[part 1] [part 2] [part 3][part 4][part 5][part 6][part 7][part 8][part 9][part 10][part 11][part 12][part 13][part 14][part 15][part 16][part 17][part 18][part 19]
The heap of books on my desk is teetering. My desk isn’t very big; normally it contains only my computer. Now, books are piled perilously beside my monitor. I grab a few off the top of the stack and place them neatly under the desk. I rearrange the original mound, lining up the spines to form a straight edge. How long will it take the library to notice the missing volumes? I don’t know how they keep track of these things. One of these days I’ll start returning the books; I really am just borrowing them. I can slip them into the piles of books that I collect around the library and leave in the overnight book drop for the library staff. No one will ever know they were gone.
A knock at the door. I get up and look through the peephole. It’s Tia. I freeze and try to keep silent. Go away. Leave me alone.
“Sam? Sam? It’s Tia. Sam are you home?”
I worry her shouting will bring the neighbours’ eyes to the hallway. They will stare, memorizing the face of their annoyance. They will blame me, those eyes, glaring every time I pass. I quickly unlock the door, and swing it open.
Tia walks in unperturbed. “Where have you been?”
Tia turns towards me. “You just disappeared.”
“I got busy.”
“Phil told me I owe you a coffee. Why don’t you come down to the shop?”
Tia sits down on one of my wobbly Ikea kitchen chairs. She picks a coaster off the table and slips it under one of the chair legs. The chair starts to tilt in the other direction, so she switches to the other chair, leaving the coaster underneath the leg of the first.
“I uh, can I get you anything? To drink maybe?”
“I can make tea.” I fill the electric kettle at the tap. “Am I supposed to use hot or cold water? I can never remember.”
“Cold. I just want to know why.”
“You showed Wealhtheow to Phil.”
Tia’s forehead crinkled further. “I thought you’d be happy.”
“It was private.”
“You gave it to me.”
“Yeah, you.” I click the kettle on.
“Phil studies that medieval stuff, you know.” Tia turns the vase of silk tulips that my Mom put in the center of the table the last time she was over. “I thought he could give you some ideas.”
“Do you want regular tea or decaf?”
“Decaf tea? Really?”
“For before bed.”
“I can’t stay for tea.”
I unwrap a bag of regular tea, and dangle it from its string. “How long have you known Phil?”
“Oh, he started coming by the shop a few years ago. He was still in high school, then.”
“You trust him?”
“You know he takes care of the shop when I’m away. Remember our trip to Montreal?”
I smile. “Why don’t we have a chocolate restaurant in Toronto?”
“Why don’t you open one?”
The kettle snaps off. I pour the water into the teapot, and get out two mugs. One mug has a picture of Mickey Mouse. The other was a freebee from the bank; CIBC is stamped on it in gold lettering.
“Tia, I can’t even make macaroni and cheese without exploding the kitchen.”
Tia laughs. “I’ll see if I can’t start stocking something chocolaty, just for you.”
The next day I went back to the Lair. Tia tells me to go sit down, she’s going to make me something special.
“My chocolate bee,” she says, setting down the mug in front of me. I sip. Hot chocolate, with a dense sweetness.
“What’s in it?”
“Can’t you tell?”
“Um, well it’s hot chocolate.”
“With espresso and honey. Like it?”
I take another sip, then smile at Tia. “Put it on the menu.”