Overdue

By Jerry Guarino

The library was always a place of peace and happiness for Angelo. He remembered his boyhood days on a Saturday morning with Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak. Later, when he was twelve, he would immerse himself in the Hardy Boys mysteries; that was the year he first noticed the high school girl working there. The library formed his love for reading and his reading for love. But the best part of the library was that they let you borrow any book and return it for free, no obligation, just an occasional overdue fine.
       Angelo eventually became a teacher and a writer, a natural destination for someone who loved reading. Teaching gave him time off to write; he would often spend his afternoons in cafes grading papers and writing with a cup of tea and a pastry. Around 5pm, he would leave to make dinner for his wife, Julia, a banker. Angelo and Julia were hanging in, in spite of the economy. But nearly all of those in the 99% had lost jobs, savings and the value of their home in the 21st century. Locked into that huge middle class without equity in their home and competing with younger people for employment, Angelo and Julia lapsed into a loving, but stressful middle age.
       “What do we have for dinner, sweetheart” said Julia as she came home. “Chicken cacciatore with vegetables and a little rigatoni” said Angelo. Julia poured herself a glass of wine. “Stressful day?” said Angelo as he made the plates. “Just the usual, not enough time in the day. How was school?” Angelo took a sip of wine. “You know my kids are great, but today a couple of them were really off, seems like they were struggling with something at home. You’re so lucky to work with adults all the time.” Julia nodded. “Yes, thank goodness for that” and she kissed him on the cheek. After dinner, they settled into their routine, watching television on the couch and going to bed early.
       As the years went by, he spent more time writing and less teaching. With writing he felt continual progress while teaching was a year of moving kids forward, then having to start over again with another class, correcting the ones with behavioral problems and inspiring those who were there to learn. Eventually he switched to substitute teaching; no more grading or preparing lessons, but much less income. His assignments took him to many schools, with different grades and subjects to teach. The variety kept things interesting and assured him that no one difficult assignment would last very long. One day, he found himself teaching first grade, something he found extremely stressful.
       That lunchtime, Angelo went into the library to see if there were any video stories he might use. “Excuse me, do you have any reading stories. My little ones and I need some calm this afternoon.” The librarian, Anna pointed to the filing cabinet. “Right over there.” Angelo picked out a storybook video, knowing he could mesmerize them for a while that afternoon. “Thanks, you’re a life saver. I’ll bring this back later today.”
       That night, Anna was fixing dinner for her husband Roger. “Anna, I’m home.” Anna gave him a hug and kiss, then took his overcoat. “Relax dear, dinner’s almost ready.” Roger put down his briefcase and sat down to read the paper. “How was school today?” Anna began fixing plates. “Oh, you know. Same old librarian stuff, nothing that exciting.”
       Later that week, Angelo was at his café writing when an attractive woman interrupted him. “Angelo, hi! It’s me, Anna from the library.” Angelo looked up at Anna, holding a cup of tea. “Anna, hi. Please join me.” Anna noticed the book next to Angelo’s computer with his byline. “Did you write this?” Angelo signed one of his books and gave it to Anna. “Here you go. Who better to read my book than a librarian?” Angelo and Anna discovered they had much in common, along with chemistry neither of them anticipated. Within the hour they were holding hands and planning to meet the next day.
       The affair lasted once a week each Friday for about six months. Neither Anna nor Angelo wanted anything complicated, no talk about family or friends, just a couple hours of passion in an otherwise long and stressful week. In fact, the affair reenergized them for their spouses and invigorated love making at home.
       Then one day Angelo got a text from Anna, asking to meet him that Tuesday at the café. “This is a nice surprise,” said Angelo. “Is your husband away on business?” Anna took him to a corner booth for some privacy. “I was reading your book last night when Roger asked me about it.” Angelo didn’t seem concerned. “So, you can let him read it.” Anna touched Angelo’s forearm. “You don’t understand. He’s a banker.” Angelo leaned forward. “What a coincidence, my wife is a banker too.” Anna’s eyes widened. “Angelo, he saw your last name on the book. Your wife works for Roger!” Angelo, suddenly panicked, wiping some sweat from his forehead. “Angelo, Roger arranged for the four of us to have dinner Friday night.” Angelo realized this development was long overdue.
       Roger and Anna waited in the lobby for Angelo and Julia. When the door opened, Julia greeted her boss and shook hands with Anna. Then Roger extended his hand to Angelo. “It’s nice to meet you. Anna loves your book. I even read a few stories myself.” Julia added. “How amazing is it that I work for Roger and you have been teaching with Angelo?” Angelo and Anna tried to hide their uneasiness. The hostess showed them to their table. “We’ll take a bottle of champagne,” said Roger. When it arrived, he made a toast.
       “Here’s to making new friends. It’s been a while since we have been out on a double date. Let’s do this again regularly.” Julia raised her glass, smiled and agreed. “Yes, same for us. We needed a change and new people in our life.”
 
 
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