Welcome traveler, no need for names here. River folk have a way of knowing what needs to be known.
There’s tea in the pot, slices of spice cake, fresh apples and cheddar.
Don’t open the window when the crow taps, nor let the cats out, no matter what they tell you.
I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door with her basket of tales.
Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with her truths.
Please come again. You’ll always find comfort, refreshment and a bit of magic.
Until next time, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.
“It’s not here,” whispered Isabella to herself climbing back down the anchored wooden ladder, repeating the words softly into Orla’s ears.
“It is here, I know it is here, all the clues, everything brings us here,” said Orla, shuffling pages of notes, pushing back into the deep shadow of the black windowed spaces between the towering bookcases.
“We’ve been here hours, we can try again tomorrow,” said Isabella glancing out into the unlit library, sighing, continuing, “fine, but tell my why this book, why here,” becoming more unsettled, spiraling her fingers around the embossed edges of her backpack.
“You know I can’t, so if you want to go, go, but I’m not leaving here without that book,” said Orla, grateful the dark hid her face, her fear, her worry and her growing despair.
Isabella shook her head, stepped onto the fading carpet, ran her hand upwards along the intricately carved decorations climbing up the sides of the bookcase, and slipped back beside her sister-in-law.
“This is about Brian, isn’t it, you think he left his notes don’t you,” asked Isabella, focusing her full attention upon Orla’s face, straining to see whatever the moonlight would reveal.
“Yeah I do, but not just notes, the book, a book once belonging to his uncle, and before you say anything, I know he followed the instructions, found the map, I believed both brothers followed him.”
“Seriously, that old fool who worked with, with, I can’t believe this, I could lose my job if we’re caught, and all so you can read about fairies and magic and other realms, because you think your husband…”
“And yours, don’t kid yourself, you want answers too, and we won’t be discovered if we’re calm, quiet and think before we begin searching again, I know what you are risking, I know, but I also know that book will lead me to Brian, he’s not dead, I know that too,” said Orla slumping back against the cold glass.
Orla slid to the floor, turned into the corner, switching on a pen light she reexamined the last page of her notes, the page with her husband’s map, a floor plan of this very library with notations about secrets, about hiding places, about an archaic form of cataloging employed to organize a hidden, but vast collection of books.
Breathe, she told herself, see what’s on the page, see what you missed before, and between the breaths she saw it, a symbol drawn as an afterthought on the outside margin of the page, but no mistaking it, although on the page it was upside down from the original she had felt, carved onto the side of the bookcase.
Turning the page, showing it to Isabella in silence, pointing, Orla smiled as Isabella took one step up the polished ladder, running her fingers along the back of the shelved books, feeling, for what, she wasn’t sure, then pushing on a carving, a carving matching the drawing, pushing as the outside of the bookcase opened revealing a book nestled inside a very secret hiding place.