A rush of cold air hits us as we enter. We walk over to the front desk. The line is short; only two people are standing in front of us. I look around. For a small town they have a pretty good sized library. It’s a lot bigger than it looked from the street. You can see where they made a huge addition in the back. There are rows of books and in the back is a long row of computers. All of the computers are taken, which isn’t going to be a problem since I brought my laptop and they have WIFI. The atmosphere is peaceful, a great contrast to the atmosphere in my house. It’s quiet, except for the occasional murmurs and the shuffling of books.
The line moves up and finally we’re the only ones in line. We approach the elderly librarian, whose name plate reads Mrs. Kimberly, at the front desk. She looks around her sixties. She has gray hair that is pulled up into a bun and warm eyes the color of amber. She’s wearing a gray suit, and around the back of her neck lies a beaded chain that attaches to her old lady glasses that are hanging on to the tip of her nose. As we approach the desk a warm smile appears on her face.
“How may I help you two?” Mrs. Kimberly looks to Sage and then to me.
“I was hoping you can help me find a book about the old blacksmiths shop,” I respond. The smile fades from her lips and her eyes lose all of their warmth. The whole place turns quiet — I can feel everybody’s eyes on us. Mrs. Kimberly purses her lips.
“If I were you two, I would leave this alone and mind my own business,” she scolds, while shaking her pointer finger at us.
“This is my business, ma’am. I live in that house.” I hear a few silent gasps and whispers.
“Well, then I hope you can find the information on your own.” She gives me a smug smile. I hear a few stray laughs of approval. Bitch.
“Thank you, for your Southern Hospitality, ma’am. You were a great help,” I retort, mimicking her accent; I even match her smile. Her eyes narrow. As I turn around and storm off with Sage at my side, every eye in the building is on us, condemning us. Their piercing stares follow our every move.
“That was weird,” Sage whispers.
“Bitchy old broad,” I mutter.
Strategically, we sit at a work table near the back of the library to make it harder for people to stare at us without it being obvious; some still do.
“I didn’t realize that my house was so popular,” I say aloud.
“Lower your voice,” Sage whispers, “you wouldn’t want us to get kicked out would you?” I don’t answer. I hunch over and I glare down at the desk, tracing the rings in the smoothed wood. My hair covers my face, hiding me from the onlookers. He attempts to stroke my hair but I shirk his touch and I wave him away — I’m too angry even for his touch. We sit in silence for a few minutes as I try to tame my temper. The snide remarks circling around us aren’t helping.
“That’s it. I’m gonna go look for a book about your house. You can join me or you can sit there and sulk,” Sage whispers while getting up from his seat. I don’t budge. I can feel him hovering over me. He leans down close to my ear and whispers sweetly, “You know if you want to go we can leave, we don’t have to stay here. But, you probably aren’t gonna be able to find out any information if we do.” He’s really vexing me. I don’t stir. If he doesn’t leave me alone for a second, I’m really going to go off on him.
I take a few deep breaths before I stand up and push back my chair. I slide my bag off of the back of the chair and I put it on my shoulder. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone would try to steal it. I walk silently behind Sage as we head to the nonfiction section. I try to look straight ahead and ignore the curious eyes, but I can’t help but glance to the side of me; I catch the eyes of a woman around her early twenties wearing an AC/DC shirt that has stopped reading and has been texting since we sat down. I quickly look away. What is wrong with these people? What have I done to offend them?
Sage stops short and reads a sign on the shelf. “Nice of you to join me,” he says lazily without looking in my direction; pain in the ass.
“What are you looking for?”
“The history section.”
He leads the way. I barely notice that Sage stopped in front of me until I almost walk into him. He stopped to run his fingers down the worn spines of the books. He finds one he likes and pulls it out.
“Look,” he says, placing the book in my hand. The cover reads The One Hundred and Fifteenth Anniversary of Sam Valentin, Texas.
“It’s a new book. It just came out last year,” he says.
“It could be helpful,” I shrug.
“There’s more like this over here,” he says, gesturing to the section. We grab an armful of books and go back to our table. We lay the books we’re not reading in a pile. We get to work. We spend the next two hours searching through books and for info on my laptop.
“Did you find anything yet?” I turn and ask Sage after a long while.
“No, not yet, have you looked through that pile?” He gestures with his hand to the pile of books now scattered across the table.
