Touch of Grey [Riley]

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Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Solomon Halsley on Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:16 pm

"You have to stay here," Solomon told Benjamin the cat sternly. Every day, the animal tried to follow him to the library. He was pretty sure that no-one wanted a cat in the library; some of the kids probably had allergies, and besides, Benjamin was kind of mean. His main form of entertainment appeared to be finding anything and everything that Solomon claimed as a personal possession and clawing it up. The librarian had several rows of scratch marks on his arm from those same claws, and he definitely wanted to spare the tears and the lawsuits that would result from his cat scratching or biting one of the residents. And then there was the hair -- there was cat hair everywhere, and it drove him insane. The last frontier was the library, where there was not and would never be any cat hair. He kept the animal inside with his foot while he closed the door, scowling at it, and then set off for his work day. That matter settled, he turned his attention to what would undoubtedly be the second and more prominent headache of the day. His new assistant.

Solomon had been aware that such a position existed, and he'd been aware that at some point someone was going to fill it, but he hadn't expected it to happen this fast. It was irritating, to say the least. He was almost done with his restructuring of the library; it was largely structured like any other library, yes, but there were quirks and nuances and things that weren't technically regulation. They were his little tweaks to the system, and another person was probably just going to step in and try to fix something that wasn't broken, what was already fixed. He didn't know why any of this should bother him so much, but it did, and it was troubling. Riley Michaels, he thought rather bad-temperedly. I don't even know if that's a man or a woman's name.

Solomon unlocked the door to the library; he didn't technically have to keep it locked at night, but it made him feel better to know that when he came back the next day everything would be as he left it. He turned the lights on and put his bag down by his desk, wondering when the assistant with the unisex name was going to show up. He, she or it wasn't late; Solomon was chronically early. He'd woken up at three in the morning, the time around which he awoke most days, sweating and hyperventilating, and there was nothing to do after that but get ready for work and drink enough tea to sink a cruise ship. The librarian looked toward the entrance as the door opened, and smiled, an expression which held little to no cheer. That answered one question. Riley was a woman, and a rather pretty one at that. It seemed that all he had done since he'd come to Highgrove was look stupid in front of attractive women.

"Good morning," he called, a rather open-ended greeting. He plunked his travel mug of tea on the desk and waited for her to further enter the room. This would be an interesting day, if nothing else.
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Re: Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Riley Micheals on Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:54 am

The smooth swipe of lipstick, the careful dabs of cover-up, and the subtle rouge powdered onto the cheeks; all together these ingredients create a look: Professional, capable, bold but approachable. At least that’s what Riley kept repeating over and over in her head since four AM when she woke up stirred by nightmares of children throwing books at her. Twenty minutes of rolling around trying to get back to sleep brought her to a couple of realizations: The first was that no matter how hard she tried, without prescription drugs, there would be no more sleep. The second was that this extra time could be used productively. After a shower and a quick breakfast—a granola bar and some orange juice—she spent her time being “productive”.

Her clothes for today had already been laid out on a chair the night before, and her hair style and make-up carefully planned out and ingrained into her mind’s eye as well. The application might have taken her maybe twenty minutes, but given that she had more than an hour to fill before she needed to head off to the office (which she planned on arriving early to), the processes ran over a half an hour in time. The rest of her morning was filled with her standing in front of her mirror practicing greetings, worrying over her credentials, and – in the moments of sheer and utter lunacy—she removed her clothes and re-ironed them until all wrinkles were flawlessly pressed into a uniform smooth that would have an eggshell riddled with jealousy.

She walked the short stretch from her building to the Old Chapel. She stood outside in the soft glow of the morning and admired the old building, awed by the resilience of such an old building. There was almost certainly refurbishments and improvements made to the building in the years preceding its reopening. If they were trying to hide the ivy creeping up select pieces of the walls, the groundskeeper ought to be fired. Riley smiled dreamily, soaking up the rustic charm. Chills curled around her neck and sending her heart a twitter.

“How exciting…” She whispered to herself. Then, with a new type of determination, she walked into the building shoulders back and smile playing easily with her evenly tones lips.

As if her heart were the plot of a story, it climbed dramatically and came to an abrupt plateau as it hit its climax and faltered a bit. A man was placed maybe twenty paces away. He was young, though definitely past the age restriction for a student. He looked pleasant enough but there was an edge of frigidness to him. This young, rather boyishly featured “dude” couldn’t be the librarian here. Solomon Hasley was supposed to be old and wise; the physical embodiment of the books he was surrounded by. Riley had had a week to build up such an image in her head and this tea drinking guy—not man, but guy—was painfully different especially when juxtaposed with the wizened, slightly grayed stature of her own Solomon Hasley, not this one here.

