I’m a geek. Can’t help it. Books are my jam.
Hell, I even think as if I’m reading. The words of my life’s narrative scroll through my head like my brain is a page in some twisted geeky journal of my awkward existence.
Spending time with rectangular prismatic worlds in the library surrounded by its sun-faded teal-colored walls and mildew-scented carpet makes me able to breathe. The lure of hiding from my reality in a story explains why I’m here on the last day of summer break—that and avoiding my best friend Iggy’s plan to chase girls. Again.
(Note to self: Books don’t have legs, so they can’t run away. They also can’t laugh at the geek trying to ask for their phone number.)
I carry the small stack of books in my hands to the circulation desk where the librarian sits on her rickety stool. I return her smile.
“Hey, Mrs. Locke. Just turning these back in.” I set the books on the counter.
“Already, Zaidyn?” She leans her elbows on the counter and her chair creaks. “Didn’t you check them out two days ago?”
I shrug and glance at her seat. It’s a good thing she’s little. That crappy chair would break and dump a bigger person on the floor.
“You know me. I read fast.” And I have no social life.
“Well, go ahead and re-shelve them for me. I’ll have to check them in later. The system isn’t working right now anyway.”
“When is it working?” I pick the books back up and shake my head. “The internet has never worked well here.”
“Nope,” she says with a sigh. “With the bad wiring, there’s not much we can do about it. But there is hope. I’ve heard of a possible plan to build a new library.”
“That’d be cool.” My parents have talked a little about this at home because they represent the people who own the land for the proposal. But according to them, everything has stalled. Not sure why.
“If the city council gets off their behinds and move the project forward.” She snorts. “But I’m not holding my breath. They may never get it going.”
“Well, I hope they do. We need it.” Spoken like a true book nerd. I take my books and set them on the return cart. “I’ll put these back for you, too.”
Mrs. Locke raises her eyebrows. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t mind. It’s too hot to go outside and at least the air conditioning works here.” And it’s not like I have anything better to do.
“Thanks, Zaidyn.” She tucks a flyaway strand of her salt and pepper hair behind her ear and laughs. “You’ll save my knees from more stress. As much as you’ve grown this summer, you won’t even need the ladder like I would. I’ll bet you can reach the top shelves without it now. I swear you shot up at least twelve inches.”
“Yeah. Something like that.” I rub the back of my neck with my hand, turning away before she can see the redness I know creeps across my face. Everyone comments on my unexplained growth spurt this summer. Mostly with jokes about puberty being better late than never. Typical. My geekiness is unlimited.
And it is too late. Outside I’m six-foot-one and a hundred and eighty pounds of new muscle. Inside, I’m still a five-foot-eight hundred and fifty-pound book worm everyone comes to for help with their homework—or to make fun of so they can feel better about themselves.
I push the metal cart toward the bookshelves and wince at the loud squeaks coming from the wheels. There aren’t many people here, only a couple of older men reading at the shabby tables and one mom trying to entertain her two young kids in the small children’s section to the left of the adult shelves. But the tomb-like silence of the library magnifies the squeaking and even the kids stop climbing on the couch, cover their ears with their hands, and look at me like shut the hell up.
Grabbing the first book, I check the spine for the Dewey number to get started. Shelving books is boring, but I know where most of them go and move fast. Besides, it beats doing whatever embarrassing thing Ig has planned for me.
Iggy’s preoccupation with my sex life—or lack of sex life—increased the closer we got to the end of summer. Even for a best friend, that’s weird. Good thing he doesn’t know who I really like. The shit he’d do with that information could lead to catastrophic embarrassment.
One book left. I pick it up and cross to the correct shelf, checking the numbers. Top shelf. Time to test Mrs. Locke’s theory.
I glance around to make sure she isn’t watching me, but she’s tapping away on her computer keyboard, probably trying to get the internet to work. Lifting the book, I frown. Despite my height, I can’t reach the top without standing on my toes and stretching my arm as far as it goes. Even then, it’s still a little out of reach.
I’m about to give up and go get the step ladder but then I’m floating. The resistance of the carpet against my toes is gone and I drop the book, slamming my chest into the shelf. Books rain down onto the floor and my feet, which are definitely on the worn carpet now. With my head spinning, I rub my temples with my fingertips.
What the hell? Did I just have a stroke?
“Dude, I knew I’d find you here.”
Jerking around, I face Iggy and fall backward into the shelf again. More books fall.
“Jeez, Ig.” I wave a hand at the shhh from the old man reading at the nearest table and lower my voice. “You scared the crap out of me. How about a little warning next time?”
Iggy raises one blond eyebrow. “This is how you want to spend the last day of summer vacation? I thought we were going to hang out at Northside?”
Taking a deep breath to stall, I mentally run through the stroke test. My face isn’t numb, and I didn’t slur talking to Ig. Stretching them overhead, my arms raise equally. I just tripped, that’s why I fell into the shelves. How the hell could I float off the ground? Sheesh.
(Note to self: Check out a book on neuroticism because you definitely have issues.)
Squatting to pick up the books, I whisper to Iggy. “Eating ice cream isn’t what you had planned, and you know it.”
“C’mon.” His blue eyes crinkle with his grin. “I’ll help you pick up then let’s get out of here.”
“Why?” I place a book on the shelf and pick up another. “So you can embarrass me?”
“Ugh, that hurts, dude.” Iggy holds a hand over his heart. “I never try to embarrass you.”
“And yet you succeed.” I hand him a stack of books. “Make sure they are in the right order.”
“What are you afraid of, Zaidyn?” He takes the books and chuckles. “If things work out, you could start senior year as a real man.”
“Takes one to know one.” I look down and reach for another book, but they’re already on the shelf. Glancing at Iggy, he tilts his head toward them.
“How did you…?” He must have stuck the books on the shelf without ordering them. Checking the numbers, I frown. They’re all in the correct place.
“I’m good with my hands,” Iggy says and shrugs. “The ladies love that. Ice cream. Now. I’m hungry.”
He steps away and heads for the door. I run through the stroke test again because either I had an embolism or Iggy knows how to stop time. I glance at the orderly books and shake my head. Book nerd imagination again, I guess.
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