A loud, snickering noise snapped my head out from the book I was intently reading. I tried to ignore them, thinking that they will keep silent as soon as they realize their noise will disturb the peaceful ambience of the library. I waited for their snorts and laughs to fade. And thank the good Lord, they did. A glorifying silence once again surrounded the area, and I smiled, shifting my focus back to my book.
Then a thud echoed through the room, a familiar sound of a body hitting the ground, and a howl of laughter followed.
Grimacing, I craned my neck to feed my curiosity, seeing a poor boy in the corner of the last row of bookshelves. He was struggling to stand up, a foot stepped on the end of the right side of his pants, another foot on the other. Those feet belonged to two of four guys flocked in a table and sitting on seats that were a bit small for their size. The high school guys were all cackling with laughter, watching the boy who was maybe six or five years younger than them wriggle to get the bottom of his feet back on the ground.
I was about to stand up when Mrs. Worth approached the group of mundane noodles, her face tight, trying to look annoyed. However, Mrs. Worth being herself, her furrowing of brows, narrowing of eyes, and tightening of lips can easily be compared to a kitten’s. She was never the typical stereotype version of a librarian. This public library doesn’t need a woman with hair in a bun, eyeglasses with pointed edges and watches every person like a hawk, occasionally shushing a conversation or two. This library was usually undisturbed. Until now.
“Really? This is a library? This shitty place has only what, six, seven people? Ah, poor thing.” one of the mundane noodle said, the largest one, while faking a sympathetic expression. He looked at Mrs. Worth, then to the boy who managed to get out from being pinned to the ground. He frowned in disgust at the librarian and hissed, "See what you did? The little birdy escaped!”
The gang laughed again. High-fives were thrown and met in the air.
Mrs. Worth said something, her face dead serious. The skinny guy, the one with brown hair that looked greasy, stopped snickering and stared at her.
“Go back to your shit, you old hag."
My jaw clenched when I heard that statement that was accompanied by that annoying voice. That's it. That’s the final straw. I pushed my glasses up my nose and gripped my cross body bag. Closing my book, I stood up, never straying my eyes away from the mundane noodles. I walked towards them, stopping beside Mrs. Worth. I placed my hand gently on her slightly trembling shoulder and smiled politely. I grabbed one of the books that has been ignored in the table and handed it to her.
“Mrs. Worth, will you please put it back to its shelf? No one in this table is intellectual enough to read a book.” I smiled sweetly at her and slightly nodded, giving her a hint that I’ll take care of these babies.
Thankfully, she sauntered away to the bookshelves.
“Hey, you bitch! I was reading it. That was my book.” The largest guy with flabby arms exclaimed.
“As I've said, no one in this table is intellectual enough to read a book." I repeated. "That book is a library's property. If you really wanted to read it, you could have started reading it instead of bullying a boy who is a lot younger than you guys are."
"An aggressive bitch, I see." He grabbed another book that was previously in the hands of the brown-haired guy. They all grinned at me. My eyes focused to the book that the big guy was holding— I mean, spinning in his index finger like a basketball.
I narrowed my eyes at his wrist, trying to figure out what was the most enjoyable thing to do with his hands. Bite them? Nah, I might be accused of being a vampire and likely be burned to death. However, if I break his fingers, he will howl in pain and cause more disturbance. Chop them off? Oh no, that would be too kind.
“Oh wait," he said while continuously spinning the book. Leaning his head to the side like someone is whispering to his ear, he added, "The floor said it wants to read. So…" he grinned. With a flick of his thick wrist, the book flew a few feet away and stumbled down the wooden floor.
The image of the book painfully bouncing off the floor replayed in my mind. I continued to stare at the book that was now lying face down, its pages open and some are even hideously folded.
The guy on the left spoke, "Hey, sweetie. Don’t stress too much. Your ass deserves better.” He reached out his hand to my butt and my reflex took over. My left hand shot up and grabbed his frail wrist. My hand was positioned above his, secured in a hyperflexing wristlock. It's not really a wristlock, I just did it as close as a wristlock can be. I stared directly at his eyes that look like they're going to fall out from his too-deep eyeballs.
“Are you reading that book or what?" I asked, gesturing to the book in his other hand.
“I— It’s…" he stammered while trying to break free of my grasp. I bent his wrist down some more, causing him to flinch. "Shit, take that damn book."
I grabbed the book and placed it on the table, in front of me. The biggest guy opened his mouth to speak but the guy whose wrist is in my hold shot him a warning look. The big guy obediently complied and shut his mouth. I guess this big-eyed guy is their leader, after all.
Without any expression etched in my face, I let my eyes travel to each one of theirs, lingering to the guy with his wrist in my hand. “Go back to your school. This is not the right place for you to mess up with.”
The guy huffed in annoyance and I let go of my hold. He stood up nodded his head toward the exit, and his minions followed him. But before they went out, the three of them scowled at me, but I was too tired to care.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, calming my nerves. Just then I remembered that there are other people in this library. Opening my eyes, I looked around to see if I had an audience. Luckily, most visitors and readers are in the front and there’s only one person in the bookshelves area. None of them seemed to notice the scene. My eyes stopped to look at Mrs. Worth who was in her librarian station, smiling gratefully at me. I returned her warm smile. After retrieving my book on my table, I walked to the fiction area of the bookshelves to return the two books. I approached the area, frowning slightly as I notice that something’s different. The location of the genres are not the way it used to be. So this was what Mrs. Worth told me about renovating the library. Rearranging the location of the books.
