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They said she’d lost her looks, she’d gone to the dogs, that

her braid wasn’t what it used to be, or her eyes. Maybe she

was pregnant, she moved more slowly now, she wasn’t so

brisk when she brought you your meal. They said various

things. Someone supposedly even overheard her say to him,

You promised. To which he answered, We’ll do it. You just

have to understand. She says, What do I have to

understand? I’m not as dumb as you think I am. Just

because I work in a cafeteria? And she burst into tears.

The librarian, though, she was easy on her, she was an older

woman and she’d probably been through a lot herself. Even

after it was time to close up the library she’d keep it open if

it was raining outside and the other woman was still sitting

over her book. She’d tidy the books on the shelves, replace

torn slip covers, catalogue new items.

Sometimes though, despite the rain she’d suddenly give

back her book and leave as if something had agitated her,

and at most the librarian would say to her:

“It’s good you have an umbrella, Miss Basia.”

She’d apologize to the librarian, explain that she’d just

remembered she had something urgent to do.

“Never mind, never mind, Miss Basia. I understand, it

happens. I’ll just put a bookmark at your page. I’ll leave the

book over here, it’ll be waiting for you.”