Nicholas quietly sat at the desk, his fingers gently turning the crisp pages of his book. He was absorbed in the fantasy world, imagining assassins swiping their blades on their victims’ necks. He could almost picture a grand castle emerge from the white pages. A king would stand at the top, ordering his dragons to attack the enemy.
He wondered the amount of adrenaline that pumped through their veins when the assassins attacked. Did their reflexes work that well? They were invincible against everything, something he desperately wished he could do.
A fog of memory clouded over his mind, claws scraping against the back of his mind as flashes of a bloodied accident and fallen limbs fell across his vision, red, vivid, and shattering, the sound of glass splintering into small, crystal shards that buried the bodies of a grueling tragedy.
He wiped at his watery eyes hidden behind thick black frames. Nicholas struggled to focus back on his book, trying to ignore the painful ache that haunted his chest for years, trying to erase the heartbreak of losing those dear to him. As his vision adjusted to the fantasy of a world beyond his reality, he found himself falling deeper into a numbing tale.
His life was a mirage of tragedy and loneliness. He succumbed to the pain long ago that now there was no light to desperately grasp towards. Nicholas had nothing left to give, nothing left to salvage, and as he sat in the large library of his university, flipping through pages of a tale he saw himself in as an escape, he understood that his solitude was something he learned to thrive in.
He found comfort in being alone. Even if it didn’t always feel like it. No one understood. Sometimes it was easier to pretend than to live through dark, wintry days. There was no spring to ease the pain, no sunlight to promote the optimism of heroes.
The door chimed as it opened, breaking his thoughts abruptly, and he was brought back to his job.
Nicholas closed the book, lifting his head up to meet the new visitor. The college library was mostly empty. Not too many people liked reading, but it didn’t matter to Nicholas. It just gave him more time to enjoy his solitude away from the world’s inhabitants and their screeching voices. Reading was an escape.
“I need a book.”
The girl before him was different from the usual girls he’d see at the library. She wore a pale pink headscarf around her head, tucking away any loose strands of hair. Her sweatpants and gray hoodie left much to the imagination.
The hoodie clung to her as she rapidly breathed. Sweat glistened her forehead and she tried to catch her breath. She must have ran here in this hot weather. He looked into her eyes, a perfect shade of brown.
“And I need a life. Looks like we’re both not getting what we want,” he replied, dryly.
She raised a brow at him, “Harsh.”
“What type of book?” he asked, scooting his chair over to the computer database. His long fingers hovered over the keyboards, waiting for her response.
“The kind that makes me fall mindlessly in love with it.”
He scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. “What kind of cliché movies have you been watching?”
“None of your beeswax.”
He had to stop the smile that tried to force it’s way onto his lips. Her nose twitched in irritation. Nicholas couldn’t help but find the action adorable. It wasn’t every day that an amusing young lady would walk in, one who seemed to strut with confidence and portray her optimism like rays of sunlight splaying between shadows.
“Pretty sure it is if I actually have to get up and find a goddamn book for you.”
“But you’re the librarian,” she said. Her voice had a perfect pitch to it. It wasn’t high pitched and snobby like the ones from girls who lived on campus. Those girls were loud and obnoxious, a pair of words that Nicholas hated together.
“I doubt I can help you with such a vague request.”
She face palmed, muttering in another language. The foreign words slipped from her tongue so well. It was clear and soothing, almost alluring him with her voice. How odd, he thought.
“Can you just find me a good book?”
He shrugged. “That’s very perspective of you. What I consider a ‘good’ book may not be to you, so really you’re better off on your own.”
At this point, she pinched the bridge of her nose, exhaling deeply. She pursued her lips, “So why do you work here if you don’t know?”
“Because I can.”
Her cheeks flushed as she scoffed, clearly annoyed at his responses to her inquiries. “You’re really getting on my nerves, you know that?”
Nicholas’s blue eyes twinkled with amusement. He rested his chin on his palm, watching her carefully through his thick eyelashes. “Thanks, it’s a talent,” he said.
“Must have taken years to perfect it.”
“Definitely,” he grinned.
“What?” he chuckled.
“I want to request for another librarian.”
“Too late, you’re stuck with me,” he said as he focused on finding her a good book. Perhaps, The Selection trilogy would intrigue her.
Nicholas stood up and gestured for her to follow him. He took her to back of the library, probably the most empty place in the big hall. Her light footsteps fell into place with his own. She was short. She reached to his shoulders as he towered over her small figure. From the corner of his eye, he could see her fingers fumbling with the end of her scarf. Was she nervous in his presence?
Leading her into a row of books, he fingered through the labels, pushing his glasses up the ridge of his nose. He could feel her gaze on him and tried not to be bothered by it. Finally, finding what he was looking for, he pulled the blue book out. On the cover, a girl was dressed in a fluffy teal dress that had ruffles at the end. He held the book out to the Muslim girl, who gently took it.
She frowned. “I don’t like stupid characters.”
“Would have never noticed.”
She narrowed her chocolate brown eyes at him. “For a guy you sure are rude,” she huffed.
“Isn’t that a guy’s specialty?”
“I don’t generalize.”
“You just did,” he pointed out.
She denied it. “Did not.”
He shut his mouth before he continued the little game she was playing. Shaking his head he said, “I’m not playing this childish game with you.”
“Never asked you to.”
She was witty, he had to hand it to her.
“Take the damn book already,” he said as he began to walk away.
She ran back to his side, hugging the book to her chest. “You’re hurting the book’s feelings,” she pouted.
He rolled his eyes. “I don’t care.”
“Well the book doesn’t care about you either.”
He turned to her, halting her movements. “Be a good girl and stop talking,” he said.
Nicholas was eager to get back to his book, yet this short girl was hopping around him. Well, not literally, but she certainly was eager about her new book. He’d never really had an opinion about Muslims.
As he looked down at her, he noticed the girl was fondly reading the first page of the book. Her eyes were greedily absorbing the words plastered onto the thin paper, running after each syllable. For a moment, she reminded Nicholas of himself.