Excerpted from "A to Z"
"Aren't you hot?" the woman across from me said finally.
I flinched. Her voice seemed to echo throughout the wing. No one else seemed to notice. I shrugged. "Not really."
"I'm hot.” She hiked her dress up to mid-thigh and fanned her face with the hem. "It's usually forty degrees in here, but today if feels like they've got the heat on."
She was attractive and intriguing, but I didn't want to talk about the heat. I wanted to read about the summer movies. I wanted to be left alone. I raised the magazine up and blocked my face, hoping to discourage any further conversation. I didn't give in to the temptation to peek around the glossy page and see if she was still watching me. I finished reading about Jude Law’s newest flick and moved on to a fascinating tale about secret plastic surgery clinics in Hollywood.
I heard the swish of fabric and was almost disappointed that I'd run her off. I jumped when she pulled the magazine away from my face. "That shit will rot your brain," she said.
She dumped the book she'd been reading in my lap and then crouched by my chair. "A is for Austen," she whispered close to my ear.
I flipped it over. Sense and Sensibility. I shook my head and tried to hand it back to her. "It's not my style."
She pushed it back at me. "Try it, you'll like it."
"I don't have a library card," I blurted.
When she laughed, I shivered. "It's okay, I already checked it out. Just have it back in two weeks."
Then she was gone, her dress billowing out behind her like a blue cloud, her sandals slap-slapping across the floor. I watched her until she walked through the door. Then I remembered to close my mouth.
By the time two weeks had rolled around, I'd gotten through Sense and Sensibility. I still wasn't convinced I was cut out for that literary crap, but I was kind of surprised it wasn't as bad as I'd expected it to be. I dropped the book in the slot in the lobby of the library and headed for my favorite chair.
She was already there, looking resplendent in a sleeveless red sun dress with a gold Batik design scattered across it. She looked up at me from the book she was reading. Another book lay in her lap. "Did you like it?"
I shrugged. "It was all right. I'm not really into that highbrow English stuff."
She arched an eyebrow. "You're going to be a tough nut to crack, I can tell."
I played it cool. I sat down across from her and thumbed through the magazines on the table by my chair. I picked up Cosmopolitan. She looked like she was going to blow a gasket. I smirked over the top of the magazine. "I'm tougher than you might think."
It was part challenge, part bravado. I was intimidated by her exotic beauty and her obvious intellect.
She didn't disappoint. She glided from her chair and put both books on the arm of my chair. "B is for Bronte. Two books, two weeks."
There was no way I was going to read two books in two weeks. Before I could tell her that, she was gone. I looked at the books. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I vaguely remembered Wuthering Heights from high school. Actually, I remembered reading the Cliffs Notes.
Somehow, I managed to read both books in two weeks. More amazing, I really liked Jane Eyre. I showed up at the library, puffed up like a peacock, and returned the books. I grinned when I saw her sitting in her usual chair, dressed all in white. White shimmery blouse, white skirt with silver buttons up the front, white sandals showing off her white-tipped French pedicure.
"Well?" she asked, looking up from the book open on her lap.
"I liked Jane. She had balls."
"Like you.” She arched an eyebrow. "And Cathy?"
I wrinkled my nose. "Too whiny."
She nodded. "I'm Zoe, by the way."
I was surprised. I figured she'd go on being the mysterious woman from the library. "Amy," I said.