, pleasant warmth of another body on a cold night. I found myself moving closer to her.
Her eyes, deep brown, seemed so honest and kind. I had misunderstood her, she was just frightened of living alone with a child, all alone with no real education or prospects. But there was warmth and kindess underneath it all. I could see it in those eyes. Those deep eyes that drew me in, closer and closer...
“Am I interupting something?” Darling McCraw said.
My hand pulled from Ava’s and I took a step back. My hand now felt cold, chilled and prickly numb. I put it in my pocket, the other reaching up to adjust my glasses. Ava turned toward Darling.
“Darling, how are you? Come to do some shelving?” she said.
“Um, yeah, no, I think I am on the circ desk. Unless you want to trade?” he said.
She shook her head, long brown curls of her hair bouncing, framing her face. I shook my head for completely different reasons than she did. What the hell was wrong with me?
“Um, Evan? I was wondering if I could have a word?” Darling said.
“Yeah, sure, in my office,” I said.
The two of us left Ava Devillis standing in the middle of the children’s department beside a full book cart. I looked back as we left. She had that hand, that warm hand raised and waving goodbye with her fingers.
“You two look like you are getting along better,” Darling said once we were in my office.
“Yeah, I guess. What was it you wanted to talk about?”
“Nothing. I just looked at you two and figured you would thank me later if I pulled you away.”
I laughed at the younger man, standing in my office. I laughed and put my head down on my desk.
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