“Can I help you ladies find something?” A low male voice, definitely older and full of authority, rasped from behind Lilly.
Startled, she jumped and whipped around to locate the source of the voice. The man’s stern gaze made her feel guilty, though she knew she’d done nothing wrong. “Um….”
A slight smile twitched at the corners of the man’s narrow mouth, and then his face grew serious again. Tall and pale, he wore an ill-fitting, out-of-fashion, black mourning suit, which hung from his shoulders like wool over bones. “Well?” he asked with a grimace and began tapping his foot.
Zymura answered him quicker than Lilly could, “Hi, Professor Banks. We’re looking for our parents’ yearbooks. I know I should remember where they are, but the shelves look different to me. Did we come in through a different door?”
“For the students, there is only one way in or out. The reference section you are looking for is over there today,” he said with a slow sweep of his long, bony fingers. “Please, try to ignore the books being out of place. I haven’t yet found the time to put everything back in order.”
Zymura frowned up at the professor. “What happened in here? Did someone play a prank?”
“The library had a spasm,” he said, as if that explained everything.
Zymura raised an eyebrow. “A what?”
“A spasm. The library heaves and twists occasionally, rearranging the materials. When that occurs, I have to find everything and put it back where it belongs.”
Worried the library might spasm with her in it, Lilly glanced around warily. “Why does it do that?”
“About three hundred years ago, someone who despised tidiness and order enchanted this wing of the school. It’s been rearranging itself ever since,” he explained with a bored sigh and a slight grin that quickly vanished. “The library only spasms at night when it’s unoccupied,” he added in a tired, long suffering voice. His gaze had remained fixed on Lilly the entire time he’d spoken. “Who’s your friend, Zymura?”
“Professor Banks, this is my roommate, Lilly Noble.”
Recognition lightened the man’s solid black eyes. He bowed slightly from the waist and straightened. Sadness softened the sharp edges of his corpse-like features. “Geraldine Saint James and Randolph Noble’s girl.” It wasn’t a question, which he made more obvious by the way he continued to study Lilly.
Growing increasingly uncomfortable under the man’s close scrutiny, Lilly could only nod. At her throat, whatever it was that lived inside her locket twitched and hissed.
Suddenly, behind her, the air unexpectedly thickened with an anxious tension. Change tingled at the edges of her awareness, forcing her to focus her attention. Though she couldn’t tell exactly where the odd energy was coming from, she could certainly feel it. Something was going on in this room, and it felt seriously wrong. Lilly’s mind worried about the library having another spasm.
“Miss Noble,” Professor Banks said, gently gathering her small hands in his big gnarly ones. “You look so much like your mother.” Though he never stopped looking at her face, the expression in his eyes grew nostalgic and distant, as if he were remembering something from the past.
Though his damp, chilly touch felt unpleasant, she said, “It’s nice to meet you,” and hoped he didn’t hear the uneasiness in her voice. Despite the creepy tension growing in the library and the professor’s clammy grip, she still managed to successfully fight the urge to snatch her hands free and wipe them dry on her clothes.
“We were friends once, your parents and I. All of us were that year,” his tone betrayed both familiarity and contempt.
“You went to school with my mom and dad?” Lilly asked, instantly curious. This was hard to believe. The professor looked so much older than her parents. Suddenly, the man tightened his squishy grip like a vise. Lilly winced, but quickly decided letting him hold her warm hands in his clammy ones was worth it if she learned something about her mom and dad.
Then, he released her. “Your parents weren’t your average overachievers,” he said, sounding bitter. His gaze shifted back, signaling his return to the present. “Everything was a competition with your father. No one else stood a chance against him,” he said bitterly.
He’d known her parents and, for some reason, that really bothered him. Maybe the yearbooks would yield a clue.
Suddenly all business, he gestured to the stacks with a quick flick of his wrist. “Lucky for you, I located the yearbook section earlier this afternoon. You won’t have to track it down yourselves. Follow me,” he said, leading the way.
After walking a short distance, he stopped without warning, causing Lilly to bump into the back of him.
“Oops, excuse me,” she mumbled.
He didn’t bother to turn around. “Here they are.”
Lilly backed away from him and searched the spines of the books for the years they were published. “Thank you, Professor Banks.”
Posted by Deborah McTiernan
Author of Lilly Noble & Actual Magic
Dares readers to believe in themselves and discover the magic within!
image by business2community.com
Read more: <ASIN: 0989180700> or <ASIN: B00D0DD97U> (Kindle).