Libraries. Now that was one place Zach never pictured himself venturing into on his own free will. A room that smelled of old ink, lemon air freshener and dead trees. There they were, in every corner. Globs of text seeping from pages and pages of…He took a deep breath and shoved open the door, ducking in just before it slammed. Shelves and more shelves of typed hell loomed before him, and somewhere in this bookish wasteland loomed the librarian. Zach wasn’t claustrophobic before, but he was now. A piece of aluminum string was caught in the fan, and whipped against it in a soft hiss. Eying it irritably, Zach put his hands in his pockets and watched his feet as he trudged past the librarian’s abandoned counter, passing by the crammed metal shelves. Jagged book edges stood out against the ledge, and the clammy smell of bookjackets wafted through the musty air.
Soon enough he found the study room: two metal-frame doors pushed between a wall of books. And there sat Gentry, hunched over a book, a hand buried in his hair, eyes taking in rows and rows of cryptical text. But it was unusual to see him so immersed in anything, and Zach almost felt embaressed for intruding.
When the door slammed he looked up, only to look away a second later and focus on the area of space behind Zach’s shoulder.
“Surprised you showed up.” he said, after a tense moment of deliberation.
Though now that he thought about it, not really.
One hand rested on the doorhandle while the other tensely held his backpack over his shoulder: ready to flee at any moment. The clock ticked so loudly, tick tock tick tock, and the room was so quiet that the carpet seemed to chirp and rustle.
“Well?” said Gentry, “I don’t have all day. What are you reading for lit?”
“First tell me why you called me here.”
“That should be obvious. You’re failing, aren’t you?”
Zach didn’t answer that.
“You are, just say so.”
“---Don’t assume things.”
Murky eyes disdainfully reflected the rainbow wristband on Zach’s limp wrist, then looked away.
“I’m not assuming anything. I work in the office, I knew it even before you yelled it out.”
“If you know I’m failing, why did you ask?” He murmured tensely, wondering why exactly Gentry had shown up. What was he trying to pull?
“Not important. I’ve written essays before; you’re not the first person I’ve done this for. So think before you run, since I can get you an A.”
Zach scoffed, “At what price?”
“If you know anything, don’t ask me to set it.”
Zach threw his hands in the air, “I don’t even know why I came here.”
His arm jerked back as it yanked open the door.
A tense silence descended on the room. Gentry’s tone was clipped, and raised ever so slightly. Zach noted this amidst the drum-like beating of his heart, which rumbled through his senses.
“You lost this.”
Gentry held up the book, clenched tight in one reddened hand. A reminder for Zach not to leave as well as an insistance for him to stay.