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you're the book i can't put down

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It’s a quiet Monday morning at the Elmdale-Schitt’s Creek Library, just how Patrick likes it. As he reads through the requisition requests emails, stopping at It's a Jungle Out There, Jane: Understanding the Male Animal in Your Life, and shaking his head at Ms. Gwen Currie’s suggestion, Patrick still can’t believe how things have changed so much in the last six weeks. It is a bit of jungle, he supposes.

As he goes to the drop box to collect the Sunday and overnight returns, Patrick thinks about how he drove away from everything he knew and that was familiar in Blossom Park; his family, his friend group, Rachel, and trying to piece together work between helping his dad’s business and the unfulfilling assistant librarian position at the public university.

While sorting the books and DVDs to be checked back in by Edie, the retired-teacher-turned-clerk who works in the mornings, Patrick winces when he sees a copy of the wedding planning book that had sat for so long on Rachel’s nightstand. Riddled with tabs sticking out of various sections, Patrick remembers how he’d stay late pouring over spreadsheets with his dad, or offering to be the carpool driver for away beer league baseball games so that he could slip into their bedroom after Rachel fell asleep, the book often the last thing he would see before turning off the lamp next to her bed.

Avoiding the conversations, the awkward touches, and resigned sighes, he recalls the shame when he had started to pull away from her again as soon as the post-engagement comments turned from “When are you going to make an honest woman out of her?” to “You’ll be popping babies out in no time!”. He had stupidly hoped getting engaged would quell some of his lingering anxieties about their relationship, but they had only increased tenfold until Patrick reached his breaking point. He knew he could never marry Rachel.

Walking towards the small safe where they keep the cash drawer for people to pay for overdue books and printouts, Patrick reminds himself that he did the right thing, even if he may have bungled the exit. Turning the combination lock, he thinks of how miserable he and Rachel would have been long term. No one should feel trapped in their own bedroom, but Patrick couldn’t wait to escape each morning to go to a job he didn’t like much better. The weight off his shoulders once he blurted out that he was leaving and that they were over as a couple had propelled him forward. Where that boost will take him eventually is to be seen, but Patrick is content with where it has carried him for now.

“Hello, Patrick! Nice day out, isn’t it?” Patrick’s overthinking ends thanks to the cheerful arrival of Edie, her neon floral purse clanking onto the desk.

“Good morning, Edie. Yes, I think I need to get out for a hike before the rain arrives later this week.” Patrick smiles at the kindly woman, her colorful reading glasses perched on top of her short silver hair. Edie reminds Patrick of one of his favorite college professors bundled with the warmth of a neighbor that has known him since he was a baby. She treats Patrick like the adult and supervisor he is, but enjoys bringing him a tin of cookies or boosting his ego just a bit by complimenting one of his many blue shirts.

“You go grab yourself another tea and I’ll get started on checking in those returns.” Edie pushes up the sleeves of her sweater, heading to the front.

With just 15 minutes before opening, Patrick takes her suggestion and fires up the electric kettle for a refill. Living with Ray, the world’s chattiest landlord/roommate, is still a work in progress, especially during the first few weeks when Patrick wanted to just mope around. To not reach his limit of Ray-ness per day before 8am, he often comes in early with his breakfast and tea to the library. The morning is good for enjoying some reading of his own or catching up on what little internet he cares for since he had temporarily disabled most of his social media pages when he left Blossom Park.

It had been a stroke of luck when he saw the short-term opening in the Elmdale Library system. He had spent many nights browsing postings from his childhood bedroom where he had escaped to after leaving Rachel for good. The permanent librarian had requested an extension on their maternity leave, but the previous long-term substitute could not stay on any further. With only a 4 month time frame, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for Patrick to start somewhere fresh without a ton of a commitment.

Finding Ray had also been fortunate in that he was a multi-business proprietor and consultant. Patrick, concerned about the viability of a Library Information Sciences degree, had minored in Business as a backup plan during undergrad and partially because he had already spent a lot of time helping and learning from his father’s own one-man accounting firm. He found that Ray was more than eager to hear about his experience, and even offered that he could use some very minor assistance in exchange for a reduced rent cost. So, one or two evenings a week, Patrick would organize and handle Ray’s expenses and paperwork. Having an outlet for these skills that had always interested him gave Patrick some hope and contentment, leaving him daydreaming about starting a business himself some day.

