by The Golden Pen
Rachel Bowers walked past Gregg the Baker on her way to work. The aroma of freshly baked croissants made her stomach growl with hunger. Down the road, the smell of Arabica beans being brewed at Cafe Bonjour Bistro et Patisserie, made Rachel sorry she didn’t have any breakfast that morning. She didn’t even have time to brew herself a mug of coffee. Rachel was running late. Temptation won her over. Rachel walked into Gregg the Baker and bought herself two ham and cheese croissants and a mug of coffee. The attendant filled her order and soon Rachel was on her way.
The sun was shining brightly over a blue sky that Friday June morning over Headington. Already the avenue was crowded with busy folks walking to work and mothers on the school run, dragging their reluctant children to school. Shopkeepers with smiling faces greeted passersby as they opened their shops bright and early for another business day. Rows upon rows of little tables dotted London Road as pensioners and tourists sat eating their croissants, crumpets, muffins, full English breakfasts, sipping tea and coffee quietly as they watched the parade of busy people stride by and the city bussing with life.
“Good morning, Harry.” Rachel said to the postman as she was about to cross the road.
“Morning, Rachel,” replied the Postman, “Are you off to work again?”
“Yes,” replied Rachel, “I’m late enough as it is.” Harry tipped his hat towards Rachel.
“Have a good day, Rachel.” he bade.
“You too, Harry! Say hello to Margaret.”
And with that, she crossed London Road and walked down Old High Street towards the library. Several cobbled stoned houses lined the street. Rachel smiled at some of the local residents as she passed along. Mrs Henderson, who was sweeping her driveway, paused as Rachel went past.
“Morning, Mrs Henderson,” Rachel greeted her neighbour, “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is, Ms Bowers.” Mrs Henderson replied.
Rachel fetched the skeleton key from the bottom of her Louis Vuitton handbag. She almost spilled the coffee she was holding in her right hand. She sighed as she opened the front door of the library. Turning on the lobby lights, Rachel walked inside and placed the cardboard drinks tray she was holding on top of the adult circulation desk and put down the brown paper bag containing her breakfast.
Rachel had a very busy day ahead of her. She had a meeting with Annie Anderson, one of the Senior Library Assistants at 9:30 A.M. to discuss her latest project. She had to make a few phone calls, a staff meeting at 11 and meet her mother for lunch.
A few people, mainly pensioners waiting to read the morning papers, mothers with overdue books, and people waiting to sign up to use the internet were queuing up outside the library. Rachel had locked the door from inside, of course, for it was still way too early to open the Library. Headington library didn’t open until nine A.M., and it was only quarter to nine. Annie Anderson pushed herself amongst the crowd, walked up the stairs and opened the door with her key. The throng of people tried to push themselves through the door, but Annie reminded them that the library would be opening at precisely nine A.M. on the dot.
“Good morning, Rachel.” Annie greeted Rachel, who was busy opening windows.
“Good morning, Annie,” replied Rachel, “Don’t forget our meeting is at 9:30.”
“Yes, Mamme, I won’t be late.” Annie switched on to the main computer. The computer came alive, bussing and beeping as it logged on. One by one, Annie turned on the six computer terminals then walked back to the circulation desk to set everything up for the day ahead. There was a stack of books waiting for her in the book depository box. Annie unlocked the book depository and retrieved the books. She began scanning each book when Naomi and Raj, two of the junior library assistants, waltzed in.
Naomi hadn’t finished removing her coat, when Annie barked, “Naomi, be a dear and let the crowd in, will ya?”
Naomi made a face when Annie wasn’t looking, grabbed her skeleton key and opened the front door. The crowd of people stampeded inside, nearly crushing Naomi to death. The pensioners all waltzed into the reference area where the local newspapers were kept. Mrs Patel grabbed the Oxford Mail as Mrs Jenkins was about to pull it off the stick.
“I was here first, Madame!” growled Mrs Patel.
“No, I grabbed it first!” barked Mrs Jenkins.
“Let go of it!” Mrs Patel ordered.
“Well, the nerve of you!” yelled Mrs Jenkins.
“I’m calling the Librarian to settle this!” yelled Mrs Patel. Rachel raced over to the reference section.
“Shhhhh! Will you ladies keep it down, Please?”
“Madame, will you kindly tell this lady to let go of my paper.” Mrs Patel said.
“She practically yanked it out of my hands!” protested Mrs Jenkins.
“Grab hold of yourselves, ladies...you’re in a library...if you ladies won’t behave like civilized adults, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” Rachel warned.
“Well............I never have been so insulted in my life!” Mrs Jenkins remarked.
“Ladies, please.......it’s just a paper. Can’t you too share it?”asked Rachel. She was already beginning to lose her patience.
“Here....I’ll let you read it, Mrs Patel, since you are most eager to read the Want ads. I’ll look at the Times now.” said Mrs Jenkins. She settled down at one of the tables to read her newspaper. Mrs Patel fumed as she grabbed the oxford Mail and stormed to the other side of the reference section huffing and puffing and rolling her eyes.
Ten people were queuing up to use the internet. Naomi signed each one for a thirty-minute session. When their time was up, one of the users complained when he was told that his time was up. He said he was in the middle of downloading a very important piece of information he needed for college. Naomi tried pleading with him, but he wouldn’t have it. He remained stubborn and sat down at his terminal continuing his download.
“I’m afraid this user has signed up for the computer, Sir,” Naomi said, “Your session has come to an end now.”
“Bugger off, Sister!” the man said. He took another quarter out of his pocket and shoved it into the library assistant’s hand.
“Sign me up again for another thirty minutes, Bitch!” he said as he turned around to face the monitor. To his horror, he was timed out.
