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The Library is Closing Now

The article about the library shutting its doors appeared in that day’s newspaper. When Tom had read it – it was a short piece – he folded the paper and leaned back in his chair. After a minute he rose, shuffled to the sideboard and in an orderly way pulled out its drawers and placed them next to each other on the floor of his kitchen-diner. He searched through them in turn, like a fox digging up a garden.

After some minutes he found what he was looking for. His library card.

He held the scuffed plastic to the light, as if through it he might see back ten years to the night he’d visited the library.

In his youth he’d been a regular, but had lost the habit. So – nothing to do with books – he must have been lured out of the autumn rain that night to retrieve something one of his kids had left there.

He could picture the broad beech doors that opened automatically, hear the squeaking echo of his damp shoes on the parquet inside. The library had an odour of polish he’d only once smelled since, months after, when he sat, of all places, in a courtroom. Lilly had come to mind then, too.

That first night she’d been the only other person in the library, or it had seemed that way.

Tom saw her before he reached the front desk. She was strikingly dressed. She wore a coal-black cloche hat. A red scarf half-strangled her. Some sort of grey cardigan and tight, ripped jeans. She was weighing a book in each hand when she smiled at him.

That was enough to make Tom circle towards where she stood at the bookshelves as if he’d always meant to browse. He half-heartedly touched the spines of several books.

She turned to him though he was still a few feet away. “Do you know,” she said, as if she’d known him for years, “we might be the only ones who read in this town.” And that smile again. It quivered before it exploded, testing the boundaries of her face. Her teeth were paper white. These things he could never forget.

Ignoring her odd clothes, she was extraordinary. She could have been flattered by the library lights, but thinking back – who’s flattered by library lights? She was vibrant; skin the colour of sand. There was a fetching order to her face. Under dark eyelashes and the charcoal brush of eyebrows, her eyes faltered on the cusp of green and brown.

At once, all her beauty disappeared into the book she held. Even as she edged towards him, one coltish leg side-stepping the other, she was elsewhere. She passed so close he could smell her. Jasmine.

“You like books?” Tom’s words, aimed at her back, were wrong. They hung, clumsy, in the air, far enough away that he couldn’t grasp their useless tail and drag them back to his mouth.

She did not shift her gaze from the book as she moved away. Strands of dirty blonde hair had escaped her hat, dropping like snakes either side of her face.

Still she read. Her tongue, on leave from her mind, sauntered around her lips. But eventually: “Like isn’t the word. I’d marry Faulkner. He makes me dizzy.”

“He has that effect on me too.” This meant as a joke. He’d never read Faulkner – too difficult. But his words were enough to lift Lilly’s green-brown eyes.

“Really?” She turned back and said she’d never met anyone else dizzied by Faulkner.

“I’m Lilly,” she said simply. Her gaze held his, long enough to make him blush, and dropped to his mouth. Sizing him up. “You have wise eyes,” she said. “And a nice mouth.” And then, “You’re very wet.”

The lights flickered. Lilly said the library would soon close.

“I’d better run,” Tom said. On the way out he looked back: “I’m Tom. Nice to meet a fellow book lover.”

He realised too late – when he was back in the car – he hadn’t even got as far as the desk.

So he returned after work next evening to pick up his kid’s anorak – that was it, an abandoned anorak. The quirky girl wasn’t there, but on a whim he handed his driving licence to the librarian as proof of identity and received a pristine library card in return.

He took home a skyscraper of books;  ones Lilly had hovered by or read the previous night. Faulkner and Hemingway and Woolf and others.

He started Faulkner in bed. Hemingway was poised on the duvet above the hillock of his tummy. But his eyes floated over the words. He could only think of Lilly and her smile and the thoughtlessness of her tongue. The way her mouth curved. Her frankness, her opaqueness. Her long legs. Her tight arse in those jeans. But what was she – nineteen? Twenty? Ridiculous.

His wife spoke out of the gloom of the other side of the bed.

“Since when did you start reading again, Tom?”

“I used to, a lot.” He turned a page in defiance. “Before.”

Before. Before he’d married and had kids who never stopped questioning and a job that sucked every breathing moment out of him.

He closed the book and turned out the light.


He returned to the library that Saturday. Lilly was there and gave him an evanescent smile before a book captured her. She lowered herself to the parquet, bending left leg over right. Seconds later she absently twisted her right leg over her left knee. A pretty, hatted buddha.

It was a tableau so fragile he could not bear to break it by speaking. He stood watching, nervous as a fifteen-year-old, his tongue scraping around his dry mouth. Her absorption was childlike. The constancy of her gaze mesmerising. She was here, yet hostage to another world. How long since he’d read a book that way? There had been a time, surely.


Over the next few days, Tom became a library regular. He withdrew books and returned them next day without opening them. All to be near Lilly. “You read as much as me,” she’d said.

