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The car was an old Chevy Nova, but it purred like a content cat as Louise started it up. William looked around with the innocence of a child.
"You need to wear your seatbelt," she told him after he sat down, he looked at her quizzically, so she reached over her shoulder for her own, and pulled it down and across to a slot at her side, he nodded and did the same with his. He braced himself a little as she pulled away from the kerb, and then laughed.
"It's my first time in an automobile," he smiled, looking around at the lights as they flowed by.
""Your dad never let you out of the library?" Louise was still a little disbelieving of that.
"There was never any need," he turned to her to watch her drive, her legs moved as she worked the pedals and her hand rested on the gear lever, her blue dress had ridden up slightly and half of her thighs were exposed. "I was educated in the library, any time I was sick, a doctor visited, and we had a kitchen there. Dad used to go out shopping occasionally, but most times, he'd get things delivered," she glanced at him, and noticed where his eyes were, but his expression was different from other guys who stared at her legs.
"What are you looking at?" her tone was light, and curious.
"At how you drive," he looked up at her again. "I'm sorry, have I done something wrong?"
"No, not really," she smiled, a quick flash, "it's just slightly uncomfortable."
"What do you mean?" he seemed genuinely unknowing, and this made her feel even more uncomfortable.
"Most guys stare at a girl's legs in a rude way," she chose her words carefully, "and it's not that you were," she raised her hand to forestall any protest, even though none came, "it's just a little uncomfortable to be examined in detail."
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I may have read so many books, but I'm a bit lost," he turned to look out of the window again. "So many people," he sighed, and she looked out to the side, seeing thirty or so people waking around.
"That's nothing, you should see this place at rush hour," she smiled.
He shrank back into the seat as they entered the Lincoln Tunnel.
"I know what this is, but it's filling me with fear," he glanced at her and saw concern on her features. "I must seem insane to you."
"Not really," she chuckled, "you should meet my uncle Ron, now he's crazy!" Regardless of the laughter, he only relaxed again when the car emerged from the tunnel onto Manhattan island. William stayed quiet until they reached the library.
"Thank you," he said, reaching out his hand for Louise to shake.
"It wasn't much out of my way," she shook his hand, "I work the night shift in a data centre two blocks away."
"I hope to see you again, Louise," he smiled, "for on today's evidence, the world needs more people like you," he looked down at the seatbelt catch and pushed the red button to release it, then examined the door for a moment before working out how to open it. He waved as he walked back to the library.
"Maybe what the world truly needs is more people like you, William," she said under her breath as she waved in return.
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The diner was empty apart from the bored waitress, the cook, and the two of them. It was dark outside, and sirens could be heard in the distance. He looked over at her, she sat a few seats from him at the bar.
"This is not what I expected," he mused out loud.
"What, you don't like New Jersey?" she didn't sound like the others he had heard since the morning, most people were either cursing, or just rude. She seemed friendly.
"Not just this town," he turned to her, and she noticed suddenly how pale he was, and with it being the middle of summer, she found it odd.
"Then what?" she asked, turning to him, her coffee was still too hot to drink.
"I came out into Manhattan today for the first time, and it was nothing like what I imagined from the books I've read," he smiled, the expression looked good, but also strange on his features.
"Where are you from?" she asked, not able to discern an accent.
"I'm from New York," his voice quietened, "but it's the first time I've seen Manhattan with my own eyes."
"Somewhere upstate?" she stood and walked over to him, sliding her cup along the counter.
"My dad was the caretaker at the New York Public Library," he looked at his feet, feeling a little foolish. "I was raised and schooled in the Library."
"You've lived in there all your life?" her voice carried her incredulity well.
"I know, it's hard to believe, but that's how my father chose to raise me," a tear fell from his eye, "he died, just last week."
"I'm sorry to hear that," her voice softened, but then questions began to pile up in her mind. "What did you think the world would be like?"
"Friendlier, for a start," he laughed, a short burst of sound. "You're the first person who's spoken to me without telling me how much in the way I am," she blushed a little at that.
"What books did you read?" she asked, still intrigued by this walking oddity.
"Everything I could, and that encompasses a lot, but the ones I enjoyed most were fairly obviously in the fiction section," he laughed a little more happily then. "From contemporary crime, to horror, to fantasy, anything where a person triumphs over adversity to win," he looked at her and smiled. "It made me think of the world as a place filled with ordinary heroes, but my first impression was that it was filled by ordinary villains!"
"It would be nice if everyone was a hero, but they're too rare," she thought aloud.
"When I saw people standing by, ignoring when others were being hurt, I learnt something," his voice quietened.
"What did you learn?" she looked at him, not sure whether she wanted to hear the answer.
"That there are very few heroes, or villains," he looked into her eyes, his gaze piercing. "The world is filled with people who simply do not care."
"It usually takes people years to figure that out," she smiled at him.
"Although, I've met my first hero," he reached out his hand to her, and she took it, shaking it firmly. "I'm going to return to my library, but I would be honoured if you came to visit me there," he smiled, "I can introduce you to some old friends."
"What's your name?" she asked suddenly.
"William," he paused, "named after Shakespeare."
"I'm Louise," she finished her coffee. "I'm heading into Manhattan anyway, why don't I drive you there?"
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It was a misty winter's morning )


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January 2012

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