Part 2 of Bunny.
Mr Warren was off for two weeks. Word was that he’d been in an accident; his sick note mentioned ribs. Nobody knew where he lived. Celia said he used to live with his mum before she died. “Must be two years ago. Afterwards he sold the house.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs Roper. “I remember him fussing about viewings. You know how he is.”
He was missed, and not because we were a man down; we weren’t short of staff in those days. Borrowers asked after him, and even Colin contributed to the large chocolate rabbit that Personnel sent on with our “get well” card. (Easter was imminent and Mr Warren was known to have a sweet tooth.)
On his return, he slipped back into routine but, despite an air of determination that normal service be resumed, something was missing.
“Do you think Mr Warren’s all right?” Mrs Roper asked the staff room. “He seems to have lost his bounce. Do you think anything’s wrong?”
“Do you mean, like cancer?” Colin was never one to tread lightly.
“I think it might be these cuts,” said Celia, who read the minutes of Library Committee meetings. “One of the proposals is to close the music library.”
“What would happen to our Bobby, then?” asked Colin. Celia shook her head.
~ ~ ~
It wasn’t unusual to find hippies and vagrants hanging around the foyer, especially in winter. This one was scrawny, red-haired, and younger than our regulars. It was the branch librarian’s day off.
Mr Warren slipped into the empty office to make a phone call, and as I left the library at lunchtime a police car pulled up. It had gone when I returned, and so had the redhead.
Whenever I forgot my sandwiches or was working late, I’d go to the nearby Wimpy Bar for lunch. One Wednesday I noticed a distinctive white head at a corner table.
He glanced up from his journal and, having acknowledged each other, it would have been churlish not to join him.
“Hello,” I said. “Do you come here often?” In my defence, I’ve never been good at small talk.
“Hardly ever,” he said. “We usually go to the Town Hall restaurant after book meetings, but I couldn’t face it this week.”
“Well, don’t let me interrupt your reading,” I said.
He closed the journal. “I’m not taking it in. None of it seems relevant any more.” His eyes were bleak. “I’m afraid I’m not a sparkling lunch companion at the moment.”
I returned the wry smile. “Would you like me to sit elsewhere?”
“No… no, not at all. Unless you’d rather, of course.” He surveyed the Wimpy Bar. “How are you finding the job?”
“It’s not a demanding post, is it; maybe I’m missing something.”
“Demanding – no, it isn’t. I grew up thinking of libraries as a wonderland of books, but the reality is a mundane juggling of budgets and shelf space and paperwork. The borrowers are lovely though, especially when you find them something they hadn’t discovered yet. I’ve enjoyed developing the collection; it was such a mish-mash when I arrived.”
“You sound as though you’re leaving.”
“Who knows? Who knows anything?” He sighed. “Everything’s gone topsy-turvy. My ex is mad as a hatter, my employer wants to cut off my department, and I have a young mortgage to support. I ought to advertise for a lodger.”
“Are you serious?” I said. “I’m thinking of moving out of my parents’ house.” His eyes widened briefly in what might have been alarm. “My mother keeps pressuring me to find ‘someone nice’. I daren’t take anybody home.” Resentment rose with the telling. “I need some independence.”
“Independence is overrated.” He drained his frothy coffee. “I must get on. Can’t keep Celia waiting.”
According to my watch, we had twenty minutes to cover a five-minute walk. “I should go too.”
He left a tip under his saucer, so I didn’t bother. I’d need every penny to embrace independent living. Even if I couldn’t convince him I’d be a reliable lodger, my decision had been made.
Outside the Wimpy Bar, we turned into the March winds.
“So, where is it you live, exactly?”