A Vignette

She didn’t look elegant at first, with her enormous purse on her shoulder and her white NorthFace fleece jacket. She wore her shoulder-length hair in a tousled style, and her glasses were slightly off-angle. But her lips were rose-red, she had solid control of that purse, and her white jacket was immaculate.

There was a bookcase between where she was standing and where I was working at one of the tables, and she stood there, against that bookcase, looking around the library as if she was supposed to be meeting someone. But there was something nervous about the way she was doing it: she was looking around quickly, right to left to right to left, drumming the fingers of her left hand on the bookcase as she did so. I wondered what she was so nervous about. Was she having a clandestine meeting with an old lover, perhaps? What an odd place to do that – the public library where just several feet away was a guy pounding away on his Macbook, and two old guys sitting by the magazines talking about their respective health troubles.

But as she drummed her fingers on the top of the bookcase, I could see that she wore no ring on any of her fingers.

She decided that she had arrived before her expected party, and opted to sit down. So she came around the bookcase, into the area where the tables were. She had on a skirt of brilliant crimson, the most wonderful red ever. Somehow the skirt matched her lips exactly. She put the purse on the table next to mine and took off the white Northface jacket. The skirt was actually the bottom of a dress, the whole of which was that gorgeous red. The V-neck didn’t plunge too deep, and she wore a necklace of wooden beads that rattled ever so softly – had we been anyplace other than the library, I wouldn’t have heard them. She slung her jacket onto a chair and started unpacking her purse.

The beautiful red dress was also a maternity dress.

She pulled out a purple plastic water bottle, and her keys which hung from a long lanyard. She also pulled out a spiral-bound notebook and an iPad. Her nervousness from before disappeared entirely, which struck me as odd – if she could set that feeling aside so easily, why had she been nervous in the first place? She sat down and went right to work, taking absolutely no notice of anyone around her. She alternated between tapping the touchscreen of her iPad – only using her slender index finger – and jotting notes in her notebook with a number-two pencil. I returned to my writing.

Minutes later, her awaited party showed up. A teenaged girl, maybe fifteen or sixteen. The girl plunked her bookbag down on the table. “Hi!” the woman said, looking up and giving the girl a radiant smile.

“Hi,” said the girl. “OMG, you look amazing!”

“Thank you!” said the woman. “How was your break?”

“It was OK. We didn’t go anywhere.”

“Sometimes that’s the best kind of vacation. So, where were we?”

The girl pulled a thick textbook from her bookbag. “The Depression just started.”

“Bummer!” The woman laughed. “All right, let’s get into it. Can you tell me some of the causes of the Depression?”

Ah, I thought. That was it: she was a tutor. There tended to be a lot of them in the after-school hours at the library, and we were now sliding into that time of day. Their conversation delved into the Depression, and my attention returned to my writing. I spared one last look at the pregnant woman in red before I left, though.

Why had she been so nervous at the start?

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