Maybe it was a joke, she thought in a last ditch effort to assuage her discomfort and utter shock. She put on her “approachable” face (the one she’d practiced in the mirror this morning).
“You’re Mr. Hasley?” She said lightly, friendly. “I can’t say I expected someone so…” Shit…. Adjectives. Adjectives with a positive connotations. Shit, shit shit…. “amiable.” If she wasn’t so sure she’d ruin a relationship that hadn’t even started by pumping a fist through the air, it would have happened. “I’m Riley, sir.” Saying sir to someone who was only three years her senior, if that, was odd. But England was known for proprieties, so proper it was. “It’s a pleasure.”

She crossed the room quickly, her steps steady and assured, though her heart was thumping heavily against her chest. She was surprised her knees hadn’t yet buckled. She subtly wiped the sweat from her palm in what she was sure was as discreet a manner as possible against her eggshell smooth skirt and extended it towards him, a friendly gesture followed by an even friendlier smile.

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Re: Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Solomon Halsley on Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:33 am

Solomon struggled not to look skeptical. Amiable? At what point in the past few months had he ever been amiable? And what, exactly, had she been expecting? Hard as he tried, he couldn't conjure a librarian cliche for someone with his particular name. Maybe a docile old man full of stories about his childhood on the moors, of fighting in the wars and losing a leg or something? Well, if that was what she was expecting, she had gotten at least half the package. All the tired grumpiness of old age in a younger man's body. He gave up and actually quirked an eyebrow at her when she called him sir. What was he, her grandfather? What a strange girl. This time it was the attractive woman embarrassing herself in front of him, something which rarely happened, and he felt a stab of empathy. She was nervous and scared, likely in a new country, judging by her accent. He really should try to cut her some slack.

"That's me; Solomon's fine, if you don't mind," he said, nodding and extending a slightly trembling hand to shake hers. A tense smile accompanied the handshake. "Nice to meet you, Riley. I can't say this is how I imagined you, either; it's a nice surprise. You looked a bit older and meaner in my head." He hadn't actually imagined her at all, seeing as he hadn't been sure of which gender she belonged to until a moment ago, but he felt like he should have been thinking about her if she'd been thinking about him. Besides, it was rare that you saw a pretty young girl working in a library; true to the stereotype, most librarians were old and curmudgeonly. Solomon had noticed, however, that Highgrove mainly drew younger staff. They were more willing to deal with the kids' bullshit than their older counterparts were, he guessed. Thus the children's home had secured two young, moderately attractive librarians, which was perfectly fine with him and, probably, all of the sexually deviant residents. After the handshake was over, he adjusted some small stacks of papers on his desk and said,

"Are you ready for the grand tour?" He indicated the library with some degree of sarcasm. It wasn't the largest or most extravagantly stocked library, but Solomon had formed a sort of affection for it; it was a lonely person's affection for an inanimate object with which they spend most of their time. Showing Riley around would physically take ten minutes, but explanation wise it would probably take an hour. Maybe he should have just typed a list of instructions, taped it to the door, and stayed in bed today. He knew he never could have done it; he needed to be in control far too much for that, but the thought was appealing in itself. Stop that, he told himself. Maybe it will be nice having her in here. Someone to talk to in the hours that pass between yelling at kids to stop making out behind the shelves. He tried to smile in a slightly more inviting way. At least make an effort before you stonewall her, anyway. There'll be plenty of time to alienate her; you always manage to in the end.
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Re: Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Riley Micheals on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:03 am

Hearing Mr. Hasley toss away the title of sir was both a relief and a source of discomfort. In Riley’s mind, it was an affirmation that she’d been overly formal in her approach, thus making her less likable. A light heat crept down her neck and into her chest and she was sure her skin, milky and bleached from a lack of sun exposure and an inability to absorb and lock in any UV rays, was now a flushed rosy color. Knowing this only added to her anxiety and all she could do was smile through it and hope he thought she was working through a fever, perhaps admiring her perseverance. Her hand slipped delicately into his and gripped it in what she thought was a firm and reassuring way. The squeeze wouldn’t have felt like much more than one might feel putting on a snug glove. Still, she let go as soon as she could afraid the shaking in his hand meant her grip was too painful for him. Impressions last, people don’t.

