Read Evil Librarian Online

Authors: Michelle Knudsen

Evil Librarian (37 page)

“But last night —”

She shakes her head. “Last night didn’t count. That was the call to find out if
he
was alive. Now that you know he’s alive, you have to call again, with different motives.”

That . . . sort of makes a weird kind of sense. But I still don’t feel ready to act on it.

Annie’s mom pokes her head in to say that she thinks Annie should probably go back to resting. It’s still not clear exactly what they think happened to her, but the official story has included reassurances that the effects of the chemicals were not long lasting or harmful, other than the initial hallucinations, and so a few days of rest should be all anyone needs who wasn’t actually injured in the immediate fallout.

I promise I’ll come back to see her again soon, and make my way back home.

The school is closed for a few days, so they can repair the damage to the auditorium and make sure there are no further signs of the (imaginary) chemicals that were somehow released into the school that night. All the students have been accounted for, with only various minor injuries. All the teachers, too, with (of course) three notable exceptions: the new principal, the new Italian teacher, and the still-kind-of-new librarian.

I go back on the first day it’s open. Annie stays home; she’s still sort of reeling from the whole experience, and I don’t blame her for wanting to take a little more time to recover. Leticia stays home, too, since her mom is, understandably, even more freaked about this than she was when Principal Morse died. Diane texts me (on my new phone) to say she was going to come in but actually woke up feeling kind of sick, so she’s just going to lie on the couch and watch bad TV and I should call her later and let her know how the first day back was.

It’s a Monday, so no Italian, which is good. I don’t think I’m ready for that. I keep almost texting Ryan, assuming he must have gotten a new phone by now, too, but I don’t. I don’t know what to say, exactly, but I know that texting is a woefully inadequate way to try to express even the slightest fraction of it. I want to believe that he hasn’t texted me for the same reasons.

Overall, otherwise, things seem like they might actually be okay.

A lot of kids are still absent, but on the whole, the ones who are there seem pretty much back to normal. No one is wandering aimlessly down the halls, or at least, no one other than the stoners who used to do that anyway, long before Mr. Gabriel ever showed up. And although I make a point of looking closely at every unfamiliar substitute teacher, I don’t see any red auras anywhere.

They’re still working on the auditorium, but Mr. Henry stops me in the hall to say that we’re going to do another weekend of
Sweeney
once they’re done fixing everything up again. Miraculously, none of the sets or costumes were damaged, and he thinks with a week or so of rehearsal time we’ll be back up to speed and ready to wow more audiences. Because while what happened afterward was weird and terrible and scary, of course it was, everyone still agrees that the show itself was amazing.

I’m glad to hear this, although, of course, it only makes me think that much more about Ryan.

I’m at my locker after lunch when something makes me turn around, and there he is.

He turns the corner with his friends, Jorge limping along on crutches surrounded by girls trying to carry his books and offer him various baked goods, and the other guys in their group joking and laughing and pushing one another like nothing ever happened.

And suddenly it
is
like nothing ever happened, like the past few weeks were just a dream.

He seems so far away to me, like I’m seeing him through the same hopeless window I always used to, wanting to cross over and get to know him for real, wanting to be a part of his world, and vice versa, and feeling like it could never, ever happen.
I’ve lost him,
I think. I screwed it up and now he’s back to being that other Ryan Halsey, the one who’s forever out of my league, who I’ll never get to kiss again or sit with in dim closets or talk to or share extraordinary experiences with of any kind, ever again.

They come toward me, the whole group, in slow motion, like old times, and when Ryan’s head turns and he sees me there and our eyes meet, I instantly, like old times, look away before I can help it. Old stupid habits, rushing back, like nothing ever changed at all. Like I never changed at all.

My eyes fall from his quickly, but not fast enough to miss the way his face hardens in response. By the time I catch myself and look back, he’s facing straight ahead, walking on by. Like I just sealed some new deal, set the course of things to come.

No,
I think suddenly.
No no no no no.

This is not how this is going to go down. I mean, are you
kidding
me?

I went to a goddamn demon world with nothing but a magic protractor and a shield made from a biology textbook. I fought giant terrifying demons and saved my best friend from eternal romantically induced horror at the hands of an evil librarian. I struck a deal for my would-be boyfriend’s life
and
the lives of everyone else in the school and still owe the demoness two more favors in return, two more trips to her world and all the horrors and dangers and terrible shifty plant-animal-alien landscapes and creatures that will be waiting there to try to make me meat or prey or both. And yes, okay, I also stabbed said would-be boyfriend in the side with said magic protractor just after he told me that he was falling in love with me, but I was doing what had to be done, and I am damned if I’m going to let him walk past me after all of that. I’m still capable of doing what needs to be done. I’m going to do it right now.

