Coincidentally Yours, Liv
Liv stood at the edge of the pack of teens and glued her eyes to the woman who stood among them. “I’m so happy to see you all — old faces, new faces. This is going to be great!” The librarian handed out half-sheets of sky blue paper, and Liv’s eyes opened wider than she expected.
The words on the page took her into a spin: Honoring Our Ancestors in bold green print. A cemetery clean-up? Genealogy research? Day of the Dead? This volunteering wasn’t about shelving books? Shit. Only her manners kept her in place.
“Okay, kids, The end game is our first annual Day of the Dead event at the cemetery, but to get there, we have work to do. Before I give you the details, any burning questions?” Ms. Hart understood the impatience of teenagers.
Three hands flew into the air and the group laughed as if not surprised at who wanted to do the asking. One bold hand stretched high above the cluster with military precision, one ambivalent arm bent at the elbow with a concave palm peaking out at shoulder level, and one shimmery purple sleeve waved like a wand with a falsetto: “Ms. Hart? Ms. Hart?”
Everyone but Liv nudged their neighbor or rolled their eyes. The actions felt more tolerant than hateful. More words spilled from the purple-sleeved guy without delay. “So, what’s Day of the Dead? And is there a color theme?” The question got four high-fives, one from military man.
“So glad you asked, Mark. Let me explain.” Liv was impressed with Ms. Hart’s patience toward purple-sleeves, who clearly had a reputation for asking questions.
After answering the others, Ms. Hart gave a five-minute teaser about what was to come and gave the group marching orders, reminding the students to add the dates to their planners and to sign up for a committee before they left. Four pieces of paper were neatly taped to the counter near the circulation desk, each with a pencil beside it.
Supply Chain/Delivery Team
Publicity /Community Team
Event Planning/Clean Up Team
Liv lingered behind the others, watching the lines fill on each of the teams except for Hospitality/Support. Adding her name on the first blank line of that list would be a horrible idea.
Some of the kids were already hanging around an outside bench, unwrapping their sandwiches, popping open their soda cans. Liv had a chicken leg from last night’s supper wrapped in a piece of foil along with a banana that had been brutalized by her World History book. No way was she going to join that crowd, even though they seemed friendly enough. Even Mark was there, flaunting a troll lunchbox.
“See you on Saturday, kids,” Ms. Hart said as she leaned out the door. And just as Liv tried a strategic disappearing act, Ms. Hart touched her shoulder and said gently as a dove, “Dear, do you have a minute to stay?”
Liz rezipped her messenger bag when she detected the unsettling fumes of the chicken and banana. Ms. Hart walked her back to the counter.
“I see you didn’t sign up for a committee. I could use a project assistant for a few weeks, an hour or so after school. You’d need to get permission from your parents. I’d be happy to give them a call.”
“Oh, you don’t need to do that. They’re really busy right now,” Liv fumbled.
“Could you let me know tomorrow? First thing?” Ms. Hart wasn’t a stranger to recruiting the new kids. And she knew how to encourage accountability.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll come by before first period.”
“That’s a plan! See you then.” The librarian turned away and as Liv stepped out under the Exit sign, the circle of teens uttered earnest “bye”s and “see ya”s as she lifted a hand without fully turning their way.
Life hadn’t held too many coincidences for her up to now — or if it had, she hadn’t noticed. What could possibly explain the fact that the place where she shattered Grandy’s china plate would be the site of a school event within weeks? How could that overgrown and forgotten landscape become inhabitable by a bunch of library groupies who clearly had come to the library for the same reason she had — to escape the cafeteria crowd. She wasn’t about to become one of “them.” And no one had introduced her to the concept of denial. Not yet.
Continue The Meeting Place with part FOURTEEN.
New to Liv’s story? Read the following entries to catch up: