Silence is golden. Those were the words engraved on a golden plaque above the library door; a plaque that the librarian herself had requested in order to remind her patrons what libraries were all about. She sat at her desk checking her stock on the old desktop, her eye twitching with every syllable a child pronounced as their parents encouraged them to read aloud. Row upon row of bookcases stretched out from the front desk. Brightly coloured tales of talking dogs and adventure beamed out from the front rows, whilst the more adult tales sat on high shelves hidden away from curious eyes. In one particular row, third from the front and sixth along, a young woman stood scanning the shelves with sharp eyes. Her companion stood beside her, all pretence of interest long since passed as he stared glumly into space. The woman reached up and selected a book and turned to her companion.
‘What about this one?’ she said.
The man blinked and stared blankly at the book.
‘Looks alright,’ he said. ‘What’s it about?’
‘It’s all about this woman who has a son with autism and he’s accused of murder, so his mum has to find a way to prove his innocence. But the prosecution is really crafty and ask him questions he can’t answer,’ said the woman. ‘Mary from across the road said it was a really good read. So what do you think?’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ she said.
‘Well it just sounds a lot like the book you got out a couple of weeks ago… And the book before that and the book you wanted for Christmas.’
‘Maybe I like reading stories like this,’ she said. ‘It’s practically real life and it’s sort of educational. And it’s far better than the crap you read.’
‘Whoa! Tom Clancy is a genius –’
‘Shh!’ said the librarian.
‘Keep your voice down!’ the woman said. ‘You’re embarrassing me.’
‘I’m embarrassing you? What about the Christmas party last weekend?’
‘That was just as much your fault as it was mine. You know what I get like when I’ve been drinking.’
‘It’s not like I forced the drinks down your throat. You were knocking them back like it was going out of fashion. And let’s not forget what you did to my boss.’
‘I was drunk and he grabbed my arse, what did you expect me to do?’
‘Well I didn’t expect you to jump on him like that. I mean seriously, have a little control, woman.’
‘Please, I’d hardly say I jumped on him –’
‘How would you know? You were off your face! He could have been anyone!’
‘Shhh!’ said the librarian.
‘Stop shouting,’ the woman said. ‘Can we not do this here?’
‘Sure, why don’t we go home,’ said the man. ‘We do a lot of doing there.’
‘Are you really bringing this up here?’
‘You bet I am. No point bringing it up at home is there?’
‘Maybe it would help if you could get it up.’
‘That is not my fault. You know the dog always puts me off.’
‘I’m sure he does,’ she said.
‘Will you shut up about that? I can’t believe you brought up something like that in public.’
‘You mean after you brought up the incident with your boss?’
‘That’s different. There’s a difference between my…problem and you behaving like a complete slut.’
‘So I’m a slut now am I?’
‘Look, why don’t we just drop this and go back to that book you were looking at?’
‘Well if I’m such a slut maybe I should forget about the book and jump on the next man I see?’
‘I didn’t mean it like that,’ said the man. ‘I just meant that you get slutty when you drink.’
‘Really? It didn’t sound like that’s what you meant,’ said the woman.
‘You know exactly what I meant, you’re just being difficult as usual,’ he said.
‘Difficult? A minute ago I was easy. You want to make your mind up.’
‘For God’s sake, will you just give it a rest?’
‘Shhhh!’ said the librarian.
‘There you go again’” the woman said. ‘Always making a scene.’
‘I am not always making a scene. You’re the one who likes to be the centre of attention.’
‘Maybe I do, but at least I have fun. You just love an argument don’t you?’
”I love an argument?’ he said. ‘Who was it who spent two hours screaming at my mum?’
‘Well someone had to set her straight and since you lack the balls to say anything against ‘mummy dearest’ I had to have it out with her.’
‘You said you were going to talk to her, you didn’t say anything about handbags at dawn. She cried when you left you, you know. My poor mother broke down in tears because of what you said to her.’
‘Like Hell she did. She’s always tried to come between us and you know it. Besides, how was I supposed to know she was such a stubborn old bitch?’
‘You did not just call my mum a bitch. What the hell is wrong with you?’
‘I’m sorry, but she’s a bitter old woman.’
‘Well it takes one to know one.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Well if my mum is a bitter old woman then you must be just as bitter. That’s why you can’t stomach each other.’
‘How dare you! And you do realise that if that’s true then you’ve practically married your mum, you sick perv.’
‘Don’t start with that Freudian shit –’
‘Only because you know it’s true.’
‘You know, I don’t even know why you had to disagree with my mum.’
‘Oh you know why,’ she said. ‘Don’t even pretend you don’t know.’
‘No I don’t know why,’ he said. ‘You’ve got the career, the house, the car, the dog. You’ve got damn near everything you said you wanted; I haven’t asked for anything but this. You agreed that once you’d got what you wanted we’d give it a try.’
‘Think of the cost. Do you have a spare two hundred and fifty thousand lying around, because I don’t?’ she said. ‘And we won’t be able to go out anymore.’
‘What of the cost? We’ve got plenty of money and that’s not all at once. Besides, we’ve both got decent salaries so where’s the worry? And we don’t go out as it is. This is the closest we get to actually going out, well this and the Christmas party.’
‘Look, I’m not having this discussion with you, not here and not at home. I’ve told you time and time again what I think about this.’
‘Come on, I saw you cooing over those tiny booties,’ he said. ‘You can say what you like, but I know you want this just as much as I do.’
‘I’m just not ready –’
‘You’re never ready! Fine, when will you be ready then? Think about it, we haven’t got long to decide.’
‘What are you saying? We’ve got years,’ she said
‘They’ll be gone like that,’ he said. ‘All the experts say we should do it before you’re thirty.’
‘Just back off will you!’
‘Shhhhh!’ said the librarian.
‘Oh why don’t you ‘shhh’?’ said the woman.
‘I heard that!’ said the librarian.
‘Christ’s sake! You just had to snap at her, didn’t you?’ said the man.
The librarian stalked towards them briskly, glaring at each of them in turn. She jabbed a finger toward the golden plaque above the door.
‘Tell me, what does that say?’ she said.
‘Err…’ said the man.
‘It says silence is golden,’ said the woman. ‘Get your eyes tested, for God’s sake!’
‘Exactly! This is a library,’ the librarian said. ‘Not The Jeremy Kyle Show, so go take your arguments somewhere else. And if you ever want to come back here I suggest you come separately. Good bye!’
‘This is all your fault,’ said the woman.
‘My fault? I didn’t even want to come! I was going to sit and watch the rallycross…’ said the man.
‘Silence!’ said the librarian.
© Jessica Wiles, 2013