Friday night was always the best night to go to the library. Gil and I knew that no one else would be there (still football season), so we agreed to meet there to work on our science fair project. I’d called him after school on Friday, and it was not the warmest of conversations. I had no idea what was wrong—again! (Why had he left me behind in the hall? Why was his manner with me so … changeable? One minute, oven; the next, freezer.)
But I was determined to find out—or to just plow ahead and pretend nothing was wrong. The whole phone conversation was almost infantile in its simplicity—like an introductory lesson for people trying to learn English as a second language.
“What do you want?”
“We need to plan some more for our science fair project.”
Silence. Breathing. I tried a question.
“Want to go to the library after supper?”
“See you there.”
Isn’t that exciting? Romantic?
I hesitate to use the word romantic, by the way. But Harriet’s puzzled, quizzical, amused look in English class had announced to me that she had known something before even I did. And that “something” was that I was having certain … feelings. For Gil. Who was responding in the oddest ways. Like avoiding me in the halls. Like offering me one-word sentences in conversations.
There was no way I was going to make a fool of myself over him, though. Besides, I knew nothing about girl-boy things—well, except what I’d read in books. And some of what I’d read there just seemed impossible even to imagine. So I decided not to. Though I’m guessing that most people are no more successful at controlling their imaginations that I was in the ensuing days and weeks.
Another reason for the library trip: I also needed to start my local history project, which I’d sort of dropped the night I first found Gil looking at newspaper microfilm about my house. I’d been so upset that night that every other thought had just fled my brain “like bandits from a burglar alarm.” (I stole that line from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.—one of my favorite writers. It’s in his story “Harrison Bergeron.”)
I was a few minutes late, and when I entered the door, Mrs. Bishop, the librarian, motioned for me to come to the front desk, where she sat, reading, on a stool.
Strangely, she whispered to me. I mean, why whisper when there’s no one else in the room? “Victoria,” she said, “that boy is here again tonight.” She looked at me closely.
“I know,” I said brightly. “I’m meeting him here.”
“You are? But the last time—”
“Things change,” I said. “They change like you wouldn’t believe.”
Mrs. Bishop was smiling at me. “Then I guess I can tell you where he is,” she said.
“Back in the microform room.”
I moved quietly back to that room, thinking I’d surprise Gil—maybe scare him. Maybe if I put a little jolt of surprise in his life, he’d warm up again. But I didn’t know. All of this was just too new for me. I felt like an idiot—not a pleasant feeling.
When I peeked around the corner, I saw him, once again intently staring at microfilm, once again writing quick notes on a yellow tablet.
I crept right up behind him—he had no idea I was there!—and looked at the screen. I’m not sure what I expected to see there—my house again?—but I certainly was surprised when I saw the image he was staring at.