Franny shifts her backpack around to dig out her laptop. She’s found her favorite chair in the library, off in a little-used corner. Kids are pouring into the building, followed by harried, hot parents, gathering for a marathon of Harry Potter movies.
The kids seem to wear their masks effortlessly, thoughtlessly tossed-on accessories. Adults are always more self-conscious, touching masks, glancing at signs with masking rules. Rules have loosened in most places; here, the powers that be require face coverings indoors.
And indoors is the place to be, with heat shimmers rippling up from the parking lot. Another day of what the pundits called a “heat event,” as folk argued about whether it was really so much hotter than when they were kids themselves, or if the heat resulted from billions of tons of CO2 poured into the atmosphere for decades.
Franny settles in to focus on her new book. She’s still outlining, a new tactic for her. Usually she just starts writing. This time, the inspiration comes to her in the form of a structure, a skeleton that will eventually need flesh and blood.
By the time she’s connected to the wi fi (and why do that first, after all, I’m here to write, not to surf the inter webs) and opens up her latest version, a voice grabs her attention.
“Hello, Franny, good to see you.” It’s Rosa. “Sorry, am I interrupting?”
“Oh, hi, Rosa. No, of course. I mean, well, yes sort of, but it’s a welcome interruption.”
Rosa laughs, a genuine, musical sound. “No such thing, but thank you for being so kind,” she says. “Never fear, I will not keep you. I’m just glad to see you looking so well in this heat wave.”
Franny considers Rosa’s face above the line of her mask. Her brown eyes are crinkled at the corners from lots of smiling. But they also hold something else, a sense of secrecy or fear, deep inside.
“You look well, too,” Franny offers. A little white lie. “And thanks. Give me an hour to work on this, and then we could meet up?”
“I’ll be at work by then.” Rosa seems about ready to say goodbye and walk away. “But maybe tomorrow?”
Franny nods. There is something Rosa wants to tell her, she’s sure, and now her curiosity threatens to overtake the outline of her book.