“Right… Solomon. Sorry.” It was a muddled acknowledgment, her mouth a bit cottony. She cleared her throat, and reminded herself to relax a bit. Her shoulders were beginning to cramp from being held up too tightly, a sure way to work someone into a migraine. She let them drift slowly back down to their normal place, being as subtle as she had while clearing her palms of sweat.

She brushed the “older and meaner” comment away with a small laugh, hoping he meant it as a compliment and not insinuating her age and personality had left him thinking she was too weak for the job. He did seem like he was trying to be as gentle as he could, though, which made Riley think this first meeting might still be climbing in a positive direction. It also helped that his voice and accent were decisive and direct; it hinted at the type of leader he could be and Riley couldn’t help but have a renewed enthusiasm. Her nods were accompanied by a winning smile at the proposal of a tour.

“You know, I was worried that a school with such a low amount of students might not have more than a few shelves of old, Latin textbooks. And then I saw the church a few days ago, from a distance, and I thought to myself, ‘It can’t be that small inside. Not unless the walls are ten feet thick.’ And wouldn’t you know it, I was right. It’s very spacious and there’s so much to…” She let out a small gasp and held her hand to her lips. In realizing just how annoying she must have sounded prattling on the way she did, it was all she could do to not divulge into a ramble about how sorry she was and how her nerves get the best of her—especially her mouth—and just how much she wished there had been someone to talk to for the last week so all of this hadn’t just bottled up inside of her waiting to spring on any unsuspecting victim.

In lieu of her apology, which would have been “grander” than the tour by a long shot, she limited herself to a simple, “I’m sorry. There… There really aren’t many people to talk to around here. How about you just talk for the both of us from here on out?” She looked towards the library, hoping the tour might take up some of the pressure of conversation off of her and be a bit more diverting. The look of disappointment in herself was only barely masked by a smile.

With that she stepped aside to let him lead her through the stacks of books, some of which were visibly dusty—an issue she would remedy soon. If Mr. Hasley had been tentative of meeting her before this, she could only imagine how poorly he thought of her now. Five minutes, she thought. Five minutes and he already knows I’m lonely, crazy, and have sweaty palms! The latter of the three may be unbeknownst to Solomon, but every women going through a fit of self-loathing brought on by embarrassment will find things to bring into her list of reasons to be even more depressed. That was the American way, at least. Perhaps English girls were different...

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Re: Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Solomon Halsley on Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:01 am

Solomon was more than happy to not to have to talk. Riley could yammer until judgement day, and it wouldn't matter; if she got annoying, he could tune her out. She was currently jabbering about the size of the library, which was only marginally irritating, and it was a little funny how embarrassed she got after she realized how much she'd been talking. He watched her, looking faintly amused, nodding when he felt it appropriate. Didn't this woman know that he was the most awkward person on the planet, and that she hadn't even come close to accumulating enough awkward points to catch up to him? Apparently not, because she suggested that he do the talking. He stepped past her, bringing his mug of tea with him; he was definitely going to need it today.

"Don't worry about it. I understand; the only thing I had to talk to for my first few weeks in town was my cat," he reassured her with a small, self-deprecating laugh. What Solomon didn't mentioned was that he still had more conversations with his cat than he did with other sensible human beings, but that was beside the point. It was his own fault anyway for being so damn unlikable recently; he could have made friends if he tried at it. But there was something so exhausting about carrying on a simple conversation as of late that it just hadn't been worth it. A lot of things that had once been easy now seemed completely impossible, and a lot of things that had once seemed paltry and insignificant were all-consuming. Solomon's life had all at once become scary and confusing, and now poor Riley had been dragged into this mess through sheer bad luck. He thought, ruefully, that if she'd known who she'b be working work she'd have never taken this job. Starting his tour at the well-established best place to start, that being the beginning, Solomon said,

"Here is where I started organizing things. When I got here, there wasn't a lot of structure, and I've been working my way through since. But it's been slow because I've been doing it alone." He indicated the stack they were beside, which was full of neatly ordered, dusted, labelled books. A sense of disproportionate pride filled him. All he'd done was put a few books in order, slapped some labels on them and made sure they all had their dust jackets. But it was, sadly enough, the only accomplishment Solomon Halsley had to his name. Whatever Benjamin Moore had done during his life was gone, all replaced by this stupid library and his elementary organization tactics. That was a distinctly depressing line of thought, and he decided not to follow it any further because he knew exactly where it lead. Straight to imagining his mother wandering around his apartment touching all the things that had been his, his friends trying not to mention him when they got together, that stupid Tina girl who he'd gone out with once bragging to her friends that she'd dated a guy who got killed by the mob. Those were some of his least pleasant thoughts. Instead, he tried to envision his future in this very library, working with Riley the nervous assistant. It wasn't too bad a picture. Maybe he could learn to live with this after all.
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Re: Touch of Grey [Riley]

