"Would you help me over in Reference, please?"
Richard looked up from his filing. He swiveled his head, looking for the source of the clear, but tiny voice.
"I'm rearranging and I need someone to help move the shelves and lift the boxes of books."
He spied Sylvia, standing a little to the side and behind him. Richard nodded "ok" and filed the last two cards. He closed the card file drawer and followed her to the Reference Room.
Richard's role in this University Library was a small one. He worked twelve hours per week as part of his student's financial aid package. He was new to it in this September of his junior year. He was glad to have this job. Most of his friends were washing dishes in the cafeteria. At the library he would file, shelve, or check out books. He learned a lot about using the library, which he was certain would help him when he moved on to grad school. Mostly, he enjoyed the chance to meet and talk to the many people that used and worked there.
He especially enjoyed the chance to flirt with the coeds of his choosing. He had actually gotten lucky with one of them a few weeks ago. His target of choice was JoAnne, the graduate student's wife and coworker at the Circulation Desk. He sensed that she was lonely and wondered if he could become her lover. He thought that he sensed some return signals from her. He pondered his next steps. At any rate, whatever his conquests and prospects, he tactfully guarded them, flaunting nothing.
Richard was a good student. His sexual ambitions were normal for a young man of twenty years. He was a little unlike most of his classmates. He had a polite and unassuming nature that was not normal for his age. The college girls thought that he was good looking, which explained why his flirtations were seldom rebuffed. He was better groomed than most of the male students, but neither in a "spit-and-polish", nor in an effeminate sense.
He quickened his pace to catch up with Sylvia. He wondered if this new task would be a long one. His shift was nearly over; maybe he could get some overtime.
Sylvia Weinstein was the Reference Librarian. She had charge of all the materials available to students to find statistics, or facts or the sources of information they needed for their research.
If Sylvia's aura had been less drab, she would have been an enticing mystery-lady to a young man like Richard. Her manner of dress was plain, nearly hiding her form. Her skin was pale, but retained an olive tone at the same time. She was not very tall—maybe five-two. Salt and pepper hair suggested age, but her smooth facial features, hair style and slender build indicated youth. Her face was neither pretty nor homely. It had some Jewish features that added to her mystery. There was no hint of makeup. She wore no jewelry except her watch. In the employees' break room Sylvia said little. When she did, it was all business and in a voice that lacked volume but included a hint of condescension. Richard knew that she was unmarried, but nothing more. Yes, she was a real mystery lady. As he hurried to catch up with her, the barely-perceptible sway of her hips had Richard wondering more.
They arrived in the Reference Room together, and Sylvia pointed out the work she wanted performed. There was much to be done. Mostly, it was lugging boxes of dusty books and erecting the new shelves that had been delivered in kits earlier that day. Sylvia left him to it while she busied herself across the room. By the time Richard finished it was eight o'clock, closing time.
Sylvia approached him. For the first time Richard perceived a faint smile trace across her face. "Thank you, Richard. You were a big help."
"No problem, Miss Weinstein," he countered. "I was glad I could help you."
She offered no reply, but stood looking at him for a long second.
"You may call me Sylvia," she said. "Come to dinner at my house on Saturday. Seven o'clock. Here is the address."
On almost any other occasion, a young college man would relish free, home-cooked food. Richard was not all that excited. Saturday nights were reserved for fun, adventure, relaxation. He had been conscripted into reserving his night to dine with this older woman who did not interest him. Still, he had accepted. It was not in him to rudely renege when she was just trying to say "thank you". In the end he just shrugged and decided to go along with it. She would probably become tired and send him home by ten, anyway. He would get back to the frat house in time to tap the keg.
Richard liked to be on time. At last, in the dusk he found the roadside mailbox. There was a narrow driveway that wound up a wooded grade to a destination that was invisible from his vantage point. Richard followed it in his Toyota. After about 500 yards, he rounded a curve and he was at trail's end.