“Yeah,” I sigh, “nothing. The strange part is that I’m not finding any information on my computer either. All my searches are coming up blank. The only thing useful could be the first book you found about the one hundred and fifteenth anniversary of this town. It has a list of a few senior citizens that might know something.”
“That can be useful.” I hand him the book and point to the page. He skims the page, looks at the index, and then flips through the rest of the pages. “Well, I only need this one page.” Sage looks around the room and then starts tearing the page out of the book.
“What are you doing?” I say aghast.
“I would say this would make us even. Since nobody wanted to help us, we’ll help ourselves.” He tucks it in his pant pocket.
“Oh, and you were worried I was going to stir up trouble.”
“I’m not making a scene,” he scoffs.
“You better not get caught,” I warn.
“I can’t believe we’ve been here for two hours and that’s all we found,” Sage says in frustration, ignoring my last comment.
“Man, I hate this stupid town!” I say in answer.
“Shh, don’t say that so loud. This may come to a surprise to you, but there are folks here who have a lot of pride in this town,” he whispers in my ear.
We go back to reading in silence. We’re sitting so close that we’re almost touching. I rest my hand on top of a book, my palm facing upwards. It would be easy for him to casually slip his hand in mine — I wish he would. This time I wouldn’t pull away from his touch. Damn, I should have never shirked him off earlier. Why do I have to have such a temper?
Occasionally, I have glanced sideways at him. Sage’s brown curls are ruffled by him running his fingers through his hair out of frustration. His forehead is creased in concentration. He’ll look up and I’ll quickly turn away. The blush on my cheeks gives me away. I try not to look at him for a few minutes, but my restraint becomes weak and then my resolve disintegrates and I’ll sneak another look; when I do I’ll find him watching me. Even when I catch him he still doesn’t look away for a few moments.
“I think I found something!” Sage says.
“What?” I lean my head in towards him to get a good look.
“There’s a whole chapter dedicated to your house,” he says, pointing to the index of an old withered book.
“What are you waiting for? Go to it!” I say excitedly, and a little too loud — my reaction causes people around us to turn and hush me. “Hush yourselves people. And you,” I say pointing to a girl smacking her gum, “you have been chewing your gum like a cow for an hour and I haven’t complained.” Her mouth is agape, offended by my comment.
“Calm down,” Sage warns, “are you trying to get us kicked out?” He puts his hand on my shoulder and forces me back down onto my seat. My excitement is growing every second that passes. Can’t he flip the page any faster?
“What the — hell no!!” I groan. The whole chapter has been ripped out of the book.
“See, this is why you don’t rip pages out of books. You end up screwing somebody,” I lecture. “Now what are we going to do?” I say exasperated.
“Missing a page won’t kill anybody, and don’t worry, we can order this online.”
I am about to search Amazon for the book when the librarian appears behind us.
“There have been too many complaints against you two. I’m sorry to inform you that you will have to leave,” she patronizes. “I will take that,” Mrs. Kimberly says as she snatches the book out of Sage’s hand. She folds her arms over her chest as she waits for us to get out of our seats. I slide my chair back, adding extra force — making sure the chair legs grind against the tile floor, “Oops, excuse me”
I put my laptop in my bag and I pull the strap over my shoulder as we begin heading out of the library.
“Yeah, I’m sure she was sorry,” I say in the safety of the parking lot. “Do you remember the title of that book?”
“No, I didn’t get a chance to look before she took it out of my hand,” Sage says, glumly. “At least we have the page full of names.”
“That might help,” I sigh. Might is all we have right now and we might not find any information at all.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find something” Sage says reassuringly.
I wish I could believe that. We walk over to the truck — Sage walks to the passenger door and holds it open for me. I get in and he closes the door. He then goes around and opens his door and gets in. We buckle up and he starts the engine. As he starts the engine I notice a big black sport utility vehicle with dark black tinted windows pull in front of the doorway to the Library. The woman with the AC/DC shirt comes out of the entrance and jumps into the rear passenger side door.
“So where to?” I ask, keeping an eye on the sport-ute, which is just sitting there.
“It’s almost lunch time. Why don’t we grab a bite to eat?”
“Cool. I’m starving. What do you have in mind?”
“There’s a diner here in town. I go there all the time; it’s just down the block.”
