Ellen pulled open the door to the children’s department trailer, the wall shaking a bit with the the force. The children shaded their eyes as the white summer sun followed her.
“Hey, babies, ready to start storytime?” she said.
Reshonda cleared her throat and stood up.
“We were just finishing up, aren't we?”
“Mrs. Reshonda read us the story bout the frog prince…” a little girl with pink bows in her hair said.
“Well don’t let me interrupt, I’ll just put down my stuff and you guys can finish and we’ll make some crafts.”
“Meanwhile, the frog prince’s spirit roamed the spirit realm…” Reshonda read on and the children paid attention.
Ellen dropped her bag and the brochure for the apartment on the small desk near the separator that divided the children’s department from the computer lab. She walked over to the plastic tub with a sign that said “crafts” in gold sparkles and pulled out a package of paper plates, some glue, popsicle sticks and other items. She checked the small tables near the reading circle and saw the crayons already out. They always put the crayons out when she was late.
Evan never put out the crayons. But he was gone now.
While she was setting out the materials, she looked through the connector to the main library trailer. Debbie sat at the circulation desk, staring at her computer. A man stood by her, holding a book for check out and ignored. Ellen smiled. Same old Debbie. But she made him leave. But she would learn.
After the story, the children glued and colored the paper plates to look like their favorite cartoon characters and masks.
“Thanks for doing that.”
“Can’t do it every time. You okay?”
Ellen nodded, “Just apartment hunting. Looking at the Parker building where their putting those new lofts. Real fancy but they’re still working on them so there’s all this stuff around and real empty but it’s old and echoey and I like that.”
“Mmm hmmm. Try to call first next time you’ll be late.”
“You got some stuff on your shoe?”
“Child, there’s soot and stuff all over your dress and shoes. What have you been getting into? Playin around the old library?”
“Ridiculous. Like that story you were reading them,” Ellen lowered her voice, “Are you sure you should be reading to them because that was a horrible choice. I’m gonna have to talk to Caleb about you.”
“The Frog Prince Unleashed. There are babies in that story time. Look, the little one on the left doesn’t even know how to color.”
The child looked up at them and waved. The black color in his hand gripped tight and he made looping circles around the paper without looking.
“Leave that baby alone. And me. That story’s fine, I read it to my own children.”
Reshonda’s eyes grew large and she shook for a moment, “I’m gonna walk away from this situation.”
Ellen watched the other woman walk away and looked back at the story time. Mothers were gathering their purses and standing up. Children held books and paper plates tight to their chests.
A blonde woman with a blonde child nodded as they left the trailer.
“I hope you all had a fun time,” Ellen said, “Don’t worry about any mess, I’ll get it.”
Most of the people filed out, either into the sun or to the main trailer to check out their books. Ellen began picking up the trash and the half-used supplies scattered around the trailer.
An older woman in a blue shirt stood at the back of the room near the separator between the children’s and the computer lab.
“Where’s my son?” the woman said, “I left him here coloring. Did you see where he went?”Ellen and the woman spent a half hour looking for the little boy that could not color. The police were called. Everyone was questioned. By nightfall, when the library closed, Ellen was crying. She could not even think about going back to the old ruins of the library that night. The lie of the apartment hunt would have to continue a little longer.