WE’LL FIND IT • by Sarah Meade

Tara was just returning to work after lunch. She’d eaten a turkey sandwich, drunk her lemon iced tea, and walked six laps around the park before watching the ducks for the final five minutes of her one-hour break. The same thing she did every day. She expected to spend the final few hours of work helping a few patrons and then heading home to finish reading her latest novel. Tara was comfortable with her routine. It was fine. Easy. Expected.

Then she saw him, and Tara found herself yearning for a change.

The man was locking up a shiny green bicycle outside the library as Tara turned the corner. He was handsome, which she noticed immediately. How could she not? Her cheeks felt flushed as she followed the bicycle owner up the stone steps, through the automatic doors, and into the warmth and comfort of Medgar Memorial Library.

The man walked at an easy pace and seemed to be looking for something. Tara pushed her glasses up and spoke to him softly, still holding her big blue I LOVE MY LIBRARY tote bag over her shoulder. “Can I help you?”

He seemed surprised that she’d spoken to him. Maybe he hadn’t noticed her footsteps following him into the building. His eyes were bright blue, and Tara found herself picturing the cerulean crayon she’d pick to color in the sea with her preschool patrons. His face had a friendly openness that made Tara smile. “I work here,” she whispered in a mock secretive tone.

“Ah,” the man laughed. He ran his fingers through his short blond hair and smiled back at Tara. “I’m looking for a book.”

Tara nodded. He was so cute! She checked for a ring on his finger. Nope.

“Well, of course I am. This is a library,” the man muttered.

Tara smiled again. “Fiction or nonfiction?”

“Ah, fiction,” the man said. He scanned the stacks and sighed. “But I can’t remember the title for the life of me. Or the author. I believe his last name starts with M.”

Tara noticed a clean, woodsy scent coming from the man. It smelled like his bicycle looked, she thought. “Let me just put down my bag and I’ll help you.”

He nodded. Tara scurried off to hang her tote in the librarians’ office.

Janice looked up from her computer screen. “Who’s he?” she asked, batting her eyes at Tara meaningfully.

Tara laughed. “A patron,” she said, smoothing her pink cardigan and hurrying back to the man.

“Uh-huh,” Janice called after her with a chuckle.

The man was waiting right where Tara had left him.

“Any idea what type of book?” asked Tara. “Mystery? Adventure? Romance?” She bit her lip, stopping herself from babbling on. He was so handsome. It was distracting. He tipped his head to the side, tapping his fingers against a nearby bookshelf.

“More of a mystery or a thriller maybe,” the man said. “I can’t believe I didn’t write it down. It’s my girlfriend’s favorite book.”

Girlfriend. Of course. Tara swallowed a sigh. Of course, this beautiful man with the bright blue eyes and perfectly disheveled blond hair had a girlfriend. Tara bit the inside of her cheek and forced a smile.

“Well, you could call her and find out? Or text her?” she suggested, sliding her fingers along the shelf in front of her.

The man pulled out a book with a red cover and frowned. “No. No, I really can’t.”

Tara gazed into his eyes. They looked like cold seawater now. “Oh?”

“Shelby died,” he said simply. “Last fall. I want to read her favorite book. She always talked about it.”

Tara’s hand flew up to cover her mouth. Sure, he’s single but also in mourning.      

“I’m sorry,” she said and cleared her throat. “So sorry to hear that.”

The man shook his head and closed his eyes. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I told you that. It’s only that I feel like I need to read this book, to see what she loved so much about it, but I’m blanking out, and it’s frustrating. I thought maybe being here would help, but…”

Tara nodded. “Maybe I can help,” she said. “Let’s look together and perhaps one of the covers will jog your memory. I’m Tara, by the way.” She held out her hand.

He shook it with a firm grasp and smiled. “I’m Isaac. Thank you for your offer. That would be great, but please don’t feel like you have to stay with me. I’m sure you have others who need you.”

Tara looked around and gestured at the nearly-empty library. “Not too many today. And I’m happy to help.”

Isaac smiled. “Then okay. Thank you, Tara.”

Her heart leapt when he said her name. She’d look through every book in the M section with this man. Every book in the adult fiction section if need be. They would find that book. And they would both read it.

And that would be the start of their story.

Sarah Meade’s writing has been published in Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving (Pomelo, 2020), Babybug, Ladybug, Highlights Hello, High Five, Phoenix English, The Toy, Little Thoughts Press, The Dirigible Balloon, Poetry as Promised, and Remington Review, with additional pieces forthcoming. She’s a PAL member of SCBWI, co-host of #KidLitZombieWeek, Little Free Library steward, Girl Scout leader, mom of two, and constant reader.

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