The Library

Hannah was diagnosed with cancer when she was twelve, and was pulled out of school at thirteen when her condition became terminal. In the time since she left school, she discovered a love for reading and began to spend time at the library that would shape her life.


2. Another Day.


“Can you drive me into town, Dad?” I asked as I left my dirty bowl and spoon in the kitchen sink after breakfast. It was my little brother David’s turn to do the washing up, so he could worry about them when he got home from school.

“I can’t, Han, I have to go to work,” he replied. “You know that.”

“The doctors said I’m supposed to keep out of the cold, and it’s freezing today. I can’t walk there,” I said. “I have a library book that needs to be given back.”

Dad sighed. I sometimes felt bad when my life made his a struggle, but Dad knew that the reading was the best thing that I had going for me. He had started working full-time after I was pulled out of school in order to pay for my medication and treatment, but also to pay my library membership. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a five-pound note. He handed it to me.

“Call a taxi,” he said. He smiled then, even though I knew he didn’t want to. Spare cash wasn’t something we had a lot of.

“A bus fare would be cheaper,” I said. “I think there’s a bus into town at half past nine.”

“You’d have to stand at a bus-stop and wait,” he said. “Just get a taxi. Don’t worry about it, Han.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said quietly. I could hear my brother stomping around upstairs – probably looking for his school shoes - while dad looked for his mobile phone I stood still, letting family life just carry on around me. Sometimes I wish I still had to stomp about in the mornings to look for school shoes, but I don’t. I don’t have to waste what’s left of my life in a classroom.

I picked up my own mobile to call a taxi. The woman on the other end said that a taxi would pick me up at about nine O’clock, which I said was okay since my dad and brother would have left by then, if David ever found his shoes...

“I’m off,” called Dad from the hall as I hung up. “David, do not be late for school!”

“I’ll make sure he gets out on time,” I said, standing in the doorway of the kitchen.

“And you, be safe, okay?” he said softly.

“I will,” I assured him. “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, Han,” he smiled as he left the house, shutting the door behind him.


*              *              *


I got out of the taxi as it stopped outside the library.

“Thanks,” I said to the taxi driver, handing over the money.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” he asked suspiciously.

"Maybe I should; maybe I shouldn't," I replied.

He glared at me suspiciously.

"Don't say I didn't warn you, when you end up in trouble," he muttered. I wondered what he would say if he knew why I was out of school.

“Thanks,” I said, as the taxi driver gave me one last suspicious look before driving off. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed inside the library.

It was warm inside, and it smelled like old books. Just the way it always did. Just the way I liked it. The quiet inside the library was only punctuated by an odd whisper between a couple of students or the librarian, Mrs Agalia, a woman in her mid-fifties,  going about her work behind the desk, clicking the mouse of her computer and shuffling papers. She smiled at me when she noticed me coming in, and I walked over to her desk.

“Hey, Mrs Agalia,” I smiled.

“Hello, Hannah,” she replied. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Sure,” I said. Eating and Drinking weren’t allowed in the library, except for the staff behind the desk. Mrs Agalia had gotten to know me, so she quite often let me sit behind the desk and have a cup of coffee with her while she worked. I felt comfortable around her, with her cardigans and old turtle-shell glasses. She was almost like an aunt, or maybe even a grandmother, and best of all, she had lost her husband to cancer ten years previously. She knew what sort of situation I was in.

“There you go,” she said, handing me a mug. “It’s not the warmest, mind you.”

“Thanks, Mrs Agalia; I don’t like it too hot anyway.” I replied, sitting myself down in the chair in front of the computer as she rooted through a filing cupboard. I took a sip of the lukewarm coffee.

“What are you reading at the minute?” she asked.

The Catcher in the Rhe,” I said. “It was on that list of books you suggested for me.”

“Ah, yes,” she replied. “How are you enjoying it?”

 “It’s good,” I replied. “Don’t know what I’m gonna read when I finish it.”

“Hey, can I return this?” I heard someone say. I looked up and saw a girl around my own age, which was unusual. She should be in school.

“Of course, dear,” said Mrs Agalia, taking the book from the girl. She noticed me sitting behind the desk.

“Hey,” said the girl. She seemed friendly.

“Hi,” I responded. “You’re off school too, then?”

“It’s closed today,” she explained. “I go to a specialist school.”

“Oh right,” I said. By specialist school I assumed she meant the school for kids with special needs and learning disabilities, but she seemed pretty normal – not that I had anything against kids with disabilities or anything.

“How about you?” she asked.

“It’s kind of complicated,” I chuckled. “I don’t actually go to school.”

“Why not?” the girl asked, surprised.

“I don’t want to talk about,” I said. “Anyway... I’ve never seen you here before.”

“My mum usually gets books for me while I’m at school,” she said. “I haven’t actually been here for months.”

“I’m here pretty much all the time,” I laughed.

“What’s your name?” asked the girl.

“Hannah,” I replied.

“I’m Katherine,” she smiled. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen,” I said. “You?”

“Fourteen.” She replied. “You said you come here a lot, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I have to go, my mum’s waiting for me outside, but maybe I’ll see you next time I’m here,” she smiled.

“Yeah, maybe,” I replied. “Come at the weekend, I’ll probably be here.”

“Okay,” she said. “Bye, Hannah.”

“Bye,” I replied. I watched her walk out of the library, and wondered if I’d actually see her again. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have friends...

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