Corpus Christi, Texas
Moving forward, my footsteps echo hollowly on the marble floor; as hollow as my emotions have become. That is except for fear, fear is now my constant companion; and yes, approaching the counter in this repository is scaring the hell out of me. The idea of having to appear carefree and jovial even for a few moments has me frightened to my very core. Despite actually being here for more than a month, this is my first excursion alone in this city.
The older stereotypical librarian is far from a frightening specter, yet my breath catches in my throat as she asks what she can do for me. For a moment, I freeze before mustering a grin and handing her a piece of paper with the titles of the two dissertations; my need for the information those dissertations may contain has forced me into a situation I dread.
My request for copies is barely audible, and her large grin catches me off guard. Returning the smile feels forced and fake, yet I must play the game. She turns around to face the computer monitor situated opposite of the large mahogany counter.
My eyes shift to the stunning tall man leaning against the circular counter. His dark hair graying ever so slightly at the temples gives him a distinguished appearance. He nods at me with a warm smile that nearly knocks the breath right out me. Hollowed out yes; dead from the neck down no! I’ve been away from life entirely too long. Whoa!
Not wanting to draw attention, my nod in return is shallow and brief, quickly turning my gaze back to face the librarian. After a few seconds the pleasant woman turns towards me.
“What is your name dear?”
I nearly panic; my name? Oh damn, I hesitate. She’s staring at me.
“Jill Maddux.” Another forced smile and my face feels as if it will crack with the effort.
Feeling stupid, I catch another glimpse at the man standing a couple of feet away from me. He seems amused by something, and it might very well be me. I’m making a spectacle of myself. I am not a teenager skipping school, and this nervousness must come across as ridiculous.
The woman twirls around and looks at me from across the counter. “I’m so sorry Ms. Maddux; I can’t locate you in the computer. Communication with the main campus today is sporadic at best. I will need your faculty or student identification card.”
Damnation; red tape and rules everywhere! With a stronger more assured voice, I respond. “I’m sorry, I thought I could simply pay for copies, I didn’t realize there would be a need to be affiliated with the University, please forgive my ignorance.”
The librarian smiles, and says honestly; “It’s okay dear, if it were my choice I would be more than happy to give you the copies.”
This time my polite grin is not forced. “I understand, but can you help me with some directions?”
“Sure, I’m more than happy to help.”
In a forced lighthearted voice I ask. “A coffee shop, you know the kind that conjures up those really frothy, chocolaty coffee drinks.” Nothing deceptive here, deprived long enough, I am craving a rich coffee beverage.
She giggles and directs me to the campus Starbucks. My exit is not as smooth as I had wished, my turn is jerky and my feet are clumsy! To think these same feet once graced the smooth floors of Miss Anna's Dance Studio! Where has all the grace gone?
My eyes catch one more look at the man staring and clearly laughing at my inability to not only know my own name, but an inability to walk like an adult as well. Barely able to control my urge to stick out my tongue, I give him a haughty look and walk as quickly as possible to the exit.