With a warm mug and the sun shining through the tall windows towards the east, Patrick unlocks the main entrance, boots up the printers, and flicks on the remaining lights in the children’s section, reading nook, and meeting tables.

The morning starts with some regulars; parents ushering their children around, seniors finger typing slowly at the bank of computers, and college students meeting to discuss projects and Friday night’s party scene. Once he reviews the morning administration emails, updates the weekly online calendar, and confirms some of the upcoming presentations in the next two weeks, Patrick sends Edie on her break and posts up at the front desk. He loves that he gets to be involved in all aspects of the library including patron services. It was one reason why he was ready to leave the profession altogether after bureaucracy and meetings consumed his life back in the university system. Being stuck in a dingy back office with no interaction with what made him fall in love with libraries, books and people, had been another boulder for him to carry back home.

After collecting change and assisting Mr. Takagi with his printing from a classic cars website, Patrick turns to survey the open and airy room before what can only be described as a bolt of lightning rattles through him. In the non-fiction section stands possibly the most uniquely gorgeous person Patrick has ever seen.

Patrick’s heart thuds in his chest as he takes in the long legs in tight black denim, a marbled gray and white sweater hugging a strong and solid body, and the effortlessly statuesque swoop of raven hair and stubble lit by the mid-morning sun through the skylights above. An expressive face scans what looks like the economic and financial books, corners of the full lips shifting in contemplation. While Patrick had a multitude of reasons for why he ran away from Blossom Park, the main one is being illustrated by the man across the library from him.

He is 100% gay and it has never been more clear than in this moment.

Patrick briefly closes his eyes and wills his lungs to expand more fully, but he realizes he has lost sight of the mysterious and literally breathtaking man. Time is on his side as he glances up at the clock before noticing Edie returning to the circulation desk.

“I’m going to take a turn around,” Patrick spits out as he swirls his finger to gesture towards the perimeter of the library before Edie can get talking to him. As he nearly trips over the main desk, Patrick catches a glimpse of some bent knees with olive skin peeking through artfully torn jeans in between empty shelves in the DIY stacks.

Patrick tries to play it cool. He has seen attractive people before, celebrities even, like that time half the NY Rangers dropped into that dive bar in Toronto or the movie production that came to his college campus. He reminds himself he is at work, but this for some reason is on a whole other level. It takes thinking of the staff checklist for Patrick to center himself. As he approaches the printers, he opens the cabinet below to get some paper to refill them. Standing up, he spots a white-clad shoulder jutting out from an end cap catalogue computer station.

Quickly grabbing the children’s books that need to be put back after their morning visitors, he shoves them where they belong. It’s not his fault it is easy to watch the black hi-tops shift up and down an aisle over top of the child-height shelves. The man now looks to be wandering aimlessly around non-fiction, cradling a book in his long fingers which are adorned with thick silver rings. The traitorous sun glints off of them, catching the corner of Patrick’s eye while he fruitlessly tries to reorganize the picked over young adult fiction from the weekend.

As he finishes up with all the tasks he has for now, he sees the man glide across the main floor towards Edie at the front desk. Patrick would have to power walk like a gazelle to make it there to help him, not to mention, attempt not to make a fool of himself, so he decides against it and hangs back to watch.

The man gently steps to the counter, not as if he is ashamed, but more like he is trying to make himself a little smaller or less noticeable. Patrick doesn’t understand how anyone could not notice him in an instant. He must have complimented Edie’s glasses as she grins and touches the frames. She quickly checks out the man’s book, hands him back his card, and it takes no time for him to slip past the front doors and out of Patrick’s sight. The electric energy Patrick had felt over the last ten minutes ebbs into a small orb of warmth in his chest, replacing much of the anxiety and doubt that had overshadowed his choices of the last few months.

With nothing more to waste time with on this side of the floor, Patrick walks back to the front desk. Edie moves towards the far corner to help two younger women figure the ancient copy machine. Patrick makes the turn around to the main counter, wondering what he would have even said to the mysterious man if he would have been the one to help him. Would he have paid Patrick a compliment too? Would Patrick have had the guts to give anything other than a friendly greeting (but not comment on his book, rule number one of library customer service).

Leaning his palms on either side of the staff desktop he looks up to the screen. He always forgets that it leaves the last patron logged in until the next card is scanned, therefore Patrick is met with the name he longs to know in large block letters: David Rose.