The young girl standing in the library had never known her last name. Throughout the years, it had never bothered her that she did not know it, save for the obvious question, which in turn, had an obvious answer. The stranger asked “Who are you?” often with a curious nod of the head, and she, uncertain of how to answer the question would respond with the only name she knew
That was all she could tell the man. Her last name did not matter. In fact, it was almost trivial in nature. As a result, Christabel had seventeen different last names at her disposal at any time. She had a talent for coming up with something new, so often that when introduced by the stranger to someone else, she had to actively think “Who am I again?” So when the tall man standing in front of the desk smiled and asked her name, she began the act.
“My name is Christabel Haverschmit,” The name echoed through her mind like a bullet through the open space seeming to reverberate against the domed walls of the Angelus public library.
“Have-r-sha-mit, have to remember that, Have-er-sha-mit”, she thought. Remembering a name, even one she made up, was rather difficult. Her eyes stared downward, glancing at the checkerboard black and white tiles. The place was fancy, almost too fancy for a public library.
To Christabel, the man standing in front of her looked as though he had been present at the dawn of time. On second thought, he looked as though he had stumbled in here hungover from a night full of binge drinking. For all she knew, he was the librarian and he was waiting expectantly for her name so he could hand her a small 3 by 5 index card granting her entrance to this antiquated hall of learning. “I am antiquated,” she thought, smiling. “I am enjoying this too much.”
The man smiled back at her, showing a row of white teeth that seemed to gleam in her eyes. It suddenly occurred to Christabel how awkward it was to be standing in a public library in front of complete stranger in an age where information was a click away. This thought troubled her. Why had she walked five miles to the local library on a Saturday in December, wearing a fur coat and holding a bag across her left shoulder?
“I have no other place to go.” That thought, which had escaped Christabel just moments ago, reoccurred in a slow soft terrifying whisper of truth that sent a shiver down her spine. She looked around nervously, trying to feel out the area.
“Yes,” the stranger said, smiling “I know it’s a little creepy, but, the State still funds this place even in an age with Wikipedia.”
“Are you the librarian here Mr.?”
“Sheridan. And no I’m afraid not. I’m just a historian documenting Norse history and, well,” he paused, looking for the right words to say. There was a nervous chuckle that he tried to suppress that escaped his lips in a rush. “Your hair, ma’am, caught my eye.”
Christabel blushed. “Great, here I am, standing in a public library, and the first thing I see walking in, other than the fact it’s dead in here, is some dweeb staring with googily eyes at my hair and no doubt my boobs! Fuck!”
“That’s nice. Excuse me!” Moving across the room, she brushed him with her shoulder and for good measure, slammed the backpack across his face in an effortless motion. She had seen too much shit today to take it from the nerd.
All she wanted to do was sleep. The thought came again, louder and in a rush. “I have no place to go. I have no place to go.” That same thought which was once soft and almost eerily serene only five minutes ago, now echoed, becoming a chant.
Crouching down and sitting between two very tall bookshelves the frightened girl rested her head against the wall and closed her eyes.
She did not dream though. Instead the memories came.
She was coming home from school. Today was the day before her birthday, December 19th 2013. Christabel had almost forgotten that she was going to be eighteen tomorrow. Her adopted family had said that they were going to give her up at eighteen, but Christabel didn't think it would ever happen. Now the soon to be birthday girl was lying against the cold marble wall of a largely abandoned library, attempting to escape what was supposed to be her last day of innocence. She found this oddly fitting.
“I have never been able to live on my own terms, and so I allow fate to take me where it will.” This unspoken statement brought tears to Christabel's eyes, and softly sobbing, she pulled down the backpack and placed it in between her legs, unzipping it and taking a good look inside.
“This is all I own and I have no place to go.” Her eyes glinted in the artificial fluorescent light as tears began their slow descent down her bruised and battered cheeks.
“A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” she said out loud, unable to control the floodgates that were now her eyes.
At the stroke of midnight, the girl without a name drifted into sleep, but not before she thought she heard a voice respond, “Happy birthday, ma petite.”