A/N: Well, here it is: my first real shot at original fiction. This was actually a piece I worked on for a NaNoWriMo contest (I didn't make it to 50,000 words, in case you were wondering), and decided was good enough to post here. Hope you enjoy it!
I'm the sort of girl that wishes she were in a book; having adventures, solving mysteries, and of course riding off into the sunset with the handsome hero. I was always waiting for the day when something amazing would happen, and I would be whisked off on an adventure greater than any in some book. But of course, that was impossible. Nothing amazing ever happens here, in this place that I live in. So naturally things are normal, non-interesting, and downright boring. Well, at least they were. That was before I met him. When he came into my life, he brought with him more adventure and mystery than I could ever dream up. The fact that I was standing here now, in front of this imposing house, the wind whipping rain into my face was proof enough of that. I was scared to go inside, I knew that. I would readily admit it to anyone who asked. But I also knew that he was in there, in trouble. If I didn't go to him now, there was a good chance that I would never see him again. I didn't think I'd be able to go on if that happened. I took a deep breath and opened the door.
"Margalo, did you hear what I said?"
I glanced up abruptly, shaken from my little daydream of what would happen if a character from one of my favorite books wandered into the cafeteria, and looked up at my best friend, Arisa. Her mouth was turned down at the corners in a frown.
"Sorry, what?" I asked, blinking, hoping the frown on her face would go away. I hated it when Arisa was upset.
Arisa sighed as she placed her fork back on her lunch tray, glancing over at her friend Bella for help. Technically, Bella was supposed to be my friend as well, but I found her to be too slutty and loud for my tastes. It was a shame, I reflected, that such a horrible person had such a pretty name.
While I was busy rhyming other words in my head, I failed to notice Arisa was speaking to me again.
This time I jumped at the sharp tone in her voice, angry with myself for zoning out again.
"What is with you today?" Arisa asked, Bella nodding as if to show her assent.
"Nothing," I said, even though I knew what she was talking about. "Just feeling a little tired, that's all."
Arisa looked at me disbelievingly for a moment before a smile lit up her features again and she turned to face the more attentive friend at the table. I turned my gaze downward again, listening dutifully this time.
"So do you think I should go out with him, Bella?"
I was about ready to ask who they were talking about, but stopped myself. Arisa was sure to repeat whatever details I had missed to me later.
"I think you should," Bella said, flipping the ebony hair that I absolutely envied over her shoulder. "Not only is he incredibly hot, he's a junior. And most important of all, he really likes you."
Arisa smiled again, then looked to me, seemingly satisfied that I had indeed been listening that time.
"So do you have anyone you like, Margalo?" she asked.
I thought about this for a minute. There was one boy that I had liked for quite a while, but Bella had ended up going out with him, and when it was over, he was a corrupted being. We used to talk quite a bit before he and Bella were together, but now I was lucky if he managed to throw a sneer in my direction.
"Oh come on, there has to be someone," Arisa prompted.
"No," I repeated. Arisa's statement made no sense whatsoever. Why, exactly, did there have to be someone? Why did a girl have to "like" someone all the time?
Arisa sighed, leaning back in her chair, a sure sign she had given up. Bella bit her lip to hide a smile and stood with her lunch tray, heading over to the trashcan to dump it. "So are you coming over to my house after school today?" Arisa asked.
"Yeah. If you still want me to, that is."
"Of course I still want you to," Arisa said, shooting a quick, pearly-white smile in my direction. I smiled back. "We can hang out with Jack and the other guys at the park."
My smile fell. Great. It seemed I never got to hang around Arisa anymore without hanging out with "the guys" as well. I quickly thought up an excuse that would delay that little venture, at least for a while.
"Well, I kinda have somewhat of an errand to run right after school, so I'll catch up with you at the park later."
"That's okay, I'll go with you," Arisa said, brushing some crumbs off her sweater. "It won't take too long, right?"
"Right," I lied. "Not long at all."
"What exactly are we doing here, Margalo?" Arisa grumbled as she sidestepped a puddle.