One night, a week later, she touched him.

He thought it accidental at first. He knew now it was down to her awkwardness. The bookish fluency she carried in her head was trapped there. She touched him because that was her way of articulating something she stumbled to say.

She had been cross-legged again on the floor. He’d been skirting the shelves and had distractedly picked up book by John Donne, a poet he remembered from school. When he opened it a familiarity stirred in him. He’d read this before to someone. He was so captivated that he jumped when Lilly appeared at his side.

She looked over his shoulder at the poem he was reading. “I love The Good-Morrow,” she said. “It’s dirty.”

He closed the book and turned to her. “Is it?”

Lilly nodded. “When he says country pleasures,” she whispered, “He means cunt.”

Tom gulped. It was then that the back of her hand brushed his, just teasing its hairs. Her hand retreated and returned. This time its fingers shaped to interleave his and just like that they were holding hands.

He glanced at the wall clock. Five to eight. Her hand was clammy. They stood, mute. Her head moved to rest on his shoulder. This was childish. She was odd. Still, his head dipped against hers. He had a hard-on he prayed didn’t show.

It was the librarian, appearing at the end of their aisle, who separated them with a cough.

“The library is closing now,” she said.

Later, back in his own front room, Tom poured glasses of wine for him and his wife. She looked at him over her spectacles.

“Tom,” she said, waiting for him to look at her. “I hope you’re not having an affair.”

He reddened. “I’m not going out to singles bars, for God’s sake. I’m only at the library.”

She sipped her wine. “But don’t you remember dear? You must. That’s where we met.”


Tom hadn’t meant to return. Not after what his wife had said. But he had, and Lilly was there, cross-legged as usual, perched on a table at the back of the library. She looked different: she wore an unseasonal summer dress rather than jeans. She was hatless and wasn’t reading. Instead she was sucking a straggle of her own tousled blonde hair, watching the door. She jumped down when Tom arrived and ran to embrace him.

That excited and troubled him. Was that silly dress all for him? Why wasn’t she like a normal teenager? What could she want?

The joy on her face battered those questions. She pulled him behind ‘Large Print’ and kissed him so urgently it stopped his breath. Her kisses were extraordinary; the more thrilling because they lacked expectation. They were fluid, haphazard, seeking for the joy of seeking, longing and not knowing what they longed for. His erection groaned painfully in his trousers.

When his tongue responded and fumbled into her mouth, she became feverish. She lifted the hem of her dress and under its cover drew his hand towards her, palm first. She edged it under the waistband of her panties. His fingertips touched first her smooth skin and then the spider web of her pubic hair. She pressed his hand down until the volcanic, wet heat of her burned him. He curled his finger inside her.

“Don’t be silly,” he whispered. “The librarian…”

Lilly ignored him. She gripped his forearm to fix him there. Her free hand glanced against his sheathed erection, and began unzipping him.

“You’re crazy.” His eyes darted. “And I’m too old.”

“William Faulkner’s a hundred and twenty.” Her staccato breath in his ear. “Guess what I’d do to him?”

At that his cock sprang through his briefs, and as it slapped on her hand a single jet of sperm pulsed white onto her palm.

“Oh Jesus,” he said and pulled away to tuck himself back in.

But Lilly took Tom’s pliant hand in hers, still wet with his come. She pulled him, shuffling, into a dark corner of the library and through a door at the back.

They entered an annexe that just about accommodated an untidy desk. The room was unlit, but its windows allowed enough evening light in to see the dust everywhere. Nobody had been here for months.

Even as he was tentatively pressing the door closed behind them, she was unbuckling him against it. His cock burst out again, solid and slimy and aching. Kicking off her shoes, Lilly knelt to capture it in her mouth. Her tongue circled it, her mouth sheathed it. Her eyes met his as her lips moved up his shaft and slowly, so slowly down again. It was glorious, but he was unbalanced by how fast things were happening. He pulled back and his penis popped out of her mouth and bounced upwards off her nose.

Lilly was possessed. She stood and took his hands, walking backwards, dragging him until she came to rest against the edge of the desk. With those constant eyes on his, she reached down and in one move pulled her dress over her hips and shoulders.

Lilly’s volatile mix of confidence and vulnerability, innocence and depravity was disorientating. But she was beautiful shorn of clothes. Her nipples dark discs against the rise of her breasts, her tummy button a dot like a distant planet on her flat belly. His hand, in search of something to do, reached to cup one goose-fleshed breast, the nipple like chipped stone under his palm.

Lilly turned her back and scraped her hands over her boyish hips to remove her panties.

She slid her hands onto the desk and two books clattered to the floor.

He looked sharply to the door.

Lilly bent naked over the desk and over her shoulder said, “Fuck me, Tom – like Henry Miller.”

