Hello, all! This is my first attempt at writing a story of this sort, so I hope you enjoy! It's only just started, and there's not much 'action' yet, but hopefully in the next couple chapters I can get to 'the good bit'. Between the Stacks Chapter One: My best friend has a saying: The only people who become librarians are old women, pædophiles, and nerds. It's probably not true (after all, I know at least one person who works at the library who's a year younger than I, dumb as a brick, and happily-married-thank-you-very-much), but I know that in my case, unfortunately, it's true. Not the first two, obviously (I'm neither old, nor a woman, and I'm certainly not a pædophile!); I'm rather a nerd. I admit it, I read Proust and Joyce for fun, think that the state of literature these days is disgusting, and rue the day that I ever decided that an English degree was going to be too expensive and too useless to continue with. It's probably not the most interesting story, that of a university drop-out who takes evening-courses to get a certiﬁcation to be a librarian. Which is why I won't tell you more than the need-to-know things. It's important to know, for instance, that I'm from a middle-class Scottish family, was terrible at sports, and only achieved a satisfactory physique after I decided that being mistaken for a short fat highschool student wasn't exactly my cup of tea. You should also know that I'm especially fond of being looked down on by men who decide that, just because I happen to be shorter than averageat a proud, if not desirable 5'3I also should be given the same level of respect as a petulant teen. And it's for that very reason that I was rather snappy on the day in question. I had been told earlier by no less than three people that it was 'Surprising that they let students be the manager-on-duty', and was more than fed up with the day. And so, here begins my tale. I hated this part of my job: Sticker replacement and repair. You probably wouldn't ever think that all those labels on books telling you the code number need to be replaced with some regularity. What you probably also wouldn't ever think, is that they all have to be printed and stuck on by hand by a person. It's a tedious business, finding the book's code, inputting it into the label template, printing them oﬀ, and carefully removing and replacing the old stickers. It's enough to drive the sanest among us positively batty. It was something along this line of thinking that my internal monologue was ranting when a voice with a slightly foreign inﬂexion interrupted my angry train of thought. 'Hi there, I was wondering where I could find the newest Stephen Ki' I interrupted him in my flattest, most uninterested voice, 'The newest Stephen King book is currently all booked out, and will only be available on hold after a period of two to four weeks. If you want to place a hold, you can go online and place one there, or if you can't use a computer, you can get me to do it, in which case I'll need your library card and about two minutes of your time.' 'Oh..... I guess I'll just do it online then.... Sorry to bother you.' I looked up for the first time, the strangely dejected tone of voice catching me oﬀ guard. I looked up. And looked up a bit more. The voice had a body with it, and that body happened to have the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. I realise you're expecting a long exposition about how his muscles rippled through the too-tight-to-be-legal-or-even-real shirt, and how his pants bulged in a way that would oﬀend even the most liberal and welcoming of people. That well may have been the case, but I didn't notice. I've always been a sucker for beautiful eyes, and by god these fit the bill. Blue-grey, with a slightly darker outer ring, and shining-- 'If you happened to have any of his other things available, I'd be grateful.' Damn him, and his bursting into my internal rants! 'Oh, well we have a lot by him. He writes at an inhuman rate. Is there anything speciﬁc you were looking for?' I pause awkwardly for a moment, 'A-apart from the newest one that we don't have, of course.' I try to smile my way out of my awkwardness. He returned my somewhat-strained smile with an easy-going smile of his own, 'To be honest, I don't know. I was told by a friend that I absolutely must read his works, so here I am. Give me your favourite.' 'Well.... He has short stories, novels, and he spans a couple of genres, so let's start with...' I pause, humming-and-hawing while I think, 'Why don't we start you oﬀ with a book of short stories and a novel. Get a taste of each.' I work my way out of the traﬃc-jam of trolleys blocking the way out of my kiosk. 