"I told you I had an errand to run, Arisa," I said over my shoulder to her. "And you didn't exactly have to come with me either, you know," I muttered as an afterthought, pulling the hood of my sweatshirt up over my head. Arisa fell silent as we made our way across the small parking lot to the squat brick building in front of us. The rain that had been threatening all day had finally begun to fall, and I lifted my face up to feel the cool droplets on my skin every few steps. It had only been raining for a few minutes, but already the smell of it was everywhere. I inhaled deeply and smiled. I loved the rain.
When we reached the front door, I held it open for Arisa, waiting patiently as she shook out her purple umbrella and wiped invisible mud off her shoes on the mats provided. Once she had finally been ushered inside, I followed her, closing the heavy door behind me as slowly as I could to prevent a loud noise. I blinked my eyes rapidly to adjust to the dim light, then stepped through the large doorway into the next room, Arisa following behind.
River Oaks Public Library. This was probably my most favorite place in the world, aside from my basement bedroom, of course. I took off my glasses to wipe the water droplets from them, still looking around in awe.
I had been to the public library before, many times before, actually. The staff all knew my name -- although since the staff consisted mainly of the caretaker, a bespectacled, excitable little man by the name of Mr. Wren, and sometimes his granddaughter, Heather, that probably didn't count much in the long run. The last time the library acquired new books was early last month, and even then there were less than eight of them. All in all, there really wasn't that much for me to be in awe of. And yet I was, just the same.
A rustle from behind one of the bookshelves caught my attention. Arisa yelped and moved closer to me. I smiled.
"Mr. Wren?" I called out.
The rustling stopped. A moment later, the old librarian himself appeared, pushing his spectacles up on his nose with one hand, and smoothing down a thatch of his unruly white hair with the other.
"Ah, Margalo, my dear! I wondered when you would come visit us again."
"Sorry I've been away for so long, Mr. Wren."
"Think nothing of it. How has school been treating you?"
I waited a beat before replying. "It's been treating me just how I would expect River Oaks High to act toward someone like me," was the best I could come up with.
Mr. Wren smiled in understanding, then gave a small polite bow. "Well now, if you ladies will excuse me," he said, already moving off in another direction, "I have some things I need to take care of. Once you find books you like, just bring them to the front desk. Heather will check them out."
I watched as he disappeared around a teetering stack of old reference books that had yet to be either shelved or thrown away. Once he was gone, I turned back to Arisa.
"You have fifteen minutes," she all but mouthed. Apparently, she was afraid to speak too loudly in here, on the off chance that someone from school were to see her. She had nothing to worry about there.
I nodded. "Mm-kay, Ari," I said, turning to run my fingers along the spines of the books on the nearest shelf.
"I mean it," she said a little louder, heading off in the direction of the periodicals.
I let out a sigh of relief once she was gone. I was finally alone, my only company the books surrounding me and the sound of the rain drumming steadily on the roof. Exactly how I liked it.
I moved slowly through the rows of shelves, my eyes coming to rest now and again on titles that caught my interest. Sometimes I'd pull the books out and look at them for a moment before putting them back, but most of the time I kept walking, anxious to reach my favourite spot in the library.
I rounded the corner and saw it, my pace speeding up a little as I came upon it. It wasn't much, really; just a small window set in between two massive bookshelves. A tall, old-fashioned armchair was somehow wedged up next to it, a worn quilt thrown over its back. It was a spot that was easy to miss, surprisingly, considering the size of the armchair. I had only noticed it for the first time on one of my many summer trips here. Even then, it had taken me a while to find it again.
I was walking over to the chair, ready to sit in it, when I heard the music. It sounded very far off, wavering in and out somewhat. I paused midstep, listening intently, trying to determine where it was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from someplace at the end of the row of bookshelves. Curious, I moved forward with excruciating slowness, so that the sound my feet made when they came in contact with the floor wouldn't cover up the music. I must have been getting closer, for the music grew steadily louder. It sounded like a piano.
As I came to the end of the row, I stopped again, listening. A little to my left was the door that led into Mr. Wren's back office. It was ajar, I noticed, and the music seemed to be coming from within. I recognized the song being played now. Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."
