Looking around and absorbing the total quiet, Polly Kruse, Pauline, held her breath. It was involuntary. Of course, she was used to quiet in the library, where she was the head librarian, but during these Christmas holiday hours the library was normally pretty much deserted.
She shook her head, realizing that it was, for her right then, to be expected. This had been the year when both her Momma and her Poppa had gone. She'd been taking such good care of them for the past year to year and a half and they went, fairly quickly, one after the other.
It was like a fairy tale romance with both of the romantic partners, who'd shared a life with each other for over fifty years, passing on within a day of each other.
In the past, Polly had always made sure that the holidays were festive for Mom and Dad. Her Mom, Suzie, had especially liked the holidays and all the fuss.
It was the fussing that Polly had inherited from Suzie and she became, for a number of years, the one who was in charge of the fussing.
But this past year, her Dad, Ray, had gotten sick first and the seriousness of the sickness had 'infected' Suzie right away. So that Polly watched them both fade, loving each other to the very end, and making plans and promises to meet in the dimension of God's love, wherever that might take them.
It was a touching scene to be sure but it left Polly, whose times and days were now her own, at loose ends. Those 'loose ends' were not as totally and clearly apparent until she started to come face to face with the holidays.
Polly Kruse, never married, had been a late life baby for Suzie and Ray Kruse. From that time on, it had been the three of them, always the three of them. As though it were the three of them against the world.
There were simply so many dimensions to the situation that Polly was now realizing that she missed.
"Don't dwell on it now, girl," she said to herself, a bit sharply. "Or you'll be crying here and now."
She looked around then and said: "Though there isn't anyone here to see you cry. The library at Christmas time is a desolate enough place."
She was even thinking of maybe closing down a little early. She just wasn't sure.
Polly Kruse was 34 years old that year, the year that she lost Momma and Poppa. She was a bit over weight, at least for her height of 5'4". She was, really though, somewhat plump but a physical treat for anyone not seeking society's image of a thin, hipless, boob-less model type. Polly had curves and softness to go with those curves but she was, and even she admitted this, languishing. And now it was Christmas and the library was empty and she was heading for the dumps, big time.
She woke herself from her reverie and gave herself a message to simply do the 'look around'. It might be early but she'd make sure that there wasn't anyone 'lurking' anywhere.
She went into the reading room that would lead her to the stacks and was surprised to find someone there.
Ken Koffelt was doing some odd research. He usually did. He was a library fan and was always in search of more information about this and that, about whatever might cross his mind at any given time. He had an insatiable appetite for information and the library gave him ample opportunity to indulge that appetite.
Ken was a sergeant on the police force. He'd been a cop for a good 15 years. It was something, like his attitude about the library, that he simply loved.
He remembered that as a kid he was always taken with policemen and told any and all, who might listen to him, that he wanted, when he grew up, to be a policeman too.
He followed his dream and joined the city force, once he was out of school, high school and college. For him, for Ken Koffelt, it was like living a dream. He rose, during the years, to the position of sergeant and was not only satisfied with that but found it to be a source of absolute joy.
He lived alone with his loving cat Wanda. His Mom and Dad were both gone now and had, in their passing, left Ken with enough resources to be able to retire comfortably any time that he wished.
He'd talked to Wanda about that possibility and they had agreed that he'd keep working, even though he didn't really need the income from the job.
Ken was a big man; he was 6'5" in his stocking feet and ranged between 225 lbs and 240 lbs. He was a workout fiend and made sure that he kept himself in good shape, both for the job and for himself and his image of himself.
He had good handiwork skills that he'd gotten, growing up from his Dad and had, for years, been rehabbing the large, three story house where he and Wanda lived. He'd gotten to the point with the project where it was almost finished to his satisfaction.
"Almost done, Wanda girl," he'd recently said to his adoring cat. "What do you think we should do, when this project is finished?"
