With one final push, Nadine hauled herself onto the roof of the Northsea Library. This was her secret spot; if she wanted to read in peace or simply clear her mind, she’d make her way here to this narrow stretch across the grand arched rooves of the library. It required incredible agility, persistence and daring to come here, not to mention the idea of even attempting to come here in the first place; she was sure the chances of meeting somebody here were so slim that she’d be alone here for as long as she came here, under nothing but the night sky.
A cool breeze flowed, colder than the air below – hence why Nadine always wore a thick, slightly oversized jacket to hide herself in. Nadine sat back against the balustrade and took out a novel titled “CROW” in bold letters across the bottom. She looked down to her left to see the library entrance below (as well as the occasional visitor entering or leaving at this hour), then up to the sky, then down to her book to begin. She read, and was reminded of her family, of the tension between her (up until recently absent) brother and them. Her mind then drifted to various unrelated topics until 70 pages in.
Nadine heard a dull clink a few metres below the point she’d entered the roof. She stared at the entry point with fearful apprehension, frozen in place – nobody should be here, she thought. Nobody but her. A briefly seen hand tossed a long black jacket up onto the entry point, producing the same dull clink as before. The jacket’s owner climbed up a few seconds later. She had…medium length silver hair that had been ruffled either by her or by the wind, and…a face more youthful than expected. Nadine hardened her expression ever so slightly to convey her intentions of staying, but remained frozen in place.
Halfway through hauling herself up, she looked at Nadine, only just realising she was there. She looked more like a deer in the headlights than Nadine ever could. They stared at each other in disbelief for what they would surely have said was longer than a few seconds.
The young woman with the long black jacket spoke first.
“Uh, hi. May I ask how you got up here?”
“Uhhm…few jumps here and there, bit of climbing. Not too difficult…?”
Nadine decided to try to be diplomatic to break the ice.
“Not too difficult, no. I’m guessing this is your…secret place? Don’t worry yourself, it still is. Come over, sit down.”
She stood up to put on her jacket before sitting on the side opposite to Nadine, half a metre or so to the side to give herself leg room.
“Crow, hmm. I’m around fifty pages in, just after Tillman swears vengeance. I’m Lynn, by the way.”
Nadine realised she was still holding the book fairly high in the air, and lowered it but not so much as to imply shame or any other form of negativity. “I’m Nadine. Pleased to meet you.” Lynn seemed somewhat more comfortable. “Pleased to meet you too.”
Nadine paused to think of something to say.
“Do you come here often?” Lynn paused and looked down briefly.
“Really? Only when I need space, somewhere to…think clearly.”
Nadine picked up on the undertones, and set her book face down on her lap. She thought to herself: This is a place the both of us go to think about what’s troubling us without having to hold ourselves back. We shouldn’t have to be holding back here.
She decided to go first, to let Lynn know it was okay to speak here.
“There’s a…bit of a rift in my family, so of course I’ve got something to think about here as well. What’s wrong?”
Lynn stared into space through Nadine, expression a blend of grief, weariness and thankfulness for asking.
“Well…my mother’s in hospital right now. It’s still under investigation, but she was hit by a car a week ago. I’m hoping it wasn’t a hit and run, just an accident. One that…happened to her this time.”
“Oh…I’m sorry. Is she okay?”
Lynn involuntarily let out a barely audible laugh out of hope her mother was okay, or perhaps even out of fear.
“They told me she was okay. She’s sleeping a lot, but it’s not a coma, that I’m thankful for. I just want her to be okay.”
“She should be fine. You did say she’s not in a coma. Rest does wonders for the body and it sounds to me like she’s doing well.”
“Heh…I suppose she is…I just can’t shake the feeling something bad will happen. It’s already happened to us once. It only ever means it’ll happen again.”
Nadine leaned forward.
“No, she’ll be fine, she’ll be fine. Your mother sounds like somebody who will make it through this healthy.”
Lynn seemed at a loss as to what to say. She knew her worry may be unfounded but held onto it still, looking back down.
“I guess so. What brings you here?”
“Not much, really. I just…like it up here sometimes.”
“I seem to recall you saying there was a rift in your family. Heehee. All this needs is a nearly empty church and a background choir.”
Nadine laughed as heartily as much as the slightly quieted conversation allowed.
“I did, I suppose.”
She hid her hands in her sleeves to warm up and put them on the book resting on her lap.
“My brother disappeared five years ago. He reappeared out of nowhere, really, at my mother’s house. My mother was twelve shades of angry at him. I still remember contacting everybody we could, nothing. I still don’t know what he’s said to explain his absence, and my dear mother hasn’t done much to explain either. All she’s said is that she’s fuming.”
All signs of fatigue on Lynn seemed to have disappeared. Maybe she’d succeeded in temporarily forgetting her own troubles, Nadine could still see them through those metallic blue eyes, but she was doing well right now. Lynn seemed the same as she did when she first arrived.
“In the end, isn’t it a good thing that he’s back?”
“Tell that to my mother. It’ll be a long time before she gets over this and I don’t blame her.”
“You can sort it out no matter how long it takes.”
This initially hit a sour note in Nadine before she realised she wasn’t the one mad at her brother.
“We’ll see if he can survive whatever my mother throws at him.”
She covered her mouth and stifled laughter, realising the unfortunate implications.
“Not literally, not literally! At least, I hope not…!”
Nadine sighed contentedly before priming herself to stand up.
“That reminds me, my mother said she’d be doing something about that tonight. I better go and see how that turns out.”
“You know, we probably see each other again. We’ll be up here as normal, but at different times. So thank you, and goodbye.”
“Thank you as well, Lynn. I wish your mother a swift recovery.”
Nadine put the book away in one of the many coat pockets she had and made her way down. Slowly walking the path home, she turned her phone on. One message.
“Family dinner tonight. Earl will be there. He’ll be apologising.”
It was a start, Nadine thought to herself.
It was a start.