The Library by george-wilson
Erin lightly tapped the spines of several books as she skimmed the shelf, humming under her breath. She hadn’t expected much from the town’s public library, but there were surprisingly more books on music than she thought. Suppose lots of bored people who’ve retired are teaching it, maybe? Erin wondered, but goodness knows. The university she was attending had a decent music program, but that didn’t mean the rest of the town would accommodate it.
Still, she was thankful. Especially since her professor decided that the paper they needed to write had to have three physical sources, along with two other ones. God forbid she just hop on Google for an afternoon–not even–and drum up sources easy-peasy.
Lazily thumbing another book, Erin pulled down one titled How to Teach Piano Successfully and hoped it would prove useful enough for her to use. She already had a small stack in her arms to work with, so the chances of at least three of them being handy was decent, right?
Erin meandered a bit before finding a vacant table and setting down her haul. As she was about to take a seat, a rapid tap-tapping on her shoulder made her jump and whip around.
“Ah, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!” A woman, timidly twisting the strap of her purse, bit her lip and bowed her head slightly in apology. “Um, but, you wouldn’t happen to have seen a young boy wandering around, have you? It’s my son, he’s wandered off I’m sure, I’m sure he’s okay, but it’s been a little bit and…”
“Oh, I haven’t, I’m so sorry,” Erin said, sympathetically placing a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “But I can help you look quick?”
“Oh please, if you could. I already asked the staff and they’re helping, and I’ve looked in the children’s section downstairs so I’m hoping he’s just up here somewhere…”
After assuring the distraught mother that she’d take a look around, Erin set off back into the thicket of bookshelves. It was about an hour after school had let out, so there were a few kids in the library, but most of them seemed like teens, maybe middle school age. She wandered for a bit, wondering if any of the boys were the woman’s missing son–
“Wait,” Erin muttered, and stopped a moment. “She didn’t tell me what he looked like.”
Sighing at her own stupidity for not asking, Erin turned back to find the mother. She spied the woman sitting at a table, a book in front of her and an employee next to her. They spoke quietly, the employee pulling away the hand they had on the woman’s shoulder and patting her briefly before walking away. Erin glanced after the employee before walking up the woman herself.
“I’m sorry, I completely forgot to ask what your son looked like!”
The woman stared at Erin a moment before seeming startled at the question. “Well, his name’s Drew–Andrew–and he’s…” She trailed off, glancing down slightly. Her face had the look of someone trying to recall a distant memory.
After a moment of silence, Erin cleared her throat. “Ma’am? Your son, what does he look like?”
“My son, he… he has dark hair, green eyes like mine, and…” Another bout of silence as the woman began fiddling with the book in front of her, using it like a security blanket. She was acting like Erin was interrogating her.
Erin very much wanted to help–a missing kid was scary, she had an idea what this woman must be going through–but her almost dodge-like way of speaking was starting to get irritating and suspicious. Was this lady just messing with her?
Unable to fully keep the tone out of her voice, Erin started in again. “Look, lady–”
Suddenly, and for the second time that day, there was a tap to Erin’s arm, cutting her off. As she turned to see who it was, a messy-haired young boy stepped up between Erin and the woman. He looked down at the book in her hands as he spoke. “Miss Hanson, I haven’t seen your son yet, but I talked to one of the librarians and they said they saw him running around up here. I’ll send him your way as soon as I find him.”
The woman tearfully faced the boy and smiled. “You’re so kind for helping, thank you. I’m glad he’s still here and okay!”
“Mm-hm.” The boy nodded, rubbing his nose where his glasses rested on them. “This girl here was helping me–we’re gonna split up and find him, okay? Sit tight.” Like the employee earlier, the boy patted the woman’s arm before motioning for Erin to go.
“Thank you both!” the woman said, sniffling a tad as they both left her.
As Erin dumbly followed behind the kid, he waved briefly at the librarian sitting at the nearby desk. The librarian–the same employee from earlier–gave him a thumbs up and a look, and Erin was just more confused. She turned to ask the kid what the heck was going on, but he’d already taken off.
She stood there for a moment, not really sure what to do. She didn’t want to bother the mother–she seemed to have her own problems, aside from a missing child–and the kid was gone. She had her own work to do, but… the boy had said that her son had been spotted, and volunteered her to find him and send him back to his mom. Letting out a baffled sigh, Erin went off in search of… a kid, again. At least this time she knew he had dark hair and his name was Andrew.
Finally, finally she came across the young boy with messy hair and glasses from before sitting on one of the big, comfy chairs, lazily flipping the pages of a book. Erin quirked her mouth. So much for looking for that lady’s kid. She huffed. I mean, he has dark hair, but she didn’t recognize him…
“Uh, hey-y,” Erin drawled, waving slightly as the boy looked up to her. “Say, you didn’t happen to find that woman’s son, did you…?”
The boy blinked, pursed his lips, and then glanced to the side–likely at the clock on the wall. It was about a quarter to five. Sighing, he grabbed what looked like a library card out of his pocket and put it between the pages of the book he held.
As he stood and moved to walk past her, Erin, shocked, turned to look after him and called, “Uh, excuse me?” She didn’t even know what to say–this kid was kinda rude. Whether he was the missing boy or not, he could at least answer! And if he was the one that lady had been looking for, he could be a little more concerned! What the heck?
Sighing, the boy turned to face her, his nose wrinkled and face scrunched as if to say, “You’re being a nuisance.”
“Then come with,” was all he said, and he kept walking. Not really sure about the whole interaction, Erin decided to follow.
As they approached the commons of the second floor, Erin spied the woman still sitting where they’d left her. She was still toying with the book in front of her, not seeming to be reading it but really just using it as a way to waste time.
As the boy reached her, he placed his hand on one of hers and said, “Here I am, mom. Sorry for worrying you.”
The woman looked the boy–Andrew?–directly in the eyes, and her own eyes lit up while a smile split her face nearly in two. “Drew! Thank goodness you’re okay! You had me worried sick, why didn’t you say you were going to go off and look?” As she gushed her relief at her returned son, the woman stood and tightly embraced Drew. He looked embarrassed, but returned the gesture.
“Sorry mom. Just wanted to find a book to read. I’ll say something next time.”
Erin was baffled.