'Just this way, if you will?' We head over to the right shelf, weaving our way through the dozens of aisles between us and our goal. Once I find the right shelf, I turn, expecting him to be a ways behindthe annoying side-eﬀect of being a fast walkeronly to find him but feet away. I jump slightly, eliciting a deep chuckle from the man. It's a nice sound. Not too gravelly, but deﬁnitely a man's laugh. 'Sorry about that. It's not often that I don't have to slow down when walking.' he chuckles a bit more. I eye him, trying to feign comic suspicion. I get a smile! 'Well. Let's start you oﬀ with.... This one here, and....' I scan the shelf quickly, 'This one' I quickly deke around him, 'right here.' I hold the two books out for him. 'The novel is about the end of the world, and the short-stories are mainly about death and destruction. Fairly typical for his books.' He takes themwait, did he linger? No, I was just imagining it...too badand looks them over. 'That's great, thank you very much! Now I just need to get a library card, and I can take them out. You can do that for me, right?' I nodded, only just now giving him a quick once over. After all, I was double-checking that I had given him the right books. Or...something.... A poor excuse, I realise, but attraction is great for fucking up your brain. 'Sure, I'll just need a piece of I.D. and five dollars to pay for your card.' We walked back to the desk and I dodged my way through the low shelves and throng of trolleys. It only took a couple of minutes to get the required informationNiels! his name!and sign out the books for him. He smiled, shoving the still-warm library card back in his pocket, 'Thank you for your help...' he leant down melodramatically to look at my nametag, '...Malcolm. If I need anything else I'll know who to come to now.' I watched him as he left, momentarily silhouetted in the doorhe must have been at least 6'3 to have filled the door like thatbefore he left, and I was left to my duties again. It wasn't a minute after he left that I was forced to help a pair of very angry seniors find the book they'd put on hold. My moment with Niels faded from the present and into the past. A week or two later I was having a pint with my best friend, Annaa spunky Dutch lesbian who may have only been 5' tall, but who could make over-eager straight men regret it faster than...well...something that takes about 45 seconds to do. I was having my usual pint, she having her usual screwdriver. 'Lafaard! Jij stomme trut! Ik zou je slaan tot je kan niet zo dom!' she barked at me, her black hair flying around her head as she gestured angrily with her glass. 'What? It's not my fault that I didn't ask him out!' I replied, my own voice raised. I was probably the only one who would dare yell at her, but even I only did so in some jest. She glared at me, her expression telling me exactly how little she thought that my excuses were worth. 'Fine, may it is partially my fault. It's not like I really had much of a chance though! I was working, you know. My boss doesn't usually like the customers to be frightened off by nervous people asking them out on a date. Anna shook her head, downed the last of her drink, and leant forward. 'Come here.' I looked at her, warily. She wasn't afraid of using percussive maintenance: Especially on her friends. I leant in slowly, my eyes squeezing shut in anticipation of the blow. I waited.... Wait.... She didn't hit me.... I opened one eye to look at her. SMACK! 'And next time, don't argue with me when I tell you you're being stupid!' she slumped back in her chair, a look of smug satisfaction on her face. I must have been dazed by the blow, as I quite clearly saw Niels through the crowd surrounding the pool tables. He was fairly hard to miss, to be honest. I perked up, craning to get a better look. No way he would be here.... Anna turned quickly, head moving slowly across the crowd. 'What do you see, Malcolm?' I tried to look over the throng, having lost him. Maybe I didn't see him at all. After all, Anna has been known to cause damage with her maintenance-hits before. No, he wouldn't be in a hole-in-the-wall place like this. 'Hmm? Oh...nothing.... I thought I saw someone, but I didn't. You owe me at least a beer now because you made me fucking hallucinate.' I waved my empty pinter at her. She sighed, grabbed it from me, and took it up to the bar. In the end, I decided that I must have just been wishing I'd seen him. Anna went home with the bartender, I went home without my last beer, and Niels, where ever he was, went on with his life, not, I imagine, thinking of me at all.