Jonah felt like he hadn’t been in a library in ages. Certainly not ever during high school. Entering through the double oak doors he felt like he had entered another world. A world in which Annie clearly belonged and thrived. She had picked out a table in a quiet section near the back corner of the expansive labyrinth of a room, close to the most relevant non-fiction sections including science and history but isolated enough to be maximally conducive to studying. The way she had led them there through of the maze of bookshelves made it seem like she could navigate to this spot blindfolded, in her sleep.
At the table, Annie had already done the preliminary work of finding textbooks that would be useful for their assignment. She had gathered a half dozen or so and had them piled at the center of the tabletop. When the two sat down across from each other, Annie wasted no time getting started.
“I’ve compiled these books which I think would be good to start with.” She took one of the hardcover books, found the spread tagged with a scrap of paper, and laid it open on the table. Then twisting the book around, she pushed it towards Jonah and said, “You can read through this chapter and write any relevant notes you see.”
“Feels rather old school, don’t you think?” He nodded curtly at the book when Annie didn’t catch his drift.
“Yes… Well there’s lots of value in physical books. There’re other things besides the internet, you know.” Annie then rambled on about how libraries were a wealth of knowledge and an often missed opportunity, but for Jonah it was in one ear and out of the other. He wondered how someone could talk so much about such things. “So,” she concluded, “I think we should use traditional materials first.”
Jonah barely shrugged and took the book to appease her. They spent the next hour or so mostly in silence; Annie feverishly took down notes from book after book while Jonah occasionally flipped a page and wrote haphazardly on some loose sheets of notebook paper. When Annie finally came out of her zone, she was surprised to see how diligently Jonah was writing, scribbling in small-capped letters.
As she took a closer look at him, she noted out loud, “Oh, you’re left-handed?”
“Yeah, so?” Jonah replied, eyebrow cocked.
“Oh nothing, it’s just…unusual. Only ten percent of the population is.”
Oh nice, a statistic, Jonah thought. He didn’t see how this was important; he had been left-handed his whole life after all. “That’s nice, I don’t care.”
“Ok…” Annie stammered. She changed the subject to what she was originally going to ask anyway. “Well, what do you have so far?”
Jonah nonchalantly handed Annie the couple of sheets of paper he had been writing on. Annie stared hard at the paper like someone trying to decipher an ancient language.
“What is this?”
“Lyrics to a song. Maybe you’ve heard of it. By Green Day.”
It was indeed the words to Boulevard of Broken Dreams scrawled out in its entirety. Not once, but three times on more than one piece of lined paper.
Annie, suddenly feeling like she was dealing with a child, rubbed her temples and queried, “You’re not doing any work at all, are you?”
“It’s stuck in my head.”
“Are you even trying?” She sighed and after a moment of frustrated disappointment she realized that getting Jonah into the library at all was a triumph in and of itself. She decided to try and treat this day like a victory despite his absentmindedness. “If you’re not going to read, at least go put these books back.”
Jonah sat down to an assertive Annie who looked at him with a serious face. The directness of her tone and the vagueness of her question scared him a bit.
“I doubt you’ll take no for an answer.”
“Are the rumors about you true?”
Jonah blinked, thinking he should have expected this inquiry eventually. Still, it caught him off-guard. No one had asked him that since coming to this school, despite the all stories running rampant.
“That depends on what rumors you hear.”
Annie obviously wanted a more specific answer. The rumors on the street varied degrees as wide as freezing to boiling point. Agreeing that perhaps some of the rumors were true was not very helpful. But she didn’t know how to ask more specifically so she lacked a speedy reply. Jonah noticed her silence.
“Why, does that make you afraid of me?” he asked flatly. He stared at her unwaveringly, waiting for her answer.
“Not really.” Annie replied softly, picking up a pencil to resume writing notes from the open textbook in front of her. Her demeanor turned back to quietly studying, seemingly feinting unconcern.
Jonah watched her as she scribbled, staring at the top of her head now that her eyes were averted. Annie’s reaction did not sit well with him; it was too dismissive for someone who always dug her heels in with a million questions. He wiggled uncomfortably in his seat, and despite the fact that Annie’s eyes were already concentrated elsewhere, Jonah glanced off to the side as he broke the short silence.
“Well, don’t worry. I don’t hurt girls. My mom taught me better than that.” He fiddled with a book cover that sat within reach, repeatedly opening and closing the book by a few inches as he talked.
“I wasn’t worried.” Annie answered assuringly, still writing casually in her notebook.
“Lovely.” Jonah huffed. “But still, don’t push my buttons. I already don’t like you very much.”Continue Reading...