I’m a bit annoyed with myself for embellishing so much that I was unable to write what I wanted within the word count but – alas – that’s how I roll. I intend to finish the story soon enough so consider this merely an introduction…
The library card had three pieces of information on it – a time, an aisle number, and a single word – “Silence”
To the casual eye it would have appeared innocent enough – a note left by one librarian to another, perhaps – but Jonathan had felt certain its intentions would be understood by the intended recipient and, when he saw Alice appear on the stairs at 6 O’clock, the little slip of card poking from the pages of the book she held, he knew he’d been right.
Careful not to appear too obvious, he waited behind his desk and watched her survey the other people on the floor. It was busier than usual for a Wednesday evening but, apart from a few genuine visitors, most were here just to browse or to wait for the evening’s summer heat to pass. It crossed his mind that the number of people lingering might cause her concern, but she seemed not to mind and headed towards the shelves at the back of the room with a small smile.
Rising from his seat, Jonathan turned the sign on his desk to “closed” and marched swiftly across the room. He neatened his jacket, straightened his tie, and stepped softly over the wooden floorboards, his dark shoes barely making a sound. A few people smiled or nodded in recognition as he passed, but the rest barely seemed to notice him. That was good. Seven years working at the library had taught him how to do all manner of things without drawing attention to himself and all those skills would be needed tonight.
He passed the staircase and turned left, moving beyond Popular Fiction towards the section further back. Down here, amongst the dusty golden light, were the Classics – Alice’s favourite section, he knew – and the one in which he’d told her to wait. As he passed the towering rows of shelving, he noticed the gaps between were all still, shaded and silent. All of them empty. Except for the last.
She stood at the far end, her back towards him with a book – the same one he’d left the note in? – open in one hand. Taking care not to rush, Jonathan edged his way between the shelves and stopped once she was close enough to touch. He saw her shoulders tense, the blonde tussle of hair which lay across them shifting slightly over her cream top.
“You understand the rule?” he whispered, placing his lips to her ear.
She gave a quick nod and swallowed. He heard the rise and fall of her breath, saw how her eyes flicked to the side in an attempt to look at him while continuing to face forwards, and smiled. She was clearly enjoying the anticipation as much as he was, but while she might have agreed to the rule, would she be able to stick to it? He was well practised, she was not.
There was only one way to find out.