That's quite a renovation.
I wandered around, checking the genre that was typed in paper labels above every shelf. The fiction section was located on the last three rows. After putting back the books, I walked back to the librarian’s desk.
But as I passed by the shelves, a book caught my attention. I picked it up, trying to decipher the meaning of its cover. It has a beautiful bright red satin ribbon floating on the cover, contrasting the black background. The ribbon is tied tightly to a wrist. It was just a hand and the wrist that's in the cover, but I'm sure it belongs to a woman. The hand seemed so delicate.
I was intrigued by the book, so I looked up to see the genre of this, posted above the shelf. And then I saw it, written in big, bold letters:
Erotic Literature. For mature readers only.
I nearly dropped the book I'm holding. I'm sure my face went through seven shades of red, blushing like a tomato. I'm still holding the book, my hand seemed to be glued to it.
"Nice choice you have there," a guy's husky voice said behind me.
I slightly jumped, and whirled around to face the person that startled me. I was planning to protest about the book, that I didn't choose it to read. But as my eyes met his, it seemed that all the words I knew since childhood have abandoned me. A pair of icy blue eyes lingered on mine, and I can't seem to look away from them. His eyes are too vibrant for him because his facial features would already grab anyone’s attention. I froze, realizing that there are only a few inches between us, and one wrong move and my body would touch his. Not that I would touch him, of course not. But… I felt like I was secluded and all I can smell is the guy in front of me. My feet felt like they were stoned to the floor. Is the earth still beneath my feet? Oh, yes. It is right there.
Four seconds of silence filled the air. Yes, I counted it. I was still figuring out what to say. An emotion flickered through his eyes, but before I had the time to know what it is, it was gone. His face was stoic, with no emotion at all, but his eyes are staring intensely to mine.
"That book got a lot of positive reviews from the critics," he continued. "You should read it. Are you a reader of erotic literature?"
"I—I’m not." I stammered. Stammered? Wait, what? I glanced around, only to notice that there are no people near us, fortunately. I pushed my glasses up my nose. Clearing my throat, I spoke again. "I don't read such books. I just happened to notice the cover."
He didn't seem to believe me. He just looked at me like he was waiting for me to take back what I've said. His crystal blue eyes narrowed, as if assessing me. I stared back at him, not willing to back down. He is a kind of guy that carefully assesses every person he meets, stranger or otherwise.
"Now, if you'll excuse me." I put the book back to its place and strode towards the front area of the library. I tried to ignore the fact that I could feel his gaze at my back. I also ignored the fact that he was still staring at me when I reached the librarian’s counter.
Mrs. Worth beamed at me like I’m a hero coming back to her hometown. "Oh, dear. I’m really grateful that you’re here. How did you managed to shoo them away?”
"I just told them to go back to school. Or else I’ll call their parents. Scared them off," I grinned. To change the topic, I asked, "Mrs. Worth, is your nephew not here yet?"
"Jack? He can't make it today, Sophia. He said he had stuff to do, and kind man that he is, sent a proxy for his shift." She nodded her head toward the back row of the shelves, and I followed her eyes. There, sifting through the books and arranging them in their proper order, was the guy I was trapped with earlier. Well, not really trapped, but… you get the idea.
He stood there, reading the numbers on the side of the books. He suddenly glanced up, causing me to look back to Mrs. Worth. My whole body tensed, as if preparing itself to escape. I unconsciously drummed my fingers in the wooden worktop.
“Jay didn’t tell you?" She continued, her brows furrowing. I smiled as I heard the nickname she gave to Jack. “He might have forgotten to contact you or something. As I know, his other job requires a lot of focus and accuracy. He's a tutor in an elite school, right? Do you know the name of the school?”
Jack? A tutor? Yeah, right. That bastard. He was getting good at making up his life story. He’s one of the buyers of my indie software games, but I know him well enough. The truth is that he is a manager of underground fights, which is, by the way, illegal. He organizes and chooses who will fight who, and also serves as the referee in the major fights. Mrs. Worth, his aunt who took care of him since he was a child, have absolutely no idea about this. She thought that the reason he was able to pay their bills— they live in separate houses but Jay still insists to pay her necessities— was that he’s a tutor in an elite school.
“Yes, I know that he’s a tutor but I don’t know the name of the school,” I said, covering Jay's activities. "I just came here because he said yesterday that he's meeting up to buy my new game software."
Her face brightened at my remark. "That’s great! You really make those games that the boys nowadays are playing? Those moving people with guns and bombs in the computers?”
I chuckled at her description of video games. “Yup. I make those moving people.”
“How d’you do that?"
I shrugged. “Programming.”
She nodded, as if understanding the whole concept. When she was silent for the next seconds, I figured that her nod gesture indicated that she doesn’t want to know about the alien language. Programming, actually.
“I’ll just call Jay. I better get going. Thanks for your time, Mrs. Worth.”
We bid our good-byes and I strode towards the exit. I don’t know what possessed me, but my head involuntarily turned to the back area of the library where I last saw the guy with the striking blue eyes. Surprise, surprise. There he is, leaning against the wall, a couple of books on his hands. He was staring directly at me. Before I reached the door and went outside, I saw his lips curve into a slow, sexy smile.