Johnny tentatively walks up to the two ladies sitting behind the main library desk: one lady has black braids pulled up into a ponytail, and the other has shoulder-length curly brown hair. He doesn’t recognise these librarians, but they could still help him.
The brown-haired lady pushes her spectacles up her nose and studies Johnny. She reminds Johnny of his school teacher, Mrs Smith: she always pushes her spectacles up her nose, but that meant someone was in trouble, big trouble. But this lady smiles at Johnny.
‘Hi, Johnny, have you come to borrow some books today?’ says the brown-haired lady.
Johnny gasps and steps back. ‘How do you know my name?’ he asks, fingers knotting behind his back, something his mommy says he should stop doing.
The two ladies glance at each other and smile. ‘Oh, didn’t you know, you’re quite famous here. All the librarians know about our number one library member,’ says the lady with the black braids. ‘My name is Michelle, and this,’ she points to her fellow librarian, ‘is Susan.’
‘Hi.’ Susan waves at Johnny.
Michelle looks past Johnny. He follows her gaze. ‘So, how can we help you today?’ she says, returning her attention to Johnny.
‘I’ve lost my mommy.’ Johnny looks around the library. It’s different: the room is filled with white, instead of brown, book-crammed bookshelves, and the carpet is navy blue — like his school uniform — instead of the original grass green.
‘Oh, Johnny, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll find your mommy,’ says Susan, pulling Johnny’s attention back to the librarians. ‘Where did you last see your mommy?’
Hmm, where did I last see my mommy? ‘We were shopping for food. But then I saw a toy Spitfire like the ones they flew during the war. And when I looked up, Mommy was gone.’
Susan and Michelle watch him intensely. Did they want more information?
‘Is there anything else you remember, Johnny?’ says Michelle.
‘Erm… I called for her, and I looked everywhere for her, but I couldn’t find her. But then I saw the library and thought someone in here could help me.’ Johnny breaks eye contact with Michelle and Susan, hoping they didn’t see the tears in his eyes.
‘Okay, Johnny, why don’t you go over and have a look at the books while we try to find your mommy.’
Johnny wipes his eyes with the back of his hands and looks up. Michelle holds a phone to her ear, and Susan watches him.
‘It’s ok, Johnny, off you go,’ says Susan. She smiles.
‘Okay.’ Johnny returns the smile and wanders over to the brightly coloured section of the library — they really had redecorated.
Johnny browses the bookshelves full of magical worlds — well, that’s what his sister Judy called them. Once a week, Judy brought Johnny to the library so they could borrow a book. Judy had recently finished reading Five Run Away Together from the Famous Five series to Johnny, and she promised to read the next one soon. Hmm, is the book here?
‘Oh, here you are. I was so worried.’
Johnny turns around. A lady rushes towards him. It’s Mom— He freezes. Something is wrong. This lady looks like his Mommy, but she’s different: her hair is brown with blonde streaks and pulled roughly back into a ponytail — Mommy didn’t like ponytails. ‘Oh, Judy, it looks so messy and unladylike,’ she would often say. She’s also wearing blue trousers — Mommy hated trousers.
‘You can’t just wander off like this; you nearly gave me a heart attack.’ The Fake-Mommy stops before Johnny. ‘Thanks for calling me. I should’ve realised he’d be here — it’s always been his safe place,’ says the Fake-Mommy to the librarians standing behind her.
‘It’s okay. We all know what to do if he’s here by himself,’ says Michelle.
‘She’s not my mommy.’ Johnny steps back and raises his hands ready to push the Fake-Mommy away if she came too close. ‘Go aw—’ Johnny studies his hands. Why do they look so big and old? What’s going on? These are not my hands.
‘It’s ok. You’re just a little confused again. I’m not Nana.’ The Fake-Mommy reaches out to him. ‘It’s me, Dad, Linda, your little Lindy. Come on, let’s get you home.’
Copyright © 2020 Nicole J. Simms. All Rights Reserved.
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