Other peoples heartbreak

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The girl in the library

I love libraries. They don't care who or what you are or why you've come. They will always be ready to welcome you into a land of endless possibilities.

The day I met the girl, it was raining. Like biblical, cats and dogs, wear your wellies kind of rain. I took this as a sign not to leave the library just yet. I mean, it was safer to stay here right? Plus, I was volunteering that afternoon anyway.

The girl came scrambling in from the rain, soaked from head to bright yellow wellies. She walked over to a chair and went to sit down, dripping all the way.

"Hey," I called. "I, er, I have some spare clothes stashed if you wanna borrow them? You will catch your death sitting around in clothes like that and my boss will kill me if you ruin that chair."

She smiled gratefully and followed me into the back of the library, where I kept my things during shifts. As I was a volunteer, I didn't need much and the locker wasn't actually mine. It was the spare one all volunteers could use. I knew I always stashed a change of clothes though. Never can be too careful as my dear old mother would say.

The clothes were a little big for the girl but they helped. I made her a cup of tea and we went and sat in two of the comfy chairs. It was a slow day anyway so I figured no one would mind.

As we sat and sipped, we started to talk. She was a little closed off but I felt like she had a story in there somewhere. A little prying and she was ready to share.

"I was thirteen when I met my soulmate. She was beautiful." The girl looked at me fearfully. I just smiled and gestured for her to continue.

"We were both students in Saint Marys school for girls. It was... very strict. We grew close and one night... Well, one night somebody told the matron about us." Her face drained off all colour. Even her lips went white.

"I got fifty strokes of the cane. I still have the scars. And my girl... I never saw her again. She was taken to the father and a week later... Well, it stopped. The clock I mean. It stopped." She gulped. After a sip of her tea, she closed her eyes and continued.

"It was all my fault. I feel as though time itself stopped when the one on my arm did. Nothing has felt real since that night and that was seven years ago. She ... she took everything with her when she left, except maybe, the pain. I would gladly take whatever punishment she got, for her to be the one sitting here talking to you."

"Listen to me," I said, taking her hand. "It is not your fault. It never has been. Whatever those awful people did to her... well people like that will always find an excuse. It doesn't matter what happens if it wasn't then it would've been some other time. If not her some other girl, whatever the reason. There are always bad people and the sad thing is.. they're rarely alone. You were a kid, you couldn't have known what would happen and you certainly couldn't have stopped it."

She was crying silently at this point. I couldn't stand it. I put my arms around her and held her together until she was strong enough to do it herself.

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