Wanda, apparently aware that she was being spoken to made her cat noises and Ken said: "Yes, I agree. We need to look around for a new project.We still have the one room but I've kind of been keeping that for 'her'; whoever 'her" is."
Ken was solitary enough that he spent the holidays, since Mom and Dad were gone, with himself and his loving Wanda. He never really let the solitude bother him terribly. He loved to put up a tree, trim it and put around some festive decorations.
His attitude, though alone with Wanda, was almost totally opposite of that of Polly Kruse's.
It was several days before the actual Christmas holiday and he had some thoughts about saints and saints days that he wanted to track down, so he went, as was his frequent custom, to the library.
He found it fairly deserted, except for the librarian, Polly.
If he were honest with himself, and he didn't try to kid himself too much about these things, he had a kind of sweet spot for this Polly. He'd already talked to Wanda about it on numerous occasions.
"Bet she'll be there," he said to Wanda, as he left to go to the library to track down some saints.
He buried himself, after saying 'Hi' to Polly the librarian, in a side room and began his research on his latest interest. He was there for the better part of an hour, when he heard a great amount of noise and clattering.
He got up from his table and went to the main desk area, where he found Polly and another young woman trying to deal with what looked like an obstreperous, fairly drunk student.
"Now, Ronnie," the woman was saying, calmly, to the guy. "Let's go. You're making too much noise in the library."
"Yes," Polly said, coming out from behind the desk. "You'd better go."
"No one's gonna make me leave..." the guy, bigger than either woman, said.
It was just then that Ken entered the area from the side room, where he'd been doing his research.
"Hey, pal," he said brightly.
The drunk took the greeting to mean that the person was a friend of his.
"Hey," he said to Ken, who was still in his uniform.
"You the guard?" the kid wanted to know.
"Naw," Ken said affably, "Local cop."
"Arresting?" the guy wanted to know, sticking out his chin as though in challenge.
"Nope," Ken said, "Just doing some studying."
"Cool," the kid said, as he and his girlfriend were ushered out of the library by Ken.
The guy sat on the steps and wasn't going to move. The girl was trying to get him to go. Ken went back into the library and said to a very grateful Polly: "I'll be back as soon as I get the partier home."
She gave him a huge smile and a kiss on the cheek and said: "Thank you, Ken."
"Yes," Ken said, pleased that she remembered his name.
He got his coat and exited from the library. The couple was still there.
"I don't think I can get him home," the girl said. "He's really not this way. Party and all."
"Let's go, pal," Ken said to the kid, picking him up from his perch on the steps.
"It's my guardian," the kid said with a grin.
"Yep," Ken said, "Let's go home."
"Home, James," the kid said pointing the way and wandering off down the walk, supported by Ken to keep him from falling.
It took only a little while but they did get the kid home and delivered him to some friends who agreed to take him into the dorm and deposit him in his bed.
When that was accomplished, Ken turned to the girl, who gave him a hug and said a very sincere "Thank you."
She had left her bag at the library and they walked back to the library to fetch it. Polly was there and was waiting, knowing that Ken said he'd be back.
The girl fetched her bag and gave Ken a cheek kiss, before going off to her own dorm.
She turned to Polly, as she was leaving and said: "Make sure you keep this guy; he's worth it!"
It left Ken kind of blushing and Polly giggling and blushing a bit also.
When the girl had wandered off, Polly herself gave Ken a hug and said: "Guardian!"
He smiled at her, leaning back from the hug and said: "Serving and protecting here."
"You were so nice about that!" Polly said. "So nice."
Ken decided to press his advantage then: "Can I ask you out for a drink?" He was on pins and needles, as he said it.
"You know," Polly said, "I think that I'd like that. Tough night with the reveler and all, but it's also the time of year. Kind of gives me the shivers."
"Really?" Ken said, "Well, let's see if we can do anything about that."
Ken and Polly had certainly seen each other at the library any number of times. Ken had, at that time, as we've said, a soft spot for Polly and this incident seemed to be playing directly into his hands, so to speak.
.... There is more of this story ...