“What the......ARRGH.....I’ve just lost my download! I’m calling the council about this!” He swivelled out of the chair and walked out the library, swearing under his breath.
At 9:30, Annie waltzed into Rachel’s office, pad and pen in hand. Rachel’s office faced Bury Knowles Park South. Her desk, a pine finished executive desk, was laden with brochures, folders, letterhead stationery, overdue notices, and an overcrowded Rolodex. The window was open and a refreshing breeze flowed in.
“Ah, Annie—do come in!” Rachel said. “Please take a seat. I wish to discuss a project with you.”
Annie sat down on the chair facing Rachel, her pad resting on her knee. She clicked her pen ready to take notes.
“Annie, I want to talk to you about an idea I have had brewing inside my head for a long time now.” said Rachel. “I have just spoken to Mr Johnson over at Brookes University. We have reserved a room at Headington Hall once a month on Wednesday evenings to host the BSH.”
“The BSH—what’s the BSH?” Annie asked, scratching her head.
“The Bookworm Society of Headington—it’s a monthly woman’s book club aimed at women who are avid readers to discuss the latest fiction and chick-Lit.” Rachel explained.
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, Ms Bowers.” Annie smiled.
“Annie, I’d like you to write down the details and call the printers right away. I’d like 500 flyers up by next Tuesday.” Rachel went on. Annie began taking notes. After lunch, she rang the printers and had Mr Roy Sanderson print the flyers.
Bookworms Society of Headington
A local book club for women by women
7PM Wednesday Evenings of each month
Barton, Oxford OX3 OBL
Refreshments will be provided
All female residents ages 18—53 of Headington welcome
For more information please contact
Rachel Bowers, head librarian
Headington OX3 9HY
Rachel Bowers was happy with the flyer. The flyers were printed in glossy green paper in black San Serif font. The printers did a fantastic job. They even added an image of a bookworm on the right-hand corner for empathises. Annie placed the heavy box on one of the chairs and took a seat facing Rachel.
“Does this meet with your approval, Ms Bowers?” Annie asked. Her hair was frizzy this morning. She washed it the night before and blow dried it, but in the morning, try as she may, her hair was a big frizzy mop.
“Yes, I like it. Can you put the flyers in the lobby, please, Annie.” Rachel said.
“Will that be all, Ms Bowers?” Annie asked.
“Yes, that’ll be all, Annie,” said Rachel, “Thank you.”
Annie rose and carried the box of flyers out onto the lobby, closing the door behind her. Rachel looked up at the clock. It was nearly noon and her stomach was growling. She picked up the phone and phoned her mother up. Every weekday she and her mother would meet for lunch at Cafe Bonjour et Patisserie. Every day her mother would order her usual, a ham and cheese croissant with a big bowl of cream of tomato soup, a slice of sourdough bread, a bit of brie cheese with cream crackers and some apple compote, a pot of Earl Tea and a fruited scone. Every day her mother sat at the same booth at the cafe, sipping her tomato soup, dunking her bread into the broth, sipping her tea and spreading raspberry jam all over her scone before daintily eating it.
Rachel was sick of the same routine. She hated getting up in the morning, going to work, having lunch with her mother at the same boring cafe, coming home at night, cooking dinner for herself and her mother, washing the dishes, watching East Enders, reading her Daniel Steel novels while her mother read her Agatha Christies and then a bit of knitting, taking a shower, brushing her teeth, going to bed and repeating the same boring routine every single day. She dreamed of going to sunny Spain; perhaps Majorca or the mountainous regions of Asturias. She dreamed of meeting a dark, tall Latin lover in Majorca who tantalize her with his Spanish charm; a chef, perhaps with his own restaurant who would sweep her off her feet with his Tapas and garlicky chicken; a Spanish chef who at the end of a tasty meal seduced her with his crème caramels.
But what good was it to dream when you just didn’t have the funds to travel? Rachel had studied Library science at Oxford and became a librarian. Her first job was at the college library. There she met her first love. He was a librarian himself who studied Library science at Oxford as well. Henry Johnson was attracted to Rachel’s blue eyes and her charming intellect. He loved it when Rachel wore her black Ivy-league glasses and pin-up her shoulder length brown hair in a bun. This gave her the Ali-McGraw look. They dated a couple of times but soon, early on in the relationship, Rachel began to notice little flaws in Henry. He had an uncanny habit of being late; a habit that she detested. Henry was also a bit of a gambler. He would blow half his pay cheque on the horse race every other Weekend.
One time, before they broke up, Henry asked Rachel for a £500 loan. He said he needed the money to buy his ailing mother a wheel chair. He said that he was short of cash and he had put a £150 deposit down on the wheel chair and had it on lay-away until he could finish paying for it. He told Rachel that he needed to make a payment soon and was short on cash; his next pay cheque wasn’t due until the 30th of the month. Rachel was shocked when she found out that Henry was blowing it all on a couple of horses down at the horse race. When she phoned, enraged, to demand her money back, Henry had done a runner. The last she heard was that he boarded a plane with some chick he met at a restaurant, and travelled to Dubai. He had left her no letter of explanation, no phone call to say goodbye, nothing. He was just gone out of her life.
Rachel heard about an opening position at Headington Library for Library Director. She took the job. The job paid a handsome £35,000.00 a year. But she had to repay her student loan and it would take at least three years before she could clear her student loan. With no extra income she had no choice but to remain at home, living with her mother.
At age 25, Rachel Bowers was getting on the verge of being a spinster. She wanted her life to change. She couldn’t live like this all her life. She planned to save enough money to be able to get her own place; maybe go on a holiday to sunny Spain for a week. She knew after paying off her student fees, her job as head librarian at Headington Library would allow her to save a few hundred pounds and then she could move out and start living her own life.