The floor of a library was rarely comfortable. But Trkasu had grown used to it within his own home, their tiny library the only real place he could hide. He’d spent hours sitting between the shelves with a book on his lap and his finger following the words on the page. His brothers never came in there. Not even his father would come in. So he’d sit on that cold ground and read through the tomes no one else ever touched. Dust would fly with each page turn, covering his hair and pants and forcing him to wipe the tears away from his eyes.
It was different in Roderick’s library. There was no dust, no old books that cut his fingers and no that he was hiding from. The books were bright, the floor was soft. He’d even taken the pillow Roderick had handed him and settled his book on it. It was like a table, almost. And the words on the book’s page never blurred from tears of fear, never faded from misuse or simple ignorance.
The books in the room were clean and clear, free of dust and filled in facts. He didn’t need to hold his place with finger. There was no fear that someone would stalk into the room and scream for him. No one would stomp on his book and throw it to the side while he was reading, asking him why he even bothered to read in the first place. His brothers wouldn’t sneer at him while he sat on the ground, actually shorter than them for a short time.
The sound of footsteps in the hall almost stopped his heart nonetheless. His head jerked up from the book. But the door didn’t creak open, no one came to jeer at him. His father wasn’t sneering down at him. By the time he looked down at the book again, he’d stained the very tip of the book with his blood. Panic had clenched his fists, cut his finger on the paper.
The book was out of his lap and on the ground in an instant. Fear ran through as he stared at the tiny red stain. It was barely noticeable. It would be mostly invisible with the book shut. But Trkasu could barely breathe. He couldn’t even imagine turning the page, touching the paper.
Ever so slowly he reached out his uncut hand, brushing his fingers against the page. None the blood came out, didn’t even come off enough to stain the very tip of his finger. A tiny whimper escaped in his panic. When he pulled his hand back, it was trembling. He curled his fingers into a fist and tried, desperately, to just breath.
That failed when he glanced at the tiny drop of blood. His father would have killed him over much less than that. His brother would have left him on the ground, laughing at how hopeless he was. Couldn’t even hold a book, he could hear them taunting. Laughing and mocking and poking him with the toes of their boots.
Trkasu fell backwards, hyperventilating. He knew there was something wrong. That blood stain, he’d ruined it. A job and he’d ruined it. No chance of saving himself any more. He didn’t even noticed the way his hand kept shaking, the way he was utterly panicking. It was what he had to do. He’d ruined something, managed to defile a book with his blood.
There was several minutes where Trkasu had no idea what he was doing, face pressed into his hands while he struggled for control. There was none the be had, another layer of panic atop it all. He couldn’t pull himself in. The book was gaping in front of him, mocking him, as ruined as he had been.
And he pushed himself away until he hit the wall, whimpering just under his struggling breath. He couldn’t see the book through his fingers and the panicky tears that had collected in his eyes. Yet the bloodstain was still there, still obvious, standing out from the page.
He had no idea how long he sat there, pressed against the bookshelf and struggling to concentrate enough to move. It could have been hours, could have been minutes, before his tears dried on his cheeks and his hands were just too tired to shake any harder. The trembles had quieted down, though he was still hyperventilating. And he didn’t move off the wall, afraid to be any closer to the book.