The following morning, I took the only reasonable next action. I got on my bike and made my way to the library as fast as possible. It was early when I arrived, five minutes before the doors of the building of knowledge and stories opened. I sat on the wall in front of it, impatiently.
My greatest fear was running into Charlie. This was the only place where I had seen her before, beside typing classes. Who knew how often she came here. Or how early. I had considered disguises, of course, but those would only make me look ridiculous if I did run into her. And it was way too hot for scarves and hats.
The doors opened and I was the first person inside. I strode over to the fantasy section and scanned all the books. It was a really thick one… right here! I pulled the book she had recommended me from the shelf, surprised by the weight as it landed in my arms. Before long, I had checked it out, tied it to my bike and transported it home – luckily it wasn't raining.
I had to read it. I had given up last time because the gang – my new way to refer to my devils – was distracting me too much. But Charlie would want to know if I had actually read it. And what I thought of it. It was one of her favourite books, so she would notice if I had no clue what happened on the pages. I had to be brave, I had to make my way through it.
I opened the cover, mentally put my fingers in my ears, and started reading.
Please, please, please, please, please, please shut up! I didn't say it out loud but Stripes looked at me offended anyway. "Don't be so rude," he accused me in his booming voice.
I buried my face in my hands. I had read almost ten pages… in three freaking hours! But at least now I knew you should keep livestock aboard a ship, to survive the long journey. Especially sheep. Splendid, just the piece of information I was still missing in my life. Why did my imaginary characters all have to become so talkative? Except Howahkan, he was sitting placidly and watching the others with a smile. Suddenly his eyes turned to me and he said, almost as an annoyed parent, "go get some distraction."
"As if I need any more of that," I grumbled.
"What's that?" my mum called from the corridor. Apparently, she was folding blankets and putting them into the closet. When I didn't reply, she poked her head into my room. "Who are you talking to?"
"Just the voices in my head," I replied casually. Her expression stayed vacant for a moment, and then turned to confused. "David, mum. I was talking to David." She looked at my phone beside me and seemed satisfied.
After she'd left the room, I leaned back and stared at the ceiling for a time. "What a nosy mother," Suzy complained, "Nicholas really shouldn't let her get away with that." "You should appreciate his mother," Aaron interjected. "I never even had a mother!" Stripes cried. The other three looked at him, surprised. "I was born from the water of the sea," he continued proudly. Suzanna laughed, Aaron and Howahkan started to argue and I sighed. I did need distraction.
I picked up the phone and called David.
"Hey buddy, it's been a while," David greeted me as I opened the door. We passed through the living room, greeted my dad, went upstairs, greeted my mum and finally ended up in my bedroom.
David made himself comfortable on my bed, flipped through the library book and then looked up at me. "What's the matter, Nic? You seem to have an off day."
I stared at him dully from my backwards position on my desk chair. "I know," I said, "I met someone."
"Did you?" David said enthusiastically, sitting up. "What's her name?"
"Charlie," I replied. David's eyes grew big, before he quickly looked away and stammered, "not judging."
"She's a girl, of course!" I said offended, throwing one of the pillows at him.
He caught it effortlessly. "Good, you had me worried for a second," he laughed.
And I told him all about the Day of Going to the Library With Unexpected Consequences and Charlie in typing class and how I had to read the book she had recommended me but I just couldn't concentrate on it.
You know what was happening on my desk meanwhile? Of course something was happening there, those four were never truly quiet. But this episode was quite dramatic, even in all my experience with them.
Suzanna had fainted just a moment ago. She was recovering before anyone had overcome their surprise, but wailed that she needed assistance to get up again. Stripes helped her into a sitting position and then, yes, she fainted again. Howahkan started chanting nonsense to perform a healing ritual. But she recovered again and claimed that there was no need, she was simply struck by the manly beauty in the room. I can swear Stripes' chest swelled at that, but she was staring at David. Suzanna, dear everyone, had suddenly, out of the blue, after seeing him a hundred times before, developed a crush on David. Honestly, I just think she didn't get enough attention that day.
But, well, the entire remainder of me telling the story was interrupted with Suzie swooning over her perfect guy, the way he smiles, how long it would take him to notice her (no one dared to tell her he couldn't see her), etc. Having a conversation with David at the same time was exhausting. I only remember he wanted to meet Charlie and suggesting I should try an audiobook if I couldn't concentrate on reading. Then I escaped to the bathroom, shouting I had cramps and really wasn't feeling well. We said goodbye through the bathroom door: I told him I might have the flu and he told me to get better. Suzanna cried when he left.
When he was gone, Suzanna was keeping a depressed silence. Which allowed me to have some thoughts of my own again. The audiobook was not such a bad idea. I turned on my computer, searched the internet until I found one and uploaded it to my phone. Then I dug out my old headphones, laid down on my bed and started to read.
I fell asleep like that eighteen times, but within a week I did finish the book.