“That was the best book she’s ever written,” she said.
“Oh?” Tom said.
“Was so much different from the others. It wasn’t a happy ending.”
“But you liked it?”
“Yes. I don’t know… maybe it was better because of the ending. Maybe good things are better if they are only temporary.”
“Maybe so,” Tom said. He could only wonder if this chance meeting was one of those good things. He couldn’t imagine it being better if this would be the last time he saw her. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to assure that they would meet again.
Eleanor left without flourish, just a simple smile and she was gone. It felt like his insides had been hollowed out and for a long time he just stood there watching the entryway where she departed.
Tom wandered about the aisles the next Monday after his weekend off, hoping silently that he would run into Eleanor. Filled with dread, he wondered if she had really been a figment of his imagination. He left that evening convinced that she must have been.
Slowly, his days started to sink back into the ordinary. He felt as though that one night with her was a vibrant photograph that was slowly fading to gray. But apathy was something he had been good at, and he was more than ready to return to the humdrum of everyday life. He didn’t want to return to this, but what other choice did he have? Tom zoned out as he stocked the shelves with returned books. And he imagined Eleanor beside him, counting off chapters as she read.