Post  Riley Micheals on Sat May 05, 2012 4:23 am

Riley eagerly shadowed him, sauntering just behind him as if it were natural for her to walk behind him. It was, in some ways, the position she’d been hired to fill: the space just behind him. As he passed her she could smell the sweet earthy contents of his mug and was instantly curious. What kind of tea, she wondered, would Mr. Solomon Halsley drink? And for that matter, why not coffee or another kind of stimulant? British tradition and culture, or perhaps just an appreciation for the way warm, smoky water revived a soul in a way coffee couldn’t. As her Aunt Kat had always said, “A man’s drink of choice says a lot more about him than he’ll ever tell you willingly.” And if that was the case, her Uncle Bernie would have been schizophrenic, for he drank nearly anything put in front of him. Riley couldn’t look at a liquid without thinking much about a person’s persuasion and preferences. She was much too impressionable a girl to stay long at Aunt Kat’s side, who liked making impressions.

“A cat!?” Riley said, almost too enthusiastically. She could hear the bitter sweet tang of longing that covered her word like a thin layer glaze over the main dish. As Solomon had just admitted, it was frighteningly lonely in the halls of Highgrove when one wasn’t exactly “well connected”. She could feel the gentle warmth color the pallid part of her cheeks just below her eyes. The backs of her cool hands were there to calm it in a gesture, she realized too late, may seem odd or out of place. She tried to play it off by delicately letting her hand brush nonexistent hairs behind her ear and breathing small puffs of nervous laughter, letting her hand rest for a moment at the taut, stressed lines at the side of her neck. She gave a small, involuntary squeeze to alleviate some of the tension, and then let her hand fall in a ball at her side. The whole affair lasted no longer than ten seconds, but the effect was strange and clearly indicative of her embarrassment. “I... I like cats.” She mumbled, cheeks sunburnt with embarrassment. Her hands itched to flood the area with their aloe-esque frost.

If there was a silver lining, and Riley was generally apt to find one if there was one to be found, it would be that she found a fellow cat person. In the never ending war of cat people vs. dog people, Riley had always been more partial to felines. There was something so needless about them, so self-sufficient, that she yearned to be wanted or liked by it. Much in line with the mentality of dating a “bad-boy”, the less the cat wanted her, the more she wanted it. Every scrap of supplemental attention a cat could pass her way was almost brag-worthy. Dogs, however, left nothing to want. They were loyal and loving, but content to be there… Just there. They seldom had a range of emotion exceeding that of a cat.

Feeling that that part of the conversation had been completely killed, shot twice by her comments, and then spat on by her gestures, Riley listened with rapture to his introduction of his shelves, or rather shelf, of accomplishment. It was neat, each book meticulously set just at the edge of the shelf in such a straight line that Riley wondered if the books were all a cardboard piece painted with different spines. It was breath taking in only a way a librarian could appreciate. She felt several gracious compliments spring into her mind and bloom of her lips when she saw the stormy look in his eyes and felt each of them wither and fade. Such a sad and withdrawn look didn’t match with the distinct tone of pride in his voice. He looked older in that moment; Riley saw the man from her previous imaginings beginning to take shape right in front of her. Her heart, which had always been overly sympathetic and easy to sway, went out to him. Without knowing a damn thing about him, she could tell that he was in so many ways in need of a friend who didn’t have fur and paws. Perhaps he had some, but with the way he looked just then, it was doubtful.

“They’re perfect…” She whispered, emphasizing each syllable with as much awe as she felt. “And, since I’m here now,” she added in a chipper tone which yinged the yang of his dower look, “you won’t have to keep going on all by yourself. I may be a little green at this whole thing, but I am quick learner. I might not be able to mend anything quite so flawlessly, but if you promise to do that much, I can organize with the best of them.” The braces she’d worn for three of the longest years of her life, and the retainers she still wore occasionally, couldn’t have ever created the sort of happiness her smile emitted. It was genuinely simple and naïve, but matched Solomon’s books in quantity of visible flaws.


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