“Sounds great,” I say with fain enthusiasm. He turns and smiles back before turning his attention back to the road. The diner is literally a minute away. When we get there we find an empty parking space close to the door. I’m bringing my laptop bag with me just incase they have Wi-Fi. Sage walks over and holds the door open for me.
“Thank you,” I say.
I notice the black sport-ute from the library pass by, but I can’t see the people inside due to the very dark tinted windows. Those windows would be illegal in Oregon, I think to myself.
Inside we take a booth next to the window. On the table there is a sign reading free Wi-Fi. Cool, just what we needed. I look around the diner. All the seats are either red or purple and the rim of the tables match the colors of the chairs. The waitresses are wearing outfits of the same color scheme, a purple and red striped buttoned t-shirt, jeans, and either a red or purple apron. It’s not so crowded here. We have been only sitting here a few minutes when a tall, blonde, Miss Teen Texas looking waitress comes over. Barbra or Barbie — go figure — looks about my age. She’s about as orange as a fresh coat of spray on tan. She is undeniably flaunting herself. Her plastic surgeon must be proud. She looks like a walking Barbie doll. Her breasts don’t add up with the rest of her. She resembles a stick figure with two balloons attached.
“Here you go.” She hands us each a menu. As she’s talking she rests one of her professionally manicured hands on Sage’s shoulder. This seemingly innocent gesture causes my blood to boil, because the look on her face tells me that there is nothing innocent about it. “I’ll be back in a minute to take your orders.” She gives Sage a warm smile and a slight squeeze of his shoulder before she turns and goes. He fidgets in his chair.
I use the menu to hide my anger as I scan the list of choices. The waitress shows up a few minutes later.
“Can I take your order?” she turns and asks Sage, while twirling her paper-thin hair around her finger flirtatiously. Her other hand is again rested comfortably on his shoulder.
“I’ll have a coke and a large burger with everything on it, oh, and some fries. Thanks.” He hands her back the menu while looking away. I wonder why he isn’t giving her any eye contact.
She turns and looks at me holding her pen to her paper waiting for me to answer.
“All right, I will bring you your drinks in a few.” Barbie tousles Sage’s hair as she leaves. Tramp. What is wrong with him?
“Why are you acting so weird?” I ask Sage after a long duration of time.
“What do you mean? I’m not acting weird,” Sage answers, combing his fingers through his hair. Why is he lying to me? I’m about to say something when the waitress shows up with our drinks. Again, she flaunts herself and Sage doesn’t even look at her.
“Why don’t you see if we can find that book on Amazon while we wait? Try searching for books on haunted places in North Texas,” Sage says as an obvious distraction. I don’t say a word as I pull out my laptop. I’m too mad to speak to him. Before I can find a WIFI signal Barbie shows back up with our food.
“Here are your orders,” she says with a smile. That’s weird? She places a salad and a plate full of celery sticks in front of me. I grab the coke and take a sip. Eww. The soda wasn’t what I ordered either. It’s diet.
“Um … excuse me, waitress,” I say grabbing her attention, not bothering to hide the provocation in my voice. She turns around and heads back to the table.
“Is anything wrong?” she asks as she looks down at our orders.
“Yes, as a matter of fact there is. I had ordered what he ordered.” A number of dumb blonde jokes come to mind.
“Oh, I know, honey. But that stuff isn’t really good for you so I brought you something healthy instead. The salad and celery are good for the figure and so is the diet soda,” she states innocently.
“Could you please, just give her what she ordered?” Sage pleads, finally giving her eye contact.
“What are you insinuating?” I say, irritation overtaking my initial shock.
“Nothing, but Sage likes his women thin, and you’re a tad bit thick.”
Oh, so this is why he’s refusing to look at her, she’s his ex. His clingy, jealous, ex.
“Oh, and I’m sure that’s why you’re still his girlfriend. Oh wait, you’re not!” I snap.
“I was just trying to help. You know what they say, you are what you eat.”
“So, you’re telling me that I’m fat?” Now I’m insanely furious.
“You are a little full figured,” she says, dovelike.
“That’s it!” I jump up from my seat and I slam my hands down on the table. She takes a step back.
“This is not happening,” Sage says. I turn to look at him. He’s leaning his elbows on the table, his hands cover up his face.
