For the next two days, Tim saw very little of Dom, other than in passing. He figured with both of them working that wasn't too surprising, but still he missed his company.
Wednesday came and with it, a surprise that had nothing to do with Dom.
It was mid-afternoon and Tim was doing his usual routine when he wasn't helping out at the check-out desk—shelving books and pointing readers in the right directions for specific books they wanted. He'd just finished showing a woman where to find ones about computer programming. As they had a sum total of five, he wasn't surprised she needed his assistance. On his way back to the fiction half of the library, he heard Cherie's familiar voice telling someone—he presumed it was Mrs Norton—"He has to be here. He's always here."
He chuckled while hurrying the rest of the way to his destination. "I don't live here," he said with a bit of amusement when he spotted her in the children's section. Then he realized she hadn't been talking to her nanny. Her father stood a few feet away. When he heard Tim's reply, he turned and smiled.
"That's what I was about to tell her. She seems to think you're a fixture here, no matter when."
"I feel like it," Tim said nervously, glancing away and then back at Richard. Swallowing hard, he asked, "Where's Mrs Norton?"
"She had an emergency, so I took off work early. Cherie insisted we had to come here right from school. Something about dinosaur books you promised to show her."
"Grownup ones," Cherie said. "Not the silly kids ones with pictures and not many words."
Tim nodded. "Come on; let's go see what we can find for you." As they crossed to the non-fiction section, he was very aware that Richard was following right behind them. Too aware. He found his hands were shaking when they got to the right section and he took out a couple of books he thought Cherie could handle. She immediately went to the closest table to look at them.
"She's a voracious reader," Richard commented, smiling proudly at his daughter.
"And well above her grade level." Tim tried to think of something, anything, to keep the conversation going. "She… she said she wanted to read 'The Secret Garden' because Mrs Norton told her your garden reminded her of the book."
"I'm afraid she's right. Well, sort of. There's a high brick wall around it and, unfortunately, I don't seem to have the time I'd like to tend to the plants." Richard chuckled. "I was a bit overly ambitious when I first bought the house. I envisioned flowers and bushes and even vegetables. The vegetables never happened and the flowers have taken over where the bushes haven't."
"Yes. Mostly wildflowers, so they come back each year with reckless abandon. It's actually something to see come springtime."
"I'd… I can imagine," Tim replied, wishing he had the nerve to say he'd like to see it.
Richard hesitated then said, "Spring is a long way off, but maybe…"
"Daddy, look!" Cherie exclaimed, holding up one of the books to show Richard a picture. "It's the dinosaur we saw at the museum."
"So it is. An Apatosaurus or…" he read what it said under the picture, "what I grew up calling a Brontosaurus."
"Uh-huh." She went back to looking through the books.
Richard chuckled. "Next thing I know she's going to want to start excavating in the garden to see if she can find some bones. She's already planning on how to fix it up, the way the kids did in that story."
Tim grinned. "Did she plot out murders when she was going through her Nancy Drew phase?"
"Mysteries, yes. I don't remember that she tried to figure out how to kill anyone, thank goodness. She actually sat down at the computer and wrote a story about one of them for a school assignment." Richard glanced at his daughter, smiling. "She got an A for it."
"Maybe she's a budding author."
"Or a doctor, or a vet, or… this week it'll be a paleontologist."
"Daddy, I'm hungry." Cherie bounced to her feet, putting on the jacket she'd discarded when she sat down. "And you promised we could go the burger place instead of you cooking 'cause Mrs Norton's not there."
Richard rolled his eyes, explaining to Tim, "Mrs Norton usually makes dinner for us during the week, but obviously not tonight. So I opened my big mouth and…" He paused. "If you want to join us?"
Tim gulped. "Really?"
"I… I wish I could, but I don't get off until eight. It's Wednesday and we close late."
Richard nodded. "Maybe some other time? Or… you do get lunch breaks, I presume."
"If you want, maybe… I work a few blocks from here, so perhaps we could meet for lunch?"
"Me too?" Cherie piped up.
"Nope. You'll be in school."
"Daddy," she whined.
Turning back to Tim, Richard said, "Tomorrow? When is your break?"
"At one," Tim told him, his pulse beating faster.
"Do you know Comforts?"
"Yes. It's got pretty good lunches."
"Great. I'll meet you there at one?"
"Perfect. Okay, Cherie, let's go have burgers and fries."
Tim watched in total disbelief as Richard and Cherie left the library. I have…a date? Or…or something. He was grinning ear to ear as he went back to work.
"You look like the cat who swallowed the canary," Ms Gaines at the checkout desk said.
"Just… well…" Tim stuttered.
She arched an eyebrow. "Whatever's making you smile like that—I like it."
So do I. I just hope he really meant it and shows up. "Thanks," he replied, before going to help a woman who looked lost as she perused the science fiction section.