do you wanna be a member?
The library closes far too early, in her opinion. Sure, it closes at eight, and sure, maybe she ought to try just showing up earlier, but in her defense, it isn’t solely her fault. She only gets off work at five, and there are just so many books to read. How are three hours anywhere near enough?
She frequents the place almost every day, knows it like the back of her hand. But there’s something off about it today. Maybe it’s the fact that the historical fiction section switched places with the biography section, but that was last week.
Lily grabs her books and walks up to the counter to ask Peggy whether or not there’s a copy of Everything, Everything available and oh shit that’s what’s different.
There’s a different librarian - a bloke - at the desk, with hair too messy to be legal, glasses too outdated to be unintentionally bought, and a shirt too wrinkled to ever have come in contact with an iron. He’s the kind of fellow who’d be perfect as the main character as one of the books Lily wants to check out - maybe a Peter Pan or a Percy Jackson kind of fellow.
He looks up from fiddling with the cuffs of his button-down, meets her gaze for a moment, and cocks an eyebrow.
“You’re the first person under forty I’ve seen so far.” His voice almost seems to echo, and it’s much louder than most librarians tend to be.
Lily can’t even tell if he’s being dense or just kind of cocky, but she’ll place her bet on the latter. It’s clear as day in the way he holds himself - self-assured, unashamed, even a bit arrogant but still good-natured.
She crosses her arms. “That’s not true, and you know it. You’re literally right next to the freaking children’s section.”
The bloke laughs, a sound almost out of place in this quiet library. She owes herself twenty dollars.
“Check and mate, I guess. But then again, it’s not like I can really see them.” He taps his glasses with a
ridiculously long finger. “They’re getting smaller every day, I swear.”
Lily even smiles at that for a second, before stuffing it back where it came from. This arrogant, loud-mouthed (they’re in a fucking library, has he no sense of volume?), far-too-handsome idiot has no place in this library of hers.
(All the same, she wouldn’t mind reading about someone like him.)
“Yeah, sure” she says, quickly, trying to get to the point. “Listen, do you guys have another copy of Everything, Everything?”
He shrugs. “Hell if I know.”
Lily is done with this bloke. She makes her way around the desk to where he’s sitting, pushes away his chair (“Oi, what d’ya think you’re doing?” but he doesn’t sound particularly annoyed, just curious), opens up the catalog page on the monitor in front of him (the first thing she sees when she opens it up is a March Madness bracket - she now kind-of-sort-of-really wants to punch the guy), and soundlessly types in the words Everything, Everything.
No more copies available, but there’s one currently on hold. And it’s not hers. Damnit.
The guy standing behind her takes a look at her screen, and she can hear him let out a breath. “Oh, shit, that book? Isn’t that the one with like the mysterious guy and the girl who’s supposed to be sick but - “
Lily hastily shoves out her hand, as if to slap it over his rambling mouth. “No spoilers!” she all but yells. And she realizes that she’s being such a hypocrite right now, so she adds, a little bit more quietly, “Please.”
The bloke smirks, like he knows exactly what she’s thinking. “Alright, then.” He peers over at the screen once more, and Lily presses the power button. She gets up, and moves over to the side of the desk that she ought to be on.
“Well,” she says curtly, trying not to smile (for some reason) at this
endearing annoying stranger. “Thanks.”
He grins at her. “Don’t mention it.”
Suddenly, something occurs to Lily. “Hold on,” she says slowly. “You’ve read this book?”
For some reason, the bloke turns red. “Er - um, no? I got it for my friend…Marlene? And like I read the summary on the back -”
Lily smirks. “Liar. You’ve totally read it.”
If possible, he turns even redder - it’s quite a funny sight. “I was bored, alright? And it was lying around - I really had bought it for Marlene - and I…may have skimmed it?”
Lily laughs and tucks a strand of red hair behind her ear. “Why are you acting so defensive? It’s just a book, relax.”
“Well, it’s not as good as the Percy Jackson series.” Besides the point, but Lily can’t deny that it’s true.
“Fair,” she admits.
She notices a watch on his hand (it looks extraordinarily beat-up, made of old leather and a face of cracked glass), and checks the time. Crap, the library closes in a few minutes. “I really should be going,” she says, making sure she has all the books she wants before turning around.
