ON BORROWED TIME
Lindsey Norris, director of the Briar Creek Public Library,
strode across the library with her keys in hand. It was lunch hour on Thursday, which meant book talk, crafts and snacks, as their weekly crafternoon book club gathered in a meeting room on the far side of the building.
Out of all the activities the library hosted, this was by far Lindsey’s favorite. She figured it was the book nerd in her that loved it so, but truthfully, these ladies had become her dearest friends since she’d moved to Briar Creek a few years ago and any moments she shared with them was time well spent.
“Lindsey, wait up!” a voice called to her from the children’s department. She spun around to see an old-fashioned aviator charging toward her.
Lindsey squinted. Beneath the leather cap and goggles well, she couldn’t make out much, but she was pretty sure she recognized the upturned nose and stubborn chin as belonging to her children’s librarian, Beth Stanley. But it was hard to say as the rest of her was dressed in a white scarf, leather bomber jacket, black pants and boots. Not the typical wardrobe for a woman who spent most of her time doing finger plays, felt boards and story times.
“What do you think?” the aviator asked. She planted her hands on her hips and stood like she was posing for a photo.
“I’m not sure,” Lindsey said. “Who are you?”
“What? Oh!” The woman wrestled her goggles up onto
her head. “It’s me— Beth. What do you think of my steampunk outfit?”
“It’s the bomb,” Lindsey said with a laugh. Beth looked positively delighted with herself and with good reason. “You look like you could have stepped right out of Scott
“Yes!” Beth pumped a fist in the air. “That’s exactly what I was going for. My teen group worked on these at our meeting last night. You should see some of the stuff they made. We’re all getting together at the Blue Anchor tonight to have our holiday blowout and show off our outfits.”
“I love it,” Lindsey said. Not for the first time, she thought how lucky the community was to have Beth, who truly brought reading to life for kids and teens.
“I think you look ridiculous,” a voice said from the circulation desk. “Mr. Tupper never let his staff run around in costume, and certainly not out in public.”
“No one asked you—” Beth began, but Lindsey cut her off.
“That will do, Ms. Cole,” she said. “Beth has done amazing things to get our teens reading.”
Ms. Cole sniffed but didn’t argue, which Lindsey felt was a big improvement. Known as the lemon to the rest of the staff, Ms. Cole was an old-school librarian who longed for the days of shushing loud patrons and shunning late borrowers.
“Walk and talk,” Lindsey said to Beth. “Crafternoon is starting soon, and I need to set up the meeting room.”
“Who’s bringing the food this week?” Beth asked.
“Oh, I hope she baked cookies,” Beth said. Nancy Peyton, who was also Lindsey’s landlord, was known throughout Briar Creek for her exceptional cookie-baking skills. Since it was December and the holidays were just weeks away, Lindsey knew that Nancy had been giving her oven a workout.
“I think that’s a safe bet,” Lindsey said.
She glanced out the window as they turned down the short hallway that led to the crafternoon room. The town maintenance crew had been decorating the old-fashioned lampposts that lined Main Street with garlands of silver and gold tinsel, and hanging green wreaths with red ribbons just below the lamps.
The decorations added just the right amount of festive energy to the air and helped ward off the gloom that seemed to be descending upon them in the form of menacing, steel-gray clouds, which were reflected by the water in the bay, giving everything a cold, hard and unforgiving appearance.
The crafternoon room had a small gas fireplace and Lindsey had a feeling that they were going to need it today to fight off the wintery chill in the air.
“So, I was thinking you should come and meet up with me and the teens at the Blue Anchor tonight,” Beth said. “It’ll be fun. I even have enough steampunk gear for you to wear.”
Lindsey glanced at her friend. She could not picture
herself looking like a souped‑up Amelia Earhart, still Beth had spray-painted the goggles copper and stuck all sorts of knobs and gear and even a dragonfly on them. They were pretty cool.
“I don’t like to leave Heathcliff alone for that long,” she said.
“What alone?” Beth asked. “He’s been mooching cookies off of Nancy all day.”
“No doubt,” Lindsey said. Nancy liked to have Lindsey’s
dog, Heathcliff, with her during the day. “Which is why he’s going to need an even longer walk than usual tonight.”
“Aw, come on,” Beth said. “It’ll be fun. Charlie’s band is playing, and who knows? You might run into one of your admirers.”
Lindsey gave her a bland look. “I have no idea to whom you could be referring.”
“Sure you do,” Beth said. “You know they’re just hovering around waiting for you to give any hint of encouragement.”
“Did you finish the book for this week?” Lindsey asked.
“Nice conversational segue—not,” Beth said. “Yes, I finished The Woman in White, but you didn’t answer—”
“Did you know that the novel was so popular that Wilkie Collins had “Author of the Woman in White” inscribed on his
“Fascinating, but you might want to save that tidbit for when the other crafternooners start to grill you about your love life,” Beth said.
Lindsey turned the key in the lock and pushed it open.
The room was dark, and she flipped the switch to the left of the door before stepping into the room.
Her gaze moved past the door to where she saw a man standing perfectly still. She felt a thrill of recognition surge through her, but the man shook his head from side to side and then put his finger to his lips. Lindsey knew immediately that he didn’t want anyone to know he was here.
She quickly stepped back out of the room, bumping into
Beth as she went.
“What’s the matter?” Beth asked.
“It’s freezing in there,” Lindsey said. She shivered as if to prove it. “Even with the fireplace, there’s no way this room will be warm enough to meet in. The heat must have been turned off or maybe a window was left open. I’ll check it out. In the meantime, could you set up one of the other meeting rooms for us?
“On it,” Beth said and she hustled back down the hallway in the direction of the main library.
As soon as she was gone, Lindsey opened the door and hurried inside. She quickly shut and locked it behind her.
“Jack!” she cried.
“Linds!” he said in return.
The ruggedly handsome man met her halfway across the room with his arms open wide. Lindsey leapt at him, and he caught her in a hug that almost, but not quite, crushed her.
When he released her, Lindsey stepped back and stared at the face so similar to her own. She had many people in her life who she considered close friends, but the bond between siblings was one that could not be surpassed.
“Okay, brother of mine,” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest in a fair imitation of their mother when she was irritated. “Start explaining.”