It was a small house in the woods. As he emerged from the car he could smell smoke escaping the chimney. The house was on one floor, but the architecture was too modern to be considered ranch-style. Despite the small size, Richard was sure it had been built at some cost.
He stood leaning on his open car door for a few seconds perusing the mysterious structure. His self-imposed ennui was fading and curiosity filling the void. He snatched up the bottle of Chablis that he brought with him and strode to the door. He rang the bell and waited. A minute passed. As he waited the chill in the autumn night air bit him. He wondered if she had heard the bell. Finally, Sylvia appeared, opening the door to him.
She was dressed almost as if at work. There were the black trouser-style slacks, neither snug to her slender form, nor loose as a pajama. Her hair was arranged just as always: parted in the center, brushed back from her forehead, descending to her shoulders. It hung straight down without waves nor curls, but with a slight frizz. She wore the expected shirt-style white blouse. Unlike the usual cotton, however, it was a shiny silk. Richard noticed that two, not one, of the buttons at the top were left undone. He was sure that she was unaware of it. At any rate, it revealed nothing, except a hint of a delicate collarbone.
There was, however, a huge difference in that as she opened the door an inviting smile replaced the usual taciturn exterior. Richard thought that he might have detected a trace of perfume.
"Richard", she gushed, "I am so glad that you're here."
"Sorry to be late," he answered. "It was hard for me to find your place. I don't come this way often."
"That's alright. Come in!" They stepped together into the main part of the house.
Richard glanced to the right end of the house and saw the fireplace crackling.
"I was just admiring your house from the outside before I came in."
"I know," she replied, "I saw you."
The answer was full of mystery. If she had seen him, why had she delayed in answering the door? Had she been angry at his lateness? She did not appear so. It tugged at his curiosity. Recovering, he thrust forward the bottle of wine.
"Richard, how thoughtful you are! It will go perfectly with our meal." She paused. "Most young men would not have the good manners to bring it."
Richard blushed at the compliment and shrugged. "The inside of your house is just as nice as the outside."
"Thank you, Richard. I like it here. It was built for me by a dear friend nine years ago."
"Oh, will there be someone joining us?" He didn't see evidence of anyone else in the small home.
"No, he's been gone a long time."
Richard had the presence of mind to avoid a follow up question.
Another pause intruded. She broke the silence, "Why don't you make yourself comfortable by the fire? I'll finish the cooking." With that she turned for the kitchen, located on the opposite side of the layout, the bottle of Chablis in hand.
Richard strode toward the fireplace. As if in afterthought, she called to him, "The whole house is what you see ... well, except for my bedroom, of course ... so I won't bother you with a tour. Make yourself at home."
What had the 'bedroom' comment meant? At any rate it was deflating, notwithstanding his disinterest in visiting it. Despite the irrelevance, her comment was a challenge that made him covet entry to the forbidden place...
As if she sensed his need to be soothed, she called again, "Fix yourself something to drink. Anything that you can find in the cabinet by the mantle is fine."
Richard found a bottle of Drambouie and poured himself a good one. "Anything for you?" he called out.
"No, thank you. I'll be with you soon."
Richard put a log on the fire and stoked it. As the sparks rose he took a gulp of the liqueur and glanced at Sylvia at the opposite end of the house, preoccupied in the kitchen. Her strange statements confused him. As the alcohol braced him, he turned attention to the appointments in the home.
He stood in a living room-den-dining room in combination. It was dominated by the fireplace, books and wood. The furnishings had an expensive look that told of good taste, and a scale that revealed disdain for large gatherings. There was a settee not far from the fireplace, rather than a sofa, with plush pillows on either end. Small, cozy chairs were set off remotely in intimate pairs. In front of the fireplace, in contrast to the hardwood floor, lay a luxurious-looking white area rug. It was rectangular, about four by eight feet in size. At first, it appeared to be fur, but he saw that it was not. He judged the material to be long strands of silk. It was definitely not designed for walking on. He carefully placed a foot on it and felt that a pad lay underneath it.
.... There is more of this story ...