The third time I walked past the library, I noticed she was still sitting there… reading glasses pushed into her short curly hair, tray of cupcakes in front of her… alone.
“Hello,” I said, sitting down on the seat closest to the front. My jacket, which I hung on the chair next to me, dripped rainwater onto the purple-grey carpet. “Are you the author?”
“Yes,” she said, head bobbing so much on her thin neck I was worried it would fall off.
“I saw the poster in the window.” Poster is a bit of a stretch for the A4 piece of paper hung up with a triangle of Blu tack.
There were three short stacks of books on the little table in front of her and one on a stand facing the would-be audience. The title of the book was bright yellow and plastered over a picture of a boat on a lake. Her name at the bottom was Sarah. Sarah Something. I couldn’t quite make it out. Is it too forward to call her Sarah?
“Awful weather,” I said.
“Isn’t it?” Her neck was pink and blotchy, almost matching the color of her lipstick. “Who’d have thought it would rain so much in June.”
“That’s a British summer for you,” I offered by way of apology, like it was my fault it was raining, and that there was no one else here.
“Do you like reading?” Sarah Something asked.
I hesitated, my mouth opening and closing like a fish on land. “Not really.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “Not everyone enjoys it. My son only reads the sports results on his phone.”
“But at least he can read.” I picked up my coat and shoved my arms into the soaking sleeves.
“Would you like one?” Sarah pointed at the tray of cupcakes. “I made them myself. I hope they’re okay.”
The cupcake was burgundy with white icing and balanced on the top was a miniature picture of her book. Well, wasn’t that something? I told myself to savour it, but it was gone in two bites, leaving me standing there, folding and unfolding the case, trying not to spill crumbs onto the floor.
“That good, huh?” Sarah Something said, standing up.
I was sure she was going to ask me to leave, since I clearly had no intention of reading, let alone buying, her book.
“My name’s Sarah,” she said. “I could teach you to read if you like? I used to be a teacher.”
Slowly I raised my eyes to meet hers.
“Shall we start with a cup of tea? I’m gasping.” Her smile stretched wide over her small face and made the skin around her eyes crinkle up.
For the first time in a long time I didn’t feel stupid or useless or any of the other things I’ve felt over the years.
I felt seen.
Laura Besley has been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers with her story “On Repeat” (Reflex Fiction) and her story “Silenced” was nominated for Best Microfiction by Emerge Literary Journal. Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020 and her collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred, will be published in May 2021. Having lived in the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong, she now lives in land-locked central England and misses the sea. She tweets @laurabesley.