- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Two
- Chapter One
"So, how is your job search coming?" Mike asked a couple weeks later as we settled in to eating our salads. He had taken me to a cozy restaurant in downtown Springfield.
"Not good. I went and saw Rachel at the library at the other day. She was happy to see me, but unfortunately, my job was filled and there aren't any other openings now. She did say that she would be glad to give me a recommendation. That's something, I suppose."
"Yeah, I've met your replacement. She seems pretty nice. She isn't you, though."
"Well, thank you. Yeah, I met her, too. I'm sure she'll work out fine. I'm just not sure what I'm going to do, though. Maybe I should see if this place is hiring. It's not like I don't have waitressing experience."
"Yeah, but you hate waitressing. You don't want to go back to doing that."
"No, I don't, but I have to pay the bills somehow. The money I have saved isn't going to last forever."
"You could publish your novel and become a best-selling author and never have to worry about money again!"
"Hmm, that would be nice. I don't think that I'll hold my breath on that one, however."
"Well, how about this then?" he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me.
"The college library is hiring?"
"Yeah, I pulled that off the job board when I was there yesterday. I know it's not a children's library so you wouldn't get to do story times or anything and it is just an entry-level job, but there's lots of old books and I know the head librarian really well and you could use my name as a reference. . ."
"Oh, thank you! This is wonderful. Oh, I'm so excited . . .I'll send out a resume first thing in the morning. Working in a college . . .that would be so great."
"One of the nice perks, too, is after you work there for a year, you can take classes for free, so if you ever wanted to finish your degree . . ."
"Wow, that would be something, wouldn't it? I'm not sure how I would do in the classroom – it has been a few years."
"You'd do fine. I teach people older than you all the time. Maybe you could even take one of my classes."
"Oh, I don't know if I am up for that!" He threw a small piece of his breadstick at me. It was so nice to be back around him. I had missed him so very much, more than he could possibly realize.
When we got back to my house, I noticed that Mike pulled a wrapped package out of his backseat before coming in.
"What is that?" I asked once we were inside.
"It's a present – a very belated Christmas present. I hope that you like it." He handed it over to me. He looked so nervous.
"Are you OK? You don't look so good."
"I'm fine. Just open it."
I tore open the paper. Inside was a binder full of paper. I opened the front cover and read.
"Mystery in the Stacks by Michael Duncan. Oh my goodness!" I looked up at him in surprise. "This is your book!"
"Yes, I'd like you to read it."
"But you never let anyone read your stuff!"
"I know. I thought in this case I might make an exception."
"I'm honored, really! I can't wait to read it!"
"Well, if you hate it, please don't tell me. I don't think I could take it."
"I'm sure that I'm going to love it." He still seemed really nervous.
"Are you sure you're alright?" I asked again.
"Actually, could I have a glass of water or something. It seems like it is really hot in here."
"Sure, coming right up." I went and fixed a glass for him.
"If you’re that scared about my reading it, I can give it back to you."
"No, I'll be fine. No, it's something else. Something I want to talk to you about." He looked so serious.
"Oh, OK." I sat down next to him.
"I know this is an awful time for you. You have been through so much recently, you really don't need anything else on your plate right now, but I just can't keep this from you anymore."
"OK . . ." Please, God. Please don't let him tell me he is dying, too.
"Well, the thing is, . . ." He truly looked like he was going to be sick at any moment. "Maybe I shouldn't say anything."
"No," I braced myself for whatever bad news was about to befall me. "Please tell me. I can take it."
"OK. Here it goes. The thing is . . ." he took a deep breath, "that I am in love with you."
"You're what?" I asked, a bit too loudly.
"See, I knew I shouldn't have told you! This is bad timing. I'm sorry. I'll go." He went to grab his coat.
"No, don't go," I said gently as I took his very sweaty hand in mine. "You took me by surprise, that's all. The way you were looking, I thought you were going to give me another piece of bad news. It was just the last thing I expected to come out of your mouth."
"So, you're not mad?"
"No, I'm not mad. Not at all. That's the best news I've gotten in a very long time."
"Oh, good! Because I tried to stop myself because you didn't seem ready to care about anyone again, but ever since that first day I saw you at the library, I haven't been able to get you out of my head. I didn’t want to fall in love with you. I was scared to love again, and then you told me about Alan and I knew the timing was bad, and then you had to leave . . .I think about you all the time and dream of you, and well, there are about four more portraits of you up in my studio. I missed you so much when you were gone, and I would come here, and just sit in your house so that I could feel close to you, and I knew you were hurting and there was nothing I could do, and I hated myself because all I wanted to do was hold you in my arms and kiss you, and I understand if you don't love me, but maybe we could date and see how it goes, and maybe eventually you could love me . . ."
"Yeah?" he looked at me expectantly.
"I already do."
I pulled him close to me and melted into his kiss. The whole world seemed to simply fade away. There was just Mike and me and an unknown future I was looking forward to discovering. The window had finally opened. Maybe, just maybe, I would get my happy ending after all.
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