Her bum cheeks were irresistibly rounded, subtly lighter than her legs and back. They pressed against his erection. He leaned over and put his lips to her back. His mouth drew down her spine to kiss the shallow at its base. His tongue trailed further, down the gap between her cheeks – she tasted of Jasmine and dust. Lilly lifted her hips to help his slick tongue slot into her arsehole. She gasped when he flicked her there, arcing his tongue into the hole. Tom’s hands grasped her cheeks and he slid further down, his tongue searching for the folds of her, working its way towards the dark furnace-heat.

Only the tip of his tongue could reach her there, yet the sweetness of what he tasted put him beyond reason. He stood and, aiming his fat cock, he climbed and entered her. He felt at once he was too big for her, yet fit perfectly. Painfully hot, yet deliciously warm. He pulled out and re-entered just to feel afresh that perfect confusion along his shaft. Lilly was suddenly servile; her fists clenched against her head, chest flat on the desk. Tom smacked his body against her. Each more savage thrust sent a ripple through her and the desk inched forward, scraping the floor. He no longer cared about noise.

Any gasps that came from her were strangled. He smacked into her aggressively, over and over, her bottom quivering. Then he pulled out and turned her. Her legs, long and dirty, crashed past his torso. He glimpsed the web of dark fuzz before her legs circled him. As his mouth covered the tight cone of one breast, making it shine with his spit, he entered her again.

Lilly clutched him, nails gripping his shoulders as if she were scaling a mountain face.

His arms scooped underneath her and lifted her while he was still inside her. He carried her and laid her on a slender run of carpet next to the desk.

As he thrust Lilly whispered tiny incantations between gasps that came faster and higher and more tremulous. He pressed into her so deeply his groin met the inside of her wet thighs.

He flipped her trembling body on top of him. It was too much for Lilly. She moaned and shook and bit and thanked God and kissed his neck and giggled. And as soon as he felt her wetness on him, he was coming too, his hips thrusting beyond his control, his spurts entering her deeply. During that fleeting madness he wanted more than anything to seed this crazy girl who straddled him. She had taken part of a memory and bent it until it came alive.

When it was over her grip weakened. She kissed him blindly, her face wet against his. She slipped off him and rolled onto her back, naked and panting.

Tom sat up and wiped his hand down his dirty shirt. A sickening regret was swallowing him.

He looked at Lilly. Her legs lay slackly apart, knees bent. Oases of sweat or spit or spunk shone on her belly, soiling her innocence. He glimpsed his own cum seeping out of the soft dark snatch that had maddened him minutes before.

Lilly, insensible to his thoughts, twisted onto her front, the dusted curve of her spine and bottom casually displayed. She cupped her chin over outstretched fingers and smiled.

“What should we do now, Tom?”

“I’ve no idea, Lilly.” His only thought: how to rid himself of this mad girl.

Her voice was softer. “What would Hemingway do?”

Books, always books. Why not common sense?

“Hemingway, I expect,” Tom stood and zipped up his trousers, “would shoot himself.”

There was silence. He gathered his clothes. She pulled on her dress and shoes. Grasping the door handle, Tom glanced back to check no trace of them remained. Head bowed, Lilly followed him out through the library. The librarian nodded as they passed.

Outside it was darkening. The air was heavy and sweet. Leaves turning.

Tom needed to explain the fiction of the life this crazy girl led. But she was so unpredictable he could not risk a public scene. He motioned her into his car. As soon as she’d shut the door he said, “I can’t do this again.”

She looked at him blankly.

“I have a wife, Lilly.”

Lilly turned away. She bit her knuckle so hard it broke the skin.

Tom spoke again, hurriedly. “I thought you might have guessed. You – should have asked.”

She looked at him. Liquid trembled on the shorelines of her eyes. He could not meet her gaze and turned to stare through the windscreen.

Still Tom: “I mean, why me anyway?”

Her voice was friable. “I’m lonely,” she said. “Nobody understands. I thought you were the same. I’m odd, I know. Can’t help it.” A sigh escaped. “That’s why I go to the library. At least with books I can live a hundred better lives.”

Tom gripped the steering wheel. His knuckles whitened.

“Books aren’t life, Lilly,” he said, his voice tight. “I should know. Books – ” He banged his palm on the dashboard. “Books are a load of crap.”

After a few moments the passenger door clicked open. The weight of her lifted from the car. A wintry cold whistled in. Still he looked at the road ahead.


Tom scratched the library card with the nail of his thumb. Lilly had been callow and lonely and beautiful. But he had been right. Life wasn’t like books.

She would have understood eventually that books had endings, strands tied in a final chapter. But life was different – it could not have endings because stories went on and interrupted other stories. Their strands frayed and could not be repaired.

He replaced the library card in the drawer. He lifted it to the sideboard and closed it, much harder than he’d meant to.




This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © puddleduck/fuzzyblue

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