Before I meet them.

This flash fiction piece (1000 words exactly) is a bit off topic in the specific sense of the word, but the main character is one I have seen many times sitting across from me in a victim interview. In the perfect world I dream of, I see people like the librarian, paying attention and making a difference. Enjoy.

 

Sharp

Evelyn liked to cut herself in private most days. Holed up in her room, she used pocketknives, razor blades, and the odd pair of cuticle scissors. She never let anyone see under her clothes; red slash marks that never seemed to fade enough, gentle reminders of the truth. And as much as she hated living in Ohio with nowhere to go and nothing to see, at least the weather never forced her into bathing suits as she was sure the sunny beaches of Florida would have. She was free from suspicion. Above reproach. Alone.

The first time she cut herself outside, she was three rows into the mystery section of the local library. The new librarian, a young girl with dreadlocks and a nose ring, smiled at her when she passed through the stacks, her arms full of books, her heart full of promise. She hadn’t notice the beads of sweat on Evelyn’s brow or the crumpled Kleenex balled in her fist; a series of red dots, proof of the pain that she could control. She hadn’t planned to cut herself that day. She’d made a promise, six days sober. One day shy of a week and then that boy showed up, leering at her, being judged and found lacking. He hadn’t said anything, of course, but when he walked by, she heard him thinking it. Cow. Useless. Ugly. Like all the others, taunting her with his silence. Unconscious of the paperclip being pulled apart, and the blind walk to the stacks, she only existed in the pinprick of satisfaction that screamed at her. She was in control.

“We’re you looking for anything in particular?” the librarian asked, her voice a sing song, British lilt, but still Evelyn jumped.

“Sorry?” she said, turning to face her. Light crept into the stacks and the nose ring blinked at her.

“Can I help you, love?” she asked, again. The blonde dreadlocks danced on her head, growing out, gradually replaced by soft brown hair. She seemed older up close. “You’re looking like you’re lost.”

Evelyn clasped her hands, wrapping the paperclip in the tissue, flustered. Had she seen it? Did she know? “Um,” she stammered. “ I just-” Evelyn pressed her hand to her thigh. ”Harry Potter?”

“Any particular book?”

“The Order of the Phoenix?”

“Ah, one of my favorites. Luna Lovegood’s introduction. Follow me.” Evelyn followed the young librarian, focussed on the black and red of a tattoo peeking out from behind the woman’s long sleeve. And then, in the bob and weave of her dreadlocks, the hint of something on her neck; a Chinese dragon, perhaps.

“You read Harry Potter?” Evelyn asked.

“I am a librarian, after all,” she answered, not looking back. “But I read them all way before this,” she added, motioning to the room and books that surrounded her. “We all like to escape, sometimes.”

Evelyn never thought of books like that. She didn’t get lost, always keenly aware of the contrast between the lives she read about and the one she lived. She was not the hero of any story. She was a throwaway.

As they walked, tropical fish from an enormous wall tank swam along with them. They passed the DVD section and the boy stood engrossed, reading the back cover of an 80’s action movie. She almost didn’t hear him that time. Almost. Pig, he thought and she tensed her grip, feeling the paperclip through the tissue, pressed into her thumb. She needed to bleed.

“Little boys, and their action films,” the librarian whispered. Then directly to Evelyn, “Guns and knives never solved any problems, I say.”

Evelyn was surprised by her candor, the inclusion into whispered thoughts. “Too bad we don’t all have magic wands.”

The librarian spun around and smiled, “Who says we don’t?” Then she thrust her right arm out, palm up, to Evelyn. Running the length of her forearm, from the bend of her elbow to the top of her wrist, a tattooed wand sprouted showers of color and the words, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’ Several bangles and bracelets jingled at the end of her arm. “It’s my personal Vulnera Sanentur.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s a spell. From the books. Used to heal old wounds.” She lowered her arm and the sleeve covered the tattoo. “I used to do what you do,” she whispered. “And now I don’t.”

She’d seen. She knew. Evelyn stepped back, ashamed, embarrassed. “I…” she stuttered. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“It’s okay,” she said. She pointed her tattooed arm at her mouth. “Silencio,” she whispered. “I’m not telling.” She pulled back the bangles and bracelets and pointed to the shower of sparks emanating from the wand. Underneath the raised ink, a faint white scar was barely visible. “Sixteen,” she said. “Stupid boys.” Then just as quickly, she jangled the bracelets and extended her hand. “Leondra James, by the way, and you are?”

Evelyn hesitated, then took her hand. “Evelyn. Evelyn Sharp.”

“Sharp. That’s funny,” she smiled again. “Well, here we are,” she said stopping in front of a bookshelf. “Accio book,” she said, holding her hand up towards the bookshelf. She looked back at Evelyn and gave a goofy grin. “It works in my head,” she said, pulling the book from the shelf. “And what I think is all that matters.” Leondra handed the book to Evelyn. “Nice to meet you Evy. I hope we see you around here more.”

Evy. She liked that.

“And don’t worry about them,” she said nodding her head in the direction of the boy still standing in the DVD section. “They aren’t much different. Bits and bobs bumbling through their brains.” She was closer now, an arm’s length. Her breath smelled of mint and she stared directly into Evelyn’s eyes. She didn’t even realize it until Leondra’s hands were gripped around her own, pulling the paperclip and tissue free. “Besides, he still hasn’t figured out that books are better than movies, amn’t I right?”

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