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I’d once believed that nothing would equal the pain of losing my parents.
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He’s here again.
That’s the third day in a row.
He stands out to me because he doesn’t look like the usual type of guy I see in here.
Okay, so the standard type of men who do come in the library, where I work, are typically sixty and over. And this guy is most definitely not sixty.
I would give him late twenties, early thirties.
He is also everything I would have been attracted to in my former life.
Tall. Built. Brown hair. Short on the sides, a mess of waves on top. Stubble. Eyes so blue that you can see the color clear across the room.
He unzips his well-worn black leather jacket as he walks inside, revealing a white T-shirt. Dark blue jeans on legs. Scuffed-up brown biker boots on his feet.
A messenger bag hangs from his shoulder. A motorcycle helmet in his hand.
I’m fairly sure he’s new to town.
I would know if I had seen him around before. Not that I’m a social butterfly who gets to know people.
That was the old Audrey.
The new Audrey avoids all possible contact with people.
But I do pay attention, especially to people who are new in town.
The stranger runs his hand through his hair, messing it up more as he walks over to the table closest to the windows.
I watch as he rounds the table, pulls out the chair that puts his back to the windows, and sits down, giving him a view of the open library space, the reception desk, and the door he just walked in through.
But not the stacks that I’m standing behind, where I’m putting away returned books. Although, currently, I’m not doing anything but cataloguing this stranger’s movements.
He sits at the same table, in the exact same chair, every day that he is here.
So, he’s either a creature of habit. Or he wants a bird’s-eye view of the library.
The old me would have faced the window and looked out at the view, ignoring what was happening behind me.
The new me would take the same seat that he has.
I know what my reason would be for sitting there. I don’t know his.
And that bothers me.
Probably more than it should.
I didn’t always used to analyze people like this. The old me would never have spared a single thought about why a person took a particular seat in the library.
The new me analyzes everything.
I can’t afford to miss anything. I can’t risk history repeating itself.
The stranger puts his helmet down on the floor beside the table. Takes off his jacket and hangs it on the back of the chair he’s sitting on. Gets a laptop from his messenger bag, places it on the table, and opens it up.
He does the exact same routine every day.
And I watch him every day, like a creeper.
This guy could just be a creature of habit. And I’m acting like a total paranoid wack job.
The stranger’s eyes suddenly flick up from his laptop and look straight at the bookshelves I’m standing behind. Like he knows that I’m here, observing him.
My breath catches, and I jump back, knocking into the shelves behind me.
“Shit,” I hiss, rubbing my elbow that I just banged on the wood.
When the ache in my arm subsides, I take a measured step back to the shelves and peer through the gap in the books.
He’s back to looking at his laptop.
He doesn’t know I’m hiding behind here, scrutinizing and analyzing him.
Just like Tobias did to me.
A shudder runs up my spine, making the back of my neck prickle.
Look what I’ve turned into.
A suspicious, lurking, untrusting lunatic.
I work in a public library, and because some new guy has started coming in, I think he has an ulterior motive.
Like he’s here to kill me.
I have never even spoken to the guy, not even gotten within a few feet of him, and I have pegged him as a fan of Tobias Ripley’s work. Or worse, a copycat, and he’s come to finish the job that Tobias didn’t when he left me alive that night.
I have officially lost my mind.
I step back from the stacks and press my hands to my face as I let out a breath.
I just need to get back to work, putting these returned books away, and forget all about the stranger over there.
He’s not here for me.
I’m safe now.
I pick a book up from the pile of returns on the cart. Check the numbered code on the spine and slide it back into its home. Ready for someone else to check it out.
When my shift at the library is over, I walk back to my apartment. I take a leisurely stroll. I’m not in any particular rush. It’s not snowing at the moment, and it’s not like I have anything to get home for.
Although it might not be snowing, it’s still as cold as balls here in Jackson. Typical Wyoming weather for this time of year. Not that I’m from around here. But when I moved here, I quickly learned to keep myself well wrapped up, so I wouldn’t freeze to death.