“This is true love – you think this happens every day?”
It was a strange question for Gage Briody to hear on a midsummer afternoon in the public library. He had come in search of fresh literature, something to get his mind off his recent dalliance with the paparazzo girl. Perhaps a good biography or a spill-chilling horror story. Anything but romance… his heart had taken enough beatings. Yet on Monday morning at exactly half-past-eleven, he found himself reconsidering his views on love.
He propped against the doorway, listening to the librarian read. He had never seen anyone command a room’s attention like her, even if the room’s occupants were under the age of ten.
There was nothing remarkable in her appearance, brown hair, red-rimmed glasses, petite frame, dressed in pale pink. Yet she spoke as if every word was alive. She was enchanting.
When the reading was done, one little girl waved her arm around urgently.
“Why is it that the boy always rescues the girl? Why can’t the princess rescue the prince?”
“An excellent question, Susie,” she began slowly. “…and you know what, she can. She can fight those very same dragons and rescue the prince. All she has to do…” she paused, looking at Gage before continuing. “...is believe in her heart that she is very brave.”
Something about the way she said ‘heart‘ made his own skip a beat.
“Can I help you?”
His heart thudded. Speak up, man, he chided. Don’t go all gooey-eyed and tongue-tied or she’ll think you’re a fool.
“You are wonderful with them, Shelley,” he fumbled for the words like a child ill-prepared for the school spelling bee.
“Thank you, Mister… uh… I’m sorry… I don’t know your name. I haven’t seen you at children’s story hour before.”
“Oh I have more than enough reasons to return now,” he flashed her his best smile.
“Yes,” her smile tightened and he hoped he hadn’t irritated her. “My name is Constance. Shelley is my last name.”
“Constance,” he repeated. “I’m sorry. I assumed. I’m Gage.”
She shook his hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Gage.”
“How does one become a children’s librarian?” he asked.
“Are you looking to become one?” she teased. “It’s a long story. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to finish before my shift is done.”
“Have coffee with me,” he offered before he knew what he was saying.
“Excuse me?” she laughed, this time with an edge of nervousness.
“Then you can tell me about being a librarian…” he added. “And maybe recommend a good children’s story. I haven’t read many.”
She looked at him as if he had just given her a line.
“I’m serious… I didn’t really read when I was a kid, mostly because I was bouncing between foster homes.”
“How sad!” she said, and he felt a twinge of annoyance as he wasn’t looking for pity. “Reading is magical for a child… and an adult.”
“Grab coffee with me and we can talk about all the reading I’ve missed,” he offered.
“I can’t,” she replied meekly. “Try Princess Bride. I was just reading from it and I can’t recommend it enough. Lilith at circulation can help you.”
Gage’s eyes widened in shock. This was only the second girl in his lifetime to resist his charms. He was intrigued, but he couldn’t hope to convince her now. He didn’t want to appear desperate. He checked out a copy of The Princess Bride and found a park bench.
It was nearly eight-thirty when he closed the cover. Constance was right. It was well-worth reading.
Within a half-hour of wandering Four Bridges Park, Gage found an all-too-willing town gossip by the name of Nellie Spenster to dish on the mysterious librarian. He learned she was raised by a single dad. Her mother died young. She always had her nose in a book, and she was devoted to her dad. Upon his death, she inherited the library. He also learned she had a masters in library sciences, and that she had her heart broken by a young man from college.
So she’s single! he felt hopeful.
He would have to be respectful, but persistent. He had full confidence he could take her out for coffee by the end of the week. Upon returning the following evening, he made his offer again.
“Just a casual coffee,” he said. “Not a date. I’d like to get to know you better.”
“Then it is a date?”
“No…” he frowned in frustration.
“No?” she tiled her head. “Because you’d like a date. You’re just friend-zoning me so I’ll feel more comfortable.”
His mouth dropped open before he could stop himself from looking like an idiot. She started to walk away and glanced over her shoulder.
“The Phantom Tollbooth. Brilliant fiction.”
He read the recommended book and returned the next day.
