Page 3 of 3
"Show you what?" Jane asked.
"Oh, I don’t know. How the world is, I guess. The cookies should be cool enough now." She spatulaed one off the sheet and handed it to Jane. "You don’t mind my fingers, do you?"
Jane took a bite. It tasted sandy and formed a paste in her mouth that stuck to her gums.
"It’s good," she said. "It doesn’t taste gluten-free at all."
"See," the woman said to the boy.
"Thanks for returning the book," Jane said. "And for the cookie."
"I’ll see you at the Laundromat," the woman said as Jane crossed the street.
Jane tried to force the copy of War and Peace into her purse, but it wouldn’t fit. The woman must have known, she thought. She must have noticed that there wasn’t a bookmark. Of course Jane might have been done with the book, moved the bookmark to another book, but then why would she have had it with her at the Laundromat? The conclusion was unavoidable: the woman knew that Jane had not read War and Peace and probably knew that she did not intend to read War and Peace.
As Jane walked, she began to sense that everyone she passed knew. She felt them watching her, looking at the cover of the book, looking at her and thinking, "She’ll never read it. She thought she would read it but she won’t, and she should have known she wouldn’t."
Jane was in front of the library now. The shelves had been moved outside, and they looked oddly precarious, though she knew they must be as stable outside as they were inside. She walked over to a table and whispered to a man sitting there, "Is anyone using this chair?" He shook his head. Jane sat down. She opened her overdue copy of War and Peace and started to read.