140: Interloper

On the first Wednesday after he found it, Edmund discovered he was not the only person who knew about the Library.

On that day, he ran back to the library after his solitary breakfast, to continue reading about an interesting tincture invented in the last decade. He had no sooner reached the elevator, however, when a sharp clearing of the throat from behind him made him pause.

“Were we planning on skipping our our meeting this morning, young master Edmund?” Mr. Shobbinton was staring at him through his monocle, a frown on his face as he gripped his briefcase tightly. Edmund drew himself up as best he could–he had a name to live up to, after all.

“I’m feeling quite tired,” he said, using a phrase he had heard Mrs. Mapleberry use quite often. “I’m afraid I might be ill. I was going to convey my apologies for the day to Matron, and then go to bed. I’m sorry if that causes any trouble.”

“No,” Mr. Shobbinton admitted, after a long pause, “I still have much to survey, and time is running out… I suppose an morning off is not unacceptable. I would caution you though; you may have Matron’s name, but you have no need for her habits. Locking yourself in your room may be…comforting, but it will not help you in the long run.”

Edmund nodded, and hopped into the elevator as soon as he was gone.

When he arrived in the library, he set himself down at the same reading-table he had left his books on yesterday, when a small sound met his ears, like a mouse scratching at a wooden door. He froze, listening carefully, wondering if the Thing in the Tower had left its room and come to see how Edmund was getting along.

The sound came again, and he could easily tell now what it was–the simple brushing of paper on paper, as someone turned a page of a book. It sounded to Edmund like it was coming from first floor.

Carefully, walking on tip-toe, he crept down the stairs, trying to move as silently as possible. He moved through the stacks until he peaked around a large shelf and saw Junapa sitting in front of the giant tree statue, a small book in her hands.

Junapa knew about the library.

Edmund’s heart sank. It was heartbreaking to realize that the library was not the sanctuary he had hoped. His secret haven was not so secret after all.

Hot on the heels of his initial disappointment was confusion–how did Junapa know about the library? How long had she known about this place? Perhaps she had just found it now, and had decided to stay and read.

But Edmund knew this was a foolish thought; everything about Junapa exuded confidence. This was a woman who was sitting in a second home, not someone who had just found a new and wonderful place. His heart sank a little more at the idea that he might very well be the interloper, rather than she.

“I know you’re here,” Junapa suddenly said, without looking up. “I heard the door open. Why don’t you finally come out and say hello? It is polite, after all.”

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