(She’s not sure if she’s imagining it, but the librarian’s face seems to fall slightly.)
Just as Lily’s about to head back, she hears a quiet “Wait.” She turns around.
“What is it?”
“Er.” The librarian looks…pretty sheepish, and he rubs the back of his neck. “What - what does it say on your shirt?”
Lily almost rolls her eyes, and she pulls back the cardigan she’s wearing.
“I left my heart in a book,” the guy reads. He looks back up at her.
“Is that, like, for a book club or something?”
Lily stares at him in confusion. “Sorry?”
“The shirt - you must’ve got it from some sort of club.”
“I…got it from Macy’s? So no, not a book club.”
He looks quizzically at her. “You know, you should probably make that shirt a book club, then.”
Lily raises an eyebrow. “For hearts in books?”
“Yeah, something like that. Like, aggressive bibliophiles or something.”
She perches herself on the desk, her legs starting to get tired of standing, and almost ends up knocking over a stapler. “Who’d join?”
“Yeah, and I’d grab some friends, too. Get some drinks, maybe some fries, and master the art of abandoning our poor, forsaken hearts in some dusty old books.”
Lily actually lets out a laugh. “I - don’t think that’s what it means.”
“But wouldn’t that be more dramatic?”
Come to think of it, it would be. Lily tries to envision it, but the only thing that really comes to mind is some sort of cult with an obsession for Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. And they, of course, take their fries with a small cup of blood.
Anyways. She shrugs, and gets off the desk. “You do have a flair for the dramatics, then. Say, who the hell are you?”
His hands fly up to his hair - for what, to make it even messier? - and ends up almost knocking his glasses off the bridge of his nose.
“Stop giggling, bloody hell. And it’s James.”
Against her better judgement (sod it all, rational thought), she reaches over and pushes up his glasses. His hazel eyes follow her fingers, and he looks a little bit cross-eyed. It’s all a little bit sweet.
“James, is it? Well, I’m Lily, founder of the Hearts in Books Club.” The bloke - James, now - snorts at that, only causing to Lily to giggle even more.
James looks down at his watch . “I think the library closes right about now, you’d best be off.”
Lily swears under her breath, and James raises an eyebrow.
“Now, what was that?” The accent he’s putting on sounds a bit like some old-fashioned English professor, which kind of goes with the button-down, but not with the hair. “You do know you’re near the children’s section, next to so many impressionable young minds - you wouldn’t want to give them the wrong idea -”
“Oh, sod off,” she says, but not before glancing over to see if there’s anyone under the age of ten watching them. She checks to see if she still has all her books, and actually turns to leave.
“See you, Jimmy.” She smirks.
“OI, WATCH IT!”
Once she turns the corner, she can’t stop smiling. And even once she gets home and picks up her books and tries to - tries to lose her heart in them, damnit, she can’t stop thinking of James and the Hearts in Books Club and that damn hair.
Fuck, she thinks.
Lily returns to the library the next day, of course - she needs to pick up the sequel to Six of Crows, the novel she just finished.
(And she may or may not want to see if James is there.)
(He isn’t. Peggy is back, and though she loves Peggy, she’s a bit disappointed.)
(What is wrong with me, she thinks.)
After finding Crooked Kingdom, finally, she traipses over to the holds section. As far as she remembers, she doesn’t have anything on hold, but it’s always good to check.
There’s a book in her slot.
Furrowing her brows, she reaches up (and, quite embarrassingly, has to get up her tippy-toes; damn her lack of height), and grabs it. It’s hardcover, feels pretty new, and strangely enough, it doesn’t have that clear library binding around it.
The cover reads Everything, Everything. It’s the book she wanted yesterday - the one that the library shouldn’t have an available copy of. Confused, Lily opens the front cover, and the first thing she sees is a little note on a yellow Post-It, scribbled in Sharpie.
Can this be the first book of the Hearts in Books Club?
See you Thursdays and Tuesdays.
There’s a little smiley face doodled next to her name, and Lily feels a strange, swooping feeling that she normally only feels at the end of a really good book.
And oh, fuck, she can’t stop grinning.
(But maybe, when she gets home, it’s something more than the book itself - something having to do with the note on the inside front cover - that prompts her to read it over and over again).
(Maybe. Just maybe).