Where We Met

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They had met in the reading room of the British Library. One blue set of eyes met with another set of gray and the rest, as they say, is history.

She was probably a little older than him, and she was half way through her doctorate in Greek Civilization (and its impact on social structures). He was a mathematician who was studying for his masters, but who had always wanted to write books for children.

They had spent months not talking, and there were months of stolen looks and of conscious ignoring. An outsider might have thought that their behavior was more that of a teenage couple.

What had finally broken the ice was when he knocked a book on to the hallowed floor of the reading room, causing a resounding ripple wave of noise to circulate. This made her jump and she let out a little scream. Only a little one mind, but enough to cause murmurs of disapproval growing as a wave in the opposite direction.

He had mouthed the word, ‘sorry’ to her and she’d constructed a little smile on her face, as if to say, it was fine.

Later that day, they literally bumped into each other when she was returning from the café and he was off for a breath of fresh air.

“Sorry about that…you know….earlier….the noise,” he said, but was thinking how much easier things were in your head. How much simpler it was to imagine situations without the actual physicality of the other person standing right in front of you.

She thought he seemed kind, and cute and was hoping he would ask her for a coffee, or something, anything – even although she had just drunk a large latte.

And he did ask her, and that was also, as they say, history.

They spent several months of courting, always in between their hectic studying. It wasn’t until all of that was complete that they decide to get married.

There wasn’t much money between them and so they managed to rent a small studio apartment on the Holloway Road. He took several jobs, one of which was cleaning at the British Library during the night. He would come home, sleep for three hours and then rush off to work in a small company in the east of London.

They tried for children but it seemed that they wouldn’t be blessed, and in a way, it would have been hard for all three of them to live in such a small space.

“Perhaps next year,” he would tell her, then kiss her.

The third anniversary of their meeting in the British Library (to be more accurate, the first time they actually spoke – as neither of them could agree when they had first noticed each other) was going to be in ten days and he had something very special up his sleeve.

It had taken a lot of planning but it helped where he worked. The bosses at the Library weren’t too happy about cleaners messing about with stuff, but still he managed it.

Either life is random or it is not. Perhaps when your time is up, it is up, or maybe it is just a freak incident after all. Either way, the morning of the day of the end was just like any other.

He got up and walked down Holloway Road towards the Tube station. Perhaps if he had known this was his last day, he would have looked more closely at the little things: the faces of people, the flowers in a window, or the child who smiled at him. We are never so lucky to have that luxury, so when he crossed the road, there was a million things on his mind other than the London bus which killed him.

She remembered the young police woman who came to the door. She had a sergeant with her. The woman had asked her to sit and she sat down and watched their lips move. The person who stood up a few hours later as the room was growing dark was never going to be the same person again.

She was too torn to even cry. Her heart had been broken into a million pieces.

A week later, a week of tablets, relations, more tablets, not sleeping, tears, and drink, a letter arrived.

It was from him. An anniversary card to say how much he loved her and how much he looked forward to growing old with her. For a moment she had almost forgotten he was gone. It was like that every morning, a few seconds of happiness before the reality kicked her in the face.

At the end of the card (and after all his kisses) was a book reference, one from the British Library.

That morning she went to the library and requested the book, there was nothing special about it, except she suddenly remembered it was the book he had knocked from the table all that time ago. In the back of the book was a card, in his writing which said, ‘I love you’.

On the other side of the card was another reference for another book, the one she had been reading the day he had said ‘sorry’ for the first time.

And on this card, he told a small story of his life before and after meeting her. There was another book reference at the end this card. In all he had left messages in twenty books and together they made up a story of his life with her.

She sat there, in the reading room, too scared to cry and trying hard to breathe. It was – she thought – better to have loved and lost, than to have never known him.

She walked up Euston Road, and the sunshine bleached her heart a little. If life was random, she decided, then anything was possible. And she smiled at that.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

bobby2 wee bobby

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The Man Who Sold The British Library

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So you’re probably asking how it all came to this. How I got here, when it wasn’t that long ago that I had everything in the world. Well stuff happens. To everyone. All the time.

After I had been working at a blue-chip company in the city for about three years, my partner and I had decided that it was time to start having the children we had promised ourselves (and yeah reading that back, it does sound a little arrogant). So along they came, three boys, instead of the one boy and one girl that we had planned. But you know all about that fact – life’s like that.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way – little Tom, Dick and Harry are the apples of our eyes. So when the first boy started school, April (that’s my wife) suggested that we move up to a larger house, as the three boys were sharing the one room and it wouldn’t be that long when they’d want their own spaces.

So that is what we did, except April (yep, my wife) suggested that we buy a detached property to ‘future proof’ our lives. It had a large garden and a pool, everything you need when you’re a millionaire (which we aren’t by the way). This all came with the assistance of an extremely large mortgage and me selling some of my body organs here and there (okay, that last bit was an exaggeration).

