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Pen Your Pride

Ch. 18 - Ducking and Dodging

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Rhianna stepped out of the Murderkill library holding her brand new library card. In her backpack was a book on fairies, which she had obtained legitimately.

Gran had driven her, and then come inside to add Rhianna to her account and get her the card before heading off to run errands. She'd never had her own, real, library card before. It was a strange feeling.

The book was heavy in her backpack. A Historie of Fare Folk qualified more as a tome than a book. It was different from the other books with ancient leather binding and fragile, aged paper. She hadn't actually thought they would let her check it out, but when she had whumped it down on the front desk, the strange dark eyed librarian had just smiled slightly and flicked her scanner over the bar code as if it was any other book.

The other books about fairies had glossaries of terms, frivolous spells, and whimsical sketches. This told stories that didn't follow the traditional rules of stories, they ended abruptly or veered away from ending to begin a new story in a completely unsatisfying fashion. Compact script filled its endless pages, and the pictures she came across were ghastly depictions of carnage and sorrow.

It was far from appealing but she felt drawn to it, and she knew she would never be able to read it all in one trip to the library.

She adjusted the ratty pink "Alaska" baseball cap that she had acquired on one of her mom's more extreme zig-zags, shading her eyes from the harsh midsummer sun and sitting down on the uneven brick steps where Gran had said to meet her. She hugged the backpack to her chest. Would this have the answers she needed? She didn't have the guts to ask Gran. Asking would require admitting she had broken Gran's cardinal rule.

"Rhianna!" A shadow fell over her.

She looked up to find a pouting Gretch blocking the sunlight.

"You came to town and didn't tell me?"

"Oh, I wasn't sure...I guess I didn't think of it." Rhianna had never really had friends before. Friendships required much more work than she was prepared for. It was a little bit like taking care of mom, except now it was multiplied by three. She had to remember to think of them in everything she did, and she wasn't very good at it yet.

Gretch made a hurt sound and gave her a pitiful look.

"Maybe I need to focus on just one of you at a time..." Rhianna stopped as she realized she was speaking out loud.

"What? Never mind. Don't take this the wrong way, but you shouldn't be here." Gretch's face turned serious and she dragged Rhianna around the gigantic rhododendron bushes to the side of the library building. "You really need to give me your cell number."

Rhianna stuttered as she tried to find an excuse in which she did not reveal that she had to save the remaining minutes so that her runaway mom could call her again. She realized that her mom must have Gran's phone number, but the old-fashioned wall phone in the kitchen of the farm house did not feel quite as much like a lifeline to her mom as the cheap throwaway device that her mom had once held in her hands.

Gretch gave an exasperated sigh, "Just, never mind that now. You have bigger secrets to worry about. Like the one where a creepy guy with a combover and a brown leather jacket has been hanging around town asking questions about you."

Cold dread sank in her stomach like a ball of lead. "Boscoe?"

"I didn't ask his name."

"Why is he still here? What does he want?"

"Again, I wasn't hanging around asking him questions. Did you ride your bike?"

"No, Gran is running errands. She told me to wait for her on the steps of the library." Rhianna peeked through the drooping leaves of the rhododendron, checking to make sure she didn't miss her ride.

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