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“I live with two guys,” the librarian said. She gave David a cheerful grin and bent to admire a five-year-old’s artwork. “Great job!” Small children clustered around her, one holding her arm and swinging to and fro, others thrusting books and construction paper masterpieces at her.
David tried to put the disconcerting image her words raised out of his mind. What the hell had he said that had produced this response? His memory was blocked by a series of disjointed stills from self-generated porno movies, but he concentrated. Hard. No, not that way, dear God. He’d said, yes, that he’d moved into the Old Mill House with his daughter and she’d said something about living in the house at Mackin Corner and … and so she said…
She said she had housemates.
She looked altogether too wholesome for what he imagined. A corn fed girl, his dad would have called her, tall, with a braid like a thick gold rope hanging halfway down her back.
Statuesque. The brief moment of lust subsided, as they did these days.
He looked around for his daughter. She sat against a rack of books, reading, ignoring the friendly chaos. He sighed, trying not to feel resentful that he’d arranged his schedule around this kids’ event at the library.
“Some kids don’t join in right away.” Librarian Kate—so her nametag proclaimed against a background of cheerful balloons–plucked a tissue from a box on top of the nearest bookcase. She administered a firm wipe to a runny-nosed child pushing against her leg.
“She’s shy.” David said,
“Ah.” She nodded and turned her attention briskly to the kids. “Okay, then. Story time’s over. Why don’t you guys show your moms your pictures.”
The children swarmed toward the bank of moms who sat at a nearby table and who cooed over pictures and books. Most of them headed for the checkout, a few lingering to look at David. He was fairly sure that he had been the subject of their whispered conversation—the new guy, the single dad, marital status unknown but speculated upon, renovating the Old Mill House. He had browsed the new book section during the program, in view of his daughter, allowing her to join in and not cling to him. Except she hadn’t joined in.
His daughter unfolded herself, clutching books to her chest.
“Want to check those out, honeybun?” David asked.
“No. I read them all. Can we get ice cream?”
David glanced at the window where sleet rattled against the glass, the Blue Ridge Mountains obscured by low clouds.
“The kids in the book got ice cream,” she insisted.
“Choose some other books, then,” David said. He stopped himself saying And then we’ll see.
“It’s a bit cold for ice cream.”
She gave him a curious look as though he were an alien. “Okay. And then we get ice cream?”
“We’ll see,” David said, wincing. He didn’t even know where they’d be able to buy any in this unfamiliar town.
Steph wandered off between the shelves.
“She’s a good reader,” Librarian Kate said gathering Steph’s discarded books. “Gordon’s sells ice cream. Nothing fancy.”
“The general store on Main?”
She nodded and smiled, a goddess tossing a favor to a mortal. “That’s it.” She reached out a hand and plucked off his nametag.
He took an involuntary step backward at the slight contact.
“Sorry,” she said. “Sometimes people get embarrassed if they find themselves outside still wearing one.”
“Thanks.” He watched as she folded the nametag and threw it into the trash with the snotty tissues and broken crayons.