I turn my attention back to Barbie, she glares at me — her eyes are full of hatred and jealousy. The rest of her face fumes. I glare back. Guess the dingy act’s over. I clutch onto the edge of the table. If I let go I might not be able to stop myself from flying at her and separating her from her extensions.
“Tell me, how many scarecrow looking blondes does it take to get me my damn order correct?” I hiss through clenched teeth.
“Are you calling me dumb?”
“What was your first clue?” She narrows her eyes and stands there like a typical blonde bimbo, not knowing what she should do next. Come on make your move; give me an excuse to smash in that empty head of yours.
We stay at a standstill until the manager comes over and breaks the stand off, which didn’t take long.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“First the waitress brings me the wrong order, diet food, and then she calls me fat.”
“She called me dumb,” she retorts sounding like a six-year-old.
“I don’t recall those words ever crossing my lips.”
“Sir, could you please just have the waitress get her what she asked for?” Sage says, exasperated.
“Fine,” Barbie huffs as she gathers the diet food and drink onto a tray and stomps away to the kitchen.
“I’m so sorry about this. I’ll take care of it. What was your order?” the manager asks; pulling out a pen and paper.
“It was the same as his,” I tell him as I scowl at Barbie from behind.
“I’ll have another waitress bring your food by in a few. Your meals are free of charge.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“I’m sorry about that. We used to go out,” Sage says recapturing his voice after a minute. His face is flushed with embarrassment.
“Really, like I haven’t figured that out already?”
“I didn’t realize she started working here or I would have never brought you here.”
“She’s a pleasant one, a real charmer. How could you stand to be around her? I mean I could feel my IQ points dropping just from being near her.”
Sage doesn’t answer and I don’t care to know why. I rest my elbows on the table and I cradle my head. My hair falls down forming a veil. I take in deep breaths. I’m glad someone else is bringing my order; she’d spit in my food for sure. I hope when he said, ‘I’ll take care of it,’ he meant, I’m going to fire her. Can this day get any worse?
After another waitress brings me my original order, I’m finally able to calm myself down. Sage hasn’t said a word since his apology. Probably because he thought I might lose it. I might have. Taking deep breaths was the only way I kept from going ballistic. To think, for more than a week I was jealous of some dumb bimbo I was sure Sage was out dating. Please, I’m surprised that girl can keep a job; her brain cells must have died off long ago from lack of oxygen due to all those extensions being too tight; Aargh!
Take a deep breath, Mar; don’t give her the satisfaction of ruining your time with Sage.
I take a fry and munch on it as I try to think about something to say. Sage beats me to it. “You said you were my girlfriend, right?”
“You said, and I quote, ‘Oh, and I’m sure that’s why you’re still his girlfriend. Oh wait, you’re not.’ That means you are my girlfriend, correct?”
“Let’s get back to business, Romeo,” I say, changing the subject. “I can’t find the book anywhere online. What do we do now?”
“I think we should start with the list of senior citizens. Maybe their parents told them something about the house.” I brighten at the thought. I take another bite of my burger and I wash it down with some coke.
“It is not gonna to be easy. You saw how people got riled up when we just mentioned that ol’ house. Imagine how these old folks are gonna react when we go to their house’s and ask in person. They might just have a coronary,” Sage states as he waves a french fry around before shoving it into his mouth.
“It might be tough, but it’s worth a shot.” I take another sip of coke. I pull out my laptop and check for a signal. “Give me the list of names on the page.”
“Okay, the first one is Marion and Louis Walker.”
I type in Marion and Louis Walker, Sam Valentin, Texas. Two hits come up. I click on the first one; Marion Walker age twenty-eight, no, too young. I exit that screen and go back to the search engine. I click on the second link. “Found it, here write this down.”
“I don’t have a pen,” he states. I go through my book bag and find one.
“Here, write on the back of the page.” I tell him the location and we go down the list. Out of eight people on the list only six are still alive. “Let’s head out and see if anybody knows anything,” I say.
As we walk to his truck I notice the same black sport-ute parked down the street. I debate with myself whether I should say something to Sage. I decide not to since I can’t tell if anyone’s inside. Furthermore, if I tell him strange people have been following me for as long as I can remember he’ll stop concentrating on the ghost and start worrying about cutting all ties with my psychotic ass. I turn and give Sage a nervous smile.
We drive on in silence as we listen to the top twenty playing on the radio. Occasionally, we’ll catch each other glancing and we’ll blush in unison.