:: previous – Let Me Tell You Something
Subject: First Day Item
Good Evening Misa,
The admins of Black Mountain library can be notoriously slow at their job. Too cautious, I say. Therefore, I’ve acquired the most vital, most precious piece of your librarian journey to save you the hassle on your first day. It desperately awaits your signature.
If you like, I can drop it off tonight.
Ooh! I wonder what he’s gonna bring.
I place a cover over the stew I’m surprising Emilian with for dinner and message Mark back.
Subject: re: First Day Item
I’m available if you’d like to drop it off now, please?
Subject: re: First Day Item
The bell rings minutes later. My forever sunflower dances by the door, excited to see who’s behind it.
Ugh, I totally forgot I was in cooking clothes and no makeup. My hair is in a messy pony… I’m a disaster.
No time to get ready now.
“… He’ll understand. I hope.”
After a few deep breaths, I open the door.
“Hello Misa.” Mark beams. His clean-shaven face makes me do a double take. He’s in a black tuxedo with styled hair, looking like a completely new person without his beard. Even his cologne smells like power and sex. A scent that invites a closeness you’ll never want to escape.
“Hi, Mr. Paper—Mark.” Dread sinks inside when I remember what I’m wearing. I close my door and slink past him to one of the two rocking chairs on the porch.
He joins me as he looks ahead at the yard. Thanks to Emilian, it’s mowed neatly and glittering from its nightly watering.
“Nice evening, huh?” Mark says, smiling wistfully. “So, how’ve you been, Misa? Great to see you back from vacation.”
“Oh, heh, thanks… yea, I’m good… I was just cooking…” I slowly bundle the bottom half of my shirt in between my thighs to hide the broth stain on it. “You look nice. Are you going to a party?”
“That’s very kind, thank you. I am. It’s a literary gala. The usual drinks, awards, and prestige. Another fancy night.” He sighs. “It’s recreation for now until the solemnity of life returns at the weekend’s end. Hm. Perhaps I’m wearing too many hats lately.” He sighs again, but it feels sad. “I shouldn’t complain. But… if I could choose which hat to wear forever, it would be that of Black Mountain Library.” He turns to me. “Because there, I have you.” His voice is hushed.
“Huh?” What did he say?
“For the next gala…” His smile lingers on me. “Perhaps I can have you.” He quiets. “Well… that was strongly worded, wasn’t it? I envisioned a double date.”
“Oh.” I feel my cheeks heat. “A double date sounds fun!”
I’d love to see Emilian in a bow tie and unwrap him after… from the bottom up.
Mark grins and hands me a book. It’s dark leather and chunky with an engraved white sketch of the castle-like Black Mountain Library encircled by mountains and wildflowers on the cover.
I run my fingertips across the rough ridges of the mountain. It feels raw, like the real thing. “Incredible.”
“Indeed. This book will serve as your diary during your tenure at the library. From day one, it records everything you research on never-ending pages the instant it enters your mind. It’s a boastful way to remember your achievements. We’re all gifted one. Some make it into Aeterna Archives after an official’s death.”
“Wow, the archives? That’s huge. So, it’s like a memory book?”
“May I?” I nod. He reaches over to open the book in my lap and turns to the first page. In its blank hazy-gray depths, a gold line stretches across the page. “Press your hand…” He gently takes my right hand, setting it above the gold line. His fingers are long, soft, and nice looking. “Here.”
Beneath my palm, I feel each letter of my name engraved onto the paper in exquisite cursive.
Mark’s bright eyes dance over my face. “Turn to the cover.”
I grin and follow his instructions.
An image of a colorless garden replaced the library image. Within the star laced clouds a bright moon rises then fades as my signature replaces it, shining in gold cursive. From each letter of my name, a rainbow of liquid leaks and swims downward, drenching the front cover as the garden image comes to life in a vivid tropical night scene.
“Mind-blowing, huh?” Mark whispers. “The diary feels your essence and projects it onto the cover. Yours looks like a paradise.”
I nod, breathless.
“Welcome to Black Mountain Library, Misa Honey.”
Instantly I see my mom, dad, and Micah’s smiling faces in my mind cheering me on. Their happiness fills me with warmth…
Until they fade.
Because they’re dead.
I bite my lip and try to think of something funny to not cry… Oh! The time Emilian fell in the pool shooing a bee away while we were taking a photo together. His facial expression when he got out with his drenched clothes and wild hair… All night he complained about how unfair it was he couldn’t kill bees. And even though we missed our dinner reservation, he made the juiciest gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches for us instead.
We ate them poolside, beneath the stars.
That was a great night.
“You’re quite welcome, Misa.”
“Did your diary do the same?” I ask.
“Yes, but the image shown varies person-to-person.”
“What does yours look like?”
“Nothing special, just a colorless sketch of the library.”
I study him. “That’s it?” I expected something crazy since he’s a famous anonymous writer.
He nods. “Certainly not as sexy as yours…” His eyes close as he inhales the air, then locks eyes with me. “Mmm. Quite the scent. What’s for dinner?”
“Stew…” His eyes bounce between my lips and eyes. “Um. Just veggies, potatoes, meats. Baked buttered bread on the side. It’s Emilian’s favorite and perfect since it’s kinda chilly out lately.” I smile and hug the diary to my chest. Mark’s gaze makes me nervous. “I can fix you a bowl, and drop it off, if-if you like…”
“That would be lovely…” He quiets. I follow his narrowed gaze to my hand.
He’s looking at my engagement ring.
The silence between us is thicker than this diary.
“Your vacation to Synestia went well, I see.” He finally says.
“Y-Yeah, it did.” I blush remembering how wild me and Emilian got out there, especially when we ate Tangled Red petals. What a ride!
“Thrilled for you. Congratulations.” He smiles lightly. “Oh, and for your diary, you can sign it again after the wedding. To register your new Grim surname, I suppose you’ll no doubt take on.”
I can see it now, born from the clouds.
“Thank you, Mark.”
His gray-blue eyes lock with mine. “My pleasure, Misa.”
A flash of bright headlights blinds us as a dark sports car pulls into my driveway.
Wasn’t expecting her this evening.
She slams the car door shut and marches over. Her long, dark hair is in a low pony. She looks ready to fight someone in her black tank top, red joggers, and black sneakers.
Weird. She’s always in colorful dresses and heels.
“Tehanie, are you okay?” I ask. Mark is still beside me.
“Hello.” He stands and extends his hand to her. “Mark Paper.”
“Um. Hi.” She frowns but shakes his hand. “Tehanie Wilde.”
“What?” I blurt.
That isn’t her name. She’s married to Emilian’s dad, Weston Grim.
“I know what you’re gonna ask.” Tehanie mutters. Her big brown eyes shoot to Mark, then back to me. “Are you in the middle of something? I could use a friend right now.”
“I’ll see you soon.” Mark strokes my arm. His touch is caring and gentle. “Goodnight, Misa. Miss Wilde. A pleasure.” he smiles.
“Have a good time. Thanks again for bringing the diary.”
“Is that the neighbor you were telling me about?” Tehanie asks, watching Mark walk to his car.
“Yeah, and my co-worker. He’s the Fiction Advisor for Black Mountain Library. He vouched for me.”
“His vibe is different… Nice hands, though.”
She looks zoned out as she watches his sleek silver car turn a corner.
Something feels wrong.
“Let’s go in. I made some stew. Are you hungry?”
She nods. “Just hungry for love.”