I lunge forward and tackle him, carrying him all the way across the hallway to slam into the lockers on the other side.
YES!
my legs cry happily, released to chase their destiny at last. Ryan opens his mouth but before he can get out whatever exclamation of shock or surprise he’s about to express, I pin his arms against the wall and lean in and kiss him deeply and passionately right there in the middle of everyone. It’s just what I used to dream about all through Italian class while staring at the back-right side of his beautifully shaped head. But I don’t have to dream about it anymore. I can do it. I’m doing it right now.

After a moment of initial rigid surprise, his mouth smiles against my own. And he kisses me back.

My nerve endings are singing tiny musical-theater songs of joy throughout my entire body, and I let them, because if this isn’t exactly the right kind of moment for that sort of thing, I don’t know what is.

Vaguely I am aware that somewhere beyond the immediate scope of my blissfully distracted mind and mouth and heart (and loins), students are hooting and staring and calling out encouragement, and perhaps at some point I would have cared about these things, but not today. I release Ryan’s hands, and one of them immediately comes up to grab the back of my head and pull me closer.

One of mine immediately goes down to grab the back of his pants.
No, just the
outside
of his pants,
nerve endings,
STOP BEING SO GREEDY,
and somewhere far off I think I hear the non-dulcet tones of the humorless once-again-Acting-Principal Levine shouting at us to break it up, threatening all kinds of detentions and suspensions for our completely inappropriate behavior.

But he is no match for my nerve endings, nor for the music that I can hear all around us now, swelling to a melodramatic crescendo of soaring notes and a chorus of voices singing in perfect four-part harmony. It’s the act 2 finale, baby, and I’m writing my own happy ending.

Ryan pulls me even tighter against him, still with the kissing (
oh my God
the kissing), and I kiss him back for all that I am worth.

I am very grateful to the many people who helped me and this novel along the way. To start with: everyone in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program (where this story began) for general and overwhelming awesomeness. Among them I would above all like to thank my wise, talented, and beloved advisors Uma Krishnaswami, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Margaret Bechard, and my fellow Thunder Badgers — especially roommate extraordinaire and very good friend and writer Margaret Crocker. Thanks also to everyone at Kindling Words who laughed in the right places when I read little pieces of this story out loud on certain candlelit Saturday nights. I am also grateful to Dana Klinek for sharing high-school stories with me, as well as for greatly appreciated friendship and weekday conversations that sometimes make me feel like I’m in high school again (in the best of ways), and to Jenny Weiss and Kristin Cartee for being who they are and for ongoing and much-needed across-the-board encouragement and counsel. Extra super special heartfelt thanks go to Spencer Schedler and Bridey Flynn, who read drafts and gave invaluable advice and support in pretty much every conceivable way.

On the musical theater front: Thank you to my parents for letting me get involved in children’s and community theater growing up and for sending me to theater camp for all those summers, and also to everyone who ever cast me in a play or in the chorus of a musical. Thanks also to all my Tottenville High School friends — Stephanie Comora Santoriello and Jennifer Gurian Rosenkrantz and all the rest of you crazy kids — including the casts and crews of Soph/Fresh, Junior, and Senior Sing (Junior Sing Rules!) and the spring musicals, and all the teachers who gave their time and energy to advise, direct, and support those endeavors. I’m especially looking at you, Rob Herbert, and remembering Bob Gresh with love. From college, thanks to the Cornell Savoyards, Risley Theater, Gateway Theater, and most of all my dear and multitalented friends Pedro Arroyo, Carrie Fox, Alan Florendo, Jessica Hillman-McCord, and Matt Winberg. Most recently, thanks to the Village Light Opera Group of New York City and all the dedicated people involved in that organization.

Enormous thanks as always to my amazing agent, Jodi Reamer, for guidance, hand-holding, late-night e-mails, and all-around kick-ass excellence, and to my wonderful editor, Sarah Ketchersid, for endless patience, enthusiasm, smart questions and suggestions, and for getting my sense of humor and letting me keep my nontraditional punctuation, at least some of the time.

Finally, eternal gratitude to all the (100 percent non-evil) librarians and other library staffers I have known and worked with and been helped and inspired by over the years. I don’t know where I would be without you!

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2014 by Michelle Knudsen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher.

First electronic edition 2014

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 2013957277
ISBN 978-0-7636-6038-3 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-7636-7087-0 (electronic)

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144

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www.candlewick.com

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