I frowned. I had thought Mr. Wren hated classical music. He had seemed to indicate – during one of our long conversations held on the slowest of Saturdays – that he was an opera lover. He had even brought out an old phonograph of his and played a couple of his favourite records. I wondered about his sudden change of heart as I grasped the door knob and started to pull the door open further.
The sudden sharp voice made me jump. I whirled around to find Mr. Wren coming toward me at full speed. He looked like he did when he caught people bending pages in books and tossing them around: angry. I was too shocked that I simply stood still and watched him barrel toward me, slamming the door loudly when he reached it. The music stopped.
Later, I would wonder why slamming a door would cause a CD, or even a record, to stop playing completely, but then all I could do was stare at Mr. Wren.
"What on earth are you doing?"
"I…I heard music…" was all I could manage.
Mr. Wren muttered something then, but the only words I could make out were, "Foolish…told him to be careful…doesn't know how to…"
I remained still, unsure of what to do, and still a little dazed at Mr. Wren's expression. He seemed to be calming down now, though. When he turned back to me, his face was composed and he was even smiling a little.
"Now Margalo dear, let's just forget this whole silly business, shall we? I think your friend is ready to go now. Why don't you just come back tomorrow and find a book then?" Mr. Wren placed a hand on my shoulder and steered me toward the front desk. I walked along obediently, my mind still puzzling over what had happened.
Arisa was waiting at the front desk for us, right foot tapping, the frown I had come to know so well etched across her face. Heather stood next to her, holding some books and looking a little perplexed. She looked up at our approach, and relief broke out on her face.
"It's about time," Arisa said in a low voice, moving over to stand next to me.
"Sorry. Got distracted," I murmured back absentmindedly. My thoughts had returned to the music.
"We'll be seeing you tomorrow then, Margalo," Mr. Wren said briskly. Heather glanced at him, a questioning look on her face.
"See you," I replied, letting Arisa practically yank me over to the door and outside.
"Thank God it stopped raining," Arisa said, starting off across the parking lot.
"Yeah," I agreed automatically, too distracted to mourn the loss of the rain.
Arisa glanced back at me and sighed. "Honestly, Margalo, I don't understand how you're content to just sit in there and read all day. I hate reading." She shivered, as if the mere thought of reading for enjoyment made her ill.
I looked down. Even when my mind wasn't elsewhere like it was right now, it still hurt when Arisa blatantly spoke of her hatred for books, and chastised me for liking them. What was worse was that I never had any idea what to say back to her. So I just agreed.
"Oh, hey!" Arisa suddenly stopped in her tracks and began waving her arm wildly. I looked up to see some boys on skateboards at the furthest end of the parking lot.
"C'mon, Margalo!" Arisa cried, running over to them. I followed along behind her halfheartedly.
Arisa was already conversing with them when I finally shambled up to the group. The guys were digging in their pockets for something. I didn't even have to guess what it was.
"Mar, they've got cigarettes!" Arisa said brightly.
One of the boys withdrew a pack from his pocket. "Want one?" he asked, holding it out to me.
I shook my head. "Not my brand," I lied.
"Oh come on, Margalo," Arisa said, pulling a lighter from her purse. "Cigarettes are expensive enough; we're lucky to come across a find like this. You're too picky."
I shrugged and Arisa sighed, giving up.
After a while, the skaters moved on, and Arisa and I began the trek over to her house.
"What are you humming?" Arisa asked.
"Huh? Oh." I hadn't even realized I'd been humming anything. "Um, "Moonlight Sonata." I felt a blush suddenly cover my face, but I didn't know why.
"It's pretty," Arisa mused. "That's a piano song, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is."
Arisa slung an arm over my shoulder, an uncharacteristically friendly gesture. She smiled. "You're really good at the piano, y'know. You'll have to play for me the next time I come over."
I smiled back at her. "Sure, Arisa. Anything for you."
A/N: Well, what do you think so far? Reviews are greatly appreciated (so is constructive criticism, but please, no flames). Thanks!