“Are you Princess Rhyme or Reason? Might I rescue you from the Castle in the Air?” he smirked.
“No,” she smiled coyly. “And neither. I fancy myself as Humbug.”
He scowled. “Hardly!”
She giggled. “I’m kidding. Though now that you mention it, you need to flatter me into being your tour guide.”
He grinned slyly. “I’m not that green.”
“Oh yes you are,” she replied. “Where the Red Fern Grows. You’ll cry.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “I don’t cry over books.”
He cried, though he wasn’t about to admit it to her.
“Yes. It was good. Will you have coffee with me now?”
“You’re too young for me.”
“I’m eighteen. I’m a man.”
“That is not enough to make you a man. Read To Kill a Mockingbird.”
He was intrigued. He took three days to finish it.
When he returned, she inquired, “What did you think of Atticus Fitch?”
“He was committed to his principles whatever the cost,” he responded, though he was still in the dark about what that had to do with his standing invitation. “I take it that’s what you’re looking for… come on Constance. I keep coming back. That’s got to count for something. I want to get to know you over a cup of coffee. Is that too much to ask for?”
“Read Island of the Blue Dolphins.”
“You said you wanted to get to know me.”
Gage tried to read into the story. He was halfway through the latest recommendation when he was hit with a sudden realization. He was getting to know her. Maybe not in the way he’d like. Maybe not face to face. Yet there was something beautiful about sharing literature, something intimate in nature. He saw snarkiness like Buttercup in The Princess Bride, and a spirit of adventure like Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth. He sensed loyalty in her like coon dogs from Where the Red Fern Grows and commitment to principles like Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird. After finishing the last sentence of Island of the Blue Dolphins, he wondered if the librarian led a lonely life on her an island of her own making.
Thirteen days after he met Constance Shelley, he did something he hadn’t done before. He dressed in a pair of nice slacks and a pullover blue sweater. He walked to the Wright Reading Room and waited on an outside bench until the library closed. He saw Constance lock the doors.
“What does it mean?”
“Uh… Gage…” she looked surprised. “What does what mean?”
“Island of Blue Dolphins… it has some personal significance to you.”
Constance looked at the ground, “My mother gave it to me… on my twelfth birthday… before she died.”
Her expression seemed fragile as if her carefully locked away tidal wave of emotion would break at any moment.
He stayed silent. He knew the pain of losing a parent.
“Did you need to return something?” she broke the silence first. “Or are you here to ask me for coffee?”
“No, I…” he started and stopped. “I just came to tell you tonight that I brought you a gift…”
Her eyes widened.
“Don’t worry, there are no strings attached,” he reassured, running back to the bench and pulling a bouquet of purple peonies.
“They aren’t terribly original, but they’re not roses. I didn’t want you to get the wrong message,” he laughed awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I just wanted to thank you… Constance… for my summer reading… and to tell you I won’t be asking you for coffee again.”
Gage started to walk away, and was pleasantly surprised when he felt her hand brush his, and he stepped back in front of her.
He stood, dumbfounded.
Her face broke into the most beautiful smile he had ever seen as she spoke four little words that in any other context would have been a mere passing statement, but tonight they had special significance. They gave him hope.
“I don’t drink coffee.”
Word Count: 1479
Picture Count: 12
Author’s Note: This story was submitted for the August 2016 Short Story Challenge over on the Sims Forums and placed third! Hooray! The month’s theme was summer love. You can read about contest and vote here.
At the suggestion of CathyTea from Cathy Tea’s SimLit Anthology, I decided to write a story about Gage Briody who has made appearances in multiple stories of mine. What better way to reboot his story – From Riverview, With Love!
I’ve also always wanted to do a story with Constance Shelley as I think she’s a beautiful base-game Sim. I tweaked her appearance slightly and gave her a bit of back story, but I think she’ll make a fine addition to future stories of mine, and Gage’s life. I kinda had this song rolling around in my head while I was writing her character. Brownie points for anyone who knows this musical. 😉 And yes, the original is the best in my opinion. (FYI, the sound is a little quiet at the beginning of the clip.)
I hope you enjoyed!
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