And so we all settled down to a ‘future proofed’ life – except that it wasn’t. It was the Friday before we broke up for our mid-year holidays that Alexis (my boss – my other boss) took me into the office, sat me down and told me that they were letting me go.

I think I was unconscious for a few minutes before Alexis threw a jug of water over me to ‘bring me around’, she said.
“I know this will come as a bit of a shock, but it’s just as hard for me to give you such sad news,” said Alexis (my ex-boss).

There was so much wrong with that statement that I just walked out of her office and left the building. Apparently they would send my personal stuff on to me. I don’t know what made me do it but I told them to leave it all with security and I would collect it from downstairs at a later date. You see, I was already thinking about what April would say and when I should tell her. I guessed that all my chattels turning up at the house would be a reason for her to suspect something was wrong.

I was now standing out on the street – a man who had a house that would only get paid off when I was dead about eight years. I thought about walking into the street and seeing if a bus would hit me – not taking me out completely – just enough of an injury that my ex-company would feel sorry for me and take me back.

In the end, I decided to get drunk.

I was trying to find a nice little pub down Euston Road where I could cause an affray when I noticed a lot of media types heading into a large red building. This building turned out to be The British Library. Yes – it did sell alcohol, so I bought a not inexpensive beer and sandwich and sat in the café area. Next to me were two teenage girls having a conversation with one of their mothers.

“Yes, I am studying, I promise Mum. I am surrounded by books,” she said but the two of them were actually missing school and were hiding in the library, from what I had gathered.

It was enough to give me an idea and I phoned my wife, April. I told her that I was rather busy and that I would be home a little later than usual. I had no idea what I was going to do but she believed it – I also added that she should call me on my phone as the office system was being repaired. Yes it was tiresome I told her and she swallowed it – hook, line and sinker.

I thought maybe I could play for time by phoning new prospective employers from the library – start up an office away from home and that is what I did.

On my third day in the library one of my clients (from my old job) called me on my phone. No he hadn’t tried my office as he wanted to speak to me urgently. Could we meet up?

I suggested the British Library, as I would sometimes pop in there for a snack and coffee. Anyway, he thought it was a really nice idea and so we met up the following day.

He was offering me and my firm a rather large contract. Then I told him that due to ‘differences’ I had split from the company.

“You’re a go-getter, I like it. I like it a lot.”
He said, he needed to talk to his boss but he thought that they might give at least a percentage of the work to me. It was something, but still not enough money to cover the next mortgage payment as well as the household bills.

I decided to phone some of my old clients and see if I could poach them off the company. I contacted about 20 of them and 3 said yes.

Each night I went home to the wife and told her about the hard day it had been at the office.
“They work you too hard,” she said and I said ‘yes’, I had to agree with her.There was Wi-Fi in the library and that meant I could pick up my emails – plus the office still hadn’t taken me of their system.

The thump on the back of the head in the middle of my not inexpensive coffee said it all.
Alexis had tracked me down to the library and said that if I stole anymore clients she’d take me to court. I said for what? For being good? Then she used her ace card and said she’d tell my wife where I was hiding out. That did it. I would need to find another way to make money. Bank robbery seemed an option.

I went outside to the library piazza for some air and possibly hoping for a miracle – well you know what? Sometimes miracles do happen and so it did that day.

Just off the piazza on Euston Road was a gentleman holding one of those ‘golf sales – this way’ signs. He asked if I could hold his sign while he nipped into the library for a pee. I thought since I had nothing else to do, I would help this poor gent. While I was holding the sign, Alexis happened to walk by with some of the folks from the office.

“I see you’ve found yourself a job then?” Smirked Alexis. I thought about hitting her with the board but that would not have been clever. I also thought about a million things I could have said, but that was about an hour later. It’s a shame it happens that way.

Anyway, now I’m getting to the point of this story. An Asian man, maybe Japanese, or Chinese or something else saw my sign and asked if I was selling. I said I was only holding the board for a gentleman. The man insisted that we talk and he said something to an associate who did all the translating.
“Mister Woo want to know if you sell?”

“Yes,” I said, “What would he like to buy?”

And they pointed up – I thought they meant the Golf Sale sign and was ready to give it up for a few pounds.

No, he said, he wanted the big red building. “He pay good money,” said the associate. And out of their case came several thousand dollars, that I understood was only a first payment and more was to follow.

I know what you’re going to say, it was wrong, really wrong but hey, karma was giving me a break and I took it. We sat at the coffee stand in the piazza and I signed the document which would sell the British Library to Mr Woo.

Now I know you’re getting cynical and saying to yourself that this is all a load of…. Well you know. But they did pass the case over to me full of thirty-five thousand dollars. They would come back tomorrow with all the paperwork.

And that dear friends is where I am at this moment, sitting outside the British Library waiting on a couple of gentlemen to come and pay me 50 million dollars for the British Library. I’ll let you know how it goes.
bobby stevenson 2016   🙂

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