She had heard people say that love could by messy. Somehow, she didn’t think this was what they’d meant.
One… two… three… Amouri counted as she delicately closed the tweezers around each of the multi-coloured, paper stars she had spilled across the floor. She took care to only apply as much pressure as was strictly necessary, so as not to crush the meticulously folded crafts. It would have been much easier to use her hands, but she didn’t have time to deal with the flood of emotions that would invoke.
She cursed as the forceps slipped, sending a turquoise star shooting through the air, away from the jar which should have contained it. She bit her lip, placing the tweezers on the ground beside her and steeling herself as she reached forwards. Her body stiffened as her fingertips grazed the paper’s smooth, shiny surface, and a current of memory travelled from the pads of her fingers to the depths of her heart.
A fond afternoon shared between a mother and son who sat, surrounded by a sea of coloured paper, their fingers sticky with traces of glue. Though the memory vanished as quickly as it had arrived, it left glowing embers in her heart, filling it with warmth even after the star returned to the jar.
Working at L.O.V.E.—The Library for Objects of Varying Emotions—was never boring. Their catalogue was filled with items—both donated and recovered—brimming with the most potent emotions the human heart could feel. A single touch was enough to pull one into a recollection so vivid, they’d mistake the memory for their own, and those drawn to the profession of librarians were more sensitive than most. For Amouri, wrenching herself away from one of the items was as tiring as wrestling a whale.
Which was why she took care not to have direct contact with any of the library’s acquisitions unless it was absolutely necessary. She stared at the folded flaps of her thick, white woolen mittens—the ones she always wore while working, which served as both her saviour and her downfall. They protected her from the flood of emotions an accidental brush against an object would bring, and easily converted into fingerless gloves when she needed to assess an object’s emotional profile before recommending it to a patron. But in their mitten form, they made her so clumsy.
The cluster of silver bells secured above the library’s door rang out, signalling a new arrival. Amouri pushed herself from the floor as she pulled the flaps back over her fingers. I’ll have to sort you out later, she thought, as she temporarily abandoned the scattered stars and pushed aside the sheer, sparkling pink curtain that separated the stacks from the reception desk.
Across the wooden counter stood an old woman. Her grey hair formed a cloud of curls around her head and a pair of thick glasses magnified her blue eyes. Her wrinkled hands clutched a well-worn pizza stone.
“Back already, Mme. Beauregard?”
“I’m afraid so.” Her aged shoulders slouched forwards as she placed the pizza stone upon the counter. “It just wasn’t right, I’m afraid.”
Amouri’s brow furrowed as she accepted the stone tray. Mme. Beauregard had been a frequent patron as of late. Upon each of her visits, she articulated an increasingly specific request, and every time, Amouri failed to identify the correct item to loan her.
Her heart deflated like a spent balloon. She had really thought the pizza stone would do it. Mme. Beauregard had requested an object filled with the emotions and memories of a messy and exciting love—but one which still managed to cocoon you in its warmth, bolstering your heart with its tender embrace. When she had touched the pizza stone, Amouri had been spirited away to an unfamiliar kitchen in which a young couple cooked. Her heart had fizzed with bubbling excitement as, laughing, they launched fistfuls of flour across their kitchen; had sung with joy as grinning, they pointed to the warm sauce and cheese that covered the corners of their smiling mouths; and had swelled with contentment as they snored lightly upon the couch, their legs entwined, lulled to sleep by an excess of carbs and each other’s warmth.
Her disappointment must have shown on her face, for Mme. Beauregard’s voice quivered as she made her request. “Do you think we could try again? Just one last time?”
“Of course.” Amouri drew herself away from her despair. She couldn’t give up; she was a librarian. With the flames of determination burning in her heart, she tightened her grip around the pizza stone and returned to the stacks.
She paid no mind to the stars strewn upon the ground. She would deal with those later.
She paid no mind to shelves adorned with glittering, lacy hearts. Those were the obvious choices. She’d tried most of them already.
She paid no mind to the darkened shelves in the corner—where they kept their most curious acquisitions. Mme. Beauregard might be looking for something unique, but she didn’t need to jumpstart the poor woman’s heart.
Instead, Amouri headed to the very back of the stacks—to a tall, narrow cart on wheels, whose contents lacked any sense of order. These were the library’s newest acquisitions—the ones which had yet to be sorted.
She had avoided them until now. Touching one was like a game of roulette—she had no idea on which type of emotion or memory she’d land. She was searching for something so specific; it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But Mme. Beauregard was counting on her, so she pulled back the flaps on her mittens, drew in a large breath, and reached her trembling fingers towards the cart.
A blast of steaming surprise as her fingers grazed the smooth edge of a porcelain teapot. No.
A thrum of excitement as she pressed a button on a discarded gamepad. That’s not right.
A calming wave as she wrapped her hand around the cold, tin handle of a rusted watering can. That’s not it, either.
Sweat beaded on her brow as she moved from one object to the next. The emotions were tightening their hold upon her heart, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to tear herself away. She didn’t know how much longer she could keep going. Until—
Her eyes widened as her heart skipped a beat.
Oh, she thought. Oh.
She looked down at the small band of fabric she held in her hand—the one which had replaced her growing fatigue with elation.
This will do quite nicely.
“I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I think it’s just what you’re looking for.”
Mme. Beauregard eyed the proffered object—a tattered collar with images of dogs floating through outer space stitched into its band—with suspicion, but reached out to accept it, all the same. As she did, her eyes widened behind her spectacles. Amouri smiled. She knew exactly what the woman was experiencing.
A dog, climbing atop a stored laptop, only to urinate upon it. Taken aback by the sheer absurdity of the situation, her human could do nothing but laugh.
A dog, zooming between rooms, fuelled by a level of joy hitherto unseen by man.
A dog, jumping onto a bed, snuggling into place beside her human. The animal placed her head in the crook of her human’s neck, and as her canine companion’s breath gently rustled her hair, the woman could think of nowhere else she’d rather be.
It was a messy, exciting, rambunctious love; one filled with more warmth and comfort than Amouri could imagine. It was everything Mme. Beauregard had asked for.
The old woman’s eyes watered as the wrinkled corners of her lips twisted upwards into a smile. Her grip on the collar tightened as she drew it towards her chest, holding it tenderly against her heart.
“Thank you, my dear. This is perfect.”
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