The Assignment (One Crazy Day)

(800 words)

Elvina hadn’t enjoyed it in the library, all those anonymous people staring at screens. Anyway, wasn’t it supposed to be about books in a library? Then there were the sour-faced, grey-haired women at the help desks, annoyed to have to look up and answer questions, and, of course, smelly old men reading the newspapers and farting.
But her assignment had been to go the library and find a book, any book, but one on a subject she wouldn’t normally look at and relevant to the project. “Do you have a key for that glass case upstairs,” she’d asked.
The woman at the desk had stared at her, squinting through thick lenses, irritated at having to break from her card-indexing. “What do you say?”
Elvina found herself blushing as she repeated the question. The woman rummaged around for a key and got up, sighing heavily, “Oh, follow me then.”
Now, Elvina flew around the ice rink, enjoying the November sunshine and the cold air on her teenage cheeks. She’d left her bag, with the library book in it, at the kiosk. Music boomed out as she looked at barges on the river and shoppers laden with boxes and bags passing by. It had been a few months since Elvina had last skated, but she’d learned as a child. Ever since an aunt had given her and her twin sister a pair of ice skates, a joint present for their tenth birthday. Never mind that they had different-sized feet.
The skates were too small for her, and too big for Mandy, her twin, so, unknown to Aunty Phil, her mother had bought Elvina a new, flashier, pair, and thick socks for Mandy, much to the latter’s chagrin.
“Hey, this is alright,” a youth shouted as he skated along with her. “I’m Davey.”
Elvina knew she looked good in her grey leggings and red leather jacket. Her hair was blonde and blew free in the cold Lincoln air. “I’m ….” But she never got as far as ‘Elvina,’ someone’s skate tapped hers and knocked her off balance. She found herself crashing into a woman and they both went over onto the ice.
“Oh my god, you’ve killed me, you’ve broken my neck!” exclaimed the woman.
Elvina looked closely. Rosy cheeks, gold-rimmed glasses – now thrown across the ice – shoulder-length black hair. Not unattractive. The local member of parliament, surely? She recognised her from all the posters. “Hey, aren’t you … er, aren’t you Victoria Meadows?”
“Eh, what? I’m sure you’ve broken my bones!”
“Come on, dear, calm down, you’re fine.” A handsome man, who reminded Elvina of the man who reminded her of Michael Caine, helped the woman up. He picked up her glasses and gave them a wipe with a handkerchief. “Look, dear, no damage done.”
The woman tottered on her skates, “Thank you, Alan.” She glared at Elvina. “Yes, well, perhaps I’m OK, no thanks to you!”
A crowd was gathered around and Elvina realised the music had stopped. Now it started again, Green Onions blasting out, that perennial fairground favourite. The skaters began to circulate once more, looking disappointed that there hadn’t been more of a scene.
Elvina skated for a while, with Davey tagging along, then she motioned to him that she was leaving. Outside, they walked along the river to Brayford Pool and sat on benches, gazing at the boats moored on the far side. Davey pointed across the pool to a large grey building beyond the boats. “I go to uni here. What about you?”
Elvina took in Davey’s curly black hair and tanned skin. “I’m at Queen Elizabeth’s College. I want to go to uni next year too. What are you doing there?”
Davey smiled. “Oh, me, astrophysics. I guess you think that’d be boring?”
“Oh, er, not really.”
“Well, it is!”
Elvina laughed and took out her library book. “Hey, look at this.”
“Wow, The Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft and Magic. That looks really old … and scary!”
“It was an assignment. We have to make a time capsule, you know, stuff to summarise our era and society.”
“What, then blast it into space?”
“Ha, no, bury it. That’s the idea.”
Davey became serious. “Listen, Elvina, I’ve got an idea. I’ve got an uncle who wants to launch a rocket. You could put it in that. It’s just that he’s having problems getting permission to launch. Y’know, local politicians objecting to anyone trying to do something different and original!”
“Hello you two, I guess I was a bit hasty back there.” Victoria Meadows gave a gleaming smile. “No harm done, after all. Look, Alan and I fancy a bite in Zizzi’s, would you like to join us?”
Davey smiled, “Nothing would give me greater pleasure! … Elvina?”
Elvina ran her fingers through her hair. “Wow, this has been one crazy day. Why not!”

Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories

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