I found her on the sofa. I say that like I was looking, I wasn’t. It was my tea break, but the heaters in the staff room had finally given up their faint orange ghosts, and the main part of the library was warm with people. So there was no particular intent nor effort. Just a thunk inside, not in the heart or guts but the whole torso, on recognising that tattoo. Five dots in dice formation, above her thumb. She’d done it with a compass, someone else’s, but she’d been perfectly civil to the owner, and given it back afterwards undamaged, just slightly claggy at the tip.
Her face was hidden behind a book. When I approached she put it down and looked up, weary-wary as she clocked my lanyard. We can chuck people out, if they stink enough. We can. I don’t.
I said her name. She squinted, pressing her lips over her teeth and chewing them softly, so I said mine too.
“What you done to your hair?” she said eventually. “You look like a—”
“Lezzer?” I finished.
“Pretty much,” I said.
She nodded like Yoda.
I looked at the picture on the book cover. A fresh-faced, mop-capped girl with a decorous smudge on her cheek. “What you reading that crap for?” I asked. I wanted to drag her around my workplace thrusting things into her hands, like when a toddler shows you its toys. I knew what she had been like and so I knew what she would like, I could spoil her. Give her words that’d make her piss her knickers, make her think, rage, feel.
“It’s not crap. It’s nice. Passes the time.”
I sat by her. Offered my tea. She shook her head.
“Sick,” she said. “I drink owt it’ll come back up.”
She licked her finger to turn a page, leaving a small beige stain. She stroked my arm with her other hand. “You’re looking well,” she said. “The hair apart.”
I linked my fingers through hers. The tremors in them juddered me like a motor running. She turned another page.