+ chapter 13 +

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Tuesday night found me making my way across campus at a much later time than I was used to. The library was open until 11, luckily, and the sun had already gone down by the time I made my way through its high, ornate doors. The library was the oldest building on our campus; it had been there before the school itself. It had always struck me as the type of place that would attract witches, or where mysterious cults would meet in chambers hidden behind bookcases.

Kahlan was waiting for me on the 4th floor. There were dozens of reading rooms on the 1st floor, but Kahlan had chosen a secluded table for us near the Poetry section, or so he had told me. I couldn't see him at first when I exited the elevator. But after wandering past several shelves I spotted him at the far end, seated near the wall at a dark wood table. He had several books stacked on the round table, and already had one open before him. I paused for a few moments before alerting him to my arrival, admiring the way he rested his chin upon his open palm, his face strangely innocent, utterly absorbed in his reading. The light from the old, yellowy bulbs gave the place a warm, romantic feel, and I was glad he had chosen this spot over one of the newer, fluorescent-lit reading rooms.

Romantic . . . what the hell is wrong with me? For some reason, seeing him here was putting me dangerously close to something akin to feelings: a giddy, childlike excitement that made my mouth go dry as I looked at him. It's not supposed to be like that, Liz. You're not ready for that. Don't get feelings involved here.

I sighed, shook my head, and started towards him. He heard me coming and glanced up, giving me a little wave.

"Well, well. I was worried you wouldn't find me back here," he said. I pulled out the chair opposite him, setting down my bag beside my chair and pulling out my textbook.

"You're kind of hidden," I said. "It's nice up here though. Quiet."

He smiled. "I enjoy the solitude. Not many people are interested in 15th to 16th century poets, even at a school this devoted to the English language." He glanced at the rows of old volumes surrounding us. "I like the smell of the older books too."

I nodded in agreement. "That smell of dust. History. Old, worn paper touched by dozens of hands across centuries." He looked at me in surprise, an unusual expression in his eyes. It wasn't the lust I was used to seeing from him, but it was something similar. Something that gave me goose bumps nonetheless.

"Exactly," he said. "Makes me feel like a part of something . . ." He cleared his throat, breaking the spell.

"Shall we go back to Frost?" he said, tapping the page in front of him. I could see the page number he was turned to, and I quickly flipped through my textbook. It was Robert Frost's, Acquainted with the Night.

"I have been one acquainted with the night," Kahlan began to read, softly, but his voice carrying a melodic quality that made me stare in amazement. "I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light." He glanced up at me over his glasses, a crooked smile on his face.

"You're staring," he said, amusement in his voice. "Aren't professors supposed to read to their students?" I just nodded, afraid he would stop. Luckily he looked back down at the page and went on.

"I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his beat. And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain."

"It's so lonely," I said, making him pause.

"It is. I think most writers are a little lonely."

"It's been quite a while since I wrote anything," I replied. I had used to jot down poetry every night, thinking of verses in the simplest things like the shadow a tree cast or a girl in a flower dress. But after a while that had faded. I hadn't found poetry in things anymore. I'd found disappoint in the mirror, jealousy in beauty. And yes, loneliness.

"You should start again," he said. "Writing has been better therapy than my money has ever bought."

I laughed, disbelieving. "You've been to therapy?"

"I hide my problems well." He pushed his glasses back up his nose, so that they caught the light and hid his eyes for a split-second. "Like I said, most writers are lonely. Loneliness can be comforting, or it can be sad. Sometimes very, very sad. I had to learn to make it comforting, instead."

It made my heart hurt to think of him that way. He seemed so confidant, so sure of himself. How could a man like this have any shortage of friends, or companionship? Then again, loneliness didn't have to come just from being alone. After all, I had felt my loneliness the worst before Jay had left me.

"I understand that," I said. "At least you got help for what you felt. It's a lot better than what I've done so far."

He leaned forward in his chair, regarding me curiously. "And what have you done so far?"

"Ignore my problems. Pretend I don't see really obvious red flags. Drown sadness in wine and boxed macaroni and cheese."

He laughed. "That sounds . . . extremely dramatic. And unhealthy."

I shrugged, giving him a sassy little smile. "What you see is what you get. That's what you get for going home with a really drunk girl at a frat bar."

"As your professor," he said, mockingly serious. "I don't feel qualified to give you advice on your mental health." He paused, and then added. "As your friend, however, I will give you unsolicited advice as often as I feel is needed, and insist that you follow it. So we'll come back to this topic again."

My friend. The simple comment made me feel stupidly warm and fuzzy inside. But it also made me feel anxious. Anxious because it didn't quite feel like enough.

We mulled over Frost for nearly an hour, flipping back and forth between his poems for comparisons. Kahlan finally told me what "sound of sense" was, and it had nothing to do with him spanking me. As the night wore on the library emptied more and more. There was no one left at all on the 4th floor with us. I rubbed my eyes, beginning to grow weary from the hours staring at tiny print.

"Getting bored of studying?" he asked, watching as I stretched back in my chair, arching my back. I nodded, flopping my head down against my hand.

He scooted his chair back slightly from the table, but didn't get up. Instead he said, "I have one more poem I would like to go over with you. Come, sit on my lap. I think I can help you get just a little bit more study time squeezed in."

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